October 30, 2013
Google, Yahoo Data Centers Targeted By NSA Program, Claims Snowden
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
New documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden claim the National Security Agency has broken into Google’s and Yahoo!’s data centers. This program is codenamed MUSCULAR and targets data centers all around the world.
According to the leaked documents, the NSA has gained access to millions of accounts, including those of American citizens. The millions of records gathered by this program are then sent to NSA headquarters.
The information gathered by MUSCULAR includes audio, text and video exchanged through Google and Yahoo! services. Unlike PRISM, a program that gives the NSA front-door access to similar information from a host of Internet companies such as Microsoft and Apple, MUSCULAR operates without the cooperation of these tech firms.
According to the Washington Post, who broke the story, two engineers close to Google broke out into profanities when they saw slides describing how this invasive program works.
NSA's MUSCULAR is operated jointly with the UK's Government Communications Headquarters and both agencies are said to stand between the public and Google and Yahoo! data centers, copying all the information passed between the two. Though Snowden continues to shed light on the extent to which the NSA can monitor global communications, the aptly titled MUSCULAR is so far the most aggressive method used by the agency.
In a statement, Google said they were not aware the NSA had taken such extreme surveillance measures and called the allegations “troubling.”
“We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we continue to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links,” claimed a Google spokesperson in a statement to the Washington Post.
A Yahoo! spokesperson echoed Google’s claims stating, “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.”
Both Google and Yahoo! pay a premium to build a faster network to deliver their services to customers quickly and efficiently. These companies take pride in their networks and felt they were both quite safe. Google, for instance, often extols its encryption services and its firm grasp on its intellectual property. A hand drawn slide describing how the NSA circumvented security measures proclaims MUSCULAR is able to remove any encryption at the point it’s added by Google. The person who drew the slide even included a smiley face in celebration of his or her ability to break into the data center of one of the world’s largest companies.
When asked about MUSCULAR and the Washington Post report, the head of the NSA said he wasn’t aware of the report and said the NSA isn’t allowed to stand between data centers and copy data. When asked if his agency had tapped the data centers without a court’s approval, General Keith Alexander replied simply “Not to my knowledge.”
With every new revelation of additional NSA programs, General Alexander stands by the actions of his agency. “It’s legal, it’s necessary and it’s authorized, in every case.”