Monday, July 01, 2013

 

Did the US break into the EU embassy in DC to install “Dropmire” bug?


One of the bugging methods mentioned is codenamed Dropmire, which, according to a 2007 document, is ‘implanted on the Cryptofax at the EU embassy, DC…’


by Larry Geller

What is a Cryptofax?

cryptofaxOf course, we don’t know what kind of equipment is installed at the embassy mentioned in the Guardian article. A Google search suggests that a Cryptofax device is a stand-alone unit placed between a phone line and an ordinary G3 fax machine. The unit encrypts the signal so that the image becomes totally incomprehensible to another fax machine not similarly equipped. Photos and descriptions describe inserting a key card which determines the encryption.

The copy transmitted by the fax machine, of course, is unencrypted, so a physical bug would have to be planted someplace in the G3 fax or between the fax machine and the Cryptofax. On the other side of the Cryptofax, the signal is encrypted, and would be available to the NSA via an ordinary phone tap, wherever it is that they do their taps.

What does “implanted” mean in this context? A software bug or virus could be implanted remotely in a networked computer. Heck, teenagers in Korea can do that. But to bug a fax machine would seem to require physical presence.

Of course, there is wiggle room. Perhaps something was inserted in a machine prior to delivery. If the equipment had been in use before the NSA started the Dropmire program, that would seem unlikely, leaving a break-in as a strong possibility.

The full quote from the Guardian article is:

One of the bugging methods mentioned is codenamed Dropmire, which, according to a 2007 document, is "implanted on the Cryptofax at the EU embassy, DC" – an apparent reference to a bug placed in a commercially available encrypted fax machine used at the mission. The NSA documents note the machine is used to send cables back to foreign affairs ministries in European capitals.

[The Guardian (UK), New NSA leaks show how US is bugging its European allies, 6/30/2013]

Since computers are increasingly used to receive faxes, it’s possible that a virus was inserted in an embassy computer and used to forward faxes. But the press specifically refers (as in the above snip) to “implants” placed in commercially available fax equipment. An “implant” can be placed remotely.

So the question remains: did the US physically invade the EU embassy in DC to plant a bugging device?

What else could intruders have done while there?

I have not yet seen this question discussed in the commercial media.



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