back to article NSA spooks tooled up with zero-day PC security exploits from the FRENCH

The NSA bought specialist computer hacking tools and research from French security outfit Vupen, according to documents unearthed using the Freedom of Information Act. A contract shows the American spooks paid for a year's supply of zero-day vulnerability information and the software needed to exploit those flaws to attack …


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  1. Bog witch

    Birds of a feather

    Two equally likeable organisations working together - who'd have thunk it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When one

      When one finds an exploit, they share it with their friends.

    2. TheVogon

      Re: Birds of a feather

      Hardly surprising the French security services are reverse engineering things. Anything to do with the French military always has historically gone much faster in reverse.....

      1. I think so I am?

        My give up!

        The tool does one simple thing - Makes anything it connects to think is now French.

  2. returnmyjedi

    Bloody NSA. Shouldn't they be concentrating on getting a monkey to Mars or something rather than getting into scrapes with the French?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      you do realise that will do whizzing over many peoples heads?

    2. ItsNotMe


      ...thought they were.

      They have several robots there right now motoring around, shouldn't take them too many years to get the Anthropoidnaut up and flying.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmm...

        Knowing the NSA, it is far more likely to be the death star they'd want.

        THAT'S NO MOON!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Bloody NSA". That was funny, are you a Brazilian hacktivist who cannot see the difference between NSA and NASA. And it gets really funny when you consider the fact that nobody in Blighty or the US seems to be disturbed by the fact that the French produce, apart from better cars, also better spyware. Perhaps we could call it freedomware now in the USA. Just kidding, of course, (cross my fingers).

    4. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: returnmyjedi

      ".....Shouldn't they be concentrating on getting a monkey to Mars or something....." Stop being mean to the Brazilians, chap, they're not all clueless skiddies. Indeed, I bet the NSA has tasted some of the wares from Brazilian security software companies like Syhunt. Of course, not that I'd want to imply the Brazilians might have their own eavesdropping capability - perish the thought! - as that would just upset the sheeple (so they'd better not read thisência_Brasileira_de_Inteligência#Wiretapping_Suspensions).

  3. Khaptain Silver badge

    Crock of shit

    "There are times when US special forces use AK47s, even though they have superior guns available."

    That's similar to saying I own a old Jeep and a Ferrari but the Ferrari is far superior. It might be on the racetrack but it wouldn't be worth shit when you head out on a wild boar hunt.

    Good on the French, by selling the yanks this kind of solution they have probably created their own PRISM Key which opens a special little backdoor into the NSA.

    By the way : Are the NSA actually accountable to the American population or do they simply have complete freedom to do and say as they please ?... Wouldn't this kind of group not normally been known as Subversive Anarchists.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: Crock of shit

      In theory, they answer to Congress. In practice, they have outright lied to congress in the past to conceal just what they are up to.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Crock of shit

        Technically, they should be using AKMs. Or even AK74.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Crock of shit

      It was a stupid thing for the guy in the article to say anyway. Small arms superiority among developed nations does not exist. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages, but for battlefield purposes, as long as each of your soldiers has a rifle (and ammunition) manufactured since the early 1980's there's no firepower advantage to be had.

      "Our troops have the best rifles" is military and nationalistic fandom at its worst. Windows vs Linux, Mac vs PC, Samsung vs Apple, Mate vs Cinnamon, Doggystyle vs Reverse Cowboy, Ford vs Chevy; but with guns.

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Khaptain Re: Crock of shit

      " selling the yanks this kind of solution they have probably created their own PRISM Key which opens a special little backdoor into the NSA....." Unlikely, the US military insists on having access to source code for foreign purchases.

  4. Arachnoid

    Know you enemy

    and the tools he might use against you

  5. 1Rafayal

    So the NSA is in the spotlight for buying up this information? And people automatically think that it is to spy on us?

    Given the sheer amount of shady operations they seem to be carrying out, doesnt it make sense for the NSA to know what exploits are available on the open market?

    I mean, they do need to protect all the data they have sniffed etc...

    1. Isendel Steel

      Related Dilbert...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "There are times when US special forces use AK47s, even though they have superior guns available. Same for NSA's Vupen purchase. Deniability,"

    Actually an AK with 7.62 mm is superior to the .22 AR-15 and has proven durability in the field.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      It also has the advantage that when you discover a bunch of dead civillians filled with 7.62 it's rather easier to blame it on the other side.

