NSA mass surveillance leaks: Timeline of events to date

The U.S. government mass surveillance scandal may be the biggest ongoing story of the year. In this updating timeline, you can explore the full scope of the Edward Snowden leaks, which have implicated the world's most powerful nations in the worldwide spying operation.
By Zack Whittaker on
1 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Introduction: The surveillance scandal in a single slideshow

The biggest scandals of the year — perhaps even the decade — the U.S. government's massive, global surveillance machine has been hitting headlines in international media, as a result of documents leaked by former U.S. contractor Edward Snowden.

With dozens of documents already published since they first went live in June 2013, Snowden is slated to have stolen hundreds of thousands of files. Led by The Guardian and The Washington Post on both sides of the Atlantic, numerous other news agencies have also reported the vast number of secret snooping programs. 

The scandal has implicated numerous high-profile G20 countries in assisting the U.S. government in its intelligence gathering efforts. Meanwhile, many other countries have fallen foul to the U.S.' privacy-invading surveillance techniques. The past six months alone have seen some of the toughest tests to global diplomatic relations since World War II.

From PRISM to UPSTREAM, ROYAL CONCIERGE and EGOTISTICAL GIRAFFE, there is a lot to take in and plenty more to find out.

We've gathered all the leaks to date all in one place in this slideshow, which will be kept up to date, for your viewing.

(News sources: The Guardian; The Washington Post; The New York Times; Der Spiegel; The Wall Street JournalO Globo; CNET; South China Morning Post; Le Monde; CBS News; Reuters; De Standaard; Politico; Wired; The Japan Times)

Updated on November 25: with two additional slides on NSA malware infiltration, and U.S. working with Singapore and South Korea to tap other South Asian countries.

Updated on December 4: with four new slides on Australian leaks, and how the NSA is collecting 5 billion cellphone records a day, among others

2 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

June 6, 2013

Verizon records vacuumed up by NSA under 'top secret' Patriot Act order

The Guardian newspaper was first to reveal the U.S. government's demand to to vacuum up millions of Verizon customer details, including information on phone calls both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.

The data that is being collected on Verizon customers -- including cellular and landline customers -- includes all call details or "metadata," including routing data, such as the originating and recipient phone number; the IMEI unique device identifier; the IMSI number used to identify calls on cellular networks; trunk identifiers; phone calling cards; and the time, date, and duration of the call. 

Image via The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

3 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

June 6, 2013

PRISM unmasked: FBI, NSA said to be secretly mining data from nine U.S. tech giants

Citing a leaked presentation intended for only senior analysts within the National Security Agency's (NSA) Signals Intelligence Directorate, the U.S. government began secretly mining user data from companies under a highly classified program called PRISM.

The ring of nine consists of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple, and video chat room community PalTalk. Apparently Dropbox was slated to be the next one added to the list. The named seven have strenuously denied the claims and reiterated their stance towards maintaining user and customer privacy. 

Image via The Washington Post

Source: The Washington Post

4 of 84 White House/Flickr

June 7, 2013

Obama's secret order draws up overseas target list for cyberattacks

The latest leak pointed to U.S. President Barack Obama signing in October 2011 a directive that orders senior intelligence and defense staff to determine which foreign targets should be attacked with cyberweapons should the country come under attack.

Dubbed "Presidential Policy Directive 20," written just months before the President signed an executive order on cybersecurity -- the document describes how the White House could take offensive measures against a hostile country or system "with little or no warning," and with "potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging."

Source: The Guardian

5 of 84 U.K. Ministry of Defense/Wikimedia Commons

June 7, 2013

U.K. government 'complicit' in NSA's PRISM spy program

It wasn't just the NSA conducting vast surveillance. Almost back to wartime efforts, the U.S. drafted in the help from the U.K. government's electronic intercepts and listening station, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The British spy agency reportedly tapped directly into fiber cables on either side of the Atlantic. It also has access to the U.S. government's PRISM database, allowing the U.K. to bypass mutual intelligence and information sharing treaties. 

Source: The Guardian

6 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

June 8, 2013

PRISM: Here's how the NSA wiretapped the Internet

A new slide released by The Washington Post said that NSA analysts "should use both" the newly-uncovered UPSTREAM program for data collection, as well as PRISM, indicating there are two methods of acquiring private user data.

The secret court order, authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) allows the NSA to place a wiretap device on the core fiber optic cables that power the Internet, which effectively vacuumed up every bit and byte of data that flowed through telco's networks.

Image via The Washington Post

7 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

June 10, 2013

Guardian reveals identity of NSA whistleblower

Meet Edward Snowden, the former U.S. government contractor turned whistleblower, who willingly revealed his identity by working with The Guardian.

The then 29-year-old said he had "no intention of hiding" who he was because, I know I have done nothing wrong," he said, despite leaking secrets held close to the chest of the U.S. government. A former technical assistant for the CIA, Snowden also worked with defense contractor Booz Allen and computer giant Dell.

He will ultimately become one of the very few people in U.S. history charged with leaking government secrets under the Espionage Act. 

Image via The Guardian (video)

Source: The Guardian

8 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

June 11, 2013

U.S. gov't collects 100 billion surveillance records a month

Meet the U.S. National Security Agency's global intelligence tracking tool, BOUNDLESS INFORMANT.

Users of the tool are able to select countries from a "heat map" to metadata and volume details, as well as different kinds of other information collected by the spy agency. Iran topped the surveillance list with over 14 billion data reports, with Pakistan coming in close second at 13.5 billion reports. Jordan, Egypt and India are also top priorities for the U.S. surveillance efforts, according to the leaked slides and screenshots.           

Image via The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

9 of 84 Connue Zhou/Google

June 11, 2013

Google says it wants to disclose FISA requests

In efforts to show it has "nothing to hide" amid the PRISM disclosures by Snowden, Google wrote an open letter to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to disclose how many secret government orders it receives. It follows an earlier statement by Google chief executive Larry Page stating that the Internet giant had not heard of PRISM until The Guardian first disclosed it in early June.

