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

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 …

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Trollface

The curtain raises.

Figures it would be Brits showing a bad influence...again! Pfft...the British are such a pain in the ass.

If the U.S.A. would just stop communications with the British, we wouldn't be corrupt! But nooooo, we have to be guilty by association.

;-)

Hating America Is A Crime !

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Re: The curtain raises.

I'm not sure whether to agree with you, or not?

As far as I can see, your inteligence agency is analysing data collected by GCHQ on "persons located outside of the USA". It would appear the tapped data links are in the UK (but that's only appear ... GCHQ could be collecting it from anywhere)

(Hello El Reg ... this is not an NSA story ... this is a GCHQ story ... isn't it? Yes it is ...)

So there's no need to get upset: Your lot aren't doing much wrong here, that I can see (assuming you don't think spying on "foriegn nationals" - or at least persons located outside the US ... maybe - is wrong).

Secondly: I don't think the wording/quotes are very clear? (Not blaming El Reg):

I think Google-Google traffic and Yahoo-Yahoo traffic is being intercepted; not traffic between Google and Yahoo?

I think, somewhere, there will be a cartoon for the Yahoo network, like the one presented for Google (such as it is).

Overall: I remain amazed at the level of amazement (not here, so much) about something which was - from the inception of the internet/web - so very (very, very, very) predictable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "a cartoon for the Yahoo network"

Is it the same, but with exclamation marks everywhere instead of the smiley?

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Black Helicopters

Re: "a cartoon for the Yahoo network"

(I'll up vote you in a moment)

Say it is the same ...

If data between google's "front end servers" in the UK and the replicated UK servers(s) for their gmail/docs/maps (whatever) was unencrypted, then the fault is really with complementary pony riders. You can hardly blame GCHQ, they should/would be fired for missing that opportunity.

Whatever you can or cannot expect, over in the good ol' us of a - with your amendments and wotnot - you can't (really, honestly!) expect the same to be true in dear old blighty.

I can't really come up with a plausible reason why Google would unencrypt data sent to them and then forward it on to Yahoo. I can see why they might have "private" connections with yahoo, but not why they would pass on deliberately unencrypted data (but presumably pass on the same type of data encrypted to everyone else).

And Google's statement doesn't mention Yahoo. Just that they are outraged. And while - if I were a complimentary pony rider - I might be a bit miffed a bit of traffic between Google and Yahoo had been snooped on; I'd be outraged if it was potentially any/all "internal" traffic.

But anyway, the real story is ... If this were true, it would imply SSL isn't/wasn't cracked. Or why bother "hacking" this length of "vibre optic cable" that is in a colo facility, somewhere? So obviously this is just counter inteligence, by you know who, framing google for their evil ways and fooling us all into continuing to trust in that gold key icon in our browsers. ;-)

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Re: The curtain raises.

Indeed, this seems much the same, in principle, as was the case when a good deal of communication was sent by radio and microwave links or a handful of undersea cables, and governments (and other interested parties) could, and doubtless did, capture and analyze the traffic. Much of the difference is that both the traffic and the capability to grab and analyze it have increased by 6 -9 orders of magnitude (maybe more).

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Anonymous Coward

WOW

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

A man who pulicly admits that his views are straight out of George Orwell's books.

Like fucking hell... is he elected? Or appointed? Who the fuck elected/appointed someone who thinks like that?

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Unhappy

Re: WOW

Representative Rogers (I refuse to call him Mr. Rogers and sully Fred's good name) is elected by the public for his role as a Representative and elected to the committee in private. Members of Congress are nominated for committees based on a combination of seniority and financial contributions to their party; where value of contributions are more important than seniority (really).

Idiot Members of Congress like him are elected, and reelected, because the majority of US don't bother to vote and of those that do only about 15% of them research anything beyond party affiliation and even then about half of voters don't know who they voted for or who represents them in Congress. It's all really fucking stupid and we deserve all the shit we get dealt because only a minority care about politics beyond what it means for themselves and or 'voting for their fathers party'.

