NSA Hacked Google, Yahoo! Data Centers

NSA Hacked Google, Yahoo! Data Centers

(Image source: Google / Connie Zhou) BY CHRISTIAN BRYANT Although the NSA has the ability to access
online communications through a court-approved process, new revelations from Edward Snowden
and other “knowledgeable officials” allege the government agency has been doing some
back-door snooping into Google and Yahoo! data centers. The Washington Post broke the story Wednesday,
reporting the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, secretly collected data through a program
called MUSCULAR. (Via ABC) The Post reports, “By tapping those links,
the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from among hundreds of millions of
user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans.” The spying agencies do this by capturing information
sent between data centers as it is moved from public spaces to private clouds, operated
by Google and Yahoo! Such information could come from Gmail accounts or Google Drive documents. The Post also provides a picture that reportedly
came from the NSA, showing where the information is extracted — right at the smiley face. The Washington Post goes on to say the NSA
doesn’t keep everything it collects, but it keeps a pretty significant amount. The NSA intercepted and sent more than 180
million records — including metadata like emails, texts, audio and videos — to its
headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland within a 30-day period at the beginning of the year. This back-door process differs from how the
NSA legally collects data through its PRISM program. Analysts use a court order to compel
major Internet companies, such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and several others, to cooperate
as NSA workers key in search terms for suspicious activity. (Via CBS) The sort of data thievery used with MUSCULAR,
though, would be illegal in the U.S., but USA Today explains, “The operations take place
overseas, where the NSA is allowed to presume that anyone using a foreign data link is a
foreigner.” NSA Chief Keith Alexander disputed The Washington
Post report Wednesday, saying the NSA can’t directly access information within data centers
without going through a court process. (Via Politico) This recent leak comes on the heels of other
NSA spying revelations. Documents leaked by Snowden show the NSA spied on world leaders
and U.S. allies, including Spain, Italy and France. (Via The Guardian) Google said in a statement Wednesday its executives
were “troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers,
and we are not aware of this activity.”


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