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At this point no one is surprised when we learn the NSA is watching computers around the world. New information has surfaced revealing that it goes deeper than that. The NSA has apparently utilized radio waves to access over 100,000 computers that were not connected to the internet. Connected or not, a computer can still have its data and usage monitored by the agency. This seems like some James Bond Q division insanity, but it’s actually fairly old technology.
The technology, named Quantum, uses a radio transmitter that is physically put into the computer, which then sends a radio signal to a relay station set up nearby. The relay is the size of a large briefcase. So we’re not talking about a magical technology here, just a simple radio that requires a receiver nearby to get the information. According to a NYT article detailing the system, the transmitter has to be installed by a spy via a USB drive, or in many cases it’s installed on the circuit boards at the point of manufacture.
Quantum has been helpful in solving the problem of spying on threats to U.S. national security who have taken measures with their computers to be impervious to spying. It’s that great hacker trait of using old ideas, that us oh so sophisticated modern people think are irrelevant, and utilizing them to get access to whatever they want. The NSA maintains the program is used in a defensive measure to insert software in Russian military networks, drug cartels, terrorist groups, and other groups of interest to our national security.
Much of the information on the technology has come from the reports Edward Snowden released on the NSA’s activities. As of now there is no indication of use on American soil, although the potential is there and it’s not a leap to imagine a time when the NSA would help say the FBI by using Quantum to keep a watch on homeland terrorist groups. To be clear, right now American’s are not being watched, and neither is the technology being used for corporate espionage. You probably feel comfy and cozy knowing that the NSA says they’re not spying on you, but only when you’re not connected to the internet. Otherwise, they’re just a data collecting fool.
The use of radio waves to get into offline computers is brilliant, and shows just how ingenious our spy system can be. It also makes all those years as a kid watching spy shows, James Bond films, and reading Nelson Demille spy novels seem even more insane. Some of the real life technology being used is far superior to trinkets like gum that explodes. A cell phone shoe? That’s nice, we have the ability to infiltrate your computer, plant a program onto it, and do so all without online access. NSA 1, Entertainment Industry 0.
Is the NSA uses of radio waves to infiltrate computers super freaky technology?