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Re: WOW

obnoxiousGit, Representative Mike Rogers has been elected to consecutive two-year terms of office since 2000 by the voters of Michigan’s 8th congressional district, which is centered on Lansing, Michigan’s capital. He is ex-FBI. I don’t know how long this view of his has been known to his voting constituency, but his opponents now have a year until the next election to make sure that the voters there are aware of it.

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FAIL

Re: WOW

The answer to his question is "Of course it is you louse.".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WOW

Barack Obama. Or was that not obvious enough for you?

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Re: WOW

" Idiot Members of Congress like him are elected, and reelected,because the majority of US don't bother to vote and of those that do only about 15% of them research anything beyond party affiliation and even then about half of voters don't know who they voted for or who represents them in Congress. It's all really fucking stupid and we deserve all the shit we get dealt because only a minority care about politics beyond what it means for themselves and or 'voting for their fathers party'."

Don, it's basically the same in the UK too. I heard once that more people voted in "Big Brother " (ironic, given the programme name) than the elections at the time.

Looking on the the bright side, I now feel closer to you and your fellow countrymen - we both have governments that are paranoid and insecure little shits that really don't give a crap about the people they are meant to *serve*

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@IronyDeficient 02:10

The problem with "making voters there aware" of his views is that gerrymandering in most states renders extremist views irrelevant. The party in power in a state at census time will carve up districts to favor themselves, and want to make them lopsided so they have safe districts, and if possible even more lopsided for the opposition (try to 'waste' as many of their votes as possible by making them as close to 100% for the other party as they can)

Computers have rendered this practice even more obscene than it already was, and is one of the primary reasons why the US is so polarized politically now. Because you have few districts that are split roughly 50/50 between the parties, even in states/areas where that's the case, the extremists win primaries and their extremist views don't keep them from winning the general election as would normally be the case districts not creating to be unfair.

Some states like mine have fair systems with impartial bipartisan committees charged with creating districts and being forced to keep to existing boundary lines where possible (county lines, city boundaries, etc.) Even better would be a computer program designed to do this - sort of the opposite of the programs they use now which can use voter registration and polling data and go block by block in all directions to maximize their goal.

The only way to make change happen here would be state by state. Only they have the power to fix this. But their party brethren in Washington would fight hard against this because it would hurt their chances of reelection, and if you piss off them you might lose money for your county versus the guy in the next county over that wants to keep the current unfair gerrymandering scheme in place.

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the art of gerrymandering

DougS, even after the most recent Congressional redistricting, which took effect with last year’s elections, Michigan’s 8th congressional district is nearly 50/50; that’s why I suggested the possibility of Rogers’ opponents making his quote widely known within his district.

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Big Brother

" We are outraged...

"...at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks" ... that's our territory and we don't want anyone else trying to muscle in on our Data Troughing.

Said the Google Spokesman.

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Facepalm

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

Sure! And if I steal something from you and you don't notice, you haven't been robbed!

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Anonymous Coward

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

The playground level linguistic contortions these sad clowns perform are exactly the type that, were they done in person, would give me an overwhelming urge to do something uncharacteristically violent on the spur of the moment. It's not just what they do, it's the smug, self congratulatory way they do it that makes it grate all the more.

I wonder if they feel so fucking smug after Snowden? Wankers.

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Anonymous Coward

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

Until you realize they're EXPECTING it. They let you make the first punch, which they block and they proceed to hit you with pepper spray. You end up in agony and more than likely in handcuffs, and he can point to witnesses proving he acted in self-defence.

See, they're only idiots in oratory. When it comes to political savvy, they're all sharks.

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FAIL

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

Oh, what a tangled web we weave

When first we practise to deceive!

Give the guy a break, he's not used to committing perjury.

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

"Until you realize they're EXPECTING it. They let you make the first punch, which they block and they proceed to hit you with pepper spray. You end up in agony and more than likely in handcuffs, and he can point to witnesses proving he acted in self-defence."

And therein lies the rub.

If you want to change these things it looks as though talking isn't enough, a simple punch on the nose won't make a difference either. As far as legal routes are concerned you are stuffed as well, because the justice system simply won't consider prosecuting these goons - and in the rare event something is deemed to be illegal the laws are changed or evidence simply lost/ignored.

