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NSA used malware to spy on Pakistani civilian, military leadership: report

Published Aug 21, 2016 03:34pm

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The United States' clandestine National Security Agency (NSA) allegedly spied on top civil-military leadership in Pakistan using malware, The Intercept reported.

Malware SECONDDATE allegedly built by the NSA was used by agency hackers to breach "targets in Pakistan’s National Telecommunications Corporation’s (NTC) VIP Division", which contained documents pertaining to "the backbone of Pakistan’s Green Line communications network" used by "civilian and military leadership", according to an April 2013 presentation document obtained by The Intercept.

The file appears to be a 'top secret' presentation originating from the NSA's SigDev division.

SECONDDATE is described as a tool that intercepts web requests and redirects browsers on target computers to an NSA web server. The server then infects the web requests with malware.

The malware server, also known as FOXACID, has been described in earlier leaks made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

SECONDDATE, however, is just one method the NSA allegedly uses to redirect a target's browser to the FOXACID server. Others involve exploiting bugs in commonly used email providers by sending spam or malicious links that lead to the server, The Intercept said.

Another document obtained by The Intercept, an NSA Special Source Operations division newsletter describes how agency software other than SECONDDATE was used to repeatedly direct targets in Pakistan to the FOXACID servers to infect target computers.

The Intercept confirmed the "authenticity" of the SECONDDATE malware by means of a data leak reportedly made by Snowden.

Snowden released a classified top-secret agency draft manual for implanting malware which instructs NSA operators to track their use of a malware programme through a 16-character string ─ the same string which appears in the SECONDDATE code leaked by a group called ShadowBrokers.

ShadowBrokers last week announced that SECONDDATE was part of a group of NSA-built 'cyber weapons' that it was auctioning off.

Although it is unclear how the code for the software leaked and was obtained by ShadowBrokers, The Intercept claims "the malware is covered with NSA's virtual fingerprints and clearly originates from the agency".

The ShadowBrokers auction of SECONDDATE is the first time any full copies of NSA software have been made available to the public.

"The person or persons who stole this information might have used them against us," Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green said on the dangers of such software becoming available to the public.

Speaking to The Intercept, Green said that such exploits could be used to target anyone using a vulnerable router. "This is the equivalent of leaving lockpicking tools lying around a high school cafeteria. It’s worse, in fact, because many of these exploits are not available through any other means, so they’re just now coming to the attention of the firewall and router manufacturers that need to fix them, as well as the customers that are vulnerable."

The Intercept has in the past published a number of reports from documents released by Snowden. The site’s editors include Glenn Greenwald, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work in reporting on the whistleblower’s revelations.

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Comments (44) Closed



The End is Near Aug 21, 2016 03:38pm

Good job NSA. Keep an eye on them. Thanks

Amir Khan Aug 21, 2016 03:55pm

Information gathering is easy. Making sense of that information and finding trends and making decisions based on that is the challenging part.

Indian Aug 21, 2016 04:11pm

Cpec will resolve this. Pakistan should ask for help from China

Skeptic Aug 21, 2016 04:16pm

@Indian Oh dear! People think CPEC is a Panacea that is going to solve all the problems of Pakistan!

Perhaps even educate the entire nation to be 1st in literacy in the world, in what 10 years? And make every city like Dubai.... with a Mercedes or BMW in every garage!?

Right, dream on!

Mahmood Aug 21, 2016 04:31pm

It is not exactly a closely guarded secret.

Every phone call, every e-mail, every text message, every post on any website, social media from anywhere in the world, is closely monitored, scrutinized by powerful computers, and live conversations listened by NSA operatives in America, for certain key words or warning signs.. So nothing is private or anonymous.

just sayin Aug 21, 2016 04:35pm

@The End is Near Like if it will benefit you in any way!

kanwarch Aug 21, 2016 04:35pm

No surprise there as NSA is doing that against every country in the world although my Indian friends might think otherwise.

Ramesh krishnan Aug 21, 2016 04:43pm

NSA collect information from all around the world...Americans are technically very superior...That's why they rule the world...

S Karani Aug 21, 2016 04:44pm

@Indian "Cpec will resolve this. Pakistan should ask for help from China"

But that's the fun part. What NSA is doing by spying, the Chinese are doing openly and freely within Pakistan. Unfortunately its a one way street - China knows everything about Pakistan, but Pakistan knows nothing about China.

Khwarezmi Aug 21, 2016 04:52pm

Islamabad must protect her citizens from foreign intelligence agencies who collect data illegally. I wonder ho many Pakistani laws has been broken?

Sohail Khan Wazir Aug 21, 2016 04:56pm

This is unlawful. We should protest against NSA.

stranger Aug 21, 2016 05:23pm

I am sure people in top secret activities in government of Pakistan are aware and take steps to bypass the surveillance of NSA and the likes.

Changez_Khan Aug 21, 2016 05:51pm

Nothing new, they spy everyone all over the world. If Indians thinks they are not being spied then they are living in la la land.

karachi Wally Aug 21, 2016 06:23pm

Who needs enemies when you have such awesome friends.

