The next meeting of the IRN will take place on Wednesday March 14th from 5:00-6:30pm (in rm 302 at the Munk School). Steven Loleski, PhD Candidate in Political Science, will present his current research on the evolution of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations:
From Cold to Cyber Warriors: The Origins and Expansion of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO)
The Snowden disclosures had wide ranging effects but arguably foremost among them was to publicize the dangers of mass surveillance in the Internet age. The initial Snowden revelations deliberately targeted NSA’s bulk telephony program and collection from various large U.S. Internet companies under the Prism program. The NSA’s response to the digital age, it seemed, was to collect it all. While certainly the digital age posed some unique challenges and opportunities on the NSA in terms of collection and processing, it overlooks the innovation of targeted, state-sponsored hacking. The fastest growing part of NSA following 9/11, according to then-acting Director Michael Hayden, was NSA’s Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO). Instead of passively and indiscriminately intercepting data, TAO was designed to actively target networks. How did the practice of state-sponsored hacking emerge and develop? This paper discusses the origins and development of the practice of active SIGINT from the mid-1980s to the present. Importantly, active SIGINT as a practice emerged from its creative insights among some in the NSA workforce and not from an immediate failure to adapt to change.