back to article Latest Snowden leak: NSA can snoop internet to catch 'hackers' – no warrants needed

The latest documents to be released from the Snowden archive show that the NSA was secretly authorized to carry out warrantless surveillance on US internet traffic in the name of cybersecurity. Two memos released by ProPublica in cooperation with The New York Times show that in May 2012, the US Justice Department authorized …

Re: too late

They knew, but if they told anyone, they'd have to kill them.

2
0

Re: too late

Heh, all this surveillance and Sony got owned, and now 4,000,000 Federal Employees have been owned. How much more has escaped notice in their Big Data experiment.

Sounds like the NSA can gather tremendous quantities of data, but protect us just as effectively as the TSA. 95% fail, 5% possible maybe...

11
0
Silver badge

Really? No way!

2
0
Silver badge
Holmes

The data is kept for five years, or indefinitely if national security is involved.

So, that's pretty much "indefinitely" for all data, then, because you never know when National Security might be involved...

11
0

Re: The data is kept for five years, or indefinitely if national security is involved.

The Stasi must be wondering where it went wrong for them as this now seems legitimate behaviour.

The west do not have a good record:

Iran–Contra affair, Arms-to-Iraq et al.

Some credit to the USA for getting Cuba off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list though, even if they should have done it years ago. John Oliver says it better than me...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ignOl8P2FR0

9
0
Anonymous Coward

Just how did Snowden get all this info?

Bear with me here. The fact that Snowden has been able to drip feed quite significant chunks of info for a couple of years now must mean that he had access to oodles of stuff. Which doesn't square with him being in his 20s (i.e. low level worker bee and not, say, a high-ranking NSA officer) and being stuck out in the boondocks of Hawaii doing database admin work.

If you think about the various projects and initiatives going on in your own organizations, it's unlikely that a young staffer would know more than about 10% of them, and statistically whilst they might get one or two big projects in that list, on the whole they would tend to be in the let's-rearrange-the-break-room level of importance. By contrast, Snowden's hit rate appears to be unusually high. Which means either he had gigs upon gigs of data to cherry pick, or he somehow had access far beyond what he should have. The former seems unlikely given his age and relatively short time at NSA. The latter would be terrible operational security which I find unlikely given the NSA's talents. The alternative (tinfoil hat alert) is that he had a source inside the NSA who fed or continues to feed him.

4
5
Holmes

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info?

My own theory is that he's a patsy. Snowden is sincere, and a true patriot, to boot, but the internal anti-spook spooks spotted him long ago. They recognized he could be used and thus picked him to be fed exactly the information that they wanted released (while pretending not to). If they didn't recognize the psychological profile, then they are too stupid to believe. (Supporting evidence in the amazing technological incompetence of the so-called major journalist who was dragged into it. Greenwald is also sincere, but he was and almost certainly remains a sitting duck for any hacker.)

The real goal of the Snowden "leaks" is to intimidate people, especially hackish computer experts with any trace of paranoia. If you lean that way, you certainly feel justified in being afraid of the government. In conclusion, Michael Hastings was killed by hacking his car. At least I'm thinking so. Maybe it's time for me to have one of those accidents? And you, too, for having read too far?

As regards this article, my own interpretation is that running a Tor browser is probably enough to earn the hacker tag. Or maybe just visiting any webpage where Tor is discussed. Heck, let's go all the way down the slippery slope. Searching for "tor" or any phrase that includes the three-letter sequence "tor" is probably enough to quality as a "hacker" in the NSA's all-seeing eyes.

Have a nice day. Don't get too paranoid.

5
5
Silver badge

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info?

He already stated that he social engineered passwords of other people at the facility and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if other sysadmins unknowingly contributed to his other than official access to files. Also, it should be remembered that in order to properly grasp and understand terrorist networks, one has to have much, if not all, the intercepts in hand which means the person doing the sysadmin side of things (and the atrocious logging practices in use) has a wide remit.

I'm not surprised at all.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info?

Actually all I'm afraid of is getting caught in the cross-fire. "Blue on blue fire" is going to take on meaning with respect to the internet in the (near) future. Especially the poorly protected, which in this class is pretty much anyone.

