NSA’s Auroragold program spies on carriers to break into cell networks

usa freedom act passes in senate with 67 32 vote nsa computers heartbleed bug
Image Credit: Wikimedia
Yet another top-secret National Security Agency (NSA) program has been unearthed by Glenn Greenwald’s publication the Intercept. The report details a program called Auroragold, which according to the official documents leaked by Edward Snowden, specialized in spying on the email correspondence between carriers’ security experts to break into cellular networks and expose vulnerabilities. The unit would then exploit the flaws in the security system to listen in on the conversations and text messages carried by those cellular networks.

The program is described as the NSA’s method of staying one step ahead of carriers’ encryption, so as to ensure that the agency has access to communications held over most cellular networks. If vulnerabilities did not already exist in the security systems, the NSA would create them, the report states. The Auroragold program has been active since 2012 and regularly monitors 1,200 email accounts that are associated with major cellular networks and carriers around the world.

The Intercept revealed that the NSA has already obtained the technical security information of 70 percent of the world’s networks.

The NSA devoted special attention to monitoring communications among members of the U.K.-based GSM Association, which includes high-profile tech companies and carriers, such as AT&T, Cisco, Microsoft, Samsung, Vodafone, Facebook, Verizon, Sprint, Intel, Oracle, Sony, Nokia, and Ericsson. It is unclear how many of these high-profile companies’ security structures the NSA infiltrated.

The Intercept revealed that the NSA has already obtained the technical security information of 70 percent of the world’s networks. Although penetration into the U.S. carriers’ networks is surprisingly low, the NSA has access to nearly all the communications in North Africa, the Middle East, and China.

Claire Cranton, a spokeswoman for the GSM Association, said that the organization cannot respond to any of the details revealed by the Intercept’s report until its lawyers have seen the documents. “If there is something there that is illegal then they will take it up with the police,” Cranton told the publication.

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), a U.S. government agency that recommends cybersecurity measures, stated that it is unaware of any NSA surveillance of the GSM Association. However, NIST previously warned users of NSA interference with encryption standards.

In April, White House officials stated that Obama ordered the NSA alert the federal government of any security gaps it finds in cellular networks and other technology companies’ security systems. There is, however, a major loophole in the order, which allows the NSA to keep vulnerabilities to itself if it plans to use them for “a clear national security or law enforcement” purpose.

For its own part, the NSA maintains that it uses its intelligence to protect against terrorists and other threats to the United States. NSA spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines told the Intercept that the “NSA collects only those communications that it is authorized by law to collect in response to valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence requirements—regardless of the technical means used by foreign targets, or the means by which those targets attempt to hide their communications.”

Home Theater

Tipping point? Streaming subscribers outnumbered cable in 2018 for first time

2018 was a very good year for the entertainment business as a whole, but it was especially good for streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon, says a new report by the Motion Picture Association of America.

24 must-have apps for rooted Android phones and tablets

Rooting your Android device opens up a world of possibilities, along with a few apps. Here are 24 of our favorites, so you can make the most of your rooted device and unleash the true power of Android.

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.

Google Fi: Phones, plans, pricing, perks, and more explained

Google's wireless service, formerly Project Fi, now goes by the name of Google Fi, and it's now compatible with a majority of Android phones, as well as iPhones. Here's everything you need to know about Google Fi.

Got gadgets galore? Keep them charged up with the 10 best USB-C cables

We're glad to see that USB-C is quickly becoming the norm. That's why we've rounded up some of the better USB-C cables on the market, whether you're looking to charge or sync your smartphone. We've got USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A.

Get ready to say goodbye to some IFTTT support in Gmail by March 31

If This Then That, the popular automation service, will drop some of its support for Gmail by March 31. The decision comes as a response to security concerns and is aimed to protect user data.

The Tacs Nato-Lens is a watch for those who live life through a camera lens

Not all watches have to be round, or connect to your phone. The Tacs Nato-Lens is a stylish piece of wristwear with a design inspired by classic SLR cameras, making it a geeky timepiece for the camera and watch fan.

This is the easiest way to save your iPhone data to your computer

Living in fear of losing your contacts, photos, messages, and notes on your iPhone? Fear no more -- in this guide, we'll break down exactly how to back up your iPhone to your computer using Apple's iTunes or to the cloud with iCloud.

HMD Global admits Nokia 7 Plus handsets sent user data to China

Nokia could be in some hot water. According to recent reports, Nokia 7 models may be secretly sending data to China without the user knowing about it. Nokia says that the issue was a software bug and that it has been fixed.

Here are the best iPad Pro keyboard cases to pick up with your new tablet

The iPad Pro range can double as laptops, but they do need proper keyboards to fill in effectively. Thankfully, there are loads to choose from and we rounded up the best iPad Pro keyboard cases right here.

Wring the most out of iOS with the best commands for Siri

You may not know all the things you can say to Siri -- after all, Apple never released an official list of commands for its virtual assistant. Thankfully, we've compiled a list of the best Siri commands to help you out.
Product Review

The new iPad Mini isn’t a beauty, but it performs like a beast

Apple’s new iPad Mini has beastly performance, fluid iOS 12 software, and good battery life. It also looks like it came straight out of 2015, because the design hasn’t been changed. Here's our review of Apple’s 7.9-inch tablet.

Breeze through security with these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags

Getting through airport security is a drag, but your laptop bag shouldn’t be. Thankfully, these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags will get you and your gear to your destination with ease.

Flex your thumbs (and your brain) with these fun texting games

Gaming consoles keep getting more advanced, but you can still have fun with the good old Latin alphabet. Here are our picks for the best texting games, so you can make the most fun out of that limited data plan or basic cell phone.