10 of 84 Apple via CNET

June 13, 2013

NSA whistleblower: U.S has been hacking into China, Hong Kong

In the latest round of leaks, fugitive Snowden tells a Hong Kong newspaper that PRISM extends to China and Hong Kong. Citing unreleased documents, the U.S. government has been hacking into computers in the Asia region since 2009, notably those belonging to public officials, businesses, and students. 

11 of 84 White House

June 16, 2013

NSA leaked documents reveal U.S. spied on Russian president at G20 summit

The Snowden leaks didn't just disclose the U.S. government's intentions to surveil citizens, both domestically and abroad. For the first time two weeks after the first round of leaks were published, foreign governments were also revealed to be targets.

Published by The Guardian, the U.S. was spying on former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during the G20 summit in London in 2009. The NSA was able to intercept communications between Medvedev and his delegation, thanks to the U.S.' close relationship with its British counterpart eavesdropping agency, GCHQ.

Source: The Guardian

12 of 84 ZDNet; Microsoft, Google, Facebook

June 17, 2013

Apple, Microsoft, Facebook release new details on national security requests

After denying any direct involvement in the PRISM spying scandal, three Silicon Valley technology giants released new details on U.S. government requests. Under the existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), companies are barred from even acknowledging such a court order exists, let alone disclosing it to the public. The move was in efforts to be more transparent about such national security requests for their customers' data, despite gagging orders in effect.

13 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

June 20, 2013

Secret NSA documents on data collection appear more relaxed than first told

More leaks from The Guardian disclose the reach of the NSA's ability to spy domestically. Two documents outlined how the U.S. spy agency is able to target non-U.S. residents, while the other outlined how it can minimize data collection from U.S. residents. The document shed new light on how the NSA targets individuals for monitoring and surveillance, including the "rules" in which it can acquire data on Americans, in spite of law to protect such domestic spying, 

Image via The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

14 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

June 21, 2013

British spy agency said to tap world's phone calls, e-mails

Further details relating to the U.K. government's involvement in the NSA's surveillance are published. In a new slide called "Mastering the Internet," GCHQ tapped into some of the world's critical submarine fiber cables, which according to the slides, allows it access to much of the world's telephone calls and Internet traffic. The data can be stored for up to 30 days, allowing analysts to look over the data. 

The Guardian, which reported the story, said GCHQ had been carrying out the operation without warrants, and without public acknowledgement or debate, for almost 18 months. 

Screenshot: ZDNet/TeleGeography

Source: The Guardian

15 of 84 European Union

June 21, 2013

Amid NSA spying scandal, the gloves are off for EU's justice chief

Europe's justice chief Viviane Reding was enraged following the news that the U.S. and U.K. -- both allies to the 28 member state bloc -- were spying on its citizens in breach of EU data protection rules. But at a time when Brussels was looking to amend the privacy laws, Reding was pushing back against some proposals, which were "watered down" according to the politicians debating the law. Now news of the scandal broke, Reding is fighting back against her federal former friend.

16 of 84 Dept. of Justice

June 21, 2013

U.S. files espionage charges against NSA leaker

Just two weeks after the NSA surveillance scandal broke, the U.S. government brought charges against Edward Snowden, whose whereabouts at the time were unclear. Believed to be holed up in Hong Kong, the whistleblower becomes one of the handful of those ever charged under the Espionage Act for leaking what may amount to hundreds of thousands of classified documents. 

17 of 84 Ian Geldard/Twitter

June 24, 2013

Edward Snowden on the run, reportedly in Russia

As the global manhunt for Edward Snowden continues, the plane carrying the NSA leaker touches down at a Moscow airport. Everyone from U.S. authorities to the members of the media were guessing as to where his final destination would be. Russian authorities however did not say whether or not Snowden had formally entered Russian territory.

18 of 84 Microsoft via CNET

June 24, 2013

Skype's Project Chess: Supernodes ditched for scalability or surveillance? 

Skype's principal architect explained why the company redesigned its backend infrastructure, which many have claimed made it easier for governments to wiretap calls. Following the acquisition of Microsoft, some claimed the infrastructure change to datacenters would make it easier for the NSA to tap into calls.

It follows claims by The New York Times that a small handful of Skype employees established "Project Chess," a system designed to explore the legal and technical issues behind handing over Skype user data to law enforcement agencies..

Source: The New York Times

19 of 84 CNET Asia

June 25, 2013

Snowden: NSA hacked China telcos, submarine cable network firm

Freshly published documents point to China as the latest victim behind the U.S.' government's cyber-operations, as a China newspaper publishes documents implicating the NSA in computer attacks that occurred during a four-year period. The NSA's activities also included hacking major telcos in efforts to acquire massive amounts of text messages.

The revelations are particularly ironic, as the U.S. has increasingly scaled up its legislative operations against China alleging the Communist Party-ruled country is targeting Western computers and networks.

Source: South China Morning Post

20 of 84 European Union

June 30, 2013

European officials lash out at new NSA spying report

A top German official accused the U.S. of using "Cold War" methods against its allies regarding the ongoing spate of leaks detailing the NSA's surveillance operations. It comes amid claims the U.S. government was eavesdropping on EU offices in Washington, New York, and Brussels, citing published leaked documents. 

21 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

June 30, 2013

Latest NSA leak details PRISM's bigger picture

New leaks offered further details of the mass collection of email, video and voice chat, photos, file transfers, and other online social networking content on foreign nationals by the NSA in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

According to one slide, there were 117,675 "active surveillance targets" in PRISM's database, but this figure does not detail which kinds of users these were, or among them how many Americans had their data collected inadvertently by the program.

