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The Internet Encryption Google Government Networking Privacy Security United States Yahoo!

NSA Broke Into Links Between Google, Yahoo Datacenters 394

Posted by timothy
from the smiley-makes-it-all-ok dept.
barlevg writes "The Washington Post reports that, according to documents obtained from Edward Snowden, through their so-called 'MUSCULAR' initiative, the National Security Agency has exploited a weakness in the transfers between data centers, which Google and others pay a premium to send over secure fiber optic cables. The leaked documents include a post-it note as part of an internal NSA Powerpoint presentation showing a diagram of Google network traffic, an arrow pointing to the Google front-end server with text reading, 'SSL Added and Removed Here' with a smiley face. When shown the sketch by The Post and asked for comment, two engineers with close ties to Google responded with strings of profanity." The Washington Post report is also summarized at SlashBI. Also in can't-trust-the-government-not-to-spy news, an anonymous reader writes: "According to recent reports, the National Security Agency collects 'one-end foreign' Internet metadata as it passes through the United States. The notion is that purely domestic communications should receive greater protection, and that ordinary Americans won't send much personal information outside the country. A researcher at Stanford put this hypothesis to the test... and found that popular U.S. websites routinely pass browsing activity to international servers. Even the House of Representatives website was sending traffic to London. When the NSA vacuums up international Internet metadata, then, it's also snooping on domestic web browsing by millions of Americans."
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NSA Broke Into Links Between Google, Yahoo Datacenters

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  • by X0563511 (793323) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:47PM (#45283653) Homepage Journal

    ... and I hope that "string of profanity" was directed at the NSA who put it there.

    • NOT 'man in the middle', and no direct compromise of the Google Frontend Server (GFE) is being described here. MUSCULAR is passive taps on presently unencrypted private links between the companies' global data centers. In theory these would be sited on the borders of the United States or (safely) within foreign space.

      This cooperation between the Brits and the Gits is ESCHELON [wikipedia.org] in action. Your tax (and drug) dollars at work. I see that the latest Snowden revelation identifies an interception point that is mag

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:50PM (#45283703)

    Fucking traitors.

  • by Todd Palin (1402501) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:51PM (#45283707)
    Slashdotters seem pretty appalled at these revelations, but when will the general public reach the point of disgust? In theory the people of the USA still have the power to change these behaviors through the ballot box. The news just goes on and on. but the outrage seems slow to reach the surface.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:58PM (#45283781)
      Wake up sheeple! [xkcd.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The public-at-large are vain, petty creatures; and just as your average slut with no self-respect treats any kind of attention as the good kind, so do the rest of the public as they post pictures of their cats and share descriptions of the minutiae of their bowel movements and that they went wild and had sugar in their coffee today.

      You who are on Facebook and Google plus are part of the problem. Until you at least make an honest first-step to ween yourselves off the social networking and media dicks you su

    • by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:05PM (#45283869)
      The only problem is what your choice is between John Jackson, and Jack Johnson or Kang and Kodos or a turd sandwich and a giant douche.
      All depending on which animated series you prefer. :)
      • The only problem is what your choice is between John Jackson, and Jack Johnson or Kang and Kodos or a turd sandwich and a giant douche.

        All depending on which animated series you prefer. :)

        No, the problem is that so many people are incorrectly convinced that choosing to vote for a political candidate is a binary decision, when the reality is that there are almost as many choices in who you elect as there are tributaries to the Mississippi.

      • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @03:02PM (#45284621)

        At this point, Nixon's head on a giant killer robot body might be a good choice. "Cyborg Nixon: Because he doesn't seem so evil by comparison."

    • by jovius (974690)

      I'd guess that would happen if the NSA etc operations begin to worsen the actual user experience.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:10PM (#45283933)

      The public doesn't give a damn that the President and Cabinet have been ordering assassinations, torture, or invasion that leads to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Why should they be concerned with a little spying? They are literally more concerned about the welfare of dogs (see Michael Vick), tiny fetuses, and boobies on TV.

    • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:19PM (#45284035) Journal

      You are under the amusing assumption that ballot boxes change anything. What we are dealing with are institutional government entities that exist apart from any apparatus to effectively monitor and contain them. THIS is the shadow government nobody pays any attention to, until it is too late. And those of us that have warned people for years, have been labeled "kooks" and "loons".

      Oh, and this is just the surface they are allowing you to see. It is much much worse than you can possibly imagine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sqorbit (3387991)
      I think the public figures "if I'm not doing anything wrong, why should I care about spying". The idea that they are only targeting terrorists and criminals gives people the illusion that our privacy is not truly at risk. It's when they misinterpret information and target the innocent people is when they get upset. It's a false sense of security not fully understanding the larger scope of spying and archiving information.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        I think the public figures "if I'm not doing anything wrong, why should I care about spying". The idea that they are only targeting terrorists and criminals gives people the illusion that our privacy is not truly at risk. It's when they misinterpret information and target the innocent people is when they get upset. It's a false sense of security not fully understanding the larger scope of spying and archiving information.

        Or the public figured it out that by doing ANYTHING online already makes you part of a

      • by QRDeNameland (873957) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:50PM (#45284479)

        I think the public figures "if I'm not doing anything wrong, why should I care about spying".

        Part of the problem is that they remain ignorant and/or unconcerned that recent history is filled with examples of surveillance on people who were "not doing anything wrong"...well, other than expressing opinions unpopular with those in power. (MLK being perhaps the most famous example.) Unless one thinks that pesky activists of whatever political stripe don't serve any useful purpose to society or even one's own personal interests, there is much more to be worried about than just whether or not they're spying on *you personally*. That aspect seems to get lost in this debate.

        So instead of "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear"...it should be more like "if you have nothing to *say* and don't care about others who might have something to say, well, then you have nothing to fear...maybe."

        • A Kickstarter campaign to put up billboards alongside the top 25 rush hour arteries across the USA with stark black letters on white background:

          The NSA knows what you did.
          And one day they will expose you.
          Stop Them and save yourself.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cold fjord (826450)

      Slashdotters seem pretty appalled at these revelations, but when will the general public reach the point of disgust? In theory the people of the USA still have the power to change these behaviors through the ballot box. The news just goes on and on. but the outrage seems slow to reach the surface.

      There is a process for changing things in a democracy*, and that normally doesn't involve mobs with torches and pitchforks when it comes to important national policy questions, even if you call people "sheep".** People are writing their legislators. Congress is gathering facts, including reviewing its reports and holding the hearings occurring at present, as noted here [politico.com]. It is up the Congress, President, and Courts to work through the issues as they occur. There are disputes about the facts of what has b

    • by plover (150551) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:56PM (#45284541) Homepage Journal

      I think Snowden and the Grauniad are managing this very carefully and deliberately. Instead of dumping 100,000 powerpoint decks on an already jaded world, they're publishing a new menace every month. So instead of a transient explosion of anger (that the NSA is bracing for, and expecting they'll be able to manage), there is a seething resentment that's slowly building over time. First, people with cell phones got mad, and resentful. Then Merkel got mad, and got the EU all torqued. Today, people who use Google are getting mad. Next month, it'll probably be how they read every message and contact in iCloud, making all the Apple users mad. At this rate, everybody is going to take turns feeling violated a couple of times each over the next year or so.

      With this schedule, the administration has to squirm and dodge and apologize every time the spotlight twitches. Even the left no longer trusts the words the President speaks these days, because he's so busy spitting out weasel words defending this out-of-control agency. My guess is there's still a really big expose yet to come that will reveal the NSA did something truly damaging to our democracy with this info, like they rigged a Federal election, or a Supreme Court assignment. And by then Congress will be facing an angry public demanding that they not only react, but over-react.

      As a matter of fact, they're releasing this information so carefully orchestrated that I have to wonder who is guiding them. How would Snowden know exactly how to publish this data to maximum effect? He's a sysadmin, not a PR expert. This seems more like one of the successful KGB misinformation campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        As a matter of fact, they're releasing this information so carefully orchestrated that I have to wonder who is guiding them. How would Snowden know exactly how to publish this data to maximum effect?