      It's difficult to claim an Al Queda F15 bombed a wedding

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Quote: "It's difficult to claim an Al Queda F15 bombed a wedding"

        Well, you can blame it on Syrian government.

        Especially when you have to explain where did _ONE_ missile with Zarin come from in a whole Grad salvo. As the chief of staff of one of NATO countries said in an interview yesterday: "That is not a chemical weapon attack, you have no idea what a chemical weapon attack looks like to call this a chemical attack".

        I tend to agree with him - a Grad salvo loaded from the chemical warfare store launched against civilian unprotected population would have resulted in the whole suburb dead 10 times over. 10-20k bodies in the streets and no survivors to tell the tale. At the very least... Not 1200.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Good point. Also, it's <300 dead. The > 1000 comes from the US and they are the only ones with that kind of inpho.

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          "....Especially when you have to explain where did _ONE_ missile with Zarin come from in a whole Grad salvo...." Well, I can think of three possible explanations.

          Firstly, a local Syrian soldier made a mistake and loaded a chem rocket by accident. Since Assad is thought to have dispersed his chem stock out to the field this means they probably have chem rockets mixed in with ordinary munitions, and a soldier in a hurry to load up a launcher might just have grabbed the wrong rocket from the wrong pile.

          Secondly, it could be that Assad's generals were testing the water to see what the international response would be to a "small" chemical incident. With the civil war settling into stalemate the generals are probably itching to use whatever advantages they have before Assad has them fired.

          Or, thirdly, a rebel crept into the Syrian artillery camp with a chem Grad rocket stuffed down his trousers, secretly loaded it into the launcher without any of Assad's troops noticing (and knowing it would be fired at his own friends and family), then stood back and screamed in faux indignation for the cameras. This last option is very popular with the Assad apologists, but looks pretty stupid compared to the other two much more likely scenarios.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: AC

      " AK with 7.62 mm is superior to the .22 AR-15 and has proven durability in the field." Firstly, it is not .22 AR-15, it is 5.56x45mm NATO.

      Secondly, if the 7.62x39mm round in the AK-47 was so fabulous as you claim, please do explain why did the Soviets dumped it for the AK-74 and the 5.45x39mm round?

      Thirdly, durability often depends on the soldier carrying the weapon. Whilst the AK-47 has loose tolerances to allow it to work without regular cleaning, it still jams, and many AKs recovered in Iraq and Afghanistan from dead jihadis were found to have malfunctioned because they had not been maintained properly. Whilst there was much press about the M4 jamming in Afghanistan, it was found to be due to overheating from prolonged firing on auto, and that the weapon worked just fine when properly maintained. It also proved much more accurate than the AK-47. So much so that the Taleban started avoiding short-range engagements in favour of long-range machine gun attacks.

      And finally, the US Special Forces (including all the sneaky squirrel folk) got to give their input on future rifles during the FN SCAR program, and use of the Russian 7.62x39mm round was floated and rejected as inferior very early on in the project, by the soldiers that knew what counted rather than the armchair pundits.

      The AK-47 is popular in Third World countries because it is cheap, easy to come by, and easy to train with, but it is totally out-classed by the M16A4, let alone the M4. If US SF are carrying them it is probably only so they can blend in and take advantage of local logistics.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Re: AC

        As another example, there's the story of some British "contractors" that allegedly went out to Afghanistan (at the behest of some Virginians) to instruct Shah Masoud's mujahadin how to do nasty things to the Taleban. The contractors were equipped in the States with nice winter gear, surplus US frame rucksacks and webbing, and dinky Colt Commandos. They were most upset when they arrived in Pakistan only to have their new gear taken away and substituted by salwaar kameez and lice-infested chapans, their frame rucksacks and webbing replaced by tatty British issue gear from WW2, and their light carbines replaced by the long and almost twice as heavy Heckler & Koch G3s. They were told by the local Virginian this was to help them blend in so as to protect them from Taleban spies and assassins in Afghanistan, the G3 being the most popular rifle with the Northern Alliance (not, please note, the much more common AK-47).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oldest, not closest

    Actually, according to Secretary of State John Kerry, France is the "oldest" US ally.

    It seems that the "closest" ally is still the UK.

