“The implications are retaliation, along with the observation that the Kaspersky Lab exposure could further hurt the NSA’s surveillance abilities," David Speedie, former CIA representative told Sputnik on Thursday. "Also, since China and Russia are among the apparent targets, this may be just another impetus for bringing these two together in resisting US policy.”
A third implication, Speedie added, might be a backlash against Western technologies in China, which would be a major potential US economic setback.
Earlier this week, the Russia-based computer security company Kaspersky Lab published a report documenting an advanced hacking operation conducted by an entity dubbed the Equation Group.
Kaspersky revealed that the program had led to some 500 infections in at least 30 countries, including Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Syria. It targeted banks, foreign governments, embassies, energy and infrastructure, media, telecommunications sectors and Islamist groups, Kaspersky said.
National security lawyer Bradley Moss said he believes the only real potential backlash that could result from the exposure of this program is the continued post-Snowden move by foreign companies and general consumers away from US-based electronic systems.
"The more those groups view US products as inherently susceptible to NSA surveillance, the more likely they are to start transitioning to alternative systems," Moss told Sputnik on Thursday. "Of course, given that those systems are likely produced in other countries with even more expansive surveillance authorities than NSA could ever dream to have, any enhanced ‘privacy’ those foreign companies and general consumers believe they have secured is arguably little more than the proverbial placebo effect.”
Moss underlined that the Agency's spying program has obvious benefits, as it affords NSA covert and remote access to and control over the particular target’s computer.
"For an agency tasked with securing raw intelligence information, effectively having direct access to a target’s computer files is about as good as it gets," the lawyer explained. "These are the types of tools every intelligence agency in every Government wants and, if they have them, uses.”
Speedie also emphasized that the program has its pros, which are, however, short-term.
"In the short term we may be ahead of the game [and most of the reported targets would suggest that the primary purpose is intelligence gathering about possible terrorists — Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mali, Syria, Algeria], but of course, as in all cyber initiatives, it can open a Pandora’s box of retaliation," he said.
According to Kaspersky, NSA was able to place malicious software code in the firmware of hard drives. Unlike traditional malicious software, the firmware spying program would enable the spy agency to control and monitor computers without being detected.