America’s National Security Agency has been spying on thousands of cellular network operators around the the world, including those operated by its closest allies. Codenamed AURORAGOLD, the operation involved introducing vulnerabilities into networks that would allow NSA operatives to easily hack into the system. This is not only highly illegal, it also puts millions of other users at risk from third party hackers who stumble on the vulnerabilities.
The revelation comes from documents provided by Edward Snowden to The Intercept, and outlines the project to introduce new weaknesses into communications networks to make it easier to spy on just about everyone. The highest profile target happens to be the GSM Association, which is responsible for deploying and standardising GSM networks across the globe. This essentially means that every mobile network in the world is vulnerable to NSA infiltration.
According to the documents, the NSA has collected technical information about 70-percent of network operators worldwide; although the documents themselves do not specify which countries have been affected, a top-secret map released with the documents appears to outline just how extensive the spying operation is.
Mikko Hypponen, a security expert at Finland-based F-Secure, has explained that introducing new vulnerabilities and weakening encryption could have the side effect of benefiting criminal hackers and foreign governments who want to conduct cyber attacks. With the growing number of high-profile hacking cases in the last few months, this certainly appears to be the case.
The NSA itself has not commented on the issue, although its UK based counterpart the GCHQ has gone on to state that any actions taken are with legal parameters.
[Source: The Intercept]