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NSA reportedly installs backdoors in U.S.-made Internet routers

Shocking, we know.


Patrick Howell O'Neill

Internet Culture

Posted on May 12, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 8:05 am CDT

After years of warning that China was building backdoor threats into U.S. routers and Internet devices, it turns out that the U.S. government has been intercepting “routers, servers, and other computer network devices” in order to install surveillance tools targeting foreign customers, Glenn Greenwald reports in an excerpt of his new book published Monday by the Guardian.

“It is quite possible that Chinese firms are implanting surveillance mechanisms in their network devices,” Greenwald writes in his new book No Place to Hide, which is based on leaked documents from Edward Snowden. “But the U.S. is certainly doing the same.”

Late last year, leaks from Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency also intercepts laptops purchased online in order to surreptitiously load software and hardware to gain backdoor access to the machine.

Greenwald’s latest piece cites a June 2010 report from the head of the NSA’s Access and Target Development department that explicitly spells out the export interception program.

After the intercepted device is set up, it eventually connects back to the NSA. The report cited by Greenwald says these compromised devices have provided the agency “access to further exploit the device and survey the [adversary’s] network.”

The report cited by Greenwald will be online tomorrow, he says, and will be included in his upcoming book.

A 2012 report from the House Intelligence Committee accused two top Chinese telecom equipment firms, Huawei and ZTE, of violating American law and recommended that Americans should “view with suspicion the continued penetration of the U.S. telecommunications market by Chinese telecommunications companies.”

If China and the United States are both heavily tampering electronics built in the countries, one important question arises: Who, if anyone, can be trusted to build computers and Internet devices that are safe and secure?

Photo via Matt Newman/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

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*First Published: May 12, 2014, 5:41 pm CDT