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Earlier this year, news came out of NSA hacks on several telecommunications companies. Last November, the New York Times reported on the Treasure Map program of the NSA. The same batch of documents and recent telecom hacks now show that the NSA has not stopped their plan to map all devices that connect to the Internet.
Mapping the Internet and Connected Devices
Snowden documents seem to have an endless supply of shocking illegal spy activities. This batch, also responsible for the discovery of NSA hacks on several telecoms, tells of an NSA plan to map the whole Internet. This is not new information, but German news agency Der Spiegel reports German telecom hacks that point to Treasure Map being an active program of intelligence agencies. . In the documents, the NSA was teaming up with the British spy agency GCHQ. They planned for the map to include all end user devices connecting to the Internet. The documents came from both agencies, confirming their complicit involvement in the plan.
The breach of Deutsche Telekom networks was an initial stage of the mapping scheme. Other German companies have also been attacked by the agencies in pursuit of the goal to map the Internet. The program that then NSA and the GCHQ were using to carry out their mapping scheme is called Treasure Map.
Treasure Map is a malicious project, which can be seen by just looking at its demonic skull logo. Treasure Map is the key to the NSA’s plan to map devices connected to the Internet. It began by attacking telecoms to gain access to main traffic channels. In the end, its goal was to map devices of individual Internet users. They wanted to map devices to gain control over all the data that is passed through routers in homes and public networks. This way, all computers, tablet, smartphones and other technology would be visible and feed our data to the NSA and GCHQ. Treasure Map analysts were ordered to map devices anywhere in the world, with the goal of accessing them at any time.
With Treasure Map, the NSA seeks to create an interactive map that they can use to see any device and channel in the world. The program is also said to be made available to the other members of the FiveEyes alliance, the countries of Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and New Zealand. These countries combine forces with the NSA to conduct surveillance. But Treasure Map is not only there to map devices and monitor traffic. Treasure Map can help with attacks and exploits.
Satellite Internet provider Stellar PCS was attacked by the GCHQ. Key employees at these companies, such as Stellar CEO Christian Steffen, have also been targeted for surveillance. This brings to mind a similar attack on Belgacom by the GCHQ in 2013. Not only ere networks breached, but the GCHQ got deep into their Network Analysis department through employee computers. They then proceeded to use routers for attacks. The spy agency also hacked into their central server and company mail server. They thus gained the power to cut Internet access to Stellar customers and to manipulate emails and links. The GCHQ also got specific data on who is served by which satellite transponder.
The Treasure Map documents held by Spiegel show that certain German networks have already been breached by FiveEyes. The documents highlight the Autonomous Systems Deutsche Telekom AG and Netcologne as prime targets. They also show NSA signals intelligence collection access points within the networks, or what networks have been monitored. These breached networks are Tier 1 providers that provide Internet and phone service to people worldwide. Thousands of Deutsche Telekom routers around the globe are shown in the documents to be under surveillance. Deutsche Telekom serves over 60 million people in Germany alone.
Germany Reacts to Telecom Breaches
Deutsche Telekom is part of the TAT14 group whose cable runs through Great Britain to the US. Netcologne, however, would have had to be accessed from inside Germany. If it can be proven that this was the case, it constitutes another violation of German law. Deutsche Telekom finds the act of foreign attacks on their network “completely unacceptable”. This would not be the first case filed by German public prosecutors against the NSA. Stellar has taken steps to investigate the breach and says they are not letting the criminal violation go. Neither the British government nor either of the intelligence agencies have responded. Satellite Internet providers Cetel and IABG have also been breached and are monitored by Treasure Map.