November 01, 2013

NSA v. the geeks v. google -- a picture is worth a thousand cribs

Dave Cohen says: "I wonder if I have what it takes to make presentations at the NSA."

H/t to Jeroen. So I wonder if the Second World Cryptowars are really on?

Our Mission

To bring the world our unique end-to-end encrypted protocol and architecture that is the 'next-generation' of private and secure email. As founding partners of The Dark Mail Alliance, both Silent Circle and Lavabit will work to bring other members into the alliance, assist them in implementing the new protocol and jointly work to proliferate the worlds first end-to-end encrypted 'Email 3.0' throughout the world's email providers. Our goal is to open source the protocol and architecture and help others implement this new technology to address privacy concerns against surveillance and back door threats of any kind.

Could be. In the context of the new google sniffing revelations, it may now be clearer how the NSA is accessing all of the data of all of the majors. What do we think about the NSA? Some aren't happy, like Kenton Varda:

If the NSA is indeed tapping communications from Google's inter-datacenter links then they are almost certainly using the open source protobuf release (i.e. my code) to help interpret the data (since it's almost all in protobuf format). Fuck you, NSA.

What about google? Some outrage from the same source:

I had to admit I was shocked by one thing: I'm amazed Google is transmitting unencrypted data between datacenters.

is met with Varda's comment:

We're (I think) talking about Google-owned fiber between Google-owned endpoints, not shared with anyone, and definitely not the public internet. Physically tapping fiber without being detected is pretty difficult and a well-funded state-sponsored entity is probably the only one that could do it.

Ah. So google did some risk analysis and thought this was one they can pass on. Google's bad. A bit of research shows BlackHat in 2003:

  • Commercially available taps are readily available that produce an insertion loss of 3 dB which cost less than $1000!
  • Taps currently in use by state-sponsored military and intelligence organizations have insertion losses as low as 0.5 dB!
  • That document indicates 2001 published accounts of NSA tapping fibre, and I found somewhere a hint that it was first publically revealed in 1999. I'm pretty sure we knew about the USS Jimmy Carter back then, although my memory fades...

    So maybe Google thought it hard to tap fibre, but actually we've known for over a decade that is not so. Google's bad, they are indeed negligent. Jeroen van Gelderen says:

    Correct me if I'm wrong but you promise that "[w]e restrict access to personal information to Google employees, contractors and agents who need to know that information in order to process it for us, and who are subject to strict contractual confidentiality obligations and may be disciplined or terminated if they fail to meet these obligations.

    Indeed, as a matter of degree, I would say google are grossly negligent: the care that they show for physical security at their data centers, and all the care that they purport in other security matters, was clearly not shown once the fiber left their house.

    Meanwhile, given the nature of the NSA's operations, some might ask (as Jeroen does):

    Now that you have been caught being utterly negligent in protecting customer data, to the point of blatantly violating your own privacy policies, can you please tell us which of your senior security people were responsible for downplaying the risk of your thousands of miles of unsecured, easily accessible fibers being tapped? Have they been fired yet?

    Chances of that one being answered are pretty slim. I can imagine Facebook being pretty relaxed about this. I can sort of see Apple dropping the ball on this. I'm not going to spare any time with Microsoft, who've been on the contract teet since time immemorial.

    But google? That had security street cred? Time to call a spade a spade: if google are not analysing and revealing how they came to miss these known and easy threats, then how do we know they aren't conspirators?

    Posted by iang at November 1, 2013 01:34 PM | TrackBack

    You people have completely lost it when you think that:

    1. The NSA leaves tracks.
    2. The NSA gathers any valuable intelligence from "Google".

    These people tap Police, Corporations, Intelligence Agencies etc. without leaving fingerprints.


    Posted by: geraldo at November 3, 2013 11:47 AM
    Post a comment

    Remember personal info?

    Hit preview to see your comment as it would be displayed.