Antennas of the former National Security Agency (NSA) listening station are seen at the Teufelsberg hill, or Devil Antennas of the former National Security Agency (NSA) listening station are seen at the Teufelsberg hill, or Devil's Mountain in Berlin, November 5, 2013. Germany's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it had asked the British ambassador to come and discuss a report that Britain was operating a covert spying station in Berlin, using hi-tech equipment housed on the embassy roof. Documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden show that Britain's surveillance agency is operating a network of "electronic spy posts" from within a stone's throw of the Bundestag and German chancellor's office, British newspaper Independent reported. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (GERMANY - Tags: CITYSPACE POLITICS) - RTX150ZM  

NSA can hack WiFi networks from miles away

Giuseppe Macri
Tech Editor

A surprising new list of National Security Agency surveillance capabilities was revealed during Berlin’s Chaos Communications Congress this weekend, including the agency’s ability to hack private WiFi networks from up to eight miles away.

Security researcher Jacob Appelbaum co-wrote a Der Spiegel article published Sunday detailing how the NSA intercepts newly-purchased computer products mid-shipment to install surveillance malware before reaching the buyer.

While onstage in Berlin, Appelbaum went into further detail about the agency’s unknown capabilities — including installing surveillance and remote-control malware and spyware into unsuspecting devices via WiFi from almost 10 miles out.

According to Appelbaum, agency surveillance vans and even drones could be used to get within hackable range and wirelessly deliver the software packages.

The leaked agency document detailing the program is dated 2007, suggesting that the program’s capabilities have likely grown more advanced by now.

Appelbaum believes the program is still in use, and cited examples including a mock cell tower installed on the roof of London’s Ecuadorian Embassay, the current home of Wikileaks founder and asylum-seeker Julian Assange. The device became suspect when it sent out messages seemingly from a telephone company in Uganda, as opposed to Ecuador. Appelbaum suggested authorities mistakenly forgot to reprogram it after its last mission.

Watch Appelbaum’s conference presentation, “To Protect and Infect” here.

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