As for the "NSA patsy," no idea. It's plausible as one of the things that is done, fairly regularly, is to let "the Other Side" know some of your capabilities. This could just that type of Op, no surprise there either. Certainly a wake-up call to all the other potential adversaries out there. With the President confirming that we took down the North Korean 'net as we'd already hacked it for years, that's something you really, really want to be known unless it's to let others know about your capabilities.

0
0

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info?

Heh, you're just going to find out how incompetent the NSA is at security in the next couple of years. People always think incompetence in Security Agencies to be highly unlikely and I always get extremely amused when they act so surprised when their own incompetent surmise bubble gets pricked.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info?

Microsoft Sharepoint. Does you every time.

One of the reasons the spooks in the 5 eyes scream so much is that they are distracting (purposefully) attention. A number of them (up to fairly high ranks) in each of the 5 eyes countries should be courtmartialed for ordering classified documents to be shared via a system that does not comply to the country own internal classified data handling requirements.

So once the offence has been committed by the relevant people across the 5 eye spooks domain, the sharepoint sysadmin could just lift the backup (uncontrolled) and walk out. That is exactly what happened here and can happen in _ANY_ organization which uses sharepoint for restricted document sharing.

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info?

So what happens if I search for a word like "Store" or "torn?

0
0

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info?

Snowden was very forthcoming about how he acquired the files. He was a sys admin, who had, by dint of his job, access to the raw filesystems of many of the servers and storage networks. For the ones he did not, he managed to socially engineer the passwords of other sys admins.

He then deployed a filesystem crawler to basically just SUCK as many files as he could into portable storage devices that he placed on the network. One of the reasons for the drip feed is that not even Snowden knows what he got...it was just gigs and gigs of files, much of it containing only pieces of the puzzle that have to be crossed with other files to make sense of. He managed to get a handle on a small chunk of it, and that was in the first releases. But the rest is still being pieced together and correlated, which is time consuming and may render more surprises.

The man hit the motherlode...we still don't know all of what he has. Neither does he in many ways. And the government is TERRIFIED...because it DOES have an idea of what is in there....

7
0
Silver badge

"any phrase that includes the three-letter sequence "tor"

There's got to be an awful lot of people added to the list who merely searched for 'tor-rent of something, something popular movie/music/game'.

Maybe explains the 'willing to be pushed' in the direction of almost criminal proceedings over what should probably be civil.

0
0

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info? @Ann

Which doesn't square with him being in his 20s (i.e. low level worker bee and not, say, a high-ranking NSA officer) and being stuck out in the boondocks of Hawaii doing database admin work.

Where I work the senior management understand less, a lot less, about technology than their 14 year old kids do. I, despite being twice Snowdens age, and effectively a worker bee, and I have legitimate access to more company secret information than most of the more senior people in the company due to the nature of my work. I have potential unauthorised access to even more - I'd never go look, but most developers here think secure computing is something done from a safe.

If you think about the various projects and initiatives going on in your own organizations, it's unlikely that a young staffer would know more than about 10% of them

Not if they listen. Where I work management like to talk. A lot. I could probably name 100s of initiatives and projects in departments I've never worked for.

I don't really see the relevence of how or from whom he gathered his data. Is it all 100% accurate? Probably not - things will have changed between his grabbing an update, publication, and now.

My view is that time spent debating how he obtained the data is time that could be better spent debating what should be collected, processed, and retained; and what shouldn't.

6
0
Megaphone

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info?

Snowden is "drip leaking" nothing. That's all the work of Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and other journalists.

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info?

"So what happens if I search for a word like "Store" or "torn?"

OMGz!!!! he said "ups" (ROT+1 for securitaz[1]) TWICE in in post! He's a hackterropeado!!!

[1] Hey, ROT-1 worked for HAL--IBM in 2001, so ROT+1 ought to work for a while.

0
0
Silver badge

Cutting corners on security to make a buck? Surely not?!

It's worth remembering that he didn't actually work for the NSA. He worked for a company that worked for the NSA. While they doubtless assured the NSA they had top of line protections, ultimately any money spent on that is just overhead to them. Maybe it's not so surprising if their security wasn't up to par.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info?

So what happens if I search for a word like "Store" or "torn?

That's just a minor offense. 6 months imprisonment tops. Unless ... you're a US citizen, right? (Really, that's the only sort of citizen there is.)

Distracted by the wailings of Anthrax, I let my bin laden with goods crash into a bush.

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: Just how did Snowden get all this info?