Annotations by the Post suggest that PRINTAURA "sorts and dispatches the data stream" into different categories of data from the FBI's Data Interception Technology Unit (DITU) -- understood to be the Tier 1 company wiretaps. The DITU is understood to maintain this equipment, in which the data it collects is then passed to the NSA.

Image via The Washington Post

Source: The Washington Post

22 of 84 Jimmy Harris/Flickr

July 3, 2013

Bolivia president's plane rerouted due to Snowden suspicions

With the fugitive whistleblower Snowden suspected of being on board, the private jet of Bolivian president was forced to land as a number of countries in the region refused to allow the plane through its airspace. The plane needed additional fuel as a result of the non-direct route. Officials denied Snowden was on board, which was confirmed after the plane was searched by authorities on the ground. 

23 of 84 European Parliament/Flickr

July 4, 2013

EU votes to support suspending U.S. data sharing agreements, including passenger flight data 

The European Parliament voted in favor of a resolution that would back the Commission should it wish to suspend data sharing agreements with the U.S., such as the passenger name records system, which the U.S. claims is vital to protecting national security. It follows revelations that the U.S. spied on millions of European citizens. 

The parliament's plenary session highlighted the strained diplomatic relationship between the EU and the U.S. over the mass surveillance revelations.

24 of 84 Elliott Brown/Flickr

July 5, 2013

France has its own PRISM system, says report

Despite concern by many European countries, according to investigative work by French newspaper Le Monde, the country has its own "local" version of the PRISM-like systems. According to the report, the French foreign intelligence agency has been intercepting metadata from phone calls, emails, and Internet activity from domestic services, as well as between France and other countries.

Just like the NSA's version of the program, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple, and Yahoo were all named as companies the French were able to tap into.

Source: Le Monde

25 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

July 9, 2013

NSA leaker Snowden claimed U.S. and Israel co-wrote Stuxnet virus 

The Stuxnet virus, which was slated to have caused mass damage at Iran's nuclear facilities, was co-written by the U.S. and Israel, according to additional leaks published by German media. The weaponized malware specifically targeted the facilities in order to slow down the alleged plan by the Middle Eastern country to develop a nuclear weapon. The destruction caused by the virus was slated to have set the country's efforts back by at least 18 months. 

Image via CNET

Source: Der Spiegel

26 of 84 CNET

July 11, 2013

Microsoft accused of handing NSA access to encrypted messages; denied by software giant

The Guardian published details that pointed the finger at Microsoft as being a close collaborator with the National Security Agency, citing a document that was not published. A system exists where the NSA was able to automate the process in which orders under the FISA and the Patriot Act are issued to data-holding companies.

Among the allegations, the files provided by Snowden seem to show Microsoft helped the NSA "circumvent its encryption" to enable Web chats to be intercepted in its Hotmail replacement, Outlook.com. The report cites an NSA internal December newsletter, stating that Microsoft "developed a surveillance capability" to deal with encryption issues.

The software giant later denied the claims, stating there were "significant inaccuracies in the interpretations of leaked government documents reported in the media last week." Microsoft said it did not "provide or agree to provide any government with direct access to user content or the ability to break our encryption." 

Source: The Guardian

27 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

July 16, 2013

Edward Snowden files asylum request in Russia

It wasn't much of a surprise when Edward Snowden filed paperwork with the Russian government to request asylum away from the U.S. government. As the biggest "frenemy" to the U.S., it only further outraged the West.

According to his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden "faces persecution by the U.S. government and he fears for his life and safety and that he could be subjected to torture and capital punishment." But in order to save face with the Western states, Russian president Vladimir Putin warned Snowden not to further damage the country's already tepid relationship with the U.S.. 

Image via CBS News

28 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

July 18, 2013

Silicon Valley tech giants urge for greater U.S. government transparency 

Close to two-dozen technology giants signed a letter to the U.S. government calling for the ability to disclose secretive data request figures. While Google and others already publish "transparency reports" that disclose unclassified data requests, these companies are not allowed to disclose the full amount of National Security Letter "gagging orders" handed down by federal authorities. Instead, they are only permitted to report the number range.

The group also calls for Congress to pass laws that force the U.S. government to report these figures accurately without having to first seek permission from the FISC.

Image via Center for Democracy & Technology

29 of 84 Office of the Director of National Intelligence

July 19, 2013

Verizon's secret data order timed to expire, but NSA spying to carry on

The very first tidbit from the ever-expanding cache of Snowden files, the Verizon court order was due to expire. But the U.S. government, despite the leaks, pushed for its renewal.

"The Government filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking renewal of the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and that the Court renewed that authority," the statement from the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper read. This order continues the collection of all call details -- or "metadata" -- of calls created by Verizon between the U.S. and abroad, or within the U.S., including local calls. 

30 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

July 31, 2013

U.S. spy system XKeyscore allows NSA to 'wiretap anyone'

With billions of fragments of data collected by the U.S. and its "Five Eyes" partners around the globe annually, XKeyscore brings it all together, according to Snowden. In spite of the denials by U.S. officials over claims that the NSA could "wiretap anyone," the new batch of slides appeared to state otherwise.

The "top secret" program allows U.S. intelligence analysts to monitor in real time the emails, web browsing, Internet searches, social media use, and virtually all online activity of a target. Based on a "massive distributed Linux cluster", the program has 500 servers distributed around the world. In one of the slides, a map suggests these servers are located on every continent, on the territory of U.S. allies and of rivals like Russia, China, and Venezuela.

Image via The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

31 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

August 7, 2013

DOJ probing claims U.S. drug agency 'collaborated' with NSA on intelligence

A Reuters report claimed not long after the discovery of XKeyscore that a U.S. drug agency, outside the traditional federal intelligence arena, was being given access to NSA-gathered data for the purposes of law enforcement.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was understood to be able to access vast amounts of data from telco giant AT&T. DEA agents were taught to "recreate" the origin of intelligence as to not blow the lid on the massive intelligence gathering operation by the NSA and its global partners. 