Abrar Aug 21, 2016 06:30pm

Pakistan should protest to USA and protect its people.

Dr.shamir Baloch Aug 21, 2016 07:02pm

They have been spying on their alliances as well,they even did not spare Germany and united kingdom. This is the reality on new world. Caution is the buzz word in this day and age.

Zak Aug 21, 2016 07:02pm

We will not take this kindly , we are already colloborating with China to secure our network infrastructure from US ,Israeli and Russian spying , project is already underway for establishing bilateral communication between PLA and Pakistan Army on an ultra secure defence network.

Abdulla Hussain Aug 21, 2016 07:16pm

"The United States' clandestine National Security Agency (NSA) allegedly spied on top civil-military leadership in Pakistan using malware"

With such activities they think they will be able make friends or ward off enemies then it is their big mistake. In order to enjoy peace & tranquility they should stop meddling in other's affairs. No one likes interference.

Parachinari Aug 21, 2016 07:35pm

Pakistan should find the means and the human resources to return the favor to Department of State etc

Ikram Ullah Aug 21, 2016 10:25pm

@Amir Khan Being a computer scientist, I can claim that the latter part is now more easier than the former

Oz Aug 21, 2016 10:52pm

Malware is not needed. They are tracking our every move via smartphones, whatsapp, twitter and facebook etc. Mobile apps have access to call records, sms and contacts.

sfomann Aug 21, 2016 11:10pm

USA is wasting too much money in poking its nose in other countries. They could spend all this money to provide free health and education to is citizens

joe Aug 21, 2016 11:13pm

why just Pakistan..??

Mazhar Aug 21, 2016 11:23pm

NSA is spying whole world. Leak belong to Pakistan. NSA is is not friend of India also

pathanoo Aug 22, 2016 12:10am

@karachi Wally Exactly what we Americans think.

Merchant Aug 22, 2016 12:42am

@Indian it is clearly evident that majority of our Indian neighbours see CPEC as thorn in the Indian side just because the project has potential for the progress of Pakistan and a broadly stable region, including India!!

El Cid Aug 22, 2016 01:02am

@Ramesh krishnan No the Americans are NOT superior but ruthless, brutal, savage without scruples. And NO they don't rule the World but sure are trying by all means necessary.

sam1 Aug 22, 2016 01:37am

Reports are all based on Snowden documents? This is all well known. Nothing new here.

OMG Aug 22, 2016 02:10am

@Zak ok

Saleem Ahmed Aug 22, 2016 02:35am

Is anyone even surprised? After all, US is our best friend ;)

Yes Aug 22, 2016 03:01am

Everyone needs a friend like the US insert sarcasm

Tahir Aug 22, 2016 06:08am

@Mazhar US spies on Israel... do the Indians think they not being spied on?

US spies on everyone and uses what they learn to manipulate.

This is the reality

GA Aug 22, 2016 06:39am

Some countries defend against this foreign snooping by mixing in wrong information to throw off the attackers. No big secret. Everyone is spying on everyone in their own ways.

Sarwar, USA. Aug 22, 2016 06:41am

@Mazhar ... When time comes India will be brought to spot light. NSA is spying on every country...

saz Aug 22, 2016 06:43am

It should be taken to international court

Amir Aug 22, 2016 09:07am

@Indian CPEC is no different to 'Achay Din' if it makes any sense to Modi voters.

Amir Ali khan Aug 22, 2016 12:04pm

Nothing new about espionage , only methodologies have changed .

ak Aug 22, 2016 02:28pm

I never see the point of such discussions. Its not like we can stop the US from doing anything. Like it or not. USA does whatever she wants with Pakistan and India and gets away with it because we are busy playing our 70 year old blame game. So why bother.

Pakistani Aug 22, 2016 02:32pm

@THE END IS NEAR: Have you and those who 'recommended' it have stopped using your minds altogether? Granted we hate our 'vips', but please tell me how a foreign government keeping an 'eye' on them is going to help us, the masses? It is not as if they (NSA) is going to 'help' us (the common masses) to 'get back' at the these vips! Infact, quite the opposite would be true. Knowing their 'misdeeds', they are more than likely to use those to blackmail them into doing their (NSA's) bidding.

Which is why mass surveillance is problematic.

zak Aug 22, 2016 04:15pm

@joe : Because it has power to challenge America.

Truth Aug 22, 2016 04:17pm

@S KARANI

I assume you know all out about Chinese then?

Zak Aug 22, 2016 06:00pm

@Indian why ask for help, we can take care of it ourselves. Infact, we can help india to prevent same breach into their military establishment systems.

Mea Culpa Aug 22, 2016 11:44pm

@Zak Lest you forget that Indians control most of the world's data. India is the Sys Admin of the world :-)

Hamza Shahzad Aug 23, 2016 02:12pm

@Sohail Khan Wazir Protest is not only a way to solve the problem. The main thing is to become Pakistan superior in technologies which takes years.