Monday, February 4, 2008

Spy agency taps into undersea cable

I'm not fan of conspiracies but this one is awesome ;)

news.zdnet.com -
WASHINGTON--For decades, the National Security Agency did most of its spying by plucking information out of thin air. With a global network of listening stations and satellites, the NSA eavesdropped on phone conversations in Saddam Hussein's bunker, snatched Soviet missile-launch secrets and once caught Brezhnev in his limousine chatting about his mistress.

The NSA's task was relatively simple then because most international phone-and-data traffic moved via satellites or microwave towers. The agency sucked up those signals and sorted through them with supercomputers. Few of its eavesdroppers risked life or limb, and those they spied upon were often none the wiser.

But today the NSA's snooping capabilities are in jeopardy, undermined by advances in telecommunications technology. Much of the information the agency once gleaned from the airwaves now travels in the form of light beams through fiber-optic cables crisscrossing continents and ocean floors. That shift has forced the NSA to seek new ways to gather intelligence--including tapping undersea cables, a technologically daunting, physically dangerous and potentially illegal task.




[tags] national security agency, nsa officials, missile launch, fiber optic cables, cable tapping, fiber optic cable, microwave towers, light beams, undersea cables, phone conversations, former intelligence, ocean floors, mid 1990s, intelligence officials, telecommunications technology, data traffic, brezhnev, thin air, supercomputers, global network[/tags]

3 comments:

  1. Why Tap undersea when you can tap it at the backbone, LEGALLY without a warrant under the patriot act!?
    This is a bunch of mumbo jumbo!
    Oh, and light, doesn't have any induction effects so to really TAP into it, you have to physically break into it. Not impossible but stupid when it can be done at the source (or destination)

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  2. It's the other way around Jad, whenevwer anyonw comes up with technology that would make it difficult for the government to monitor, law enforcement agency will harass them.

    Some of us remembet a few years back, IE came in two flavors, low encryption for internaitonal use, and 128 bit for US/Canada use, to download the 128 bit version, you had to go through a check that you're in the US and Canada, and then accept a legal statement saying you won't be exporting this IE (encryption technology) abroad.

    This wasn't removed out of the blue, as machines became more powerful it became easier for the Government to decode 128 bit encryption in a timely fashion which is necessary to react to security risks.

    Another example is the maker of PGP (pretty good privacy) software which allows you to email people encrypted messages.

    Government agencies actually harass the author on a regular basis, taking him in for questioning, calling him up and telling him he is making it easier for terrorists.

    During the war, the US claimed al-qaida was using messages encrypted in jpgs sent across the web to communicate.

    I agree with Qwaider, we've known about things like (Carnivore) for years now. See here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnivore_(FBI)

    The FBI stopped using it in 2001, but the point is they have publicly aknowledged using sniffers on general internet data. This doesn't even require a wiretap warrant. Only the police may require that kinda of thing. FBI, NSA, and homeland security can monitor you away legally at any time.

    This isn't really the tough part, the tough part is finding the useful data from all the junk they get. Software sifts through all the data, and find anything that may be "hot" and sends it to someone human to review.

    This isn't really restricted to internet. They hae similar software using complex speech to text algorithms (for different arabic dialects) doing the same thing. These are used both on our cel phone calls and on Arabic TV stations.

    Having some sort of advanced AI would save them a lot of time, money and people, but I don't think they're that advanced yet.

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  3. "Why Tap undersea when you can tap it at the backbone, LEGALLY without a warrant under the patriot act!?"

    He is talking about tapping into foreign communications that doesn't go through US or cross-Atlantic backbone like the recent cable that was downed. And its not rubbish or mumbo Jumbo there is a submarine that I read about that is being made specifically for this task, can't find it now but if you google for it you'll find more.

    salaam

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