Snowden: Cisco Routers a Pakistani National Security Risk
British GHCQ used hacked Cisco routers to spy on Pakistan, according to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The purpose of the router exploits was to help identify Middle Eastern terrorists operating in Pakistan.
The UK government did not provide comment on Snowden’s claims.
Cisco routers have been known to ship with bugs in the past, and this is not the first time it has been said that routers shipped to foreign countries were infected with malware. Previously, in 2013, Snowden claimed that the same tactic was used by the US government via the NSA to spy on Chinese networks. There was, however, some question as to whether Cisco was actually the company at issue.
In another case, the NSA had, in fact, intercepted routers en route to their customers and switched them out with custom firmware versions that would enable the agency to spy on their owners. In response to this revelation, Cisco went directly to the president to complain about the activities of the agency. It remains unclear as to whether the NSA has ceased that program or improved its stealth, or what has happened. One thing that is for certain is that things have long been “worse” than Americans could have imagined, with government agencies engaging in Orwellian spying practices without their consent.
Additionally, there have long been suspicions that foreign clients of companies like Cisco are not shipped security patches with the same regularity as domestic clients. NSA has been known to pay high bounties to receive information about vulnerabilities in consumer and industrial-grade networking equipment, including phones, rather than have the vulnerabilities reported by the media or to vendors.
This latest revelation comes on the heels of yesterday’s news that intelligence agencies have a “smurf suite” of smartphone malware that allow them to do various command and control type attacks on mobile devices. Such malware is not as useful in poorer countries where smartphones are not as prevalent.
Snowden did not apparently comment on the effectiveness of the program in actually identifying terrorist suspects and/or bringing down networks dedicated to killing Westerners. That such networks, like Al Qaeda, do exist is part of the reason Westerners originally assented to increased government powers.
The digital landscape has changed significantly over the past ten years, with more people than ever connected to the World Wide Web and governments more likely than ever to be breaking their own rules in spying on the citizens of the world. Most of the information leaked by Edward Snowden was years old by the time it was leaked, so it can be assumed that unless the intelligence agencies suddenly had a crisis of conscience, things have only gotten better, not worse. A weakened economy, even for the IT sector, has likely led to higher quality applicants at agencies like NSA.
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