U.S. Computer Makers Lose Markets Courtesy of NSA Spyware*
By Chris Fry
Kaspersky Lab, a well-regarded, Russian-based, computer security company, released a report in mid-February describing a U.S. National Security Agency secret spyware program that lets the U.S. government read all the data on computers’ hard drives.
At the same time, the Chinese government has been demanding that U.S. software companies provide them with the encryption keys to read the data files that their software produces. This would allow China to more effectively fight terrorist groups, but it would also allow the government to detect bribery and corruption, which are central to imperialist domination around the globe.
When the U.S. government, on behalf of the Silicon Valley technology industry, objected to China’s demands, the Chinese government pointed to the sheer hypocrisy of the U.S. position — particularly referring to the scope of NSA spyware activities.
The Kaspersky report reveals just how insidious is the NSA’s new family of malware. The report calls it “The Equation Family” and states that it “surpasses anything else” the company’s staff has ever seen. (“How the NSA’s Firmware Hacking Works and Why It’s So Unsettling,” wired.com, Feb. 23)
This hacking tool actually places spyware code in a computer hard drive’s “firmware.” That means that existing anti-virus programs cannot get rid of it.
Even if the user reformats the hard drive and removes all the data, this spyware is untouched. It will hack any new data placed on the hard drive.
The “Equation” malware can even store data, including passwords, before they are encrypted. So, even if the user purchases special software that converts the data into an unreadable format, the NSA spyware can hide the readable files on some “hidden” area of the hard drive.
Even if the infected computer is never attached to the Internet, the NSA can still retrieve these hidden files when the computer is brought through customs, such as at an airport or border checkpoint, or if it is stolen.
Most of the infected computers that Kaspersky found were in Iran. But the company also found infected computers in Belgium, Germany, Britain, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. Moreover, others were found in the U.S. — particularly among those used by Muslim activists and religious organizations. (“Researchers Find ‘Astonishing’ Malware Linked to NSA Spying,” firstlook.org, Feb. 17)
The latest revelations about NSA spyware add to those already made by whistleblower Edward Snowden. They have deservedly hurt global sales of U.S. computers and software.
Forrester Research pegs potential losses at $180 billion, especially affecting technology firms and managed service providers. “Suspicion of U.S. vendors is running at an all-time high,” says Andrew Jaquith, chief technology officer at the cloud-security firm SilverSky. (“NSA surveillance hurting tech firms’ business,” usatoday.com, Feb. 28, 2014)
Sales of computers and other equipment to China have been sharply affected. It illustrates the fact that ruthless imperialist strategies meant to advance the interests of U.S. big business can blow back to harm some of them.
On the one hand, U.S. corporations and banks hunger for huge profits from exploiting Chinese labor and from selling products, like computers, to the Chinese people. On the other hand, the imperialists’ main goal has always been to destroy the socialist foundations of the People’s Republic of China — to undermine the planned economy and to install a regime subservient to Wall Street’s will.
Bribery and corruption are tools the imperialists use to carry out their goals in China. Refusing China’s demands for the encryption keys allows the U.S. to shield its personnel and collaborators from China’s anti-corruption efforts, but at the same time it undermines the sales of U.S. computers to Chinese people.
The NSA provides no “security” for the workers and poor, either in the U.S. or abroad. Its sole mission is to protect the banks and corporations that feast off the poverty and misery of the world’s people. Only socialism, a system that places people before profits, can harness this technology to serve the interests of the workers and oppressed.