Published 2014-01-21 By: Arsalan Jabbar
What this article is all about
Operational under the authority of DoD, the National Security Agency (NSA) is one of the most powerful intelligence agencies of the United States that reports its activities to the Director of National Intelligence. NSA in allegiance with different institutions and corporate giants is notorious for its vigilant and spying activities. However, it isn’t something that justified the rationale behind its existence back in the time of its inception. The National Security Agency has been using diverse tactics to spy our online and offline activities.
What we claim as breach of our privacy – they call it mandatory security measures adopted to cope with national and global terrorism threats. NSA, without our consent monitors our activities, invades our privacy by collecting our personal data and watches every move we make. There are several corporations that have joined the cause; however, we were completely unaware of the allegiance before Snowden’s revelations.
Edward Snowden is a former CIA employee who worked with NSA as an Infrastructure Analyst. Snowden was responsible for disclosing NSA’s confidential and top secret documents to media causing one of the controversial leaks in history. Snowden revealed NSA’s operational activities referring to their global surveillance program along with the tools used by the NSA to exploit our privacy.
#Snowden took 1.7M docs” reminds me of “@wikileaks
released 1.7M diplomatic Kissinger Cables.” GOV HAS UNHEALTHY MATH FETISH W/ #1.7M— Jesselyn Radack (@JesselynRadack) January 12, 2014
Snowden affirmed that NSA works in allegiance with diverse commercial entities to invade the privacy of not only the citizens of the United States but the world. Snowden revealed that the world’s privacy is being victimized by the Five Eyes Alliance. The Five Eyes Alliance represents collective effort of spying activities initiating different surveillance programs and intelligence-sharing agreements that may best serve the intentions of: the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In case you have forgotten Snowden and what he had done. Let’s refresh your memory – shall we.
As per the Snowden’s revelations, there are several surveillance programs exposed such as PRISM, Upstream, Tempora and XKeyscore etc which reflected not only the involvement of NSA but also GCHQ. Snowden also revealed that it all started at the domestic level.
NSA eventually started gathering intelligence from wherever it can through any means possible. The NSA now targets our online activities, communication and even personal data of almost everyone. The NSA however justifies its actions by stating that they serve the national interest, Snowden says.
Where many consider this whistleblower as their hero – some declare him as a traitor who should be treated no differently. Let’s have a look at House Speaker’s tough talk about Snowden.
As per a rumor spread not so while ago, Snowden was perceived to demand clemency. Many of you might be wondering that if Snowden is asking for clemency now, why he leaked the data in the first place. Let’s show you something that might help your ingest all the buzz.
Found in 1952, the National Security Agency is an intelligence agency focused on overseas surveillance more than the domestic – with intention to serve the national interest. NSA’s focus at the time of its inception was impounded to a limited extent. NSA’s surveillance activities were confined at national level and minimal overseas operations or allegiance for that matter to detect the possibility of foreign or national treason.
No one (publically speaking) knew about the NSA and its intentions before Snowden’s revelations. Since then, there have been several controversies surrounding the National Security Agency. NSA is blamed to spy on our activities and data via sophisticated measures and tools. NSA has now been working with different telecommunication and IT giants to carry forward their surveillance programs.
Soon after Snowden’s revelations, NSA’s allegiance with GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) became center of attention for those who still consider privacy as a priceless asset. However, despite of severe criticism (national and international), NSA continued its operations – taking them to a whole new level.
The National Security Agency is supposed to have a long history with RSA. RSA – a subsidiary of EMC Corp is a tech giant renowned for its product related to Internet security. NSA signed a $10 million deal with RSA instructing the tech giant to manufacture blemished Internet security tools. These tools and equipments were to be used by NSA as a backdoors to serve their wicked intentions of spying.
NSA has been coercing telecom companies (the ones not already associated with it off course) to store Meta Data
for the agency. This does not end here. The National Security Agency identified growing reputation of MMORPGs among Netizens and came up with something out of the box. NSA deployed its agents in World of WarCraft along with other MMORPGs to detect and notify any unusual activity if detected.
The Prism is one of the severely criticized yet controversial regimes of the NSA. Prism costs nearly a sum of $20 million to the United States government in the name of the surveillance activities initiated. There are several multinationals and tech giants perceived to work in allegiance with the NSA under the Prism initiative.
Apple, Facebook, AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo and PalTalk etc are considered as NSA’s pawns in this game. Furthermore, it has also been reported that GCHQ (notorious spy agency of the United Kingdom) has complete access to the data gathered and analyzed under the Prism program. The objective of this regime is to extract the information of identified targets using the servers of tech and telecom companies working in alliance with the National Security Agency.
However, the organizations prescribed above deny their association with the National Security Agency saying that their servers are only accessible by concerned personnel only. Microsoft is perceived to be more loyal among all other Prism providers providing detailed information to the NSA in exchange a bit extra remuneration.
The Upstream represents the bulk intercept programs initiated by the National Security Agency. The Upstream program initiated by the NSA correspond the process of intercepting communications cables in order to extract the information via target’s communication. GCHQ is believed to work in alliance with NSA in this regard as their upstream programs are similar to that of the National Security Agency.
The National Security Agency also requires assistance of the telecom corporations in this regard. In fact, many telecom companies are currently working with the NSA and offer access to phone and Internet data. This association is not confined to the national level as the NSA seeks at least one telecom giant overseas – the motive is similar of course.
