Snowden reveals automated NSA cyberwarfare program

MonsterMind could fire back at suspected attackers without human intervention, Snowden says

The U.S. National Security Agency has a cyberwarfare program that hunts for foreign cyberattacks and is able to strike back without human intervention, according to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

The NSA cyberwarfare program, called MonsterMind, uses software to look for traffic patterns indicating possible foreign cyberattacks, according to Snowden, quoted in a lengthy profile in Wired.

MonsterMind could automatically block a cyberattack from entering the U.S., then retaliate against the attackers, according to the Wired story.

Snowden, when he was working as an NSA contractor, was concerned that MonsterMind could lead to misdirected counterattacks. "These attacks can be spoofed," he told Wired. "You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?"

MonsterMind also creates privacy problems, because it would have to access nearly all the communications coming into the U.S. in order to work, Snowden told Wired. "If we're analyzing all traffic flows, that means we have to be intercepting all traffic flows," he said. "That means violating the Fourth Amendment, seizing private communications without a warrant, without probable cause or even a suspicion of wrongdoing. For everyone, all the time."

A program such as Snowden described would raise major concerns, the American Civil Liberties Union said.

"The government has used excessive secrecy to prevent real debate over the wisdom and legality of many of its most sweeping surveillance programs," Alex Abdo, an ACLU staff attorney, said by email. "This newly described program is just another example of that secrecy. If the government truly is scanning all internet traffic coming into the United States for suspicious content, that would raise significant civil liberties questions."

The NSA declined to comment on MonsterMind, but called on Snowden to return to the U.S. from Russia. "If Mr. Snowden wants to discuss his activities, that conversation should be held with the U.S. Department of Justice," the NSA said in a statement. "He needs to return to the United States to face the charges against him."

In addition to MonsterMind, the Wired story alleges that NSA hackers accidentally shut down Internet service in Syria for a short time in 2012 when trying to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major ISP in the country.

NSA workers were attempting to gain access to email and other Internet communications in Syria, but the router was destroyed in the process of trying to compromise it. The NSA was worried Syria would discover the exploit, but apparently didn't, Snowden told Wired.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags American Civil Liberties UnionsecurityEdward SnowdenAlex AbdoU.S. National Security AgencygovernmentExploits / vulnerabilitiesprivacy

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?