NSA intercepts US routers, implants spyware


blog Remember how the US Government made such as a huge song and dance about the claimed security implications to buying networking equipment from Chinese vendor Huawei? Remember how the Australian Government subsequently blacklisted Huawei from selling its hardware to the National Broadband Network Company? Well, it turns out that this was squarely a case of the pot calling the kettle black. New revelations coming out of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has access to the National Security Agency treasure trove of whistleblower Edward Snowden, makes it very clear that the NSA has been doing the same thing with US networking equipment vendors. The Guardian reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“A June 2010 report from the head of the NSA’s Access and Target Development department is shockingly explicit. The NSA routinely receives – or intercepts – routers, servers and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers. The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users.”

To say this is disturbing is to put it mildly. The US is home to some of the world’s largest network equipment manufacturers — companies such as Cisco Systems, Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent (courtesy of its Lucent merger in 2006) and many smaller companies all have substantial US facilities. And these same companies are definitely supplying equipment to Australia’s largest telcos — Telstra, Optus, TPG, iiNet, Vodafone, and of course NBN Co.

As part of the ‘Five Eyes’ global spy network, Australia is a partner in espionage with the US. But likewise, the Australian Government would no doubt be disturbed to learn that it was buying routers which explicitly had NSA backdoors embedded into them. I predict that this revelation by Greenwald will have significant implications for the US vendors concerned — and their relationships with Australian companies.

It has always been the case that buying Cisco equipment especially was a safe bet for enterprises and telcos — the US firm has a reputation for quality going back decades. And Juniper has a similar aura. But can we honestly say that these reputations are still intact, following Greenwald’s revelations? I’d say such companies have a great deal of explaining to do to their international customers.

Image credit: Cisco


  1. Although the Huawei decision also came on the back of the discovery of Chinese interests hacking our parliamentary networks for a year, including the office of the prime minister. But yes, the fact we expect the US to be duplicitous doesn’t make it right and shouldn’t excuse them from the consequences.

  2. Yeah, wont be using Cisco again anytime soon, no more 6500s and “secure” routers.. Nor huawei for that matter. Hope we can trust 10g cards and linux boxes.

  3. Actually, it’s more likely, given the revelations, that the government banned Huawei to make sure they could continue to get info back from the NSA on local targets.

      • It’s a shame that things have gotten to the point were it is something that could be seriously considered :(

        Unless we end up with an Aussie “Snowden”, we’ll never know for sure though…

  4. Anyone here read Homeland by Cory Doctorow? This reminds me so several elements of that book – scary when art (and art about an alternative world full of surveillance) becomes real…

Comments are closed.