NSA’s UN Hacking Raises Yet More Questions: Is Nothing Left Sacred?

Last weekend, German newspaper Der Spiegal revealed the rather unsurprising news that the NSA had successfully bugged both the UN and a number of European countries’ US embassies, and also hacked into the UN’s video conferencing software in order to access any and all calls using it.

Such is the extent of the NSA’s pervasive spying network that this news isn’t the least bit surprising anymore. As we’ve mentioned several times on SiliconANGLE before, such ‘intelligence gathering’ is the bread and butter of spy agencies all over the world – after all, few people are outraged if its government officials that are the ones being spied upon.

The problem is not these tit for tat spying games. Rather, its the individual citizens who get irate when they learn that they’re being watched – for no good reason, we should add. Of course, the NSA has stressed time and time again how it does everything humanly possible to avoid unnecessary spying on US citizens at least, but with the latest news out of Germany, one has to wonder how genuine that claim is when it’s been caught out directly tapping calls made from inside the UN – which, as we know, is based in New York.

No doubt the NSA will argue that the UN headquarters is “technically” not actually in the US as it falls under the control of the UN, despite its agreement that it abides by US laws. The status of the UN headquarters is quite similar to that of foreign embassies, which although based in the US, are treated as the sovereign territory of whichever country occupies that space. No doubt, the NSA uses the same reasoning to justify spying on these too.

A second question raised by the Der Spiegal article has to do with President Obama’s insistence that the NSA’s activities are designed to protect the nation against terrorism. If so, why on earth does it feel the need to spy on European diplomats, who’re supposedly America’s closest allies in the War on Terror? Then again, as I mentioned earlier, spying on foreign officials is supposedly “fair game” and so few people will care, even if it does embarrass the US in front of its friends.

These questions will undoubtedly be brushed under the carpet as the next ‘revelation’ from Ed Snowden leaks into the media, but another talking point is the following snippet that tells how the NSA was able to hack into the UN’s video conferencing program:

“Furthermore, NSA technicians working for the Blarney program have managed to decrypt the UN’s internal video teleconferencing (VTC) system. The combination of this new access to the UN and the cracked encryption code have led to “a dramatic improvement in VTC data quality and (the) ability to decrypt the VTC traffic,” the NSA agents noted with great satisfaction: “This traffic is getting us internal UN VTCs (yay!).” Within just under three weeks, the number of decrypted communications increased from 12 to 458.”

Yay! Hooray! Just how obsessed have we become with hacking into every communications channel known to man?! Is nothing sacred to these guys anymore???

Kind of dumb that these ‘agents’ are celebrating these little victories in such a childish fashion, but hey why should I care? It’s only European diplomats right? They’re all “fair game”.

Except of course, the snippet above doesn’t say anything about the company that provides the UN with its video conferencing software. If the NSA has cracked its most secure encryption protocols – which are likely to be fairly secure seeing as its the UN – it certainly doesn’t bode well for the rest of us when we’re using software from non-PRISM clients like Line, WhatsApp and so on precisely to avoid being spied upon – how many of these have also been hacked?

About Mike Wheatley

Mike loves to talk about Big Data, the Internet of Things, Hacktivists and hacking, but he also hates Google and can never resist having a quick dig at them should the opportunity arise :) Got a REAL news story or tip? Email Mike@SiliconANGLE.com.