        He didn't. He dumped the data on media organizations ages ago, and now he's just helping guide public discussion.

      • I think this has more to do with the Guardian milking the greatest value out of the Snowden file. The longterm placement in the news is just a side effect.

        If news about Iraq, Afghanistan, Immigration, or any controversial topic are any indication it won't take long for news fatigue to set in and this will just be one of those "yea yea we know" stories that get pushed onto the back page.

    • by mu51c10rd (187182) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @03:34PM (#45285023)

      This is because the US major news outlets are not covering the leaks much. Check out MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, or any major outlet...and nothing. The people only get outraged when their particular partisan talking head tells them to. I find the best coverage on the leaks is from the UK Guardian. Certainly not here in the US.

      • Claiming that the US media isn't covering this story is BULL. It is being covered by the mainstream press, and often from more than one angle. It is no surprise that the Guardian is going to have the biggest drum on this - Snowden gave the stolen documents to one of the Guardian's journalists to write the stories. Frankly I think if you only go to the Guardian you will have almost the opposite problem - you won't necessarily get the other side of the discussion. Of course you may not be interested in t

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:52PM (#45283713)

    Nothing is "secure" any more. "Secure" is now a one word oxymoron.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Feeling pretty secure in that claim, are you?

    • It's spelled as one word, but properly pronounced as two. "suck your"

  • by cohomology (111648) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:53PM (#45283731)

    This news is very serious, but sometimes humor is the only possible reaction to bad news.

    This is a violation of Google's Terms of Service. I hope Google cuts off all access from .gov and .mil domains.

    • by msauve (701917) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:07PM (#45283903)

      âoeNSA does collect information on terrorists and our national intelligence priorities but we are not authorized to go into a U.S. companyâ(TM)s servers and take data,â Alexander said.

      So, they claim they don't break into servers. So what? That's entirely different than tapping the links between the servers. And you can bet he knows the difference.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Clapper and Alexander have those new fancy "truth inverters" installed. When they deny something, it's true. When they admit something, it's not true - and if they refuse comment... hide.

    • Shocking.

      Another thing that makes me laugh is the new "restrictions" being put on the NSA.

      How could anyone trust that any of these restrictions are really being put into place? It's 100% impossible. Obama could say he's ending all spying against everyone but known AK-47 wielding terrorists tomorrow and those words would not be worth the sound waves that carried them. The NSA systematically lies their ass off about what they do, and Obama has shown that he's not above lying to cover the NSA's ass either. Wor

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:15PM (#45283989)

      PARSE THE WORDING, DAMMIT.

      Alexander did NOT say they didn't do it. He said "we are not authorized to go into a U.S. company’s servers and take data" (emphasis mine). That's a completely different statement.

      To me, that looks to be specifically designed to avoid lying without answering the question - such as when Obama answered the question about bugging Merkel's phone with "we are not recording her conversations and will not in the future". Fortunately, in that case, the press noticed the subterfuge and followed up with a question he wouldn't respond to ("Did you, in the past, ...").

    • by reebmmm (939463) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:20PM (#45284055)

      Here are my questions: why do they always talk about "authorization" when making denials? And why don't reporters call them out on it? This story is a classic example:

      “NSA does collect information on terrorists and our national intelligence priorities but we are not authorized to go into a U.S. company’s servers and take data,” Alexander said.

      That's great and all. But it's like a shoplifter saying, "sure I went into the store and looked around, but I wasn't authorized to take anything."

    • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:23PM (#45284095)

      Have to love the weasel word games. When asked question 'x' they skillfully reply with an answer to question 'y' ... Alexander has deployed this trick everywhere I have seen him speak publically.

      When asked about bulk collection of metadata rather than respond to the actual question he instead proclaims reports of bulk content collection of US citizens are wrong.

