Nearly a year ago, well before all the Snowden leaks, we had a discussion about how, for all the talk from Keith Alexander about how the US was facing "unprecedented cyberattacks" that might bring about a "cyber Pearl Harbor," in reality, it appeared that the real global threat to computer systems was... the US government itself
, via Keith Alexander's "US Cyber Command," which had, by far, the most sophisticated and advanced digital attack unit and wasn't afraid
to use it. In fact, the US government seems to think it has incredibly broad powers
to attack digitally. Of course, the nature of those attacks have become a lot more clear lately. And, as a part of that, one thing that's becoming clear: every time you hear a scary story about a kind of attack that some foreigners might do, you can pretty much guarantee: the NSA has already done it.
You may recall that, late in 2012, the House Intelligence Committee, led by dishonest NSA defender
Rep. Mike Rogers, put out a report claiming that Americans should not
use networking equipment made by Huawei, the Chinese networking giant, hinting that the company might be inserting backdoors and spyware into the equipment for the Chinese government. Huawei -- which had actually previously publicly asked the US government to investigate it to prove that such claims were false -- was not at all pleased about this, claiming that the whole thing was libelous and "utterly lacking in substance." A month ago, Huawei suggested that it was going to just ditch the US market
because of all of this.
And yet... the recent NSA revelations
about its technical capabilities to backdoor various hardware products showed that it's actually the NSA which has backdoors in Huawei's equipment
. That doesn't foreclose the possibility that the Chinese have hacked it as well, but it sure looks ridiculous. As the Wired article linked above summarizes: "US to China: We hacked your internet gear we told you not to hack." This certainly plays into the hands of the Chinese, who have long argued that the attack on Huawei by Mike Rogers and friends was really just an attempt to pump up US-based competitors like Cisco (whose products the NSA has also apparently compromised).
And then there's the whole "BIOS" attack thing. You may recall that the big "scoop" in the hilariously lopsided 60 Minutes
infomercial for the NSA by John Miller (a counterterrorism official
pretending to be a journalist), was that there was some scary foreign threat out there from another country that was going to "infect the BIOS" of every computer on earth and turn them all into bricks. Experts pointed out that the claims were pure gibberish
Except in that same report about the NSA's technical capabilities came the news that it's the NSA that is installing malware in the BIOS
. As Marcy Wheeler notes:
Most fearmongering claims the NSA makes may well be projection about its own activities.
None of this means that others (and the finger is usually pointed at the Chinese) aren't doing the same sorts of things themselves. But it sure does seem pretty hypocritical to go around fearmongering about the things that we, ourselves, are doing.