One week after revealing USA surveillance of the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, Fantastico brings another exclusive.
One of the prime targets of American spies in Brazil is far away from the center of power – out at sea, deep beneath the waves. Brazilian oil. The internal computer network of Petrobras, the Brazilian oil giant partly owned by the state, has been under surveillance by the NSA, the National Security Agency of the United States.
The spying is confirmed by top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden, and obtained exclusively by Fantastico. Snowden, an ex-intelligence analyst employed by the NSA, made these and thousands of other documents public last June. He has been given asylum by Russia.
These new disclosures contradict statements by the NSA denying espionage for economic purposes.
The information was found by journalist Glen Greenwald, co-author of this story along with TV Globo Reporter Sonia Bridi, amid the thousands of documents given to him by Edward Snowden in June.
This statement addressed to “The Washington Post” this week highlights that ‘The department does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.'”
However, a top secret presentation dated May 2012 is used by the NSA to train new agents step-by-step how to access and spy upon private computer networks – the internal networks of companies, governments, financial institutions – networks designed precisely to protect information.
The name of Petrobras – Brazil’s largest company – appears right at the beginning, under the title: “MANY TARGETS USE PRIVATE NETWORKS.”
Besides Petrobras, e-mail and internet services provider Google’s infrastructure is also listed as a target. The company, often named as collaborating with the NSA, is shown here as a victim.
Other targets include French diplomats – with access to the private network of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France – and the SWIFT network, the cooperative that unites over ten thousand banks in 212 countries and provides communications that enable international financial transactions. All transfers of money between banks across national borders goes through SWIFT.
Names of other companies and institutions on the list were blacked out in order not to compromise operations involving targets linked to terrorism.
Greenwald defends the decision to omit the names. “It’s a question of responsible journalism”, says Greenwald. “These documents contain information regarding spying against terrorists, matters of national security which should not be published, because nobody doubts that the United States, just as any other country, has the right to spy in order to guarantee national security. But there is much more information on spying on innocents, against people who have nothing to do with terrorism, or on industrial issues, which need to be made public.”
The documents are classified as “top-secret”, to be seen only by those named by the Americans as “Five Eyes” – the five countries allied in spying: the United States, Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand.
The name of Petrobras appears on several slides, as the training goes deeper in explaining how date from the target companies is monitored.
Individual folders are created for each target – and contain all the intercepted communications and IP addresses – the identification of each computer on the network – which should be immune to these attacks.
Paulo Pagliusi has a PhD in information security and has written books on the subject. He analyzed the documents for Fantastico.
“The networks in the presentation all belong to real companies. These are not made-up situations”, says Pagliusi. “Some details stand out. For instance, some numbers were blacked out. Why would they be blacked out if they weren’t real? It’s as if the instructors didn’t want the trainees to see them.”
Pagliusi points to signs that this is part of systematic spying. “You don’t obtain all of this in a single run. From what I see, this is a very consistent system that yields powerful results; it’s a very efficient form of spying,” he says.
Pagliusi concludes that this has been going on for a while: “There’s no place for amateurs in this area.”
The yearly profits of Petrobras are over 280 billion reais – US$ 120 billion. More than the GDP of many countries. And there are plenty of motives for spies to want access to the company’s protected network.
Petrobras has two supercomputers, used mainly for seismic research – which evaluate oil reserves from samples collected at sea. This is how the company mapped the Pre-salt layer, the largest discovery of new oil reserves in the world in recent years.
There is no information on the extent of the spying, nor if it managed to access the data contained in the company’s computers. It’s clear Petrobras was a target, but no documents show exactly what information the NSA searched for. But at any rate, Petrobras has strategic knowledge of deals involving billions of dollars.
For example, the details of each lot in an auction set for next month: for exploration of the Libra Field, in the Bay of Santos, part of the Pre-salt. Whether the spies had access to this information is one of the questions the Brazilian government will have to put to the United States.
Former Petrobras Director Roberto Villa considers this the greatest action in the history of oil exploration. “It’s a very peculiar auction. The auction of an area where we already know there’s oil, there’s no risk”, he says. What no one else should know, Villa says, is which are the richest lots. “Petrobras knows. And I hope only they know.” He considers that such information, if stolen, could give someone an advantage. “Someone would have an edge. If this information was leaked and someone else has obtained it, he would be in a privileged position at the auction. He’ll know where to invest and where not to. It’s a handy little secret.”
