According to The Intercept, the National Security Agency has the ability to automatically infect millions of computers with malware. The malware, which comes with a variety of operational names, is designed to let the agency obtain files, record from the machine's microphone, take photos with the webcam, track usernames and passwords and keep a tab of websites visited.
The NSA has a diverse arsenal of malware tools, each highly sophisticated and customizable for different purposes.
One implant, codenamed UNITEDRAKE, can be used with a variety of ?plug-ins? that enable the agency to gain total control of an infected computer.
An implant plug-in named CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE, for example, is used to take over a targeted computer?s microphone and record conversations taking place near the device. Another, GUMFISH, can covertly take over a computer?s webcam and snap photographs. FOGGYBOTTOM records logs of Internet browsing histories and collects login details and passwords used to access websites and email accounts. GROK is used to log keystrokes. And SALVAGERABBIT exfiltrates data from removable flash drives that connect to an infected computer.
The implants can enable the NSA to circumvent privacy-enhancing encryption tools that are used to browse the Internet anonymously or scramble the contents of emails as they are being sent across networks. That?s because the NSA?s malware gives the agency unfettered access to a target?s computer before the user protects their communications with encryption.
It is unclear how many of the implants are being deployed on an annual basis or which variants of them are currently active in computer systems across the world.
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