At present there are no legitimate avenues for citizens to address this stuff, breaking the law seems to be the only way anyone can get HM Gov to pay attention. This should bother the government because this kind of scenario has a habit of developing into rebellions & civil wars.

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Childcatcher

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

...if I steal something from you and you don't notice...

The analogy I thought of involved roofies and date rape, but yours works, too.

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M7S
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Re: "You can't have your privacy violated if you don’t know your privacy is violated, right?"

Working in the City, I feel a better comparison would be to those who never knew they were paying for things like PPI on which they could usually never be eligible to make a successful claim. Chickens coming home to roost there, hopefully in his field they will as well.

I'm all for properly resourced security, tempered by proper regulation and oversight, perhaps derived from a fantastic constitution such as the Americans have. I just wish they'd observe it properly. If not, perhaps we might be allowed to borrow it.

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Coat

I could be pissed easily

But I just don't care any more. This looks like a giant comedy, what the f*** can they do with all that data of mine? They're gathering so much noise and garbage let them swim in it, f****** idiots.

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Stop

"They're gathering so much noise and garbage"

And in that garbage they will have enough inconvenient or incriminating stuff to ruin the career of an inconvenient politician, to incriminate and blackmail any businessman or to embarrass any annoying citizen. All of this without apparent transparency, oversight, or democratic checks and balances. Just taking some email/call/text snippets out of context may be enough to make you look thoroughly bad (and maybe unfit for a job). Even worse, once they have you hacked they can add that little extra to make you look positively criminal.

It does sound quite scary to me -- the tools are reminiscent of communist Russia or Nazi Germany. In those societies, the limitless spying was used systematically to suppress political dissent. In the US we don't hear about systematic suppression but once the tools are in place, somebody will find a use for them.

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Unhappy

Re: "They're gathering so much noise and garbage"

"It does sound quite scary to me -- the tools are reminiscent of communist Russia or Nazi Germany. "

Actually they are much better.

But still made by IBM.

"In the US we don't hear about systematic suppression but once the tools are in place, somebody will find a use for them."

To mis quote Mikey boy. "How can you say you are being systematically oppressed if you never hear about it?"

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Re: "They're gathering so much noise and garbage"

>>Even worse, once they have you hacked they can add that little extra to make you look positively criminal.

All great concerns, but I don't frankly give a shit. If they (political factions) want to use it against each other let them use it, and let them mutually annihilate each other. I'll make sure they can't do any harm to me with the data they have. All I need to do is stop using Gmail and Chrome, and 98% problem solved.

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Re: "They're gathering so much noise and garbage"

"They're gathering so much noise and garbage"

Exactly. I'm more of a cock-up vs conspiracy type, I believe they have way more data than they can make sense of. My worry would be the false positives they'll generate and waste resource on. I'm not gonna donate any saucepans to charity any time soon.

SD

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@mraak you miss point

everyone is guilty, the question is of what. Standard plod modus operandi in intterogation. The more data, the more false positive associations. The merkins claim ability to track 80+ degrees of separation. How reliable for justice can that be ?

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You Missed The Real Story

Come on, aren't you paying attention? The story isn't that the NSA is slurping social data from telecom company locations, that's old news. We've known that since 2006, when Mark Klein, the ATT whistleblower, told the world about the secret colo rooms that NSA was setting up at telecom offices. We now also know about FISA-ordered bulk metadata subpoenas, which are undoubtedly the tip of a deeper traffic inspection iceberg.

The real story here is the comment next to that smiley face: "SSL added and removed here". Is that for real? If so, how the hell are they doing that? That protocol is supposed to defend against Man-In-The-Middle attacks. You'd need widespread compromises of cert authorities, or _additional_ compromises of DNS infrastructure, or a hell of a cryptanalytic breakthrough. Any of the above would constitute a much more important story than this fluff.

