Feeds

NSA, UK hacked Yahoo! and Google data center interconnects – report

Project MUSCULAR taps millions of YOUR records a month

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

British and US intelligence agencies managed to tap into the connections between data centers run by Yahoo! and Google, and in one month this year slurped 181,280,466 records, including metadata and the contents of communications, according to new documents from Edward Snowden.

A report dated January 9, 2013, from NSA’s acquisitions directorate, detailed the operation, dubbed MUSCULAR, in which operatives from the NSA and Britain's GCHQ tapped the fiber-optic transmission cables from the non-US data centers run by the two firms.

One document, sent to the Washington Post, shows a hand-drawn diagram of how it's done, including a smiley face.

NSA diagram on Google cloud

NSA surveillance design and emoticon

“We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links, especially the links in the slide," Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, told the paper in a statement.

"We do not provide any government, including the US government, with access to our systems. We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform.”

Under the scheme, GCHQ intercepts the traffic and stores it in a "buffer" that can hold between three and five days' worth of traffic from the data centers. The NSA then picks through this to find useful information using up to 100,000 search terms before emptying the buffer.

What makes MUSCULAR so puzzling is that under the terms of the PRISM program, US intelligence services already have access to the records of both Google and Yahoo! Either Snowden's documents are incorrect or the NSA and GCHQ have decided to cut out the middle man and go for the data directly.

The Washington Post speculates that the reason overseas data centers are targeted is to avoid the possibility of collecting data on US citizens in breach of America's Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In a statement the NSA denied this, and claims that it gathered "vast quantities of U.S. persons’ data from this type of collection."

"NSA applies Attorney General-approved processes to protect the privacy of U.S. persons - minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention, and dissemination," it said. "NSA is a foreign intelligence agency. And we’re focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only.”

The NSA is subject to political oversight and on Tuesday intelligence operatives testified in front of Congress, along with those tasked with conducting a review of surveillance activities by the NSA and others. Representative Mike Rogers, who as head of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence helps provide congressional oversight of the NSA, shared this little gem with the panel.

"You can't have your privacy violated if you don’t know your privacy is violated, right?" ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Has Europe cut the UK adrift on data protection?
EU reckons we've one foot out the door anyway
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Government's 'Google Review' copyright rules become law
Welcome in a New Era ... of copyright litigation
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
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.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.