Writer James Bamford wrote a cover story for the latest WIRED magazine (April 2012) called “Inside the Matrix” that delves deep into the building a massive, secretive NSA-run information vacuum super-center.
Bamford’s article further showcases how the general public blindly ignores their private information to be siphoned off for the profit of corporations or somewhat accepts it to help us get increasingly helpful (and creepy) search results (see Google).
For those aware of this privacy leakage and who worry about their privacy and security, alarm bells… they should be ringing. If you missed this article or don’t feel like reading 6000+ words, we figured we’d give our readers an abridged recap.
Bamford’s reporting is heavily based on conversations with William Binney, former NSA official who was “a senior NSA crypto-mathematician largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network” regarding his work on a project named Stellar Wind.
Binney says Stellar Wind is far more expansive “than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email. At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day, he says, which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts. ” And that’s just the beginning.
In Binney’s view, “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.” The crux of the article discusses a state of the art information center being built in Bluffdale, Utah.
The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.
And what does this mean for individual privacy?:
In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas.
The Tools of Privacy Breach
The Pentagon is attempting to expand “its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes—so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)” A filled yottabyte of data would be equivalent to “about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.”
And how staggering is the equipment being built into this uber-private privacy infiltrating haven; the NSA/Pentagon has “created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes… The question, of course, is how the agency defines who is and who is not, “a potential adversary.”
A Center Built to Break Encryption
Even with this one-million-square-foot storehouse, there seems to be one major stumbling block that continues to baffle and prevent to private digital data: strong encryption.
For years, one of the hardest shells has been the Advanced Encryption Standard, one of several algorithms used by much of the world to encrypt data. Available in three different strengths—128 bits, 192 bits, and 256 bits—it’s incorporated in most commercial email programs and web browsers and is considered so strong that the NSA has even approved its use for top-secret US government communications. Most experts say that a so-called brute-force computer attack on the algorithm—trying one combination after another to unlock the encryption—would likely take longer than the age of the universe. For a 128-bit cipher, the number of trial-and-error attempts would be 340 undecillion (1036).
Breaking into complex encryption like the AES requires two things: super-fast computers to perform brute-force attacks on the messages and a massive number of those messages from the same location to analyze. The more data and messages the computer can have, the increased ability of the supercomputers to decipher the messages.
According to the official, these experts told then-director of national intelligence Dennis Blair, “You’ve got to build this thing because we just don’t have the capability of doing the code-breaking.” It was a candid admission. In the long war between the code breakers and the code makers—the tens of thousands of cryptographers in the worldwide computer security industry—the code breakers were admitting defeat.
How to Enhance Your Privacy and Encryption in Your Network
One of the main reasons we started FlashRouters was to make people aware of increasingly bothersome ways that their privacy was being invaded and how they can attempt to protect it.
It horrifies us how little many know about what can be found out about their Internet usage with a few programs and a few quick keystrokes. Protecting your identity and having secure data should be a top priority.
- Our wireless security experts always recommend securing your wireless network with AES, the previously mentioned encryption standard that is available on all FlashRouters.
- Using a VPN service provider like HideMyAss will add layers of security and high-level encryption to all of your outgoing internet traffic and messages. FlashRouters will set up any router to work with your favorite VPN service provider and offers online-support to make sure your wired and wireless network is running and encrypted.
- A VPN will also prevent location-based translation for your messages since you can log in from a large array of servers to hide the source of your messages and avoid patterns. Protect your identity, your location, and your communication with a FlashRouter VPN service integrated router.
If you have questions or are looking for unique setups or routers configurations, contact us via our support ticket system for the fastest responses. Follow us on twitter (@flashrouters) or like us on Facebook to keep up with the latest VPN related news, Internet Security Flaws, Wireless Networking updates, and DD-WRT resources.