The Reg is supposed to be paying attention to this stuff. Don't you care enough to dig a bit?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You Missed The Real Story

I thought the same at first, but I think it might refer to a point Google/Yahoo remove the SSL, hence the quote from Google:

“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,"

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Re: You Missed The Real Story

The certification authorities are almost certainly compromised and have been, likely since day one. It's one thing to protect private data from thieves and competitors, but it is highly unlikely any reasonably powerful government would allow potential 'enemies of the State' (that's everyone) to transmit unbreakable coded messages on a mass scale using government subsidized infrastructure.

The rub is that outside of the IT industry, almost no one knows what a certificate authority is or that such things even exist. The governments have an advantage there because everything about certificates is the exact opposite of 'exciting headline' material. Even if mainstream news outlets talked it up people would stop paying attention the minute a baby fell out of some celebrity. As is the often the case, very important things aren't flashy and the public will blissfully ignore them.

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Re: You Missed The Real Story

Yes, the NSA is saying that it's method here is to intercept the data by tapping data moving on fiber-optic links BETWEEN Google/Yahoo! datacenters. That data is not encrypted, so the GCHQ just goes hog wild.

And addressing the article's point about why the NSA would do this. A) because they are supporting their BFFs at the GCHQ B) Because the data that GCHQ is hoovering up is OUTSIDE the U.S., and is therefore not subject to FISA legislation and is free game since it is "foreign intelligence" under existing Presidential executive orders that the NSA operates under. C) The GCHQ doesn't have to give a damn about FISA or intercepting data on Americans D) The NSA can say that they were going after foreign intelligence, and if Yahoo! or Google are replicating American citizens data using international fiber-optic links and data centers, well, that is Sunnyvale's and Mountain View's fault.

P.S.--Mike Rogers is a very dangerous person. He ought to be nowhere near a constitutional office with that attitude. Note that I am not saying he's an idiot or anything. I wish that was the case, but I think he's probably pretty intelligent, if really warped. I hope that he get's primaried (safe Republican district probably, so chances of him being unseated by a Democrat are low) and removed by an actual small-government conservative.

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Re: You Missed The Real Story

It seems fairly evident from the diagram that Google is adding and removing the SSL at its "premise" routers. If NSA/GCHQ have access to those through a split fiber in the carrier's territory, they have access to the plaintexts. I thing Occam's razor applies here. It may be possible that they "borrowed" Google's private certificate, or deduced it from the the public parts, but the simplest answer also is the most plausible. It also is supported by Google's statement that they will be encrypting internal transfers as soon as possible.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You Missed The Real Story

SSL has been been broken for years

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Anonymous Coward

very important things aren't flashy and the public will blissfully ignore them

@ Don Jefe

Depressingly true unfortunately, the end result being you get the government you deserve.

(not you personally, obviously).

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Facepalm

Re: Don Jefe Re: You Missed The Real Story

"The certification authorities are almost certainly compromised and have been, likely since day one....." Sorry to interrupt your paranoid dribblings, but what the slide shows is that Google did not encrypt or even secure with SSL the links between Google DCs in the back-end, because they assumed their private networks were secure. SSL was only used for customer-facing links. That means Google was sending everything in clear text down intercontinental cables, what GCHQ did was tap those cables for the NSA. Now, what is that standard bleat the sheeple like about how it's the owner's fault if his system gets hacked because he didn't secure it "enough"? LOL!

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Re: Don Jefe You Missed The Real Story

I realize someone as wise and worldly as yourself probably hasn't seen a hand drawn diagram since you were granted the power of Visio, but if you look at the drawing again the central graphic fucking says SSL removed/restored. Right there. Right there on the drawing. Has its own call outs and everything.

A good place to start with any diagram is with the information that's written on it. If you don't start there you don't need the diagram, you can just rant and make shit up without it. In other words RTFD (read the fucking diagram).

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@Don Jefe

The diagram does not say removed/restored, it says added and removed.

This is because SSL is supposed to provide security on the Internet, where your data transits through semi random routing point you do not trust. That is the left part of the diagram. The right part of the diagram is Google's private infrastructure, where SSL is not needed. Google only recently realized that encryption is also necessary on its private infrastructure, but they are certainly not using SSL for this, but probably their own private encryption which may be both more powerful and simpler than SSL, because they can taylor it to their needs, and they don't need to wait for every browser out there to implement it, as they own both ends.

