As for digital war strategy phases, surveillance is apparently so common that the NSA doesn’t even rank it above “Phase 0.” After Phase 0 detects vulnerabilities, “stealthy implants” are used to infiltrate enemy systems and allow for “Phase Three” or “permanent access.” We previously looked at the NSA’s ANT catalog, which contains exploits the NSA uses to hack PCs, routers and servers for surveillance, as well as documents describing how the NSA cracks VPN encryption; both are full of bizarre codenames and scary capabilities. The documents Der Spiegel leaked this time are no different and cover much more than fourth and fifth party collection.
For example, NSA personnel are not worried about getting caught spying. After infiltrating third party computers, the NSA lays false tracks while exfiltrating the data by using scapegoat targets.“That means that stolen information could end up on someone else’s servers, making it look as though they were the perpetrators.”
Der Spiegel also looked at the NSA’s “methods to exfiltrate data even from devices which are supposed to be offline” (pdf). The NSA presentation discusses Delay Tolerant Networks (DTN), or an “unattributable” way to use commercial mobile devices without the phone’s owner ever being the wiser. The NSA explained that it can use “several ‘brush-pass’ wireless hand-offs as an untraceable alternative to scheduled meetings, dead drops.”