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Hackers crack NSA spying technology

Hackers crack NSA spying technology
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The ripples of Edward Snowden's release of NSA secrets are still being felt. Using some of the documents that Snowden released, radio hackers have managed to reverse-engineer some diabolically genius snooping devices.

These documents, seen below, outline hundreds of listening and recording devices that can easily and unobtrusively be attached to computers and phone. Many of these gadgets are so small you would have to know exactly what you're looking for to find them.

One kind of device, called a retro-reflector, has only been used by the NSA and its contractors. This means that no one knew how they worked, and couldn't defend themselves against these spying devices.

Until now.

Hackers from Great Scott Gadgets in Colorado have discovered that retro-reflectors work, and have even recreated the devices. These people are experts in the field of Software-defined Radio (SDR) where wireless gadgets are created in software rather than traditional hardware like previous radios.

Here's how these SDRs work:

"Instead of such circuits, an SDR uses digital-signal-processing chips to allow a programmer to define the wave shape of a radio signal, the frequency it uses and the power level. It operates much like a computer's sound card, but instead of making sounds or processing incoming audio, it makes and receives radio signals. And a single SDR can be changed to any band instantly, including AM, FM, GSM and Bluetooth."

What does that have to do with retro-reflectors and the NSA? The head of Great Scott Gadgets, Michael Ossmann, designed the SDR that is a key component of the NSA's retro-reflectors.

One such retro-reflector, named Ragemaster, was capable of taking screenshots while sitting on the monitor cable, and another called Surlyspawn collected keystrokes while perched on the keyboard cable.

These bugs were capable of transmitting their captured information by using the SDR capability and wirelessly transmitting the information from the bugged computer to the NSA. Scary.

However, now that Ossmann and his team have cracked the bugs, they are planning on presenting their reports to the Defcon hacking conference in August of this year. Experts can now create ways to defend against these surreptitious spying methods, and Ossmann's team has created a site where you can see what bugs can now be defended against here at NSA Playset.

Look at the different kinds of bugs the NSA created and used. Click the "+" button to enlarge the PDFs.

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