The central linking point between the two network is not where the NSA dastardly messes with SSL certificates because the protocol is broken; it is the point where Google removes the SSL (when going left to right) or adds the SSL (right to left) because it does not make sense to use SSL on the private infrastructure…

Just explaining, since, you know, you obviously can read diagrams but you apparently have trouble understanding the information.

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Re: @Don Jefe

Correct, I would imagine.

However, that might make it seem like good ol' Google isn't ... culpable - Let's not let them off the hook quite that easily ;-)

While I know it is/was all coloured balls, 50s style cafeterias, Segways and happy hippies doing no evil; you might have hoped that any data Google presented as encrypted-during-transmission, that passed through a cable housed outside of their property, would stay encrypted while it did so ... apparently not.

Well done lads and lasses ... as naive as you so often sounded (happily, I don't remember reading about complimentary ponies for staff, or there'd've been a stampede through that door they've just shut ... maybe/hopefully)

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FAIL

Re: Blonde Jefe Re: Don Jefe You Missed The Real Story

That's blonde as on airhead. RTFD? Okey, let's go through it once again. On the left you have Google's kamikaze customers, happily giving all their private data to Google. On the right is the analytical systems and storage that Google uses to mine that data in any way it likes. In between is the GFE, where communication with the PUBLIC side has SSL added, and then as it passes the data to the GOOGLE side the SSL bits are removed (because Google didn't think it needed them on their internal, private networks). The internal links span several DCs in different countries, all linked by cables that GCHQ has tapped. No SSL (and no other encryption) of the coms between servers on the GOOGLE side makes it easy for the GCHQ chaps to rape it at will (the clue was the legend "Traffic in clear text here"). Sorry, would you like me to redraw the diagram in crayon for you? If you're having trouble finding one I'm sure we can find you a responsible adult to help you with the long words and techie bits.

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Re: Blonde Jefe Don Jefe You Missed The Real Story

Horrifically, for systems designers everywhere, that's what it reads like. I'm outraged (honestly!).

Complimentary pony riding airheads want [redacted] with a brick. Hard. Repeatedly.

... Or GCHQ/NSA want complimenting on their phys-ops ;-)

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Re: You Missed The Real Story

It occurs to me on further reflection how astonishing it is that designers who presumably are technologically competent failed to encrypt all links that were not within their direct physical control. The DoD, often and often incorrectly written off as technological boobs, has been encrypting transfers among its data centers for years - and that's on the unclassified network.

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Boffin

Re: Tom Dial Re: You Missed The Real Story

"..... astonishing it is that designers who presumably are technologically competent failed to encrypt all links that were not within their direct physical control....." Well, not to be too hard on the Umpahlumpahs, it's quite common in the industry. People see the words "private" and "secure" in relation to wide-area links or hosted servers and take it at face value. I always tell them, if it's not your switch or your server under your control then it's not private, no matter what they tell you, so encrypt the data.

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Black Helicopters

Re: @Don Jefe

Exactly.

I took the smiley face to mean "haha, they encrypt internet traffic here, but we don't care as we get it off the internal network".

I'm not a guru when it comes to cryptographic certificates, but am I correct in saying that the most secure certificate (assuming you trust the signer) is a self-signed certificate?

I realise that browsers warn against these because they don't follow a chain-of-trust, so the browser can't detect if a MITM is occurring, but it's kind of ironic they do warn for these only, if you assume the spooks have access to the root keys!

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Re: You Missed The Real Story

" The real story here is the comment next to that smiley face: "SSL added and removed here". Is that for real? If so, how the hell are they doing that? That protocol is supposed to defend against Man-In-The-Middle attacks. You'd need widespread compromises of cert authorities, or _additional_ compromises of DNS infrastructure, or a hell of a cryptanalytic breakthrough. Any of the above would constitute amuch more important story than this fluff."

You are wrong, but actually, you've hit on something - the exact opposite to your point.

