NSA Everywhere

NSA Ops Center

They set about remotely penetrating communications systems and networks, stealing passwords and data by the terabyte. Teams of “vulnerability analysts” searched hundreds of computers and servers for security holes, according to a former senior CIA official involved in the Stuxnet program. Armed with that intelligence, so-called network exploitation specialists then developed software implants known as beacons, which worked like surveillance drones, mapping out a blueprint of the network and then secretly communicating the data back to the NSA. (Flame, the complex piece of surveillance malware discovered by Russian cybersecurity experts last year, was likely one such beacon.) The surveillance drones worked brilliantly. The NSA was able to extract data about the Iranian networks, listen to and record conversations through computer microphones, even reach into the mobile phones of anyone within Bluetooth range of a compromised machine. (emphasis mine)

– from James Bamford for Wired, The Secret War

I posted last year about Stellar Wind, an NSA data-mining program and an upcoming film by Laura Poitras who helped break the Snowden story in Hong Kong. Collection of data is happening. They can listen to you from anywhere. Imagine how happy the NSA is to be able to tap into everyone’s Google Glass and get another set of eyes on the ground. It’s the dark side of the Internet of Things. Connected devices can be correlated across devices to learn more about you.

In fact, if you think about your mobile sensor platform, there’s a really cool little app – Activity Tracker. It’s a little Android app – have you guys seen this anywhere? What they’ve discovered is fundamentally they take your 3-axis accelerometer on your phone. . . What happens is, they discovered that just simply by looking at the data what they can find out is with pretty good accuracy what your gender is, whether you’re tall or you’re short, whether you’re heavy or light, but what’s really most intriguing is that you can be 100% guaranteed to be identified by simply your gait – how you walk.

CIA CTO Ira “Gus” Hunt on stage at GigaOM Structure:Data earlier this year

With enough data sitting around, you can know just about anything. The truth is coming out as we put together the pieces. Most those in the tech industry know this kind of stuff is possible but now congressional hearings are taking places and governmental minds are being blown.

The federal surveillance programs revealed in media reports are just “the tip of the iceberg,” a House Democrat said Wednesday.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) said lawmakers learned “significantly more” about the spy programs at the National Security Agency (NSA) during a briefing on Tuesday with counterterrorism officials.

“What we learned in there,” Sanchez said, “is significantly more than what is out in the media today.”

The Hill, June 12, 2013

Stellar Wind

There’s a chill wind blowing through the our government.

Since 9/11 it’s been known that the NSA has been wiretapping email and phone calls as part of a domestic spying program. Now the evidence is piling up that as of December of this year, a new data center in Utah is getting ready to come on line to store every single bit of data they can capture from banking transactions to your Amazon shopping history.

Now the guy who wrote an important piece of the data-mining software (he originally wrote it to spy on the Soviet Union) is coming out in public protest to his software is being used to spy on US citizens. Documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras profiles William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency, in her upcoming film to be released in 2013.

Wired magazine ran a profile on the NSA datacenter in Utah back in March.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org) has filed suit against the NSA and has been pursuing the government in court. Read more at Jewel v. NSA.

NSA Wiretaps and AT&T

Dust off the conspiracy books – this one’s getting juicy. Tonight Wired posted the full memo from the whistle-blower at AT&T in San Francisco that tipped off the recent firestorm around suspected domestic spying by the NSA. It gets pretty technical but deep in on page three the writer hints that there may have been some deal-making going on.

The USA Today story that broke this news last week leveled charges that Verizon, Bell South, and AT&T had all cooperated with the NSA spying program. Since then, both Verizon and Bell South have come out with carefully worded statements denying that they had handed domestic phone call records to the NSA. I have not heard a similar statement from AT&T.

Mark Klein, the whistle-blower, writes that the wire-tapping was coordinated out of a Mississippi AT&T office,

As a sign that government spying goes hand-in-hand with union-busting, the entire (Communication Workers of America) Local 6377 which had jurisdiction over the Bridgeton NOC was wiped out in early 2002 when AT&T fired the union work force and later rehired them as nonunion “management” employees.) The cut-in work was performed in 2003, and since then new circuits are connected through the “splitter” cabinet.

I wonder if the US Govt. cut a deal with the AT&T to coorperate on the NSA wire-taps in return for going easy on them while they busted up their union during restructuring. It’s unlikely that the many branches of govt. are coordinated and monolithic as Mark supposes but it does get you thinking and would be great grist for a movie plot.

UPDATE: eff.org has posted a full summary of their case against the NSA along with links to all the relevant legal documents.