The National Security Agency infected more than 50,000 networks across the globe with malware as part of a massive surveillance effort.
The information was another leak from materials taken from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. According to Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, documents leaked by Snowden showed that the NSA hacked the networks and installed malware. The attacks are orchestrated by a department known as TAO (Tailored Access Operations).
The paper reported that the information came from a management presentation from last year that outlined how the NSA collects information. The malware attacks are referred to as Computer Network Exploitation (CNE).
"One example of this type of hacking was discovered in September 2013 at the Belgium telecom provider Belgacom," according to the paper. "For a number of years the British intelligence service - GCHQ – has been installing this malicious software in the Belgacom network in order to tap their customers’ telephone and data traffic. The Belgacom network was infiltrated by GCHQ through a process of luring employees to a false Linkedin page."
The leaked material also said that the NSA has access to Internet cables at 20 separate locations around the world. The NSA declined to comment to NRC Handelsblad on the report.
The Snowden leaks have touched off talk of reforms in regards to how the NSA conducts electronic surveillance. The agency's critics have been calling for the NSA's ability to collect data such as phone and email records to be curtailed. It has also spurred many organizations such as Yahoo and Google to expand their use of encryption to protect communications.