Feeds

Snowden: NSA whacks US in the WALLET, slurps millions of contacts books

Whistleblower says spooks slurp email, IM address lists from world+dog

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The National Security Agency is hurting the US economy with its "dragnet" surveillance, says uber-leaker Edward Snowden.

Snowden made his remarks at an event in Russia last week, footage of which surfaced on Monday. He also alleged, via The Washington Post, that the NSA has been slurping the contents of some 250 million electronic address books a year.

"These [surveillance] programs don’t make us more safe. They hurt our economy. They hurt our country. They limit our ability to speak and think and to live and be creative, to have relationships, to associate freely," said Snowden, who has been accused of aiding terrorists and America's enemies. The footage of his speech appeared on Democracy Now.

One such program is a scheme that sees the secretive agency collect the contact books associated with widely used email services, such as Hotmail and Gmail, and instant-messaging clients such as Yahoo! Messenger, according to The Washington Post on Monday.

The agency grabs this data as it passes over major internet transit points, so it does not need to slurp it from internal Google or Yahoo! servers and therefore doesn't need to make an official request for the information.

Major web providers are thought to have added SSL encryption to their services in response to programs like this, but there is evidence the NSA has been trying to smash internet encryption by performing man-in-the-middle attacks using compromised cryptographic certificates.

Though the NSA insists that American citizens are not specifically targeted, it does proactively collect network traffic from numerous international arteries, such as submarine cables connecting up continents. If traffic passes through these inspection points, then the agency slurps the data indiscriminately.

"The assumption is you're not a U.S. person," one spy source told The Washington Post. As Reg readers know, this is a rather strange way to view intercepted communications.

Snowden said: "There's a far cry between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement, where it's targeted, it's based on reasonable suspicion and individualized suspicion and warranted action, and sort of dragnet mass surveillance that puts entire populations under sort of an eye that sees everything, even when it's not needed."

We imagine the NSA would bridle at this description, given the shadowy organization's recent claim that it isn't spying on digital interactions, rather it is "seeking to understand online communication tools & technologies".

Just as Uncle Sam's spooks are trying to understand what we do online, Snowden says in his speech that he felt compelled to leak the information on the programs so citizens can do the same.

"If we can’t understand the policies and programs of our government, we cannot grant our consent in regulating them," he said. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.