Feeds

Using encryption? That means the US spooks have you on file

By my order for the good of the state, the bearer has done what has been done

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Anyone who encrypts their emails or uses secure instant message services runs the risk of having their communications stored by the US National Security Agency, according to the latest leaks from former NSA sysadmin Edward Snowden.

The Guardian has published two more explosive documents which set out what sort of information the NSA is allowed to harvest from foreign targets, as well American citizens.

Both were issued by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and were signed by US Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009.

The leaked documents show that data about a US citizen collected "inadvertently" can also be stored for up to five years, giving agents significant breathing space when gathering intelligence. They also show the methods agents use to establish whether targets are based in the US and what they are allowed to do in order to spy on "non-US persons".

The documents clearly state that surveillance should cease the minute a target is on US soil or is deemed to be an American – but there are exceptions to this which allow spooks to store communications from American citizens.

If someone's location can not be clearly established, then they "will not be treated as a United States person" unless other evidence becomes apparent. This would mean that anyone using anonymity software like Tor, which deliberately masks their location, is liable to have their communications stored.

Spies are also told they can retain "all communications that are enciphered or reasonably believed to contain secret meaning" for up to five years, giving them another way to keep American citizens' communications data.

These must be kept to help create a "technical data base", which is spook slang for any data which is useful for cryptanalysis - the breaking of codes - or analysis of internet traffic. In practice, this means that using encrypted messages for security purposes may have the ironic effect of drawing the secret message to the attention of spies.

This data should really be destroyed within five years, unless they are "communications that are enciphered or reasonably believed to contain secret meaning, and sufficient duration may consist of any period of time during which encrypted material is subject to, or of use in, cryptanalysis".

Exchanges between attorneys and clients can also be kept, as long as they contain foreign intelligence information.

The documents follow in the wake of other revelations from Snowden, including an NSA programme called PRISM which trawled data on individuals from popular US cloud and social services. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.