The Justice Dept., which oversees the DEA, said it was "looking into" the matter.

Image via CNET

(Source: Reuters)

32 of 84 ZDNet/Lavabit

August 9, 2013

Snowden's email provider Lavabit shuts down under U.S. government pressure

Edward Snowden's email provider shut down, citing ongoing pressure from the U.S. government. Little was known why the shadowy service shut down, except for a short note on its website. Snowden used the service that allowed the whistleblower to communicate with others outside of work, and with journalists investigating the NSA's reach.

The note from Lavabit founder Ladar Levison  published on its website said he decided to suspend operations but said he could only wish he was able to "legally share with you the events that led to my decision."

33 of 84 National Security Agency

August 12, 2013

NSA hunger demands 29 petabytes of data a day 

New documents released by the NSA -- in efforts to appease some of the concerns over its mass surveillance operations, claimed the agency is looking at 0.00004 percent of the world's total Internet traffic. This translates roughly into 29 million gigabytes (29 petabytes) per day, which only 0.025 percent is inspected by authorities.

But some number crunches said that with peer-to-peer discounted and other content not considered for inspection, such as television content downloading, the total inspection would account for about half the communications on the Internet.

The agency also said: "Every search into the [business record] FISA database is auditable, and all three branches of our government exercise oversight over NSA's use of this authority."

34 of 84 Wikimedia Commons

August 13, 2013

Spain demands answers over U.S. spying claims

Spain was next to get dragged into the U.S. government surveillance controversy, after reports claimed the country also fell victim to the massive spying operation. New reports said Spain was grouped with Germany, France, Italy, and Japan in the "middle" category of where the U.S. considers its surveillance efforts should be focused.

The revelations sparked anger with the Spanish government, which subsequently sought "clarification and information" from the U.S. Embassy in Madrid.

Read more: Spain demands answers over U.S. spying claims (ZDNet)

Source: Der Spiegel

35 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

August 15, 2013

NSA violated privacy rules thousands of times, audit finds

Additional leaked documents showed the NSA was culpable of committing serious legal violations of the Fourth Amendment. An internal audit showed serious breaches that were in some cases as a result of typos that would lead to massive unintended data collection. 

The May 2012 dated audit showed there were more than 2,700 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. In one of those cases it involved the unauthorized use of data on 3,000 American citizens and green-card holders. 

Read more: NSA violated privacy rules thousands of times, audit finds (CNET)

Image via The Washington Post

Source: The Washington Post

36 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

August 19, 2013

Partner of journalist at center of NSA leak detained

More controversy stirred for the U.S. and U.K. government after the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist behind The Guardian's "NSA Files" coverage, was detained at London's Heathrow airport for nearly nine hours.

David Miranda was held under the maximum allotted time under the U.K.'s Terrorism Act Schedule 7, which authorizes British security services to stop and detain those suspected of involved in terrorism. According to later reports, the White House was given a "heads up" on Miranda's detention. He was suspected of carrying important and classified documents for later publication.

U.K. lawmakers and politicians later demanded an explanation for the detention of Greenwald's partner.

Image via BBC News (video)

37 of 84 The Guardian

August 20, 2013

U.K. gov't thought destroying Guardian hard drives would prevent NSA leaks

While intelligence may have won the British the war, the U.K. government certainly didn't score any awards for creativity when it sent intelligence officers to the basement of The Guardian's newsroom to destroy hard drives, which, naively and stupidly, the U.K. government thought contained the Snowden documents.

In a blog post, The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger described in detail how officials from the U.K. government raided its offices. According to the newspaper's editor, he was given two options: "Hand the Snowden material back or destroy it," Rusbridger said, citing the shadowy Whitehall figure:

"You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more," they reportedly said.

Source: The Guardian

38 of 84 National Security Agency

August 21, 2013

Secret court 'troubled' by NSA surveillance, ruled illegal

A secret U.S. court, the FISC, which authorizes wiretaps and warrantless snooping, found some of the surveillance conducted by the NSA illegal.

The court document, dated October 2011, found some of the NSA's collections to be in breach of the constitution, which gives U.S. persons protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. In the heavily redacted opinion, the court said it was "troubled" that the government's revelations over the NSA's acquisition of Internet traffic was the third time in less than three years in which the government disclosed a "substantial misrepresentation" of the scope of its collection programs. 

Privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation heralded the release of the 86-page opinion as a "victory."

39 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

August 23, 2013

NSA paid 'millions' to cover costs for tech giants in PRISM program

Following the initial PRISM leaks, which NSA slides cited the program as costing $20 million per year, Silicon Valley giants implicated in the program were further scrutinized for allegedly accepting payments from the U.S. government to cover the cost of data collection. 

The latest detail points to the NSA reportedly paying "millions" of U.S. dollars out of the taxpayer's kitty to foot the bill in covering compliance costs for the tech companies. 

Image via The Washington Post

Source: The Guardian

40 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

August 29, 2013

New leaked documents detail secret U.S. intelligence 'black budget' figures

The secret $52.6 billion budget spent by the U.S. intelligence community is broken down for the first time, thanks to further disclosures by Snowden.

Out of the $52.6 billion, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) receives about two thirds of this overall figure. One of the biggest categories across the board is "data collection expenses," which is used to fund intelligence-led operations based on information collected on companies, citizens, and foreign nationals.

Image via The Washington Post

Source: The Washington Post

41 of 84 Microsoft/U.S. Courts

August 30, 2013

Microsoft and Google to sue government over transparency

Not content with the inability to publish certain data request figures, Microsoft and Google -- in a rare show of unity -- said they are engaging in legal action against the U.S. government in order to disclose secret FISA court orders. By pursuing court action, the companies are hoping to be indemnified from the PRISM scandal, which they and others were named in.

