Telrad and the Hacking of the White House

By Deane Barker on September 2, 2004

Israeli spies tapped Clinton e-mail: This is a very old story (and a reprint of a dead link at a British newspaper), but one that the spy junkie and hacker geek in me both find fascinating.

Apparently, in the late nineties, Israel had — get this — a direct connection into the email of the President of the United States. They could essentially read Clinton’s emails (oh, wait — he didn’t send any…)

Sources in Israel say intelligence agents infiltrated Telrad, a company that had been subcontracted by Nortel, America’s largest telecommunications conglomerate, to help develop a communications system for the White House.

Company managers were said to have been unaware that virtually undetectable chips installed during manufacture made it possible for outside agents to tap into the flow of data from the White House.

Information being sent from the president to his senior staff in the National Security Council and outside government departments could be copied into a secret Israeli computer in Washington, the sources said. It was transferred to Tel Aviv two or three times a week.

Does anyone know how this all ended up? The sheer brazeness of something like this just kills me. I mean, that takes guts — installing a hardware backdoor into the White House communications system.

And talk about removing the sysadmins from the equation. If your hardware vendor has installed a backdoor at the physical, hardware level, what are you supposed to do? How can you defend against that?

Related to that, I’m curious as to how the data got out of the network — it had to be transmitted somehow, and could it have been detected leaving the network?

Gadgetopia

Comments

  1. “Related to that, I’m curious as to how the data got out of the network — it had to be transmitted somehow, and could it have been detected leaving the network?”

    Exactly what I was asking. I would hope that the infrastructure used by the highest level of the US Government would be able to detect any and all traffic in and out. But I guess if Clinton never sent anything…

    Another thing that bothers me is that Israel is spying on us at all. Isn’t the US the best (only) friend Israel has in the whole wide world? Or am I just being naive?

  2. “Another thing that bothers me is that Israel is spying on us at all. “

    Sorry, Dave, but this wasn’t the first or last time. Jonathon Jay Pollard spied for Israel in the early 80s.

    http://www.crimelibrary.com/terrorists_spies/spies/pollard/1.html?sect=23

    He’s still in prison, though Israel is trying to get him out:

    http://www.jonathanpollard.org/ .

    I remember that they tried to make his release one of the requirements to move the peace process forward a few years ago, but were stonewalled by the FBI. Former FBI director Louis Freeh came out of retirement to speak out against Pollard’s release. The FBI is still pretty hot about the whole thing (they don’t like spies, it turns out).

    Just last week, the FBI announced they have found an Israeli mole in the Pentagon. Who knows whether it’s true:

    http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/08/28/fbi.spy/

    And in searching for that link, I found this one from 1997:

    http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1997/05/09/email/spy/

    I don’t think Israel spies on us to hurt us — they just want information that we have that they don’t have access to for one reason or another. That’s the crux of the argument to let Pollard out of prison — we were wrong from withholding the information from Israel in the first place, and Pollard was just doing what was right. Whether or not you accept that argument is up to you.

  3. i live @ 109 hurlingham road

    im going to blow up the white house in 6 days now

    thank you
    bye!!!

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