NSA on 60 Minutes
NSA said its secret surveillance programs helped prevent a massive attack on the US from Chinese hackers. 60 Minutes (via The Wire)

The director of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, and the Information Assurance Director, Debora Plunkett, went to CBS on Sunday night to defend the NSA’s surveillance programs on “60 Minutes.” Several people have questioned the credibility of the interview, especially when the officials claimed the NSA thwarted a massive malware strike from China.

The officials claimed that Chinese hackers developed new BIOS-based malware that is capable of remotely destroying any computer.

“One of our analysts actually saw that the nation state had the intention to develop and to deliver, to actually use this capability to destroy computers,” Plunkett said.

Alexander added that the malware was spreading via social networks and emails and disguised as a software update. The malware targets the BIOS system, which is used to boot up most PCs, and could shut down a computer once installed.

Alexander said the NSA worked with computer manufacturers to eliminate the vulnerability and saved the nation from a coordinated attack from China.

“Think about the impact of that across the entire globe,” Alexander said. “It could literally take down the U.S. economy.”

Its questionable whether or not this malware threat actually exists. BIOS malware is nothing new, and it generally isn’t considered a major threat in the hacker community.

If the NSA’s surveillance programs were able to stop this attack, why hasn’t it prevented other malware threats that have directly targeted the U.S., such as CryptoLocker?

Others have questioned the legitimacy of the segment’s anchor, John Miller, who formerly worked as the associate deputy directore of National Intelligence for Analytic Transformation and Technology and is rumored to be up for a “top counterterrorism or intelligence role” for the NYPD.

Due to the nature of the NSA, it’s impossible to know if the threat from Chinese hackers was real or just a chance for the NSA to generate some positive PR. All we have to go on is Alexander’s word.

You can watch the entire "60 Minutes" interview here.

Do you believe the NSA’s secret surveillance programs have prevented massive cyberattacks from Chinese hackers? Let us know in the comments.