NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Reveals New US Hacking Accusations
A Hong Kong news outlet unveiled explosive new hacking accusations against the US on Saturday morning, citing information shared with the outlet by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
From the South China Morning Post:
Snowden, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Friday as the US government made public their plan to indict him under the Espionage Act of – has divulged information to the Post which showed how computers in the SAR and on the mainland had been targeted by the NSA over a four-year period.
Now, after further scrutiny and clarification of that information, we can reveal more explosive details of the US cyber-spying operation against in Hong Kong, the mainland and the region.
Documents seen by the Post and statements by Snowden show that Washington’s cyber-spying programme carried out:
- Extensive hacking of major telecommunication companies in China to access text messages
- Sustained attacks on network backbones at Tsinghua University, China’s premier seat of learning.
- Hacking of computers at the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, which owns one of the most extensive fibre optic submarine cable networks in the region
Another article in this morning’s Post quotes Snowden:
“There’s far more than this,” Snowden said in an interview on June 12. “The NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cell phone companies to steal all of your SMS data.”
In his prior revelations that the US had been conducting cyberattacks on Hong Kong targets, Snowden told the South China Morning Post, “I don’t know what specific information they [the NSA] were looking for on these machines, only that using technical exploits to gain unauthorised access to civilian machines is a violation of law. It’s ethically dubious.”
Setting aside for the moment how one views Snowden or his actions, what has been missing from his revelations regarding the US’ cyberattacks against China and Hong Kong is context.
The truth is, China has been known to attack US targets , including media outlets, private companies and government entities. And in at least one high profile incident, Chinese hackers used US universities in an attempt to avoid detection.
China’s Cyberattacks on US Targets
In January 2013, the NY Times revealed that it had been infiltrated by Chinese hackers over a period of four months. Reporters and other employees at the outlet also had their passwords compromised in the incident. As the NY Times pointed out, the timing of that attack coincided with an investigative report it had done about China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
From the NY Times:
The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.
Security experts hired by The Times to detect and block the computer attacks gathered digital evidence that Chinese hackers, using methods that some consultants have associated with the Chinese military in the past, breached The Times’s network. They broke into the e-mail accounts of its Shanghai bureau chief, David Barboza, who wrote the reports on Mr. Wen’s relatives, and Jim Yardley, The Times’s South Asia bureau chief in India, who previously worked as bureau chief in Beijing.
In the NY Times attack, Chinese hackers routed their activities through US university computer systems to try and evade cybersecurity investigators.
As I covered in a previous post at Legal Insurrection, recent reports have exposed numerous other cyberattacks perpetrated by Chinese hackers against various US targets.
A report released by the Pentagon in May was more direct in its accusations against China, according to the Wall Street Journal.
While American officials have long charged that China is a top perpetrator of cyberespionage, a new Pentagon report goes a step further, blaming some cyberintrusions directly on the government and its military.
The report also outlined Chinese investments in new Navy ships, advanced fighter planes and so-called anti-access military systems—those aimed at keeping ships and other forces out of an area. The report said China’s cyberespionage was designed to benefit China’s defense and technology industry and to gain insight into U.S. policy makers’ thinking on China.
“China is using its computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the U.S. diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs,” according to the report, an annual assessment prepared at the direction of Congress.
That report also detailed that Chinese hackers had gained access to the designs of more than two dozen major U.S. weapons systems, which included “those for combat aircraft and ships, as well as missile defenses vital for Europe, Asia and the Gulf,” according to NBC News. An earlier report from private security company Mandiant also identified intrusions and theft of documents from over 100 companies, most of them in the US, perpetrated by China’s People’s Liberation Army. Those incidents were confirmed by US officials.
That information came on the heels of the discovery that faculty members at Shanghai Jiaotong University in China had been collaborating for years with a People’s Liberation Army unit on technical research papers.
Details, and Snowden’s Future, Still Remain Unclear
It’s unclear why the US has selected the targets it has in pursuing foreign intelligence and fighting off China’s cyberattacks; the suspicion is that such information would likely provide even more context to a complex situation that isn’t always so black and white.
We also don’t know yet exactly what Snowden has shared with foreign contacts, and whether or not that contact has been limited to the press, other than what has been reported in his own words. There has been heated debate on both sides as to whether or not it has caused the US harm to our national security, and I’m sure that debate will continue. But it’s impossible to determine with any certainty without knowing all the details related to the investigation into the matter.
However, I do think that it’s important for both sides of the story to be presented in order to discuss the full context of cyber activities between the US and China.
A separate high profile debate that Snowden’s earliest revelations triggered of course was that of the NSA’s domestic surveillance policies – a debate that no doubt has been long overdue.
Snowden was formally charged by the US on Friday with espionage, theft and conversion of government property. While Hong Kong has so far been silent on the issue, the White House says it expects that Hong Kong will comply with extradition.
Meanwhile, public opposition to Snowden’s extradition is building in Hong Kong.