The smiley is placed at the point where google decrypts/encrypts the data between the internet and its own private network - no man-in-the-middle attack here (As I posted earlier, I think the smiley was done to say 'haha, they may encode stuff here, but we simply grab it from the unencrypted side")

Now, I think it's pretty much assumed that the spooks have access to at least some of the root-cert keys.

There has also been a lot of speculation about what other successes they may have had at breaking encryption.

I think the real story that seems to have been missed is the fact they are making an effort to get at harder to tap links - if they had truely cracked TLS, they would simply jusy tap the much easier to access internet side of the connection.

(Yes, I realise that I've simplistically ignored the processing power aspect of it, but I think the point is still somewhat valid)

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Unhappy

Re: Tom Dial You Missed The Real Story

I agree entirely. If it isn't in your pocket - and switched off, with the battery taken out - you don't know where it's been nor where it is going.

However (again) let's not let google (and yahoo ... and - as you say and as I appreciate - a sh1t ton of other systems and system designers) off the hook.

When setting up his gMail account, on his smartphone, Billy Smith ticked the Require SSL checkbox - Little did Billy know* that google's promise of protecting his data from snooping - while it whizzed back and forth from his phone - was only good for some of the journey.

* I appreciate Billy should have known ... but then like 10% of the world's population, Billy uses Facebook and so can't really be blamed for being a bit simple.

Just because everyone else is rubbish at systems design - and especially when you are one of the most high profile, high powered and wealthy IT firms on the planet - doesn't mean you can just patch it together with celotape and go back to admiring the size of your advertising revenue.

If google wasn't proclaiming itself "outraged" I would be saying it's a myth put about by the powers that be. But because they are outraged, they must know that such snooping was possible, because of their rubbish systems design (however commonplace it is).

I put more thought into my BBC Micro Pontoon game for my (no qualification) course in BASIC programming than that.

Rubbish and naive ... like red riding hoods, a classic combination.

And I am (still) somewhat disappointed in the website claiming to Bite Off Hands - This isn't another NSA, oh who cares story. This is a google bashing story and El Reg usually isn't that shy :-(

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Devil

Re: cracked Re: Tom Dial You Missed The Real Story

".....like 10% of the world's population, Billy uses Facebook and so can't really be blamed for being a bit simple...." Hehe, if the Anonyputzs really wanted to screw the system they should have each created a hundred fake Facebook accounts, each linked to a fake gmail account, then posted junk about how they like chocolate-coated sardines whilst watching architecture documentaries in their Doc Martens and tutus - the Google analytical would be well warped! I'm sure it wouldn't take much imagination or a very big bot farm to automate a constant stream of crud data into the Google engine.

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My only question is ...

... given that this has been fairly common knowledge for about a quarter decade in security circles (see: United Kingdom – United States of America Agreement), why all the angst now?

Makes no sense. At all.

Gut feeling: the Dems & the Reps have both shot themselves in the foot by over escalating political bickering, and either the Greens or another Independent is going to win the next General Election, in about a year. For you brits, that would be the Monster Raving Loony Party.

If I'm right, gawd/ess help us all ...

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FAIL

jake: "fairly common knowledge for about a quarter decade"

What the h*ll does the knowledge of somebody else have to do with my understanding of what's right or wrong? It was common knowledge among select groups that the Nazi Germans gassed the jews. It was common knowledge that the Stasi spied and suppressed dissidents.

Please turn on your brain before spewing Meta-arguments.

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@Shultz (was:Re: jake: "fairly common knowledge for about a quarter decade")

Using existing tools without understanding them makes you safe from your lack of knowledge of said tools? Really? There are no do-overs on the world stage.

Kids these days. Honestly, I feel sorry for them. It's gonna get ugly.

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@Jake … My answer is …

‘Dems & Reps … shotgun foot engagement … Greens/Indie victors’

Now then, now then, so I have heard it said that the problem with American Politics is that you have the Republicans (Conservatives/Tories/Whigs etc) and then you have the Democratic Party who are more like emm, also Conservatives, Tories, Whigs etc.

It has been suggested that what the US really needs is a Labour Party. This would provide … ooo hang on… Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Scratch that one, if you are right ‘Gawd/ess help us all ….’

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