WASHINGTON, January 14 (RIA Novosti) – The United States has infiltrated Russian military networks under a program that uses radio frequencies to spy on computers not connected to the Internet, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The penetration was carried under a US National Security Agency (NSA) program, code-named Quantum, that has been used primarily against the Chinese Army but also against Mexican drug cartels, European trade institutions and targets in Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia, the newspaper reported on its website, citing NSA documents, US officials and computer security experts.
The report, based in part on documents disclosed by fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, did not provide further details about the infiltration of Russian military computers.
But the Times cited an unidentified senior official as saying that nearly 100,000 computers had been penetrated under the program worldwide.
The Quantum program’s surveillance software is implanted primarily by accessing computer networks, the Times reported.
But the program also uses small circuit boards or USB cards that are secretly inserted into computers and then use radio waves to transmit data from – and into – the machines even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to the report.
Typically, the hardware must be inserted into the computer by a spy, a manufacturer or an unsuspecting user, the Times reported.
The newspaper cited officials and experts as saying that most of the surveillance conducted under the program, which the NSA has used since at least 2008, is defensive in nature and aimed at heading off cyber attacks.
The Virginia-based US firm Mandiant, which specializes in cyber-security issues, published a report in February claiming hacker-attacks on US companies were being carried out by a special unit within the Chinese military, based near Shanghai. China’s Defense Ministry denied the allegation.
US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in 2012 that “entities within” China and Russia “are responsible for extensive illicit intrusions into US computer networks and theft of intellectual property.”
The Times said in its report that there is no evidence that the NSA has implanted its software or the radio frequency technology in domestic computers.
Snowden, a former NSA contractor, leaked a trove of documents on the agency’s surveillance programs to the media earlier this year, sparking a global firestorm over its massive collection of data on private individuals in the United States and abroad.
He fled to Hong Kong and then to Moscow, where he was granted temporary asylum in Russia in August despite repeated extradition demands from the United States, where he is wanted on espionage-related charges.