Then you must be on the list for mentioning the dreaded 3 letter word several times and maybe me too for reading and responding to it and possibly everyone associated with El reg aswell !

Sheesh !

0
0
Silver badge
Boffin

We are watching ... watching ...

It is so reassuring to know that our [US] government is taking security so seriously:

After the earlier breach discovered in March 2014, OPM undertook “an aggressive effort to update our cybersecurity posture, adding numerous tools and capabilities to our networks,” Seymour said. “As a result of adding these tools, we were able to detect this intrusion into our networks.”

In other words, after discovering the barn door was kicked in and the horses molested, the farmer put up a security camera aimed at the door, and promptly detected that, "Holy Shit! They just kicked in the door again!"

Meanwhile, we're watching closely ... and recording all foreign and domestic communication to store and sift and sort ... to see if just possibly, perhaps, there's a bit of anti-US plotting taking place.

Other than the millions of current and ex-federal employees whose personal details are now in some Chinese database, we should all feel so much more secure:

“These things are going to keep happening, and we’re going to see more and more because our detection techniques are improving,” the [anonymous DHS] official said.

Translation: "We've added a second security camera to watch the barn door."

(If someone wrote this up and performed it as a Saturday Night Live skit, they've be laughed off the stage!)

9
0

The spying network is mostly used for corporate espionage and gaining political advantage over the rest of the world. Just so happens that by spying on hackers they can get some 0-day exploits that their guys missed or they would otherwise have to buy from Vupen type companies.

Not that it matters as the only reason they do it all is...because they can.

2
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Parsing the bullshit

"It should come as no surprise that the U.S. government gathers intelligence on foreign powers that attempt to penetrate US networks and steal the private information of US. citizens and companies,"

First off, what's a "foreign power" in this context? Because as I see it, the federal government employs 70,000 people in the State Department and God alone knows how many more in the CIA, who do that full time to every "foreign power", regardless of what they have or haven't been attempting to do. What exactly are you adding to the effort, and why?

Second, what's a "US network" and how do you "penetrate" one? If I type "http://www.nytimes.com/" into my browser, then I've extracted proprietary information from a computer that I'm pretty sure is physically located within the US: have I "penetrated a US network"?

Third, as I'm sure you're aware, to give US citizens within the US any greater protection than non-US citizens is unconstitutional. Read the 14th Amendment. (Incidentally, that's the same rationalisation that allows you to spy on everyone within the US: you have to be able to spy on foriegners there, and it'd be illegal for you to treat them differently based on citizenship.)

Fourth, what's a "US company"? Sony Pictures?

Fifth, in a world where people aren't supposed to use encryption, what exactly is "private information"?

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Parsing the bullshit

Parsing the bullshit, veti, delivers Total Information Awareness is the name of the Greater IntelAIgent Game.

But IT is not for fools and their tools. And of that you can be certainly assured .... or terrified if such be your wish and/or fear.

0
0
Silver badge

Isn't it lucky they can do this

With the NSA sniffing everything anyone does anywhere, we can sleep easy in our beds knowing they are keeping us all safe from those terrible hackers!

Errr .... or not.

1
0
Silver badge

How much can they actually scan though?

I mean I'm assuming they DON'T have a POI style AI, so how much of our data can they meaningfully analyse?

Just wondering.

0
0
Bronze badge

It's pretty sophisticated

presumably. I mean, if you had that budget and time, then you could probably do some highly reliable scanning of everyone's anything.

the problem is that it's equally available to be misused, as when apparently most members of the Democratic Party were put on the TSA no-fly list.

0
0
Silver badge
Thumb Down

Ok.. they got a mandate to "catch hackers"....

so how many have they caught? How many attacks have thwarted.? There's the two biggie questions. This crap is sold to the public that it will "make us safer" but cyberwise, I feel no safer now than 10 years ago. The baddies are still out there and their numbers are growing. Why haven't there been statements from those who want these slurps enacted and kept up selling it to us by tales of successes? Seems all we ever hear is, "yeah, we knew about them".... and no action.

Pfffffffffffffffffffttttttttttttttttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!

0
0

"Some credit to the USA for getting Cuba off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list though"

Is this the same USA that contemplated carrying out terrorist attacks across the US, blaming it on Cuba then use that as a pretext to invade?

2
0

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017