NSA Denies Using Facebook to Hack Into Your Computer

An agency statement rebuffs a recent report that it has masqueraded as the social network.

Activists protest the surveillance of U.S. citizens by the NSA outside the Justice Department where President Barack Obama gave a major speech on reforming the NSA January 17, 2014.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
March 13, 2014, 2:07 p.m.

The Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency on Thursday denied us­ing a dop­pel­gang­er ver­sion of Face­book, say­ing it lacks the abil­ity to do so and only con­ducts for­eign in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions that are “law­ful and ap­pro­pri­ate.”

“NSA does not use its tech­nic­al cap­ab­il­it­ies to im­per­son­ate U.S. com­pany web­sites,” the agency said in a state­ment. “Nor does NSA tar­get any user of glob­al In­ter­net ser­vices without ap­pro­pri­ate leg­al au­thor­ity. Re­ports of in­dis­crim­in­ate com­puter ex­ploit­a­tion op­er­a­tions are simply false.”

The ma­ligned fed­er­al agency was hit with a re­newed wave of flog­ging Wed­nes­day after a re­port by First Look Me­dia said the NSA had at times “mas­quer­aded as a fake Face­book serv­er” in or­der to in­fect tar­geted com­puters with mal­ware. Doc­u­ments from 2009 provided by former NSA con­tract­or Ed­ward Snowden pub­lished in the re­port de­tailed a secret pro­gram called “Tur­bine” that was de­signed to hack in­to com­puters and gath­er data from for­eign net­works.

Nowhere in the NSA’s state­ment, however, does it defin­it­ively state that the agency has nev­er pre­vi­ously posed as an­oth­er web­site for sur­veil­lance pur­poses. The agency is known for its care­fully worded state­ments couched in qual­i­fy­ing lan­guage.

In re­sponse to the story, a Face­book spokes­man told Na­tion­al Journ­al that the NSA could not cur­rently spoof its site in the man­ner de­scribed in the First Look re­port be­cause the site fin­ished in­teg­rat­ing se­cure com­mu­nic­a­tions pro­tocol last year. But Face­book didn’t rule out that such ex­ploit­a­tion could have oc­curred in the past, when stand­ard com­mu­nic­a­tions pro­tocol was used.

The com­pany ad­di­tion­ally denied ever hav­ing evid­ence or know­ledge of the spy pro­gram.

Earli­er on Thursday, Face­book founder Mark Zuck­er­berg pos­ted a pub­lic note on his page that cri­ti­cized Pres­id­ent Obama and his ad­min­is­tra­tion for its sur­veil­lance pro­grams.

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