Berto Jongman: NSA “Tailored Access Operations” (TAO) — Focus on the 2% at Great Expense While Ignoring the 98% Open Access World 2.0 Refs Added
BloombergBusinessWeek, 23 May 2013
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 two former security officials agreed to describe the operation and its activities without divulging which governments or entities it targets. According to the former officials, U.S. cyberspies, most from military units who’ve received specialized training, sit at consoles running sophisticated hacking software, which funnels information stolen from computers around the world into a “fusion center,” where intelligence analysts try to make sense of it all. The NSA is prohibited by law from spying on people or entities within the U.S., including noncitizens, or on U.S. citizens abroad. According to one of the former officials, the amount of data the unit harvests from overseas computer networks, or as it travels across the Internet, has grown to an astonishing 2 petabytes an hour—that’s nearly 2.1 million gigabytes, the equivalent of hundreds of millions of pages of text.