The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world — but not in the United States — that allows the U.S. to conduct surveillance on those machines, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Times cited NSA documents, computer experts and U.S. officials in its report about the use of secret technology using radio waves to gain access to computers that other countries have tried to protect from spying or cyberattacks. The software network could also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks, the Times reported.
The Times reported that the technology, used by the agency for several years, relies on radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted covertly into the computers. The NSA calls the effort an "active defense" and has used the technology to monitor units of China's army, the Russian military, drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union, and sometime U.S. partners against terrorism like Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan, the Times reported.
Among the most frequent targets of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, the Times reported, has been China's army. The United States has accused China's army of launching regular attacks on American industrial and military targets, often to steal secrets or intellectual property. When Chinese attackers have placed similar software on computer systems of American companies or government agencies, American officials have protested, the newspaper reported.
The NSA says the technology has not been used in computers in the U.S.