The Intercept has released a report that states that Pakistan’s National Telecommunications Corporation (NTC) was/is hacked by the US National Security Agency (NSA), for the purposes of spying on Pakistani military and civilian leadership.
It should be mentioned here that NTC phone-lines are used by government officials to communicate and provides the back-end services of government related communications.
The report comes in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leak of never-before released secret NSA documents, proving that Pakistani government was being spied on.
Snowden has worked with The Intercept to detail how a draft NSA manual, a guide for NSA operators, tells them how they can implant the SECONDGATE malware onto target computers and take control of them.
The malware was specially designed for snooping on foreign countries’ activities by bypassing firewalls and other security systems.
The NSA hacked NTC computers to obtain secret documents of Pakistani civil and military leadership
There are at least two documents confirming successful infections in target computers, and Pakistani government computers are amongst those which were successfully monitored or taken over.
Amongst the documents, an April 2013 NSA Presentation boasts of successful hacks of Pakistani computer systems and communications.
With the malware, the NSA could even attack the Pakistani NTC servers, completely disabling them if need be.
Another software was also used by the NSA to take control of Pakistani targets’ web servers
According to the presentation, SECONDGATE, a tool designed to intercept web requests and redirect browsers computers to NSA web servers, was used to breach NTC’s VIP division.
The targeted documents contained “the backbone of Pakistan’s Green Line communications network, used by its civilian and military leadership.”
Green Line Communication is considered as most secure and private communication in Pakistan and is mainly used by all grade 22 and above officers of Federal Gov including all Secretaries, Ministers, PM, President, all services Chiefs, Chief Justice, etc. Green phones are personally picked by all officers without intervention of PA/operator.
Another leaked document – a newsletter for the NSA’s Special Source Operations division – describes how other NSA software was used to repeatedly hack Pakistani targets’ web servers and eventually infect the target computers.