Most computers that hold top secret information aren’t connected to the internet.
Instead, they’re part of heavily protected internal server networks that have several layers of defense between themselves and the internet.
If you’re trying to hide from the NSA, then it makes sense the first thing you would do is disconnect your PC’s internet cable. Shut off the wireless network, and enjoy your surveillance-free PC.
Unfortunately, the NSA is smarter than that. Recently-revealed information shows that the NSA is not only capable of tracking offline computers, but it is also actively tracking 100,000 offline computers right now.
How does the NSA track offline computers?
The NSA tracks offline computers using a radio technology called Quantum. This technology converts radio wave channels to transmit data to and from a targeted PC.
But here’s the good news: the NSA can’t just pick any offline computer in the world and instantly start tracking it. Instead, it must insert a USB card nicknamed “Cottonmouth” into the target computer in order to send out the radio signals.
But here’s some bad news: NSA officials apparently insert Cottonmouth USB cards into computers long before they reach their destination. Computers might be intercepted before they are installed into a politician’s office, for example, or into an industrial factory in Iran.
The US used this technology to monitor Iran’s nuclear program and the Stuxnet virus, which means it has played an extremely important role in national security.
In the future, the NSA plans to continue develop offline monitoring technologies – including something called DROPOUTJEEP – which do not require the physical installation of a transmitter.
When that day comes (it may have already come and gone), it will be a good day for surveillance experts around the world.