NSA Launched Heartbleed Virus to Nab Evildoers

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In trouble

Special to the London Post

WASHINGTON—America’s super-secret National Security Agency (NSA) is responsible for the dreaded “Heartbleed” virus that has infected servers worldwide, according to documents leaked by former U.S. security contractor Edwin Snowden.

The documents show that NSA developed Heartbleed as part of its massive MYSTIC anti-terrorism surveillance operation. The virus “enables security personnel to monitor Internet traffic flowing through half a million U.S. and European-based servers,” according to a highly classified briefing NSA officials made last summer to security experts at European intelligence agencies. The briefing was part of the large trove of classified documents on NSA surveillance passed along to news outlets last year by Snowden, who is living under asylum in Russia.

A statement Snowden released yesterday says Heartbleed is “yet one more reason why I’m not sorry for what I did.”

Security experts say the virus is particularly pernicious because it lodges in the actual infrastructure of the Internet—the servers and routers that comprise the backbone of the World Wide Web—making possible the widespread swiping of personal information by those who have access to the data.

Some of the largest Internet service providers (ISPs) in the United States and Europe are believed to be compromised, and security professionals have been scrambling to make the necessary patches and alert users to change their passwords. “The Heartbleed virus is everyone’s worst nightmare,” says Nigel Coolings of ShadowNet, an independent security consultancy based in London.

In testimony yesterday before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, NSA Director Keith Alexander says the Heartbleed program is under strict controls and the data is “only being used to prevent acts of terror by evildoers. Did we want to compromise the Internet? Of course not, but to protect against acts of terror, nothing can be outside our jurisdiction. Sorry.”

Even so, he says, he intends to place the program “under review” to ensure the program’s controls are “sufficient to protect the data we are collecting for critical national security purposes.”

That is not enough, say lawmakers. “Creating a massive security breach is not the way to stop evildoers,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the intelligence panel chair. “This program needs to be shut down.”

But Alexander said that’s easier said than done, because the NSA’s own passwords have been compromised. “As soon as we find a way to get back into our systems, we will take all the appropriate steps to ensure the integrity of the Internet,” he said. “But we can’t protect people’s information until we regain control of our systems, and we can’t do that until we think up new passwords, and we’re doing that as quickly as we can.”

This is a work of satire. It is fictional news article not meant to be taken seriously. Photo: cjcs (Creative Commons). Not necessarily an endorsed use of image.

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