New documents from the Snowden documents and published by SPIEGEL, claim global surveillance is merely a precursor to far greater aspirations. According to the documents, the National Security Administration has been preparing for a US digital war strategy that aims to establish a 21st century weapon of mass destruction. Digital surveillance is merely "Phase 0" in the strategy to establish an Internet war doctrine.
The strategy revealed in the documents details a plan to detect and exploit vulnerabilities within enemy digital infrastructures. Exploits involve installing "stealthy implants" that bypass security measures and allow the NSA to have "permanent access" to the systems. The documents refer to this as "Phase Three" and is referred to as "dominate" throughout the top-secret documents. Installing such malware allows for the NSA to "control/destroy critical systems and networks at will throughout pre-positioned accesses (laid in Phase 0)." Critical infrastructure refers to anything that is essential in keeping society running such as energy, communications and transportation. The ultimate goal of the digital military doctrine is "real time controlled escalation."
One NSA presentation proclaims that "the next major conflict will start in cyberspace." To that end, the US government is currently undertaking a massive effort to digitally arm itself for network warfare. For the 2013 secret intelligence budget, the NSA projected it would need around $1 billion in order to increase the strength of its computer network attack operations. The budget included an increase of some $32 million for "unconventional solutions" alone.
The NSA operates an internship program called Politerain, which is operated by the Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division. TAO is responsible for breaking into computers and other technology devices. TAO possesses the ability to conduct some pretty amazing feats such as "remotely degrade or destroy opponent computers, routers, servers and network enabled devices by attacking the hardware." One piece of software, Barnfire, allows hackers to "erase the BIOS on a brand of servers that act as a backbone to many rival governments." Another digital weapon, Passionatepolka, allows NSA hackers to "remotely brick network cards." "Berserkr" enables "persistent backdoors" and installs "parasitic drivers" to allow access to the files on the device.
The Snowden documents published by SPIEGEL reveal a stark reality — the United States is preparing for unprecedented digital warfare.