US Surveillance: More Than Just Surveillance

As I’m writing this, every word is scanned – in real time – by the most advanced supercomputer available to humanity, placed in some extremely discrete place somewhere in the United States of America. Even thou I’m posing from Europe, the data from my computer is redirected between 10 and 20 times before it’s stored on the WordPress server, also situated in the US. Some of the routers can not be identified. Well, that’s no news to those who have been following my increasing focus on information technology over the last couple of years. But some of my greatest concerns have increased, too. The supercomputer have already predicted the next word I will write, – before I have written it, decided if any action is required and executed the preprogrammed response

“Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

US Official

but-when-president-obama-receives-his-daily-intelligence-briefing-its-estimated-that-as-much-as-75-of-the-information-comes-from-the-nsa

The main concern amongst most mainstream media at the moment is how will this effect user activity? But – and I know this is hard to imagine – the answer to that  is to be found in exactly the same place as from where the question arise : Stored on the hard disks of the only computer in the world with the capability of, not only monitor everything online,  but also manipulate it.   

The shocking amount of data illegally collected is enough to make anyone a bit dizzy.

More than 2 million gigabyte per hour, 1,7 billion online conversations per day,  more than 300 million phone calls recorded every day, direct access to crucial servers at Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple, A&AT,   powered by highly sophisticated software programs that conduct “deep packet inspection,” examining of internet traffic as it passes through the 10-gigabit-per-second cables at the speed of light, resulting in a database currently storing detailed information on somewhere between 15 and 20  online conversations.

nsa network

Yeah, the system collects and store information, all right. But what else does this monstercomputer do?

That’s where the sudden flow of information stops.

Wired.com have a comprehensive coverage of the story from a technical perspective. Recommended reading.

The impressive capacity of the America surveillance system may be enough to frighten most people, but in a computer science perspective it becomes even more frightening.

What excactly is this computer system capable of?

WHO?

prism-slide-1First , let’s have a look at 17 US agencies involved in the so-called (no longer) secret PRISM program:

prism-slide-2Additionally:

  • groundbreaking investigation from the Washington Post found some rather daunting figures:
  • 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies are working on intelligence, counterterrorism, or homeland security in the U.S.
  • Just the NSA alone is contracting with more than 250 companies on intelligence work, including big names like Northrop Grumman and SAIC.
  • Many intelligence agencies are doing redundant work, such as 51 federal and military organizations that track the flow of money in and out of terror networks.
  • One reason why those intelligence budgets are classified: millions of dollars in so-called “ghost money” given to foreign governments.

And The UK Guardian reports that the British intelligence services are a part of the PRISM program, too.

I guess that covers pretty much everything….

HOW?

The PRISM program is said to have a direct access connection to internal servers at the following internet companies:

  • prism-slide-4Microsoft
  • Yahoo
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • PalTalk
  • Skype
  • AQL
  • Apple

That should secure the lines…

All companies denies knowledge of the PRISM project, or anything similar.

At the moment is rather unclear whether the IT-giants are cooperating with the US authorities, if they are doing so to gain privileges or if they are forced. It may also be true that they are unaware of the whole thing (not likely), and it may also be a case of leakage with some alternative motive.

WHERE?

prism-slide-5Bluffdale? What kinda name is that?

It’s also a slightly bizarre place, according to the description at wired.com.

“Bluffdale sits in a bowl-shaped valley in the shadow of Utah’s Wasatch Range to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west. It’s the heart of Mormon country, where religious pioneers first arrived more than 160 years ago. Today Bluffdale is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members. The brethren’s complex includes a chapel, a school, a sports field, and an archive. Membership has doubled since 1978—and the number of plural marriages has tripled. Rather than Bibles, prophets, and worshippers, this temple will be filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. And instead of listening for words flowing down from heaven, these newcomers will be secretly capturing, storing, and analyzing vast quantities of words and images hurtling through the world’s telecommunications networks.”

“Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013.”

ap13060605455

“This is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents,

collect-citizen-data

According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official:

Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.

WHAT?

Okay, I’m adding code breaking to collection and storage of data.

ap957255269727Most probably some kind of analysis are also being made – believed to be of the predictive kind, based on algorithms and mathematical models. And that makes sense, because the more data analyzed the better predictions the computer is able to make. Practically, the computer first makes a profile of a target defined by the engineers or programmers, then it finds everyone who fits the profile and starts collecting more information on the individuals……what happenss next is in my humble opinion the most interesting (and scary) issue here. For two reasons:

1.  There’s no such thing as a perfect algorithm, no computer prediction is 100% accurate 100% of the time. In fact, sometimes there can be huge , totally unexpected deviations. Everything that is based on  algorithmic predictions should be monitored by humans, enabled to override the computer program.

2. We’re looking at the worlds fastest and most advanced computer. It can collect the data, make the analysis, predict behavior and possible actions, and execute a predefined response faster than the human brain is able to think. That is in itself questionable. And even more if we add a little knowledge on what is going on in the development area at the moment – if you can imagine it, the computer can do it.

Here’s some central areas of computer science:

Ubiquitous computing

Scientific visualization

Quantum computer

Robotic surgery

Security engineering

Bioinformatics

Quantum entanglement

Computational genomics

Computer animation

3-D Print

Nanotechnology

.

WHY?

the-mission-of-the-nsa-is-to-acquire-and-analyze-information-in-an-effort-to-identify-threats-to-us-interests-and-to-protect-americas-informationTerrorist protection? Perhaps.

But I strongly doubt that PRISM system, that looks more like an international operation of some kind, is set up with just one intent; to identify possible threats to US security and interests. This system, as far as I can see, have a much larger and dangerous potential.

I have a strong feeling that the next generation of mass destruction weapons is about to surface. And I fear that we will see a “digital Hiroshima” before these techdrunk, paranoid,  wannabes realize that they’re not playing with toys.

Oh – by the way – I’ve had my system surveillance program running the whole time writing this post. I will now have a look at the logs. If I find anything suspicious, I’ll let you know…’

Definitively related:

Bonus:

.

All Human Rights Reserved (h) 2013

6 thoughts on “US Surveillance: More Than Just Surveillance

  1. Pingback: US Working Overtime Behind The Scenes To Kill UN Plan To Protect Online Privacy | EconoTwist's

  2. Pingback: US Working Overtime Behind The Scenes To Kill UN Plan To Protect Online Privacy | EconoTwist's

  3. Pingback: Who Do You Trust? | Rational Arrogance

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