42 of 84 Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

August 31, 2013

Leaked documents detail broad reach of U.S. cyberoperations

Not long after NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander was heckled at the 2013 Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, the U.S. intelligence agency was revealed by a new round of Snowden leaks that it carried out "cyberoperations" against a number of foreign targets.

In 2011, a tight-knit group of U.S. authorities carried out 231 offensive cyberattacks, primarily targeted at Iran, Russia, North Korea, and China, according to the report. A $652 million projected, dubbed GENIE, allowed U.S. agencies to break into foreign networks to spy on operations abroad.

Source: The Washington Post

43 of 84 Wikimedia Commons

September 2, 2013

Brazilian president, oil giant targeted by NSA spy program

Next up, it was South America's turn. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was slated to be one of those picked out by the NSA for surveillance, along with her staff. It was also reported that the NSA tapped into the networks of state-owned oil company Petrobras, which would contradict the U.S.' claim that it had nothing to do with economic espionage. 

(Source: O Globo)

44 of 84 The New York Times

September 6, 2013

U.K., U.S. able to crack most encryption used online

Perhaps the most worrying claim of all to come out of the Snowden cache of leaked documents: the U.K. and U.S. governments are able to crack "most encryption" standards used online.

The two intelligence agencies, the NSA and GCHQ, used vast resources to crack standards allowing them to read data that was traveling across the wire and fiber cables in an encrypted form. They also worked to weaken security standards and insert vulnerabilities into vendors' technologies. 

It was reported that various types of security covered by BULLRUN, a program that was charged with defeating network security and privacy, cracked TLS and SSL -- such as Web-based email, SSH, encrypted chat, VPN services, and even encrypted voice calls over VoIP.

(Source: The GuardianThe New York Times)

45 of 84 CNET

September 9, 2013

New claims NSA can access data on iOS, Android, BlackBerry 

German media published new documents that stated mobile phones, including BlackBerry devices, Android phones, and Apple iPhones, were crackable and are able to have data extracted from them. According to the report, the NSA had set up "working parties' to ensure the main mobile platforms had a "back door" available to intelligence agencies. 

Later leaks would show that as a result of this vulnerability, even world leaders were not safe from prying (and spying) eyes. 

(Source: Der Spiegel)

46 of 84 IDF/Wikimedia Commons

September 12, 2013

NSA provides Israel with raw, unchecked U.S. intelligence

The close relationship between the U.S. and Israel is far from secret. But to what extent data is shared was outlined in further published revelations, which claimed the U.S. gives the Middle Eastern country raw, unchecked access to its collected intelligence. 

The "raw" nature of the intelligence means that the data has not been filtered out to prevent Americans' data from being inspected by the Israeli intelligence agency..

Source: The Guardian

47 of 84 StockMonkeys/Flickr

September 16, 2013

NSA snoops on credit card transactions, says report

New light was shed on the NSA's "Follow the Money" division, which allowed the U.S. spy agency to tap into the vast amount of financial data held by Visa and other credit and debit card providers.

While Visa told German media that it was "not aware of any unauthorized access" to its networks, the NSA was still reportedly able to collate 180 million records in a secret database -- with 84 percent of those records being credit card transactions.

Source: Der Spiegel

48 of 84 Wikimedia Commons

September 16, 2013

Belgacom clears up after hack attempt

The main telco in Belgium said it was dealing with the aftermath of an intrusion in its systems. The first suspect to mind was the NSA, which according to sources claimed the U.S. intelligence agency has been hacking into the telephone and Internet provider since early 2011.

Not long after and not far along the European western coast, three Dutch ministers said they had "no evidence" to suggest that major Internet provider in The Netherlands, KPN, was targeted by foreign intelligence agencies. 

(Source: Belgacom; De Standard)

49 of 84 National Security Agency

September 17, 2013

U.S. secret surveillance court rules phone metadata collection lawful

Another blow for civil liberties as the U.S. secret court that authorized massive data collection -- and in some cases ruled its activities "illegal" -- upheld the NSA's bulk metadata collection program as ultimately within the bounds of law. 

The judges in the FISC said there is "no Constitutional impediment to the requested production" of metadata from phone companies order to hand over "all tangible things" under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Aware of the public's reaction to the Snowden disclosures, the court's opinion was declassified in a bid to allay fears of lack of transparency within the secret court.

50 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

September 18, 2013

NSA purchased zero-day exploits from French security firm Vupen

A new report, thanks to a Freedom of Information request by government transparency site MuckRock showed that the U.S. government bought zero-day vulnerabilities and the software to use them from French security company Vupen.

Vupen, which describes itself as a "leading provider of defensive and offensive cyber security intelligence and advanced vulnerability research," essentially finds flaws in software and systems and then sells this data on to governments. 

Image via CBS News (video)

(Source: MuckRock)

51 of 84 CNET/Scribd

September 27, 2013

NSA offers details on 'LOVEINT' (that's spying on lovers, exes)

It's not surprising that when NSA analysts are given access to vast amounts of American and foreign personal information, there might a chance they might misuse it for their own personal gain.

The latest, albeit not-as-shocking revelation, was that a handful of NSA staffers misused their security clearance to access data on their lovers and partners. Dubbed LOVEINT, or "love intelligence," there were 12 substantiated instances of intentional misuse of signals intelligence at the NSA -- compared to an average of seven per day of "inadvertent" mistakes, such as the collection of American data.

52 of 84 The New York Times

September 28, 2013

NSA maps some Americans' social connections, says report

Facebook may be for yourself and your friends, but it's also very much for the NSA. More documents leaked by Snowden said the intelligence agency had created "social graphs" of Americans in efforts to "rapidly discover and correlate complex relationships and patterns across diverse data sources on a massive scale." 

According to the documents, 94 types of data are included, such as phone numbers, email addresses, and IP address details. Other data is pulled in from other sources, such as passenger name records (gathered domestically and from the European Union under existing agreements), voter registration rolls, tax info, GPS location data, bank codes, insurance information, and even Facebook profiles. 

