Feeds

SHOCK REVELATION: Telstra manages its networks!

Post-Snowden reporting is getting very, very, silly

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Reporting on telcos' role in communications interception is getting very, very, silly.

Back in July, Australian media “discovered” an agreement between Australia's dominant carrier Telstra and the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice to snoop submarine cable traffic. As we demonstrated at the time, the agreement is business as usual: foreign carriers that want to land a cable in the USA have to sign such agreements in order to do business. Such agreements are not carte blanche to snoop, but a guarantee foreign carriers will allow “Lawful US process” to be applied as signatories will be required to “provide technical or other assistance to facilitate such Electronic Surveillance.”

What we now know about the NSA is that the extent of that surveillance may be rather greater than had previously been imagined. That's not good, but doesn't change the fact reports Telstra had given up our secrets were looking at the agreements through the darkest-imaginable lenses.

Which brings us to today's “revelations”, touted by Fairfax media as ”Telstra's data 'vacuum'.

The guts of the story are as follows:

  • Telstra deals with a Melbourne company called Newgen Systems that is the sole supplier of Gigamon kit in Australia
  • Gigamon's products “are designed to find not just a needle in a haystack, but bits of needles in many haystacks".
  • Gigamon kit is spookware
  • Telstra also uses Splunk products
  • Splunk is spookware

Before we go on, let's note that a tiny bit of Googling undertaken by Vulture South's Richard Chirgwin came up with this auto-downlading slide deck dated 2007 and titled “Gigamon Training for Telstra”, by way of pointing out that Gigamon's been chatting to Telstra for quite a while without ever upsetting anyone before. And also to show that there's not much revelatory on offer.

Let's now deal with each element of the story in turn

Newgen Systems is a shadowy funnel for spookware

The time-honoured way for US companies to enter Australia is to find someone who already knows its products and set them up as a distributor/reseller. The aim of this ploy is to find a big customer – nearly always a telco or bank – that will provide enough revenue for the first distributor/reseller to survive and grow. Newgen looks like just such a distributor/reseller. That is the only Gigamon distributor/reseller in Australia is unremarkable: Australia does not have a huge prospect pool for Gigamon kit

Gigamon's products “are designed to find not just a needle in a haystack, but bits of needles in many haystacks"

So what?

Carriers operate networks. If they didn't monitor them extensively, we'd be worse off than if they did! That the tools they use harvest lots of data about network traffic should not be news to anyone. Fairfax at least acknowledge that Telstra has an obligation to collect lots of data to facilitate lawful interception, but should also acknowledge that attacks on networks can be very sophisticated. Finding fragments of needles is a very useful thing to do if you're trying to defend a network on which millions of people rely for phone calls and internet access

Gigamon's products are spookware

No they are not. That they gather a lot of data that spooks could find interesting cannot be denied. That they gather a lot of data network administrators find interesting cannot be denied. That they gather a lot of data marketers keen to understand usage patterns of newspaper web sites would find interesting cannot be denied. OMG! Fairfax is SPYING on readers of its websites!

Telstra uses Splunk products

Yes it does. It evaluated it back in back in 2009. Splunk, by the way, shows up in shadowy places like conferences where its “booths” offer a “sales presence” it uses to “find new customers” ! Damning evidence, we know.

Splunk is spookware

Puh-lease. Yes, Splunk can analyse all manner of activity. But again, it can be used by spooks in the same way that any other log file analysis tool can be used by spooks.

And let's not forget that just about every piece of technology Telstra and every other business uses to operate produces log files. And those files can be analysed to produce information on who did what, when and where. Customers. Partners. Staff. Records about all of them are being created by every router, every server, every firewall.

And they're all sitting there waiting to be analysed by someone unscrupulous – maybe even a journalist – who will use them to prove a point. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.