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Ok, now he is just a full blown criminal, no different from Walker who gave our encryption codes to the Russians so they could crack our secret naval communications. Look, government spy on each other. This is particularly true in the case of China where there is a very large effort to steal not only US military information, but also to steal US corporate intellectual property. NSA’s job (or one of their jobs) is to protect US technology from theft by foreign governments.
At this point any redeeming quality Snowden might have had is gone. He is a traitor.
Indeed. With these revelations, he has overstepped the fine line between whistleblower and criminal.
I was in the Navy working as a Communications System Technical Control Operator when the Walker ring was busted up. Believe me, comparing the two is like trying to equate a slap across the fact to a beheading.
Bottom line: they’re BOTH traitors. Walker just did it for a lot longer.
I’m not putting Snowden in the traitor category yet. News that the US hacks Chinese networks is hardly a state secret. Now if Snowden was selling the Chinese defense plans and schematics, or giving them backdoor access to our systems.. that would clearly change my assessment. At this point, Snowden is more an enemy of this administration than he is an enemy of the entire country.
Oh, and Snowden at this point NEEDs to release information on US spying in China in order to “pay” for protection by the Chinese. The entire point of these latest revelations would be to try to build support for not extraditing him. But China owes us one from when that guy defected to the US consulate in China and we gave him back.
Crosspatch, you are naïve if you think that China “owes us one”. I’m sure we probably had to give back that dissident to avoid China calling some bonds due. Snowden is just an embarrassment factor to humiliate the US atm. On the point that Snowden needs to reveal this information to pay for his stay, I think you may be right on that point.
Snowden reveals in a Hong Kong paper what the New York Times reveals in an American one- that each makes illegal attacks on the other. The NSA’s technical resources should be put into protecting our privacy, not in compromising it further.
It’s the NSA’s job to hack Chinese computers. I don’t see a bombshell here.
Oh how I wish for the old CIA of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Snowden would have disappeared by now.
Instead, we are left to lick our wounds, grovel to the world and continue our descent to third world status.
Just freakin’ dandy!!!
Snowden, Obama – on opposite ends of the responsibility curve, unsupervised children in a grown-up’s world. Syria, Iran; North Korea, China. Nothing to see here. Bury the dead, sweep up the rubble, send a subpoena, appoint a committee. Start over Monday with a new story.
The revelations on China intelligence gathering should be considered in context with Snowden’s online chat — along with the comments by law-biding whistle-blowers Binney, Drake and Wiebe (see http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/16/snowden-whistleblower-nsa-officials-roundtable/2428809/). The earlier whistle-blowers remained loyal to the country and followed the law — but they were still hammered hard by powerful forces that don’t want the light of day focused on the massive and intrusive data they collect on all of us. The Snowden online chat indicated that the government’s mistreatment of good faith whistle-blowers simply breeds new and more devastating ways to disclose abuse.
No doubt the revelation today is a counterattack on the indictment filing. The question is, does the US really have the guts to petition for extradition, and to actually embarrass themselves at a full inquiry which will likely end in China asserting its authority and smacking the US with a flat NO.
Snowden is clearly breaking the law by disclosing China-related intelligence gathering methods. And this crime helps him to avoid capture and extradition. Given that the good-faith whistle-blowers before him were seriously mistreated, one can understand Snowden’s deployment of these powerful counter-measures. Surrendering to US officials and hoping for even-handed treatment was never a realistic option.
Snowden is a mutated strain of whistle-blower made necessary by a lying, deceitful, manipulative and invasive intelligence apparatus that holds itself above any obligation to honor the civil rights of its citizens. One cannot help but wonder if the intelligence community will seek out ways to have Snowden, and those like him, simply disappear or fall victim to a tragic accident.
By all means indict Snowden, do so with companion indictments for the government conspirators responsible for privacy invasions, false warrant applications and lies to congress.
That’s right, why should he think his civil rights will be respected by a government which tramples on ours.
Snowden is Obama’s kind of American: blame America first without regard for what the other side is doing. Obama should love Snowden.
Honestly, I have been unable to form much of an opinion about Snowden.
I don’t really think he gave up anything we didn’t all figure was going on. And I don’t think he gave up any big State secrets. What he did was focus attention on the trampling of rights of US Citizens. I think.
Irrelevant… I kinda tip thataway with Snowden.
I will enjoy watching this get all hashed out, that is for certain.
I’m waiting for Snowden to make good his statement he could pull up all information about any citizen he wanted to…up to the president. Maybe he had access to sealed documents?
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[…] public. But support for the former NSA contractor has grown more divided since he began sharing accusations of US hacking activities against Hong Kong and China with the press in Hong […]
[…] month, Snowden shared information with a Hong Kong news outlet alleging that the US has conducted hacking attacks on China, including on Tsinghua University. The claims emboldened China, as its state sponsored media […]
Back in the good old days before torrents and Napster when viruses were more or less unknown and firewalls were uncommon, just about everybody with a Pentium I used to dip into the back of the Peking University computer using FTP to help themselves to pirated apps.