The NSA has reportedly installed spyware on over 50,000 computer networks worldwide, according to Netherlands newspaper NRC Handelsblad. A map is included with the report—information was, of course, provided by notorious leaker Edward Snowden—and shows “classes of accesses” all over the globe, including in Europe and Asia. The software, as you might have guessed, was designed to steal sensitive information. In order to actually conduct such an operation, a special NSA department, known as the Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, employs over a thousand hackers.
As part of the NSA’s Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) tactics, the agency uses the program to collect intelligence via computer networks “that exploit data gathered from target or enemy information systems or networks,” as described on its website. Since 2008, the number of NSA implants has reportedly doubled, with the whole operation allegedly occurring over the past fifteen years.