Source: The New York Times

53 of 84 CNET

September 30, 2013

Verizon: 'No comment' on FISA court challenge

While Verizon remains mum on challenging any secret U.S. court order that authorizes the mass vacuuming of U.S. and international data, a growing number of technology firms called on Congress for greater transparency and data request reporting.

Foursquare, Twilio, and Automattic -- the creator of WordPress.com -- have added their names to a list, joining Apple, CloudFlare, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Yahoo, among others, calling on Congress for greater transparency surrounding secret government data requests for customer and user information.

54 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

October 1, 2013

NSA stores metadata on innocent web users for a year, according to new leaks

Exactly how long the NSA holds your data for was previously unknown. That is until a new leaked report confirmed that should your Internet data fall within the scope of the NSA's massive data collection dragnet, the intelligence agency will hold it for up to a year. According to the media reports, the protocol was to allow the U.S. government to find information on people who may be innocent today, but may become criminal suspects later. 

Image via The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

55 of 84 White House

October 2, 2013

NSA ran secret test on tracking Americans' cell phones 

The NSA, not content with its ever-expanding surveillance capabilities, was reportedly "testing" location tracking. The news came not from the Snowden leaks, but the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. 

Clapper described the test: "In 2010 and 2011 NSA received samples [of location data] in order to test the ability of its systems to handle the data format, but that data was not used for any other purpose and was never available for intelligence analysis purposes." But the NSA hadn't yet sought approval from the FISA court. That, he said, would come later.

Source The New York TimesPolitico

56 of 84 U.S. Courts/Lavabit

October 3, 2013

Unsealed docs show what really happened with Lavabit

In October, the reason behind Lavabit's shutdown became clear. While at the time he could not "legally share with you the events that led to my decision," the formerly sealed court order showed that secure email service owner Ladar Levison was forced to hand over the encryption keys behind the site. This would have given the federal authorities wide-ranging access to vast amounts of customer data. Levison was gagged from disclosing the court order to anyone.

Source: Wired

57 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

October 4, 2013

NSA, GCHQ target Tor user to crack encrypted 'dark Web'

Enter yet another codename -- perhaps the strangest to date -- EGOTISTICAL GIRAFFE. New leaks showed how the American and British spy agencies have put together their resources to crack the "dark Web," otherwise known as Tor.

The encrypted, anonymous network may be part-funded by the U.S. Defense Dept. and the U.S. State Dept., but it's regular use by privacy-conscious users was enough to concern the NSA and GCHQ. While the intelligence agencies haven't been able to crack Tor outright, they have been able to "de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users," according to the documents.

Image via The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

58 of 84 Dept. of Justice

October 4, 2013

U.S. gov't argues tech companies should not be allowed to report data request figures

Amid the ongoing battle of words between the U.S. government and the Silicon Valley giants, the latest round saw the Justice Dept. claim in a filing with the secretive FISA court that technology firms should not be allowed to disclose how many requests it makes to technology companies holding user data.

It argued that the decision to classify requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would "undermine the secrecy of the surveillance." 

59 of 84 Australian Government

October 7, 2013

Australian government briefed on PRISM before Snowden leaks

More from the Five Eyes: this time Australia. Documents released under the country's Freedom of Information laws show that the Australian Attorney-General prepared a briefing for the minister on the secret NSA spying program PRISM more than two months before information about the program was leaked in June. 

(Source: ABC)

60 of 84 Microsoft

October 11, 2013

Skype faces fines in Luxembourg probe over NSA links

Luxembourg-based Skype, which was implicated in the PRISM surveillance scandal, is under investigation by the country's data protection officials over its connections to the U.S. intelligence agency.

The Microsoft-owned company could face administrative and criminal sanctions in the country, which may include a ban on secretly handing data over to the U.S. government. That is, however, unless it is uncovered that Luxembourg's judiciary didn't sanction it in the first place. 

Source: The Guardian

61 of 84 Deutsche Telekom

October 14, 2013

Deutsche Telekom to foreign secret services: 'Eyes off our internet!'

Germany's telco giant Deutsche Telekom spearheaded efforts to keep local Internet traffic inside the country following the spate of leaks that left German citizens vulnerable to U.S. snooping. The company said it found it "deeply frustrating" that it didn't know to what extent its networks were being monitored by foreign secret services.

The plan would essentially help keep user data within the country. Exactly how the company plans to do this remain on the most part unclear. 

62 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

October 15, 2013

NSA, Australian intelligence agencies rifle through users' address books

New PRISM slides were released outlining the scope and scale of data collection of personal information. It was reported that the NSA is vacuuming up email and instant message address books that are sent around the Internet. The fresh leak shows U.S. and Australian intelligence agencies have targeted the address books belonging to users of Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, and Facebook. This data is stored across multiple government-owned databases.

It also came at a time when, amid earlier reports the intelligence agency takes in about 29 petabytes of data each day, the NSA has a "spam" issue.

Image via The Washington Post

Source: The Washington Post

63 of 84 Dept. of Defense/YouTube

October 17, 2013

NSA director Keith Alexander to stand down

Just four months after the surveillance scandal broke in June, the NSA announced its director Gen. Keith Alexander would leave the agency and his deputy John Inglis will retire. However, the agency was keep to stress that Alexander's departure had nothing to do with the recent media attention over allegations that the NSA was engaged in unlawfully spying on U.S. and foreign citizens.

Source: Reuters

64 of 84 European Union

October 21, 2013

NSA reportedly spied on Mexican President's emails

Next in line to face the NSA's snooping powers is Mexico's president Felipe Calderon, whose email account was reportedly breached by the U.S. government.

The NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division was successful in compromising an email server within the Mexican presidential network. Cabinet members were also reportedly affected by the breach. The NSA said in the slides it now has access to "diplomatic, economic, and leadership communications. 

