US Officials Realizing That Snowden May Have Copied Info On Almost Everything The NSA Does

from the that-might-explain-the-freakout dept

If it seemed slightly ridiculous to watch the feds completely freak out over the whole Edward Snowden situation, perhaps this tidbit from an article concerning US officials retracing Snowden’s steps through the NSA’s computer system helps explain why they’re so spooked:

“They think he copied so much stuff — that almost everything that place does, he has,” said one former government official, referring to the NSA, where Snowden worked as a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton while in the NSA’s Hawaii facility. “Everyone’s nervous about what the next thing will be, what will be exposed.”

Of course, as Glenn Greenwald has noted in the past, and is quoted in the same article as saying, so far, Snowden has been quite careful about what he’s released:

“I know that he has in his possession thousands of documents, which, if published, would impose crippling damage on the United States’ surveillance capabilities and systems around the world,” Greenwald told CNN. “He has never done any of that.”

Of course, any system that relies on security through obscurity is only as good as it can maintain that obscurity. Perhaps, next time, the NSA will recognize that the best security actually comes via transparency.

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Comments on “US Officials Realizing That Snowden May Have Copied Info On Almost Everything The NSA Does”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It is looking more in more like the NSA is the real threat to national security. I sure am glad that my wages are being stolen to pay for this.

Roads, police, judges and schools is what you say taxes are used for but in reality it is worthless things like the NSA. Maybe the “terrorists” and supposesd enemies of the U.S. would not even exist if we did not bomb their countries and spy on them. The NSA is a waste of time, money and is a criminal organization and likely does much more damage to real national security than good.

out_of_the_blue says:

Or, NSA wants you to believe now know all they do.

The leak is just a limited hangout psyop, as I’ve said from start: it’s just TOO good, and constantly being rolled back and de-focused.

At the very least, besides monitoring the entire public, NSA sweeps up news of tech for industrial espionage besides insider stock trades, information to blackmail whoever they wish to, and to keep track of any real leaks, such as Michael Hastings appears to have gotten.

Here’s brief game theory analysis: if I’m wrong and NSA is aboveboard, it’s harmless, at worst I’m a kook, laugh all you want; no up side but may prevent getting worse. On other hand, if you’re wrong about not just scope (commercial fronts such as Google) but its true purposes, then you’re letting it grow and gain power; there’s still no up side (it’s gov’t, after all, necessary at best), but the down side is we all lose everything, forever. The only rational attitude toward gov’t is constant vigilance against its inherent evil.

Ninja (profile) says:

Well, Snowden has a golden mine in his hands then. And a bomb at the same time. Let’s suppose I’m China, Iran and I want detailed information on the US espionage systems.

It’s not only the US that must be after him. If I were the American Govt I’d drop the charges and have the guy under heavy protection INSIDE my borders. You know, once he has nothing left to lose why not join forces with another country to get protection and survivability if my own country is chasing me with murderous instincts???

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, funny thing that, they say he’s such a huge risk to the US due to all the stuff he grabbed, and yet they are doing everything they can to force him to take asylum in a country that isn’t friendly with the US(and hence would not be willing to deport him back). And gee, I wonder what kind of things a country like that would ask for in exchange for providing asylum?

If he’s a threat to the USG, it’s because they are giving him no other choice in the matter by backing him into a corner like this.

Thing is though, after how they’ve treated other whistleblowers, even if they did drop all the charges and promised immunity from prosecution he’d still have to be pretty foolish to come back, so the US is pretty screwed no matter what here.

Loki says:

Again, the bigger questions (to my mind) are:

If Snowden was able to collect this much information, who else may have had this kind of access?

What if Snowden isn’t the first person to collect such data?

And if others have, in fact, collected such information before Snowden, what might they have done with it?

For example, among the revelations I’ve seen in the past week are claims that China (in particular) and Russia have been heavily hacked (with some fairly specific examples. Yet there doesn’t seem to be the sort of outrage (or at least I haven’t seen it) one might expect from such revelations. Which makes one wonder if they hadn’t already been passed much of the information coming to light.

These are questions we couldn’t ask until now, because before Snowden we had no realistic measure of how much information there was to collect.

out_of_the_blue says:

"crippling damage on the United States"?

IF true — and I don’t believe it is — but IF true, then Greenwald has justified any actions to nab him! Right now, according to last reports I heard, Snowden is in the customs area legally outside Russia yet physically in it, while the Rooskis either try to get rid of the hot potato or perhaps delight in tormenting the US.

But this notion Greenwald puts out actually supports my belief that it’s a limited hangout psyop. — Once you get that notion, it’s difficult to shake, just try. — If were true that he’s actually IN Russia with “crippling damage on the United States”, then the Rooskis would grab him for certain, short of it starting a nuclear war.

