NSA: AURORAGOLD accessed 70% of cellphone networks

In documents released by US whistleblower Edward Snowden, it has been revealed the NSA has access to 70% of mobile networks worldwide. The initiative called 'Project AURORAGOLD' aims to ensure the agency can exploit weaknesses in cellphone technology for surveillance whenever required for government operations.

Influential UK-based trade group, the GSM Association, was one of the NSA's major targets

AURORAGOLD intercepts confidential emails between more than 1,200 accounts associated with major cellphone network operators around the globe, and uses technical information received from these emails to introduce flaws/backdoors which can be accessed at a later point if required - despite leaving the network and its customers vulnerable.

In particular, the NSA's teams seek out the "IR.21" documents between network operators which detail how customers can connect to networks when roaming abroad, and provide technical details about the encryption methods used which can help the NSA to crack them in order to monitor international conversations.

Influential UK-based trade group, the GSM Association, was one of the NSA's major targets due to representing and exchanging confidential communication between tech giants including Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung, Sony, and over 800 more large companies spanning across 220 countries. The fact a UK trade group was infiltrated by the NSA shows a complete disregard even for companies based in close allies of the United States.

AURORAGOLD intercepts confidential emails between more than 1,200 accounts associated with major cellphone network operators

Another US government agency is sure to, yet again, come into conflict with the NSA over the breach. The NIST (National Institute for Standards and Technology) pushes for and recommends new cybersecurity measures. The institute provided the GSM Association with more than $800,000 in September to address "security and privacy" issues of mobile devices - all whilst being hacked by another agency under the US government.

Jeremy Grant, NIST's senior executive advisor for identity management, said of the grant: “At a time when concerns about data breaches and identity theft are growing, these new NSTIC pilots can play an important role in fostering a marketplace of online identity solutions.”

The documents show a world map featured in a presentation from June 2012 which reveal that the NSA has network access in almost every country including Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and France. 701 of the 985 of networks AURORAGOLD attempted to access were successful, and the operation appears to have been active since 2010.

Once technical information is collected, it is then passed on to the NSA's "signals development" team who uses it for performing the network infiltration. Equivalents of the NSA based in United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are informed of these developments and presumably are also given access as part of the "Five Eyes" surveillance alliance.

How do you feel about the NSA's Project AURORAGOLD? Let us know in the comments.

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