HONG KONG (CNN) — U.S. intelligence agents have been hacking computer networks around the world for years, apparently targeting fat data pipes that push immense amounts of data around the Internet, NSA leaker Edward Snowden claimed Wednesday to the South China Morning Post newspaper.
Among some 61,000 reported targets of the National Security Agency, Snowden said, are thousands of computers in China — which U.S. officials have increasingly criticized as the source of thousands of attacks on U.S. military and commercial networks. China has denied such attacks.
The Morning Post said it had seen documents but was unable to verify allegations of U.S. hacking of networks in Hong Kong and mainland China since 2009.
Snowden told the paper that some of the targets included the Chinese University of Hong Kong, public officials and students. The documents also “point to hacking activity by the NSA against mainland targets,” the newspaper reported.
In the Morning Post interview — published one week after the British newspaper The Guardian revealed the first leaks attributed to Snowden — he claimed the agency he once worked for as a contractor typically targets high-bandwith data lines that connect Internet nodes located around the world.
“We hack network backbones — like huge Internet routers, basically — that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
A “backbone” is part of the inner workings of a computer network that links together different parts of that network. It is used to deliver data from one part of the network to another and, as such, could expose data from multiple computers if hacked.
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