Another former Petrobras Director considers this a serious matter. “Commercially, internationally, this means a game with marked cards for some places, some countries, some friends,” says Antonio Menezes.
The Pre-salt oil is found at high seas, at depths of two thousand meters – below a layer of rocky salt, four kilometers below the ocean floor. Reaching this oil requires a lot of technology, and Petrobras is a world leader in deep-sea oil extraction.
Adriano Pires, a specialist in infrastructure, considers that spies could be specially interested in ocean-floor exploration technology. “Petrobras is the world’s number one in drilling for oil at sea. Pre-salt layers exist all around the world – there’s a pre-salt in Africa, in the Gulf of Mexico, in the North Sea. If I have this technology, I can drill for oil anywhere I want,” says Pires.
The NSA presentation contains documents prepared by the GCHQ – the British Spy agency, from a country that appears as an ally of the United States in spying. The British agency shows how two spy programs operate. “Flying Pig” and “Hush Puppy” also monitor private networks which carry supposedly secure information. These networks are known as TLS/SSL.
The presentation explains how data is intercepted, through an attack known as “Man in the Middle”. In this case, data is rerouted to the NSA central, and then relayed to its destination, without either end noticing.
A few pages ahead, the document lists the results obtained. “Results – what do we find?” “Foreign government networks”, “airlines”, “energy companies” – like Petrobras – and “financial organisations.”
TLS/SSL networks are also the security system used in financial transactions, such as when someone accesses their bank account through an ATM. The connection between a remote terminal and the bank’s central goes through a sort of secure tunnel through the internet. No one is supposed to see what travels through it.
Later, the NSA presentation shows in detail how the data of a chosen target is rerouted through spy filters beginning at the very source, until they reach the NSA’s supercomputers.
In this document the NSA names Latin America as a key target of the “SILVERZEPHYR” program, which collects the contents of voice recordings, faxes, as well as metadata, which is the overall information being transmitted in the network.
Last Sunday, Fantastico showed exclusively how the President of Brazil is a direct target of espionage.
On Thursday, President Dilma Rousseff met American counterpart Barack Obama at the G20 Summit in Russia, and she demanded explanations.
“This is what I asked: It’s very complicated for me to learn about these things through the press. I read something one day, then two days later I learn something else, and this goes on piece by piece. I’d like to know what exists (about spying). I want to know what’s going on. If there is something or not, I want to know. Is it real or not? Besides what’s been published by the press, I want to know everything they have regarding Brazil. The word ‘everything’ is very comprehensive. It means all. Every bit. In English, ‘everything’.” – the President told a press conference on Friday.
On the day Rousseff and Obama met, a story published simultaneously by British newspaper The Guardian and the American New York Times revealed that the NSA and the British GCHQ broke the protected communication codes of several internet providers – enabling them to spy on the communications of millions of people, and also on banking transactions.
The story shows that cryptography, the system of codes provided by some internet operators, comes with a built-in vulnerability, inserted on purpose by the NSA, which allows the spies to enter the system, copy, snoop, even make alterations, without leaving footprints. There is also evidence that some equipment put together in the United States comes with factory-installed spying devices.
The “New York Times” says this was done with at least one foreign government that bought American computers. But it does not reveal which government payed to be spied upon.
Lastly, another document obtained by Fantastico shows who are the spies’ clients – who gets the information obtained: American diplomats, the intelligence agencies, and the White House. It proves that spying doesn’t have as its sole purpose the fight against terrorism. On this list of objectives are also diplomatic, political and economic information.
Petrobras declined to comment. President Dilma Rousseff awaits clarifications by the U.S. government later this week.
The NSA has sent a statement attributed to James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, declaring that the agency collects information in order to give the United States and their allies early warning of international financial crises which could negatively impact the global economy and also to provide insight into other countries’ economic policy or behavior which could affect global markets.
The statement also stresses that the collected intelligence is not used “to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”
The UK Foreign Office in London and the British Embassy in Brasilia declared they do not comment on intelligence-related issues.
Globo TV – Fantástico
Edição do dia 08/09/2013
08/09/2013 22h52 – Atualizado em 09/09/2013 00h07
Find this story at 9 September 2013
© Copyright 2013 Globo Comunicação e Participações S.A. Política de Privacidade