NSA SPYING: New report claims VPNs infiltrated too - KMSP-TV

NSA SPYING: New report claims VPNs infiltrated too

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The latest report on the National Security Agency's spying capabilities revealed even more sobering details about the government's ability to pry into private communications, including VPNs.

First it was the phone records, and then it was Internet usage. Later, it came to light that the NSA has even used Angry Birds apps to track locations. These days, it seems like keeping track of the things the NSA isn't monitoring might make for a shorter list -- especially since new reports are adding even more items.

"They're sending out e-mails. They're looking for you to click on links. They're posing as Facebook," Matthew Willis, of computer forensic services, told Fox 9 News.

There is no shortage of hackers online, but many people may be surprised to learn that one of the most sophisticated threats siphoning data from computers across the globe is the NSA.

"They want to monitor everything they possibly can, and if there's something that's not on that list, they'll eventually get to it," Willis said.

According to newly-released documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA has been using a program code-named "Turbine" to infect computers using the same type of code cyber-crooks do.

"They're taking all that data and they're moving it off to their own servers," Willis said.

Fox 9 News will not show the leaked documents because they are classified as top secret, but Willis -- who worked for the NSA -- claims that "weaponized" malware has been used by the government as far back as the Gulf War.

As a cyber security expert, Willis admits he is even more surprised by the evidence that the NSA has been hacking into virtual private networks, which are the backbone of corporate Internet security.

"Clearly, VPN monitoring, I think, is the most interesting new revelation," Willis said.

According to Willis, cyber spying is a critical resource for the NSA's information gathering, but he says the scale of the data collection is alarming.

"The potential abuse for this is massive," he warned. "You have this gigantic collection of data about individuals all databased and bookmarked and cross-referenced between everyone."

On Monday, Snowden appeared in a video conference at the South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. During his talk, he said there is little a consumer can do to protect their digital privacy, and he reaffirmed that he does not regret releasing classified information about data collection practices.

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