Thursday, June 6, 2013

US NSA's Top Secret PRISM Program Has Been Spying on Everything You Do on the Net Since 2007, Says UK's Guardian

Adding to the earlier news of National Security Agency under the Obama administration collecting telephone records of millions of Americans from Verizon, UK's Guardian says the NSA has also been collecting user data directly from the Internet companies including Microsoft, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Youtube, Skype, and Facebook.

Unlike Verizon, these Internet companies (so far) deny they had any knowledge of the government snooping.


NSA has been receiving assistance from "communications providers in the US", according to The Guardian. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast,

From The Guardian (6/6/2013; emphasis is mine):

NSA taps in to internet giants' systems to mine user data, secret files reveal

By Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill

• Top secret PRISM program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Facebook and Apple
• Companies deny any knowledge of program in operation since 2007

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims "collection directly from the servers" of major US service providers.

Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.

In a statement, Google said: "Google cares deeply about the security of our users' data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data."

Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of PRISM or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. "If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge," one said.

An Apple spokesman said it had "never heard" of PRISM.

The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.

The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.

It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.

Disclosure of the PRISM program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers.

The participation of the internet companies in PRISM will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services. Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.

Some of the world's largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan "Your privacy is our priority" – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.

It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

The extent and nature of the data collected from each company varies.

Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users' communications under US law, but the PRISM program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies' servers. The NSA document notes the operations have "assistance of communications providers in the US".

(Full article at the link)

US's Washington Post has the article on the same subject. A joint operation by the two papers?

It was in 2006 when an AT&T whistleblower, Mark Klein, leaked internal AT&T documents that revealed the company had set up a secret room in its San Francisco office to give the National Security Agency access to its fiber optic internet cables.

No one cared then, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in July 2008 to authorize the NSA program of warrantless wiretapping. Will anyone care now?

(So far Twitter seems to be safe. I wonder how long.)


Anonymous said...

The graphic is quite interesting.
MS bought Netscape to build its IE, so cookie-friendly and complex to configure that it won worldwide lobbysts for MS - that MS could say they didn't even know.
Then Yahoo, Google - remember may-be issues in the Google team, the Sergey Brin side beeing a bit to interested in data-mining.
Hacking and malware grew and MS offered later special backdoors and hiden functions to the CIA, FBI and all.
They would spy on the vilains !
Strong support also from the US authorities that left the forced sale issue unsolved.
Contamination worldwide to investigation and intelligence services. Governments could not let away such promissing tools.
Endless cat and mouse game on anonymity.
Very poor results, hackers and scamers at their highest.
With a policy of secrecy beside secrecy inside secrecy...
Well, some would think if anyone is spyed on, it's just a brave new order comming, but what about democracy and human rights?
First victim of war : the truth.

Anonymous said...

Interesting also that as soon as Obama was to be sworn in as the president, Google joined the crowd, in January 2009. Schmidt has been a huge supporter of Obama. Well I guess Blogger is a Google platform, so NSA must be reading this and telling Schmidt about it....

Anonymous said...

They probably even know the color of your underware. Never shop online, pay with cash, surf via a proxyserver, change internet provider every year and never ever do Social Media ( only the most stupid do anyway )
Than you might have a change... we are living in a very sick world.

Vyse Legendaire said...

What else is new? Of course they are watching. But realistically its mostly a waste of time and money. The people interested in staying under the radar will do so with ease, they are not stupid. Proxy, alternative identities, the dark internet, pre-paid cards, etc.

Anonymous said...

Himmler and his Gestapo people would be proud of the NSA.

Anonymous said...

They also create all sorts of internet trap sites.

"sign our online petition against xxx" - and all the sudden you have a complete record of folks that are passionate about a topic.

netudiant said...

Re anonymous @ 8.55 am:
It is also plausible that the same people set up the 'secure' linking services such as TOR.
The only ray of light is that there is so much traffic that one needs to be fairly blatant to attract more focused scrutiny.
Of course, the threshold can be adjusted depending on the topic of interest. EX-SKF readers probably make the cut for the folks monitoring nuclear power developments.

Anonymous said...

Piratebay offers a vpn service called ipredator for 5euro/month, for a max of 3 months at a time.

Every time you disconnect and reconnect the ip changes.

I know, its a sad world when the people who are supposed to be "Evil pirating basterds" are the people you can trust with helping with some privacy.
They won't be selling/giving your data any time soon. :)
Food for thought.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Vyse, I just fished out your comment from Google's SPAM folder...

What's new? The only new thing is that the media is reporting about it now. Don't know how long it lasts. NY Times editorial lasted 2.5 hours.

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