NSA ‘Can Hack Disconnected PCs’

The National Security Agency (NSA) has access to machines that it can manipulate even when they are not connected to the Internet, according to a report.

The “Quantum” attack technique uses a “covert channel of radio waves”, and uses NSA-prepared circuit boards or USB sticks inserted into machines, according to the New York Times.

Agents can access those machines using their own tools from miles away. It is understood the only way to take advantage of those systems is to covertly install or attach hardware. That could be done by a spy or a manufacturer colluding with the NSA.

Recent leaks from Edward Snowden indicated the NSA was intercepting shipments of PCs to infect them with malware.

NSA: We only hit foreign targets

James Andrew Lewis, the cyber security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the paper: “Some of these capabilities have been around for a while, but the combination of learning how to penetrate systems to insert software and learning how to do that using radio frequencies has given the US a window it’s never had before.”

The NSA said it was only using such advanced techniques against “valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements”. It denied stealing trade secrets of foreign companies to boost US firms’ competitiveness.

The NSA and the Pentagon’s United States Cyber Command have been working hard to attack Chinese entities, just as China has carried out digital espionage campaigns on American businesses and public organisations.

This week, President Obama is set to announce what recommendations of an advisory panel on NSA surveillance he will accept. That panel yesterday reiterated the need to restrict the NSA in front of a Senate judiciary committee, where it rejected officials claims surrounding the need for mass data collection.

Do you know about Edward Snowden and the NSA? Take our quiz?

Thomas Brewster

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Recent Posts

US Probe Of Waymo Uncovers More Incidents – Report

NHTSA says its investigation of Waymo self-driving vehicles has uncovered more incidents that raise concerns

4 hours ago

Fake Accounts Proliferating On X, Study Warns

Ahead of US presidential election, fake accounts supporting Donald Trump are proliferating on Elon Musk's…

5 hours ago

Mike Lynch Defends Himself At HP-Autonomy Trial In US

British founder of Autonomy defends himself in San Francisco federal courthouse against criminal fraud charges

9 hours ago

Elon Musk Disagrees With US Tariffs On Chinese EVs

Tesla's Elon Musk confirms opposition to the Biden Administration's implementation of 100 percent tariffs on…

1 day ago

Former Cybersecurity Boss Warns UK Not Heeding China Threat

Ciaran Martin, ex-chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre, explains growing cyber threat posed…

1 day ago

YouTube Threatens To Block Russian Protest Group’s Anti-War Content

YouTube threatens to pull anti-war content from Russian rights group, after complaint from Putin regime's…

1 day ago