Web

NSA pretended to be Facebook in its effort to infect ‘millions’ of computers

facebook eye

Well, this is just special. As part of its efforts to install malware on “millions” of computers worldwide, the National Security Agency impersonated Facebook to trick targets into downloading malicious code.

“In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive,” reports The Intercept in its latest on top-secret documents obtained by Edward Snowden. “In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.”

The Facebook trick was called QUANTUMHAND by the NSA, and was initially tested on “about a dozen targets” before being launched on a larger scale in 2010, the documents show.

What began as a way to hit “hart-to-reach” targets – around 100 to 150 of them, as of 2004 – the NSA’s malware-spreading efforts have since proliferated to potentially millions of computers around the globe using an automated system known internally as TURBINE. Using TURBINE, documents reveal, gave members of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit the ability to tap into, or destroy, computers on a massive scale.

Here’s how The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald describe some of the various tailored malware the NSA deploys into targeted machines:

One implant, codenamed UNITEDRAKE, can be used with a variety of “plug-ins” that enable the agency to gain total control of an infected computer.

An implant plug-in named CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE, for example, is used to take over a targeted computer’s microphone and record conversations taking place near the device. Another, GUMFISH, can covertly take over a computer’s webcam and snap photographs. FOGGYBOTTOM records logs of Internet browsing histories and collects login details and passwords used to access websites and email accounts. GROK is used to log keystrokes. And SALVAGERABBIT exfiltrates data from removable flash drives that connect to an infected computer.

The documents also indicate that some of these viruses disable targets’ ability to use encryption software to mask Internet activity or send emails privately. This and other malware efforts are part of what the NSA documents call its “Owning the Net” program.

Mobile

Sign In with Apple sticks it to Google and Facebook, for the good of everyone

Apple wants you to use its new Sign In with Apple service, which promises to free you from password hell, without selling your soul to the advertising devil. Is it worth using when it launches this year?
Web

NSA warns about Windows exploit, ignores its own role in creation of malware

In a rare occurrence, the National Security Agency has published a statement urging people to update their Windows systems to protect against the BlueKeep vulnerability, a recently-detailed wormable exploit affecting Windows 7 and earlier.
Web

Maker Media, the company behind MAKE magazine and Maker Faire events, shuts down

Sad news for DIY enthusiasts: Maker Media, the company which runs the Maker Faire events and which produces the magazine MAKE, is shutting down. The company has laid off all its staff and is ceasing operations.
Computing

Paid browsers are the future, and Firefox might offer a better deal than Chrome

Just like Google, Mozilla is planning on offering premium web-browsing services. Unlike Google, however, it seems like Mozilla might have a better strategy for encouraging users to subscribe to its future premium plans.
Computing

Opera GX is a browser for gamers, but the actual gaming is still to come

Every company seems to have a product line or two aimed squarely at gamers, so why not browsers too? Opera has a new branch of its main browser called Opera GX and it's designed specifically with gamers in mind.
Mobile

Amazon Prime Day 2019 will likely be on July 15, according to leaked email

It looks like we now have an idea of when Amazon Prime Day 2019 will be, thanks to a leaked email that was sent out to promote a vacuum cleaner deal for Prime Day. According to the email, the massive shopping event will take place on July…
Computing

Dropbox’s all-new desktop app wants to be your one and only workspace

Dropbox has unveiled its most significant update yet as it continues to move away from its original core service as a place to store files in the cloud, toward a virtual workspace solution that offers all services in-app.
Social Media

Here's how to unblock someone on Facebook when you've had a change of heart

Maybe you were a little too hasty blocking that one person on Facebook ... or maybe you just want to do a little spying to see what they're up to. Either way, you can fix the situation easily. Here's how to unblock someone on Facebook.
Music

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've hand-picked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.
Social Media

Here's how to link your Instagram, Facebook accounts for social syncing

Instagram and Facebook go hand in hand. Here's how you can make the most of the superior integration offered by the two social media behemoths, which should help your pics gain more exposure in the long run.
Outdoors

For $5,000, Airbnb will take you around the world in 80 days. Airfare included

Airbnb's new Adventures allow travelers can book a mix of accommodations, food, and experiences in what Airbnb calls "bucket list" worthy trips, including a round-the-world trip for just $5,000
Home Theater

Netflix can drain your data in a hurry. Here's how to turn it down a notch

Ever wondered how much data you need to stream a show (or movie) on Netflix? You aren't alone. The answer could be anywhere from 1GB per hour to 7GB per hour, but there's more to it than that. Here's how to control your Netflix data.
Small Business

The 15 best tech jobs boast top salaries, high satisfaction, lots of openings

May may be coming to an end, but the bonanza of tech jobs just keeps coming. High-paying jobs abound at companies where people love to work. If you’re ready to make a change, this is a great time to look for something more fulfilling…
Smart Home

Walmart Grocery challenges Amazon with new $98-a-year delivery option

The grocery delivery wars are hotting up. Walmart's latest effort is a $98-a-year subscription fee that offers free delivery on orders over $30. The service, called Delivery Unlimited, can be tried free for 15 days.