The NSA Has A Secret Group Called ‘TAO’ That’s Been Hacking China For 15 Years
The primary complaint against China’s outift of military hackers has been dual pronged: the U.S. private sector is losing expensive proprietary information, and the public sector is having its sensitive weapons systems compromised.
China’s response has been, simply: yeah but the U.S. did it to us first, and worse.
It turns out, China might just be telling it like it is this time.
The deafening sound of internet aggregators shredding Edward Snowden’s life into digestible pieces drowned out probably one of the most epic posts of the week: Matthew M. Aid’s Foreign Policy piece titled “Inside the NSA’s Ultra-Secret China Hacking Group.”
Secret NSA hackers from TAO Office have been pwning China for nearly 15 years
There’s a $23 billion price tag attached to protecting national infrastructure, computer networks, and developing cyber offensive capabilities, according to the Pentagon’s five year cybersecurity budget obtained by Bloomberg News. In March, the Intelligence Community said that the top national security threat to the US was no longer terrorism, but was instead in the cyber arena, cyber espionage and cyberattacks. The Pentagon’s budget through 2018 “shows ‘increased investment will be made in protecting critical infrastructures,’ cyber-attack capabilities ‘for use against our adversaries and enhancing overall security of DoD networks and systems’.” This spending “may benefit defense contractors.”
How the U.S. Government Hacks the World
The men and women who hack for the NSA belong to a secretive unit known as Tailored Access Operations. It gathers vast amounts of intelligence on terrorist financial networks, international money-laundering and drug operations, the readiness of foreign militaries, even the internal political squabbles of potential adversaries, according to two former U.S. government security officials, who asked not to be named when discussing foreign intelligence gathering. For years, the NSA wouldn’t acknowledge TAO’s existence. A Pentagon official who also asked not to be named confirmed that TAO conducts cyber espionage, or what the Department of Defense calls “computer network exploitation,” but emphasized that it doesn’t target technology, trade, or financial secrets. The official says the number of people who work for TAO is classified. NSA spokeswoman Vaneé Vines would not answer questions about the unit.
The Secret History of the National Security Agency
Since 9/11, the military has gone out and recruited a small but important group of technically minded people, very young people, who can break into our enemies’ communications systems. They are now a group at NSA working what’s called Tailored Access Operations.
Working with the CIA and others, TAO identifies computer systems and networks being used by foreign
terrorists. Then, a small group of computer hackers belonging to the U.S. Navy, who call themselves Computer Network Exploitation operators, break into the systems electronically to steal the information contained on the hard drives, as well as monitor the E-mail traffic coming in and out of the computer.