Source: Der Spiegel

65 of 84 European Parliament/Flickr

October 21, 2013

EU lawmakers OK beefing up data protection laws

European Parliament members approved new data protection rules that outlaw data transfers to the U.S. that could be used for surveillance purposes. After 18 months of lobbying and negotiations, the Civil Liberties Committee voted almost unanimously to adopt the motion.

The rules will replace outdated legislation that has been in effect for more than 15 years, and not protected against unlawful third-country transfers of European citizen data.

66 of 84 U.S. Dept. of State

October 24, 2013

Merkel to Obama: Are you tapping my phone?

The aftermath of the spying scandal in Germany percolated all the way to the top of the country's political elite. Chancellor Angela Merkel called U.S. President Barack Obama to seek assurances that the U.S. government did not tap her phone. Merkel, a heavy mobile phone user, said should the reassurances be false or inaccurate, it would be "completely unacceptable" for allies to be spying on their friends. 

67 of 84 U.S. Embassy in Berlin

October 24, 2013

Merkel wasn't alone: NSA tapped calls of 35 world leaders

The same day as the White House made reassurances to the German government's leader, new leaks appeared to disprove what the U.S. had initially claimed, specifically that it wasn't tapping into the phones of world leaders. According to the new reports, more than 200 phone numbers were handed over by a U.S. official, including almost three-dozen numbers belonging to prime ministers, presidents, and heads of state.

But the surveillance turned up "little reportable intelligence" on the 35 world leaders whose phones were tapped into by the U.S., the documents showed.

(Source: The Guardian) 

68 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

October 28, 2013

Japan reportedly rejected NSA requests to tap fiber in 2011

In efforts to expand the U.S. government's surveillance program to the Asian states, particularly with China set in its sights, the U.S. made efforts to ask Japan if it would allow the tapping of undersea fiber cables. But Japan refused, according to sources speaking to Japanese media.

The report said legislation preventing the intercepting of communications in the country forced the Japanese government to refuse the request -- even if it meant missing out on collecting the communications of suspected terrorists.

Image via CNET

Source: The Japan Times

69 of 84 European Union

October 30, 2013

NSA accused of tapping links between Yahoo, Google datacenters

The next big leak from the Snowden files was the revealing of a new NSA project, codenamed MUSCULAR, which suggests the U.S. spy agency was tapping into the links between Google and Yahoo datacenters worldwide, including Americans' data.

The U.S. also works with its British counterparts at GCHQ to intercept cables that span across the Atlantic.

Data, which is sapped from the private optical cables between the technology giants' datacenters, is siphoned off and sent back to the agency's Fort Meade headquarters. In the preceding 30 days, the agency collected 181 million new records alone, including metadata -- such as traffic records and details relating to customer data -- as well as the contents of communications. 

Read more: Meet 'Muscular': NSA accused of tapping links between Yahoo, Google datacenters (ZDNet)

Source: The Washington Post

70 of 84 Wikimedia Commons

October 31, 2013

NSA hid spy equipment at embassies, consulates

Another revelation that focuses more on the diplomatic side of snooping than the wider civilian population, new documents show the NSA hid surveillance equipment at its embassies and consulates abroad.

The NSA's Special Collection Service dubbed the program STATEROOM, which allows the agency to monitor microwave, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, GSM, CDMA, and satellite signals in over 80 worldwide. The spy equipment is located at the U.S., the U.K., Canadian and Australian embassies and consulates in various major cities. 

In some cases, the buildings are modified to conceal such rooftop equipment. "For example, antennas are sometimes hidden in false architectural features or roof maintenance sheds," the documents state. 

Source: Der Spiegel

71 of 84 Wikimedia Commons

November 4, 2013

Google's Eric Schmidt calls NSA's spying 'outrageous'

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt called the NSA's spying operation -- specifically the agency's ability to acquire data between its datacenters -- as "outrageous."

It follows earlier leaks that showed project MUSCULAR was able to tap into connections between Google and Yahoo's global datacenters. Schmidt also called the allegations that the intelligence agency may have acted illegally, by "collect[ing] the phone records of every phone call of 320 million people in order to identify roughly 300 people who might be a risk."

Source: The Wall Street Journal

72 of 84 Wikimedia Commons

November 5, 2013

Apple defends government-mandated gaps in new transparency report

For the first time, Apple published a transparency report, akin to the reports published by other Silicon Valley giants. The company wanted to distance itself from the U.S. government in the wake of the NSA scandal. 

The company was keen to stress, aside from the reported numbers, that its business does not rely on collecting personal information. It also lashed out at the government for not allowing it to disclose the full figures. Interestingly, Apple also included a "warrant canary" by stating it had never received an order under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Should that change, the company will not be allowed to report it, thus indicating to the world that it is in fact under such an order.

73 of 84 Wikimedia Commons

November 8, 2013

Germany brings anti-spying bill to the UN, meets with U.S. intelligence

Following the news that the U.S. government spied on Germany's executive branch, the European federal state filed a draft resolution calling for the United Nations to address electronic surveillance. The efforts were part of a global bid to restore lost trust between various governments around the world, particularly in Germany where World War II memories of the Stasi remain raw for many.

74 of 84 LinkedIn via CNET

November 11, 2013

GCHQ used fake LinkedIn pages to target engineers 

More from Belgium and the hack on its main telco Belgacom, which appeared implicated the NSA directly in the unauthorized access. German media reported new documents from Snowden that said, with the U.K.'s help, turned fake LinkedIn and Slashdot.org pages -- a site popular in the IT community -- into honeypots for installing malware on machines belonging to Belgacom engineers. 

Dubbed QUANTUM INSERT, it allowed British intelligence to spy deep within the Belgian network. The news came just days after officials from the three British intelligence branches, MI5, MI6, and GCHQ, were called before a U.K. parliamentary committee to explain their actions to lawmakers.