    Isn't diplomatic language fun?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oldest, not closest

      And like all their allies, the second the ally asks for some help in return they'll stab them right in the back (just glance back through their illustrious history in foreign affairs)

      Just the start is good fun, Britain beats the French in the America's, due to the distance to get arms Britain strikes a deal with the wealthy arms producers in the states saying they'll buy their guns, get rid of the French and, they would pay higher taxes once the war was done. So Britain bought their weapons, and beat the French, then went back for the tax and they didn't want to pay. So they went to French and helped them sink the British fleet, a bold new alliance. Then the French asked for help in the wars in Europe, and America decided not to bother. This kind of thing is pretty endemic in their history.

      1. Uffish

        Re: ... like all their allies

        Steady on old chap, we're talking diplomacy here not 'liberté, égalité et fraternité'. It's a dirty business, if you want altruism you'd better find a bloody good reason for it, eg the Marshall Plan was preferable to leaving Europe completely broken after WWII.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Oldest, not closest

      And for once in his life Kerry would be correct. Since the foundation of the US starts with our Declaration outlining our grievances in the then ongoing war with Britain, by definition the British can't be the first. And since France were US allies in that war they are truly the first. But the British are likely to always be the closest allies.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Oldest, not closest

        But Britain is at least their oldest enemy

        1. Yet Another Commentard

          Re: Oldest, not closest

          I thought Canada would have the "closest Ally" tag, longest unprotected border and all that. Mind you the Canadians did invade and burn the capital to the ground once. Or twice.

  8. Mr Ballstein

    Wrong animal

    I believe the yanks call them frogs so it`s cheese eating surrender frogs for you

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Wrong animal

      It was actually an American that invented the phrase.....

      The Simpsons - Season 6 Ep 22..... ( Wikipedia is my friend)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    And I don't mean the NSA - they're just doing what they're there for.

    More dodgy is a French company selling vulnerability info to agents of a foreign power. Or did the NSA promise on a stack of bibles not to use them on the French government?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Dodgy

      But in that case, where on the dodgyness level does that leave the NSA infodumping their stuff into Israel's lap.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dodgy

        Well, I was only referring to this particular instance. Overall, the fraternity of sppok organisations has behaved with extreme dodginess.

        For some reason I am more repulsed by the thought of a private company discovering threats against the general population and chosing to sell that info to those who can pay best, rather than doing the decent (but admitedly not profitable) thing.

  10. Alistair

    Us canucks will just tap em on the shoulder once in a while.

    And remind 'em where all those radars are located.

    1. Beachrider

      Canadiens are our best friends...

      There is little doubt that Canada is the USA's secret weapon, over and over and over. No border in the world has as many business and people crossings as the US & Canada. When US citizens needed to be smuggled from Iran in 1980, it was the Canadians that got it done.

      To Americans, acceptance of non-Americans always starts with Canadians.

      'Canadiens' because they never quite see themselves as a single group, though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Canadiens are our best friends...

        Yep - Canada is quite a nice place. Except for the bits infested with the French anyway...

  11. Shane Kent

    'Canadiens' is french....

    Canadiens is the way Quebecers spell it, and Canadians elsewhere. Then you have the bitter separatist French that don't call themselves Canadien, but instead Quebecois. Not all the French-Canadiens are bad, in fact most of them are good people. Canadiens and Canadians could be your best friend, but the Quebecois hate Americanism and are ignorant people so not likely to be your (American) best friend. To make it more complex, there are Quebecers and Quebecois, the Quebecers are good people and the Quebecois are separatist.

    1. Rukario

      Re: 'Canadiens' is french....

      Then, as you go further westward, 'Canadiens' eventually morphs into 'Canucks'.

      (Because Pittsburgh is somewhere along the way.) ----->

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Beachrider

      Re: 'Canadiens' is french....

      The USA knows what that is like, we have Texas!

  12. Number6

    Due Diligence

    I guess the NSA have the advantage over everyone else in that they can do their due diligence checks before contacting the salesman to express an interest in the product.

  13. cyrus

    One thing...

    To be clear, Special Forces refers to the Army Special Forces, which are usually more involved with local populations indoctrination during invasions, etc. Special Operations Forces (Navy SEALs, Recon Marines, etc.) are more likely to be involved in subterfuge where it is advantageous to use adversaries' weaponry to cover up a covert operation.

    Just saying...

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