Under this program, the National Security Agency works in systematic alliance with the GCHQ weaken the encryption systems and tools. Furthermore, the prime objective of the NSA in this regard was to deteriorate the security measures adopted by users. Under its surveillance program, the NSA wishes to monitor our online activities, access our emails and even examine our commercial transactions.
For this it will have to weaken our security first – so I guess it all makes sense to you right now. This program costs the NSA roughly $250 million per year. Under this program NSA strives to flaw the software and even hardware we use. With its allies (Tech Companies), the NSA has left our privacy vulnerable so that it can easily access, analyze and store whatever data it wishes to acquire from us.
Meta Data Collection
Along with diverse other controversies surrounding George W Bush’s presidency, the United State’s Meta Data program was the most crucial to disagree with. During George Bush’s presidency, the word got out that the US has been collecting phone records of millions in name of national security. The officials declared that the regime has been disavowed and we actually believed it – so naïve we are.
Meanwhile, the National Security Agency was working aggressively at the backend – collecting Meta Data of not only American but the world. The national Security Agency via this initiative is still collecting, analyzing and even storing contents of our business and private conversations via the calls we make. If this continues to happen, the word ‘Privacy’ will vanish from the dictionary of generations yet to come.
Partnership with RSA
One of the many controversies associated with the National Security Agency is the deal with RSA. After Snowden’s revelations, it was discovered that NSA had offered $10 million to RSA for blemish products. RSA was instructed to develop flawed security tools so that the National Security Agency can use it as a backdoor whenever it wants. Quite a lame move – I know. However, there are other controversies that will surely dazzle you.
The Verizon Conspiracy
The National Security Agency is also notorious for its allegiance with Verizon Communication. With more than 95 million customers, Verizon is one of the renowned telecom giants. In April 2013, the National Security Agency authorized Verizon Communication to record the conversations and every possible communication of their customers. We didn’t even know that all our private moments were stolen – each and every conversation was recorded and even stored by these vigilantes.
The National Security Agency’s coalition wasn’t confined to Verizon only. Soon, it was discovered that the NSA had issued similar notification to AT&T – authorizing the telecom corporation to record and store the conversations of its clients. AT&T is even more popular than Verizon with more than 100 million clients whose privacy was violated on the basis of an undignified order.
Apple Conspiracy – Offering NSA a Backdoor
Another conspiracy represents Apple’s alliance with the National Security Agency. NSA’s leaked documents revealed its allegiance with Apple where the secret agency was endorsing a built-in program in iPhones that can serve as a backdoor for the NSA. They called it ‘DropoutJeep’. The program could facilitate the NSA to extract, analyze and store data in users’ iPhones. NSA via this backdoor could access your pictures, emails, messages and even record your voice calls. The program was however delayed; but, when there’s NSA involved – who knows – it might be currently operational.
NSA Agents Spy on World of WarCraft and Dota2
The growing popularity of MMORPGs among gamers facilitated yet another wicked NSA schemes. The National Security Agency deployed its agents on different servers of World of WarCraft and Dota2 to engage in the MMORPGs. The National Security Agency perhaps required an insight on the gaming community. These agents were strictly instructed to monitor and report any odd activity at MMORPGs servers.
Tailored Access Operations
The National Security Agency operates Tailored Access Operations also known as TAO. TAO is a unit comprising 2000 workers dedicated to execute the hacks and cyber attacks designed by the NSA for diverse purposes. TAO’s services are usually required to infiltrate into digital communications traffic across the globe.
NSA currently seeks a quantum computer that will decrypt any form of encrypted data. There are diverse tools currently used by the National Security Agency through which the encrypted data is accessed and decrypted. There are diverse forms and levels of encryption – not all can be decrypted easily. The higher and sophisticated levels of encryptions are seldom decrypted and accompany an elongated process in between.
Through the quantum computer, the National Security Agency will be equipped with the technology that can decrypt almost any known encryption in this digital universe. This depicts a significant threat as the NSA with a quantum computer along with diverse backdoors and other spying tools would surely bring death to our privacy and security.
I don’t know how to conclude this tale; because, it actually is inconclusive phenomenon. There is much to be discussed and there’s more to be told – NSA’s story doesn’t end here. There are countless regimes representing the agency and there are numerous conspiracies. Some of them are known – thanks to Snowden – and the others still remain a mystery. We don’t know what NSA’s intentions are for the future.
Hence, it is high time to take your privacy and security seriously. The NSA with its diverse tools and sophisticated methods is all set to infiltrate your private moments, confidential data and monitor every move you make.
Knowing about NSA’s allegiance with tech and telecom giants might have shocked you and shattered your trust in the brands you prefer; but, trust me there’s more to it than it meets the eye. The best you can do to protect your data is use higher level of encryption that may be difficult for the NSA to decrypt. So, even if your security is infiltrated and data accessed – they’ll gain nothing from it.
Arsalan Jabbar is a tech-research enthusiast who wants to explore technological obsolescence and its generic influence. With a little spice of wit in his writing style, Arsalan fanatically researches contemporary discoveries in the IT industry and critiques their significance in his own special way. Arsalan’s hypotheses are always reflected through in-depth scrutiny and valid notions. Besides his unconditional love for technology and his gaming console, Arsalan is a fitness-freak – always up for a fight against those wicked calories.