      When asked about tapping communications links between datacenters he says we are not directly in their servers.

      Note vast differences between the questions asked and answers given.

  • Reap what you sow (Score:3, Informative)

    by sandytaru (1158959) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @01:54PM (#45283747) Journal
    Google (and the others) shrugged and played nice with the NSA, to what extent we don't know. They should have realized that the NSA didn't need their permission to get that data... they were getting it anyway. And a lot more.

    I wonder if Google can sue? And if they can, will they?
    • ...When Google itself seems to believe you don't deserve to have certain kinds of privacy? (In regards to Schmidt and Gundotra's perspective that the service they are pushing, Google Plus, is supposed to be an identification service used to make sure that real user information is being used). Yes, this makes Google look bad, but it's also proof as to why not anonymizing yourself on the internet is stupid. (And yes, I realize that anonymization doesn't protect you from the NSA, but it is at least one addit
    • Re:Reap what you sow (Score:5, Informative)

      by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:52PM (#45287347) Homepage Journal

      Google (and the others) shrugged and played nice with the NSA, to what extent we don't know.

      Google hasn't "shrugged and played nice" with the NSA. Google has flatly and emphatically denied any cooperation. And after the Snowden disclosures began, Google started taking a hard look at internal operations to see if there's anywhere that the NSA could have gotten unauthorized access. The result was a crash company-wide initiative to encrypt all data communications -- specifically to ensure that connections between data centers couldn't be tapped.

      (Disclaimer: I'm a Google software engineer, focused on security infrastructure. I do have a great deal of insider knowledge about Google security infrastructure, but all of the above is from Google's public statements.)

      I wonder if Google can sue? And if they can, will they?

      Google has file a suit to be allowed to disclose the extent of the legal, government-required information sharing. I have no idea if they could sue for any illicit taps. There is no doubt in my mind that if they could sue for damages with some hope of success, they would. This is my own opinion, not an official statement.

  • New Acronym (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    NSA = Nothing Sacred Anymore

  • Unless, of course, there's a clause in there somewhere, that says "even though you have rented a fiber optics channel from A to B, we reserve the right to copy all the traffic that passes through and share it with third party" :) NSA is a third party, right?

  • US Marketing Ploy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by barlevg (2111272) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:03PM (#45283847)
    From this article [washingtonpost.com], an interesting rationale for why they would use MUSCULAR when they have PRISM:

    There are some obvious reasons: The operations take place overseas, where many statutory restriction on surveillance don't apply -- and where the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court (FISC) has no jurisdiction. In fact, the FISC ruled a similar, smaller scale program involving cables on U.S. territory illegal in 2011. So if the NSA decides to harvest that data on foreign soil, it can skip most of the oversight mechanisms.

    We've seen a lot of articles recently about people demanding companies not host their data in the US so that they're not subject to PRISM. But if PRISM has more oversight than MUSCULAR, and MUSCULAR is only allowed to be used OFF of US soil, then it seems like the safest place for your data is in the US, after all.

    • by richardellisjr (584919) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:27PM (#45284159)
      It doesn't matter either way. If they want data on US citizens they can just give the tech to the English who aren't restricted against spying on US citizens and then they'll share the data on each other's citizens. What we need is a Snowden in England to see if they are monitoring US citizens. Unfortunately we're pretty much screwed at this point. To the best of my knowledge no government has ever given up this level of power willingly.
  • Can we simplify the process and just list which digital systems the NSA is NOT tapping?
    At this point, just take 7 columns on every newspaper and a superbowl ad and say they listen to everything... Maybe the public might care.

    They should be proud of themselves for a comprehensive job.
    We have a lot of work to do at the ballot box. (it only that worked)

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:21PM (#45284071) Homepage

    A lot of the NSA's pretense of innocence regarding metadata collection has been about expectation of privacy. They get information posessed by the telephone companies, not by private citizens. Since the information is already being given to the company by the citizen, the citizen has no reasonable expectation of privacy, and bulk metadata raises no 4th amendment issue.

