How secure are the National Security Agency spy lines?

How secure are the National Security Agency spy lines?

Summary: We know that there's no such thing as a completely secure computer system. Is the NSA spy system the largest security risk of them all?

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TOPICS: Security
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Many are concerned about the National Security Agency (NSA) collection of data on US companies and individuals and the very real possibility that it has a way of directly accessing the servers of the world's largest computing platforms: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc.

It's certainly a situation that deserves attention and concern. But what's missing in this discussion is this: how secure is the NSA's spying system? 

If a foreign entity wanted to spy on US companies or individuals, would it try to tackle the problem directly by targeting the specific company or individual in its electronic spying attempts? It might, but that's a lot of work for an uncertain payoff.

A much more efficient approach would be to hack into a surveillance system that already has access to the information. Far better to hack into the NSA spying system at Google, or at Facebook, or at Microsoft (if such an NSA system exists, of course).

In early 2010 Google discovered that Chinese hackers had gotten into its systems. Who did it call to help deal with this problem? The NSA. [Google to enlist NSA to help it ward off cyberattacks.]

This puzzled me tremendously, why would Google, with its enormous brain trust of the world's top computer experts call on the NSA? Why didn't Google have the means, the expertise, to deal with this problem directly and solely?

It makes sense if it was the NSA's spying system that got hacked within Google.

The search giant knows its own systems and how they can be protected but it doesn't know the NSA's computer systems and how they protect themselves. It makes perfect sense to call in the NSA to help plug this hole because it's a hole created for the NSA which the NSA might have left vulnerable in some way.

The NSA also employs the world's top computer experts but it's not infallible. Everyone knows that there's no such thing as a completely secure system. The greater danger in the NSA's spying activities is not from the NSA itself, but from the many nefarious foreign national, and international criminal enterprises, that find a way to exploit the existing spy systems so thoroughly crafted, and so thoroughly extensive, that have been built by the NSA.

The danger from allowing the NSA to have deep access into the data systems of US companies is that that very system creates an enormous vulnerability that would not have existed. Hack into part of the NSA spy network and you have access to a mass of private data that would be near impossible to collect in any other way.

It's ironic that the NSA's activities to improve the security of the US have created the nation's largest security risk of them all. 

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Topic: Security

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82 comments
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  • Nah

    They have so much sh!t stored on everybody that nobody could ever hope to download/leak it all or even make any sense of it. ;-)
    D.T.Long
    • That's not why or what they do with it

      You look for specific references to a specific person, thing, or event. That's just standard big data search techniques. The NSA isn't totally incompetent when it comes to building a good search filter.
      The problem arises when there's no control over who's running the searches, on whom, and why.
      According to the Constitution, you should never run a search on anyone unless you already have reasonable suspicion (evidence) that they've committed, or are about to commit, a crime.
      But we already have ample evidence that the Administration misuses their access to data, and their bureaucratic powers, to harrass, block, deny, and sabotage their political enemies and those who dissent against them. Which means that the system of review and authorization by secret judges is BROKEN.
      Dr_Zinj
      • Search Filter?

        "The NSA isn't totally incompetent when it comes to building a good search filter."
        Indeed: google (or bing) Accumulo...
        Eleutherios
      • Fee Fi Fo Fum

        I smell the ravings of someone dumb. Take your clueless politics elsewhere.
        JustCallMeBC
  • Wild speculation

    If I'm China, I'd love to hack the NSA Treasure Trove(TM). But frankly I think it would be far easier to hack individual companies' servers instead. "The search giant knows its own systems and how they can be protected...." How sure are you of this "fact"?
    bmgoodman
    • Buy it.

      Why hack it when you can buy it? When a culture puts wealth above all else nothing is secure.
      Stephen Charchuk
      • True to an extent

        Because AIPAC has already bought us and no one has more state money than Israel.
        Owen King
        • Aid Money.

          Yeah and its the money you give them each year as "aid". Your tax dollars at work..... All $10 billion (Or more) of it. That's alot of money to protect a litterbox. :rollseyes:
          Stephen Charchuk
          • Your own money.

            What I'm saying for those who didn't get it. They bought you with your own money. It didn't cost their lobbyists a penny of their own countries currency.
            Stephen Charchuk
  • Work for one of its many contractors

    Then you will have full access to it all.
    Why go to all that trouble trying to break in when you can simply walk in.
    thekman58
  • Ask James Bamford about that one

    It's been a lot of years, but I seem to remember that his book "The Puzzle Palace" recounts a number of times the NSA was successfully infiltrated during the Cold War. And that was long before the Internet was more than a DOD research project.
    John L. Ries
  • Given that the NSA has blown away the 4th Ammendment...

    ...what the heck are we saying? We're worried if the tyrant secure??? The only risk is to ourselves!
    Tony Burzio
    • Well Said

      No one seems to be making much of the fact that the NSA is breaking the law. PERIOD...They are not authorized to operate domestically.
      Ricardus
      • Well, technically, they're not.

        The Patriot Act gives them broad access to records and they need no more than a fig leaf of plausibility of some tenuous claim that foreign intelligence is involved (a guy calls a guy who calls a guy who calls a guy who might be a terrorist) to go rooting around in them. The problem is that the Patriot Act is a bad law written in haste. It needs to be revisited and rewritten.
        john_whitfield
      • NSA Authority

        Actually, the NSA can function domestically as well as outside the US. The are restricted to intelligence dealing with any foreign agency which includes a US citizen who is in some way working for or associated with, a foreign power. Their limitation is in whom they investigate, not the particular location.
        Tumbleweed_Biff
    • Work for one of its many contractors

      No contractor or its employees has full access to all of it or even most of it. Nobody simply walks in. This Snowden clown's story keeps changing.
      Whipkey
      • Clown? seems the feds are the 3 ring circus

        DC = Dumb Clowns..... entire federal government is staffed by clowns, criminals or psycho's.... pick your poison.
        Reality Bites
    • Given that the NSA has blown away the 4th Ammendment...

      Baloney. This program is a risk to no American citizen whose number is not being called by terrorists from overseas.
      Whipkey
      • Big brother.

        In other words; "You shouldn't mind having 24/7 video cameras on you if you have nothing to hide....." Hello, Big brother.
        Stephen Charchuk
        • 24/7

          We already have it brotha.... you cant do anything without it being recorded one way or the other.
          mckissack1