AURORAGOLD Introduced New Vulnerabilities to Cellular Networks Worldwide Enabling NSA to Snoop into ANY Cellphone in the World

Rafia Shaikh

According to latest documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, National Security Agency has spied on hundreds of companies and organizations internationally. An ambitious NSA operation called AURORAGOLD has been discovered through these documents. AURORAGOLD aims to tap every cellphone network in the world, and had successfully collected technical information of about 70 percent of cellular networks worldwide, as of May 2012.

How NSA can get inside any cellphone:

The documents leaked by Snowden further reveal that NSA got this technology to tap into any network globally by intercepting emails sent between companies. Tapping into employees' email accounts and their internal communications, NSA was able to identify security vulnerabilities in carriers' networks enabling the agency to get into any network it may need to at any point in time.

the covert operation has monitored the content of messages sent and received by more than 1,200 email accounts associated with major cellphone network operators, intercepting confidential company planning papers that help the NSA hack into phone networks.

One high-profile surveillance target is the GSM Association, an influential U.K.-headquartered trade group that works closely with large U.S.-based firms including Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T, and Cisco, and is currently being funded by the U.S. government to develop privacy-enhancing technologies.

While this kind of mass surveillance is threatening to say the least, it is another aspect of the report that is even more concerning. By now everyone knows about the capabilities of NSA to get into just anywhere it wants to. These documents received by The Intercept also reveal that NSA introduced new vulnerabilities in the communications systems to weaken them with the aim to be able to tap into them in the future. This is far more concerning as by helping itself to easily tap into networks, NSA is also helping other criminal groups to get advantage of these loopholes.

By purposefully introducing new backdoors, NSA cannot only itself snoop on to whoever it wants to, but also is making larger number of population susceptible to criminal hacking attempts.

Even if you love the NSA and you say you have nothing to hide, you should be against a policy that introduces security vulnerabilities, because once NSA introduces a weakness, a vulnerability, it’s not only the NSA that can exploit it. - Karsten Nohl, cellphone security expert.

The latest revelations of Operation AURORAGOLD are appalling, even though quite predictable. Surveillance around citizens seems to have been closely tightened - all on the name of national security. Normalizing mass surveillance, regardless of whatever a certain agency's agendas be, is only dangerous for citizens making him/her vulnerable and susceptible to criminal hackers.

Read the full document and get scared: Working Group via The Intercept


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