    This case defies that excuse. Those fiber optic cables are leased lines, over which Google and Yahoo have very reasonable expectations of privacy. So, if challenged, the government will either have to publish a different legal pretense or give Google and Yahoo some sort of sweetheart contract as hush money.

    Perhaps I should go buy some GOOG and YHOO.

  • NSA is doing nothing its forbears weren't doing just "better."

  • by barlevg (2111272) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @02:31PM (#45284209)
    There's a "conspiracy theory" detail getting lost in all this discussion: the person who wrote the post-it note the Washington Post is featuring put a smiley face on the Google front-end server next to "SSL Added and Removed Here." To me, that says that they think that SSL encryption is just adorbs, implying they have a way to break it.

    I have a theory, based on absolutely nothing.

    I think a mathematician working for NSA solved Riemann's [wikipedia.org] years ago and, consequently, NSA can break any internet encryption [cornell.edu].

    I'm actually okay with this. But it seems awfully cruel to keep the proof secret from the poor mathematicians who've spent their lives trying to solve it.
  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @03:02PM (#45284625) Homepage Journal

    Technically the NSA has been downloading copyrighted material, and very likely has more than a few MP3s of popular songs filed away in their datacenters.

    I suggest we lobby the RIAA to sue the NSA for $10,000,000,000,000,000 because that's what 50 or so songs are worth, so they say.

    The only trouble with this strategy of course, is that I don't know who to root for. The enemy of my enemy is my friend? No, the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy dammit.

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @04:29PM (#45285709)

    The Supreme Court is really clear on this. If you tap a land line without a warrant, you violate the Constitution.

    • And the patriot act conceived and produced by the neo-cons, allows the NSA to have a warrant that allows them to follow the leads quickly and find the terrorists.
      Sadly, under W, it was abused (stats showed that more than 95% of these warrants were NOT used on terrorists but simple local criminals). However, in 2008, the GOP forced this to be a closed issue. So, we do not know what has happened under O, but considering that neo-cons/tea* have been on the intelligence committee to review this, I would guess
  • by geekymachoman (1261484) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @04:43PM (#45285873)

    I often hear people say this on slashdot. Americans about American government, whenever somebody mentions "a plot". This can be one of those plots.
    5 years ago, everybody would say it's impossible this conspiracy plot is happening because they're stupid morons who can't do sh.t, and I should go buy me self a tinfoil hat somewhere.

    What we heard in the last 5 months invalidates opinions of 90 % of people visiting this site. They're obviously efficient and capable at having plots and god only knows (maybe Snowden too) what they did/are doing and will continue to do in the future, but anybody who can think without getting his emotions involved, will naturally assume that whatever they're doing - is not good.

    Here's another conspiracy plot. Make Americans think they Government is not capable of doing anything so they (the Americans thinking like this) discredit and label everybody who figures out the truth.

    If it's not on the TV/Newspapers it's not happening mentality will ruin you. They are and were just tools for the same Gov that is doing this to all of us to misinform you and control what you know and not know.

    Thanks to the internet, blogs, mistake made by booze allen or whatever is the name of that company, we now getting more and more informed. While we getting more and more informed, we're also getting more and more disgusted which we weren't before... naturally. Since we didn't kknow any better, we just knew what they told us.

    I know i know... it's a plot again, but i don't expect any better from your, or any other Gov anyway.

    • by lennier (44736)

      I know i know... it's a plot again, but i don't expect any better from your, or any other Gov anyway.

      To be more precise, this is a plot by the military wing of your Government. Your government does do other things, but since they don't involve killing people or smashing things, they're not nearly as sexy and well-funded.

      It always amuses me that folk of a certain American political persuasion who shout loudly that The Government (tm) is trampling their rights, pointing literal guns at their heads, and must be shut down because it's inefficient anyway... and then with the next breath shout even louder that t

  • by ISoldat53 (977164) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @09:51PM (#45287907)
    No wonder Dianne Feinstein finally came out sort of against the NSA. When they piss off one of her biggest clients it gets serious.

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