The US conducted 231 activities of ‘offensive cyber-operations in 2011. This is according to former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden. He is currently at large for charges filed by no less than Washington for espionage linked to recent media disclosures and to US surveillance programs. He is currently hiding in Russia, which gave him a temporary asylum on August 1.
Snowden has claimed that most of those activities targeted countries like North Korea, Iran, and China. He gave a classified intelligence budget report about the subject. Most of the data he disclosed was also confirmed by several former US officials on separate interviews by the US media.
According to added reports, a $652 million project was launched to carry out some inappropriate online activities. Snowden said parts of the project were activities that involve hacking of foreign PC networks by US specialists. The goal may not be just to obtain information but also to secretly put those sites into American control.
That project was called ‘Operation Genie.’ Snowden revealed that it involves putting covert implants into PCs, firewalls, and routers. According to him, by the end of this year, Operation Genie is targeted to have controlled malware plug-ins totaling 85,000. Those have already been installed into machines from all over the world.
That projected figure is compared to more than 21,200, which was said to be the total number of malware plug-ins the group did in 2008. The documents that were forwarded by Snowden and supporting interviews of several US officials describe the project as a series of computer intrusions, which are actually wider and more aggressive than intended. Those may have a wider extent compared to other intrusion activities by other parties around the globe.
Using government’s own malware
Back to the figure, out of 231 operations in 2011, about 75% involved top-priority targets. Those included the US’ adversaries. Those also targeted information about nuclear non-proliferation.
According to Snowden, US intelligence services routinely use government-made malware across the globe. Those activities have little differences in function compared to advanced persistent threats which the US agencies have been attributing to China.
Another unnamed NSA employee (or former employee) has confirmed that the US Defense Department engages in computer network exploitation. But he reiterated that unlike China, the US does not engage in so-called economic espionage.