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NSA accidentally caused the 2012 Syrian Internet blackout
by Pierluigi Paganini on August 14th, 2014
Edward Snowden revealed that NSA hacking elite team TAO accidentally caused Syria’s internet blackout in 2012 during a cyber espionage operation.
Two years ago Syria suffered a huge Internet blackout, the entire country was disconnected from the Internet for three days. Security experts attributed the responsibility for the Internet blackout to the Syrian government that is facing with an ongoing civil war.
The Syrian Government denied to have disconnected the country from the Internet blaming terrorists for an attack the internal backbone.
The last revelation of Edward Snowden is presenting a new disconcerting reality, the Internet Blackout in Syria was caused by the National Security Agency. In an interview with Wired magazine Snowden confirmed that the Internet blackout was caused accidentally by the hackers of the NSA belonging to the elite unit known as the Tailored Access Operations (TAO). The TAO team was attempting to infiltrate the country’s connection to the Internet to spy on the internal traffic.
The TAO unit had allegedly been attempting to hack the router of Syria’s main Internet service provider injecting a malware that would have allowed the NSA to redirect traffic through systems eavesdropped with the NSA Turmoil monitoring system and the Xkeyscore packet processing system.
Resuming the NSA was attempting to compromise country Internet to spy on Syrian individuals of interest, in reality they succeeded in the attack, but as a side effect the country resulted disconnected from the Internet.
Snowden described the incident as an “oh shit” moment at the Tailored Access Operations center, because the US Intelligence feared that its operation would be uncovered by the Syrian Government. The TAO unit was trying to cover its operation restoring the internet connection and repairing the router.
“Fortunately for the NSA, the Syrians were apparently more focused on restoring the nation’s Internet than on tracking down the cause of the outage,” Bamford wrote.
Snowden also added another disconcerting particular, the NSA was also thinking of a misinformation campaign to blame other countries for the incident. Snowden told to the journalist that someone reported:
“If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel.” Snowden said.