75 of 84 Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

November 14, 2013

CIA collects global data on transfers of money

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) role in the surveillance scandal has been mostly muted. Now, according to two reports by U.S. media, the CIA is able to acquire vast amounts of financial data and money transfer information handled by U.S. companies, in efforts to track terrorist funding activities.

Operating under the same provisions of the Patriot Act that the NSA uses to acquire data, it's not explicitly clear if Americans' data was collected and inspected by the spy agency. It's expected further Snowden leaks will reveal far more about the system. 

Source: The Wall Street JournalThe New York Times

76 of 84 Expedia/Intercontinental

November 17, 2013

Snowden cache reveals diplomats' hotel bookings being tracked by GCHQ

In a perhaps bizarre twist, British agents at GCHQ are slated to have bugged around 350 hotels around the world used by diplomats in order to get the inside track of what foreign governments are talking about behind closed doors.

Under the program dubbed ROYAL CONCIERGE, the program has been in operation since 2010. The program also monitors hotel-booking systems that allow the U.K. and U.S. governments to keep tabs on where diplomats are heading. The names of the hotels were not released, but documents seen by Der Spiegel said telephones, computers, and fax machines in hotel rooms were bugged and wiretap-enabled. 

Source: Der Spiegel

77 of 84 White House/Flickr

November 19, 2013

FISA court order that allowed NSA surveillance is revealed for first time

The secret FISA court, which authorizes U.S. government surveillance actions, released on the instructions of U.S. intelligence community chief James Clapper a legal opinion that allowed the NSA to collect even more data on Americans, despite finding the agency exceeding its powers and capabilities.

Even though one of the FISA judges recounted a number of problems with the smaller NSA programs, wider scale programs were nonetheless approved. According to the documents, metadata -- the information around messages but not the messages themselves, did not enjoy Fourth Amendment protections

78 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

November 20, 2013

U.S. and U.K. struck secret deal with U.K. to monitor British citizen data

Fresh information suggested what the NSA was telling the Brits might not have been all it was letting on. According to the Snowden-leaked documents, the "Five Eyes" group of countries, including the two superpowers, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, may not have been as binding as first thought. 

A 2005 secret draft directive said the NSA could spy on its allies without informing them -- though, it's not clear if it was ever enacted. A 2007 NSA memo provided, according to The Guardian, the "first explicit confirmation" that Brits were caught up in the U.S. surveillance dragnet. 

Image via The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

79 of 84 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

November 23, 2013

NSA malware infected over 50,000 computer networks worldwide

The NSA infected more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malware, according to new slides leaked by Snowden to Dutch media outlet NRC. A presentation dated 2012 showed a spiderweb map dubbed "Computer Network Exploitation," citing more than 50,000 locations globally.

The division of the intelligence agency, Tailored Access Operations (TAO), describes the operation in which includes, "enabling actions and intelligence collection via computer networks that exploit data gathered from target or enemy information systems or networks."

Image via NRC

Source: NRC

80 of 84 Malaysian Government

November 25, 2013

U.S. hooks Singapore, South Korea as players in "Five Eyes" pact 

Reports in Australian media cited new documents leaked by Snowden that point to Singapore and South Korea as playing "key roles" in helping the U.S. and Australia, two members of the so-called "Five Eyes" pact of spying partners, to tap into other South Asian countries.

The map, leaked by Dutch media earlier in November, showed Singapore as a key telecoms hub in the Pacific region, as an important "third party" working with its U.S. partners. The operation helps the U.S. and other allied nations tap into the communications of other countries in the region, notably Indonesia and Malaysia.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

81 of 84 European Commission

November 27, 2013

EU lays out new U.S. data agreement pact

In efforts to get the "special relationship" back on track after months of painful political rhetoric and frenemy-like relations, the European Commission wants to rekindle its trans-Atlantic love with its American partners.

The EU on Wednesday threw down its demands — albeit in a somewhat subdued typical softly-softly European way now that the 28 member state bloc has taken time to breathe and think this one through — and hopes its U.S. counterparts bites at the chance to restore relations with its trans-Atlantic friend.

This includes new rules to Safe Harbor, which would force companies, like the seven named technology companies implicated under the data-acquiring PRISM program, to extend the rules of Safe Harbor, by adjusting their privacy policies. This would result in the disclosure of "information on the extent to which U.S. law allows public authorities to collect and process data transferred." 

82 of 84 Cryptome

December 2, 2013

Australian government willing to share uncensored citizen data

The Australian Signals Directorate — or Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), as it was known in 2008 — was said to be able to share "bulk, unselected, un-minimised metadata, as long as there is no intent to target an Australian national — unintentional collection is not viewed as a significant issue".

This metadata was handed to other governments of the "Five Eyes" group — the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and New Zealand.

The Australian government recorded 183,099 authorisations from government departments to access metadata from Australian telecommunications companies. In 2011-12, authorisations for metadata access rose to 293,501. 

Source: The Guardian

83 of 84 BBC Parliament (live stream

December 3, 2013

Guardian newspaper may face U.K. terror charges over Snowden leaks

The editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, was summoned to give testimony to a U.K. parliamentary committee in early December.

Aside from the questioning, British police are looking to see whether or not the London-based newspaper broke any laws in regards to the detention of then-Guardian columnist's Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, earlier this year. 

Rusbridger also told lawmakers under oath that the paper had published only 1 percent of the total cache of leaked documents provided by Snowden. 

84 of 84 The Washington Post

December 4, 2013

NSA collects 5 billion cell location records a day

The U.S. National Security Agency is gathering close to 5 billion records a day on cellular devices around the world, allowing the agency to track individual's movements.

New leaks provided to The Washington Post, the records flow into a vast database that can store the location of "at least hundreds of millions of devices," according to the documents.

The NSA is understood to keep about 1 percent of the records — some 27 terabytes, according to the documents.

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