The data running along these cables between data centers is not encrypted

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was busted for spying on the data centers of Internet giants like Google and Yahoo. But the question is, how did it do it?

The New York Times has a theory. According to a new report on the subject, NYT said the NSA may have gained access to Google and Yahoo's data running on fiber-optic cables that connect data centers. 

These cables are owned by companies like Verizon Communications, the Vodafone Group,  the BT Group and Level 3 Communications. Level 3 Communications, in particular, owns the cables that Google and Yahoo use. 

While these data centers are kept secure, the cables running between them are not. NYT said the data running along these cables between data centers is not encrypted, which would allow the NSA to intercept the information without Google or Yahoo knowing about it. 

“It is our policy and our practice to comply with laws in every country where we operate, and to provide government agencies access to customer data only when we are compelled to do so by the laws in the country where the data is located," said Level 3 Communications. “We are party to an agreement with the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Defense addressing the U.S. government’s national security and law enforcement concerns. This agreement imposes significant requirements on us related to information storage and management; traffic management; physical, logical and network security arrangements; personnel screening and training; and other matters.”

It hasn't been confirmed whether this is what really happened or not, but NYT referenced several past methods of eavesdropping methods by the government, starting as early as spy agencies tapping telegraph communications. 

Another example includes spy operation Echelon in the 1960s, which used satellite, microwave and fiber-optic cables to spy on the Soviet Union and its allies voice, fax and data traffic.

NYT further pointed out that former national security adviser John M. Poindexter (who served under President Ronald Reagan) proposed the Total Information Awareness plan back in 2002. This plan wanted to scan all electronic information, including phone calls, emails and financial and travel records. However, this plan was trashed in 2003.

But now we have the NSA's surveillance programs like Prism and Bullrun, which are very similar to Poindexter's Total Information Awareness plan. 

NYT's point is this: would it really be surprising if the NSA found a way to sneak in the backdoor without anyone noticing?

Google and Yahoo said they're now encrypting data that runs on the cables between their data centers, and Microsoft may do the same. 

Earlier this month, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said that the NSA's alleged spying on data centers is "outrageous" and that its strategies of pulling hundreds of millions of records to find a few hundred is "bad public policy" and even "illegal."

Source: The New York Times

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