Feeds

FBI screwed up, spied on entire email network

One warrant for one address not quite good enough

High performance access to file storage

The FBI on Friday revealed that human error led to surveillance of an entire email network back in 2006, rather than the single email address approved by the secretive court which approves domestic wiretaps and other forms of e-surveillance.

Although the alleged mistake came to light in an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Freedom of Information Act (FIA) lawsuit, the internet service provider involved remains unpublished, due to the classified nature of the work involved.

Back doors were built into the nation's telecommunications infrastructure back in the mid-nineties which allow for almost immediate real-time surveillance of phone conversations - cellular or otherwise - emails, and other forms of electronic communications that pass through the networks of the telecommunications industry.

The ISP involved allegedly misinterpreted a warrant for one email address to be a warrant for - ahem - the entire network. This kind of mass negligence is really only the flip-side of a surveillance system that allows for almost immediate mass surveillance by the government and its cronies in the telecommunications industry.

This latest controversy comes as President Bush continues to demand that Congress provide retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies involved with illegal warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, and is sure to fan the flames of that ongoing debate. The simplistic fear-mongering that has characterized the political animus of the present administration is even less persuasive when measured against this level of incompetence - after all, what good does Orwellian spying do if those involved are too incompetent to get it right anyway?

One intelligence official shrugged it off. "It's inevitable that these things will happen. It's not weekly, but it's common." This is the most egregious case yet revealed of what is known as "overproduction" - spook-speak for when a third party, for some reason, gives more information than requested.

At least they got a warrant for this kerfuffle. The controversial warrantless wiretapping program, which has led to gridlock in Congress for the revised Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) - the administration has promised to veto it if retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies is not included, while simultaneously claiming that the act needs to be passed immediately in the interests of national security - has had its own suspect "glitches". No one really knows how many purely domestic communications were hoovered up by the National Security Agency under the warrantless wiretapping program, and we probably never will.

Cynics suspect retroactive immunity to be a preemptive strike, should other, more secret, surveillance programs see the light of day. The FISA court issued a rare rebuke to the FBI last year for submitting false affidavits in support of its warrant applications, and other violations of note include dragging out surveillance long past what has been approved or seeking information beyond what had been authorized. Inasmuch as the FISA court issues warrants retroactively - and, anyway, almost never denies an FBI surveillance request - one wonders how, or why, they continue to screw things up. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.