Feeds

NSA dragnet mostly slurped innocents' traffic

Latest Snowden leak suggests indiscriminate retention

Mobile application security vulnerability report

NSA babbler Edward Snowden's latest drop alleges something that's been suspected ever since he went public during 2013: that spy agencies reach far beyond “persons-of-interest”, with data on ordinary internet users far outstripping that held over formal “targets”.

According to The Washington Post, the latest set of documents – provided to the Post only – “Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations … were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.”

Even data that the NSA has decided is irrelevant is retained by the agency, the story alleges.

The Post believes the documents it has seen were obtained as a result of America's 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Survey Act, and which authorities had previously said Snowden could not have accessed.

While not detailing just how many records Snowden allowed it to see, the Post alleges that the document drop indicated around 65,000 “masked” identities of US citizens or residents, plus around 900 email addresses that weren't masked and indicated strong links to citizens or residents.

Some of the data caught in the indiscriminate sweep turned out to be of possible value, with the WP claiming the documents indicate that communications tracked by the NSA led to the 2011 capture of Pakistani bomb-maker Muhammad Tahir Shahzad and 2002 Bali bombing suspect Umar Patek.

However, such communications were vastly outweighed by “startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic” records that had nothing to do with targets, covering “the daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted”.

Since other leaks have alleged that Five Eyes partners like the UK's GCHQ routinely tapped entire submarine fibre networks, it is hardly surprising that the overwhelming majority of data the NSA collected had nothing to do with its investigations.

Given that GCHQ's Optic Nerve programme turned out to include images of a very personal nature, it's hardly surprising that the documents Snowden worked through with the Post included men showing off their physiques and images in which “women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risqué poses in shorts and bikini tops”. ®

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
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
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.