TARGETED : Uses Fake Facebook to hack into users’ computers ?

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Edward Snowden wants the world that the National Security Agency “likes” Facebook — a lot.

Glenn Greenwald’s Intercept website reported the infamous leaker’s newest revelation: The NSA uses a man-on-the-side technique, code-named QUANTUMHAND, to masquerade as a fake Facebook server in order to hack the computers of the agency’s targets.

Once a target attempts to log in to Facebook, the NSA transmits malicious data packets that fool the target’s computer into thinking they are legitimately from Facebook, enabling the NSA to access the target’s computer and the data from its hard drive.

If true, the move would put millions of users at risk.

The National Journal interviewed Harley Geiger, the senior counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology who said that, if confirmed, the NSA would be acting like a giant “spambot.”

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“The use of malware implants should be targeted against specific threats in tightly controlled situations, but this kind of mass automated surveillance would put countless Internet users at risk,” he said

Facebook denied having any knowledge of the NSA program, but said that other social networks could be infected with the malware.

“We have no evidence of this alleged activity,” a Facebook spokesman told the Journal. “In any case, this method of network level disruption does not work for traffic carried over HTTPS, which Facebook finished integrating by default last year. … If government agencies indeed have privileged access to network service providers, any site running only HTTP could conceivably have its traffic misdirected.”

The NSA responded to the National Journal with a statement: “Signals intelligence shall be collected exclusively where there is a foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purpose.”

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The National Security Agency has been disguising itself as FacebookFB +1.11% servers in order to gain access to the computers of intelligence targets, according to a new report.

Citing new documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the online news site The Intercept reported the story Tuesday.

The new document dump includes a minute-long video purportedly produced by the NSA and marked “top secret” that details the way the agency can manipulate computers into thinking they are contacting Facebook’s servers, when they are in fact being directed to servers controlled by the NSA. According to the article, the deception involving Facebook was one of several techniques used by the NSA to conduct surveillance on millions of computers.

The video depicts a man using Facebook on  a laptop computer. When he attempts to access a Facebook page, an NSA computer detects the request and sends the man data from its own servers disguised as Facebook traffic, a so-called man-on-the-side attack. The man thinks he is downloading his Facebook page, but is in fact also downloading what amounts to a computer virus that siphons information from his computer and sends it to the U.S. government.

A Facebook spokesman said the company hasn’t seen any evidence that the NSA has used the tactic against Facebook users. He said the method described in the video would not work now, since Facebook began using a higher level of security on its site last year. In any case, he said, Facebook isn’t the only company that was vulnerable to such tactics by the NSA.

It’s unclear how many people might have been targeted by the NSA’s Facebook strategy. Based on the video supplied by Snowden, it appears that the NSA was using it against individuals, and not as an indiscriminate data-gathering strategy. Citing Snowden documents, The Intercept says the NSA hopes to target millions of individuals.

The U.S. government – either through the FBI or NSA — has long used such hacker techniques to go after specific targets. Posing as a Facebook server – or that of any other social network – doesn’t require cooperation from the tech company.

In a statement, the NSA said it monitors communications “exclusively where there is a foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purpose” and that “all of NSA’s operations are strictly conducted under the rule of law.”

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