Everyone Spies on Everyone - Looking Back 70 Years
This is a short and sweet history of nation states hacking and bugging each other. It's been on my mind for some time, and much more has been lost to the memory black hole.
There's a lot of mud slinging between the US partisan state, and with the bombshell memo that was released (House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on Steele Dossier) - it's a good time to rehash that this is absolutely normal. Not only between Nation States, but also amongst each party inside each government.
The pace and sophistication of Tradecraft only intensified within the last century. Much more quickly after the transistor was invented. Prior to this, spies operated much more crudely using invisible inks, ciphers, text masks etc.
Today, much of the backdooring is done with State Entities and Corporations who are working together. Much of the world has been awakend to this and are rolling their own products, from chips to hardware.
This by no means is a complete list, but certainly gives some food for thought.
1945-1952 - The Thing (Russia)
In 1952 the occupants of the U.S. embassy in Moscow discovered after a long search a very clever bug invented by Léon Theremin, creator of the eponymous instrument himself. The implant sat there for seven years and through three ambassadors undetected. It was a passive resonant cavity microphone that worked only when a strong electromagnetic signal tuned to the system frequency would reach it, making it undetectable to active detection methods that were all the rage in those days.
Concealed in a wooden carving representing the seal of the USA and offered as a gift of mutual collaboration back in 1945, it remained in operation for seven years during which the Soviets had an unfair advantage on the Americans.
After its discovery the USA reversed engineered it and started developing their own prototypes of bugs based on the same principles, along with countermeasures, but it was already too late to fully exploit them, for the signature of such bugs was too well known by both parties.
1958-59 - Easy Chair (USA)
Joint operation between the CIA and the Dutch spy agency on Dutch soil targeting the Russian embassy. The purpose was to introduce a passive microphone in a desk specially ordered for the ambassador, a kind of replica of The Thing. The bug provided actionable intelligence for about six months but the only thing overheard through it were language classes taken by the ambassador. Altogether it was a nice return volley to the Russians after the previous affair but its useful life was short.
1968 - The pueblo incident (NK)
In January 1968, while on an information gathering mission, the American spy ship USS Pueblo was attacked by North Korea and all of its communication equipment fell into North Korean hands, and hence Russian hands as well.
1972 - Watergate Scandal (Nixon)
A seemingly low level burglary at the DNC office in DC leads to a presidential resignation. Many are familiar with the scandal that errupted after the bust.
1976-84 - Operation GUNMAN: Sophisticated Bugged Typewriters Found in US Embassies on Russian Soil (Russia)
In 1985 mainstream news broke the story that two years prior there was a huge breach in US embassies in Russia that was exploited for eight years. The breach was discovered, causing a shake up at the consulates, and several teams were tasked with a top secret mission to comb through the hardware. Eventually one of the x-ray guys discovered a bug in a metal bar inside the IBM Selectric II and III typewriters. The agent making the discovery claimed a bounty of $5,000 for being the first to find it.
1985-2001 - Ana Belen Montes (Cuba)
The most senior Cuban analyst of the DIA worked covertly for the Cuban government sixteen years before being discovered.
It's not a bug, it's a female...
1999 - Russia Bugs State Department (Russia)
Early in 1999, an investigation was launched code named Sacred Ibis. An anonymous FBI source tipped off intelligence officer Robert Booth that there was suspicious activity outside of Washington's State Department building. After finding a bug on the 7th floor of a conference room and spending a month gathering intelligence, the FBI detained Stanislav Borisovich Gusev only to release him. He was not charged with espionage because he was protected by diplomatic immunity. After the incident, the State Department raised its restrictions on foreign diplomat visitors.
January 2002 - China Finds Around 30 Surveillance Bugs - Including Inside a Boeing 767 (USA)
China claims they found almost 30 bugs-- including one in a presidential bed--inside a Boeing 767 that was delivered from the USA to serve President Jiang Zemin. While on the surface the Chinese seemed outraged, President Bush the Lesser. and Jiang Zemin had a pleasant meeting later at a summit in October, which occurred after the devices were found.
One Western diplomat said that behind the outrage the Chinese were likely to view the devices as an intelligence windfall. Army scientists will now have the opportunity to "reverse engineer" the latest in American surveillance equipment.
December 2013 - Catalog Reveals NSA Has Backdoored Many Devices (Snowden)
NSA division ANT (Advanced Network Technology) and TAO (Office of Tailored Access Operations) has burrowed its way into nearly all the security architecture. The 50 page catalog leaked by Snowden reads like a mail-order catalog with some tech hardware going up to $250,000.
Even firewalls and commodity hardware like hard drives had a back door solution.
- Juniper Firewalls
- Hard Drives: Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor, Samsung
- USB and RJ45 implants
- Various physical implants
December 2013 NSA Bugs Dell Servers (Snowden)
NSA BIOS backdoor called DIETYBOUNCE was found in another Snowden leak. This backdoor pack is code named "god mode" for its ability to exploit down to BIOS levels on Dell PowerEdge series servers.
May 2014 - NSA Bugged Cisco Routers (Snowden)
In another Snowden leak, we learned that bulk shipments of CISCO rounters were intercepted and bugged. Not suprisingly this is a common procedure for a wide veriety of hardware. In response, CISCO claimed that it never cooperated with the government.
Here's how it works: shipments of computer network devices (servers, routers, etc.) being delivered to our targets throughout the world are intercepted. Next, they are redirected to a secret location where Tailored Access Operations/Access Operations (AO-S326) employees, with the support of the Remote Operations Center (S321), enable the installation of beacon implants directly into our targets' electronic devices. These devices are then re-packaged and placed back into transit to the original destination. All of this happens with the support of Intelligence Community partners and the technical wizards in TAO.
August 2016 - US Embassies Order Products From Chinese Surveillance Company Hikvisio (China)
According to a US Government procurement document, US embassy officials decided in 2016 to only allow Hikvision to bid on an installation contract. Turns out that might have not been the brightest idea. Edward Long pentitioned the US goverment with a letter warning them of a minor problem with the selection of the provider.
“Over the past year, [Hikvision has] ... flooded the United States with their equipment,” he wrote. “Every time one of their machines is plugged into the internet, it sends all your data to three servers in China. With that information, the Chinese government can log in to any camera system, anytime they want.”
August 2017 - Hezbollah Finds Israeli Bug (Isreal)
Spy rock implants have been a common spy tool used in the region for many years.
Lebanese terror Group Hezbollah said on Sunday that its forces uncovered Israeli espionage equipment in southern Lebanon.
The report said the device had been remotely exploded by Israel some time ago “out of fear it would be discovered,” and that its pieces were scattered throughout the area.
The device was said to be encased in fiberglass and disguised as a rock. It was also powered by electric solar panels, the report said.
Thus proving that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an Israeli spy hiding under every rock.