Personally I doubt Greenwald knows it’s a psyop, but it’s fair to speculate that Snowden could be unwitting too. The trillion dollar spying industry isn’t left to chance. So until see something from Snowden that I DIDN’T know years ago, I’m firm that it’s a psyop.

Anonymous Coward says:

The only thing I would like to see before this debacle is over is which application suites the NSA has backdoors in.

It’s no secret, pretty much everyone knows it. The question is which ones and to what extent. Is it just Windows? Is it every microsoft product? Does OSX have them too? Does every operating system made in the last ten years have crippling backdoors hidden in every kernel? Is Plan 9 the only safe operating system to use because it’s so complex that not even the NSA would be willing to touch it?

jameshogg says:

You know, I cannot help but wonder that if Edward Snowden remained anonymous, and Glenn Greenwald said “I am revealing one leak after another, and I am not telling how many leaks there are nor who they are coming from”, the U.S. government would be much, much more panicky.

That’s the way I would have done it, personally.

Anonymous Coward says:

perhaps they will learn that pissing on to the very people they are supposed to be protecting is even worse than fucking off the ones you are protecting from. what i find is so bad is that there can only be a single group of people that think in this way, that knowing and wanting to know what every single one of your own people is doing is somehow valid, is right and is helping stop something bad from happening. the only ones that think like that are those that are extremely guilty in whatever they are doing or so scared of everything/one else, that the only way they will ever feel safe, feel comfortable, is when they are on their own!! that being the case, why not ask to be isolated somewhere and leave the rest of humanity to get on with life as best we can??

Anonymous Coward says:

The US has pretty much guaranteed these data leaks will continue by their actions. Instead of coming clean with the public and owning up to it, they’ve freaked.

They’ve made sure that Snowden will never again set foot in the US under his own power. In fact Snowden has been forced into dealing with those that oppose the US simply by their actions of seeking to extradite him on spy charges. They have removed choice from the possibles.

I still am not hearing anything from the executive branch nor much from congress over coming clean. It will take that in order to restore the faith of American citizens in their government which by now has hit a record low.

More pressure will be coming in the following months as other countries put together past evidence with what they now know and draw conclusions from that. Privacy is not a guarantee in the US as it can be and has been suspended by acts of congress. In other countries in Europe this privacy is a guaranteed right and they view this as criminal actions against them. This will lead to those countries calling the US a rogue, police state, nation; with some justification.

The fallout comes later as these other countries realize that the major corporations enabling all this spying are mostly US corporations and they will seek their own alternatives including a different configuration of internet.

Mr. Applegate says:

It's called "Principle of least privilege"

After Manning you would have thought the government would have gotten the memo.

You only give enough access to people so that they can do their jobs and you certainly don’t give the cook access to the accounting system and check book.

Really has nothing to do with Security through Obscurity. That would be if I tried to keep the NSA from reading my mail by using a no name provider or throwing up a my own mail server (or keep them from tracking my calls by using a burn phone).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's called "Principle of least privilege"

Well that is the thing. They got rightfully reamed out for not information sharing pre-9-11. Hiding information internally is just asking for trouble so read access should be pretty broad. They can only get away with hiding the irrelevant.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: It's called "Principle of least privilege"

There is a huge difference between sharing the intelligence information and the documentation that shows what your methods of obtaining that information are.

Analysts don’t need to know how you got the information (through what authority…), they only need to analyse the information and perhaps request more information. Similarly, those gathering the information should not know how it is analyzed.

There needs to be separation of duties. That is the problem. Auditors in the real world force companies to do this all the time in order to prevent 1 person from having unfettered access to too many pieces of the puzzle. One would think the NSA would understand this.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Perhaps, next time, the NSA will recognize that the best security actually comes via transparency.”

That is the dumbest thing I think I have ever read.

Do have any idea what this agency is tasked with?

You don’t even know all of your boyfriends secrets but you think you should know all of them on the agency that is tasked with Security of our Nation.

Andrew F (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The analogy to computer security isn’t applicable here. Transparency works well for “defensive” security because everyone with an interest in maintaining that security can find and fix exploits.

The NSA’s job is not (purely) defense. It is offense. Its objective is to exploit holes in the security of its targets to collect signal intelligence. Revealing those exploits ahead of time would be counter-productive.

That said, where the NSA is involved in less offensively oriented activities, it has been surprisingly open. See, e.g., the open source Accumulo database.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

The best part is yet to come

Perhaps this will teach a lesson to the NSA, or a few:

1. Stop having so much stuff lying around waiting to be copied.

2. Perhaps there ought to be a lot fewer people with that kind of access to this stuff-you know, like internal security classifications that nobody but God himself and Adm. Alexander can get.

My father worked at the Pentagon in the 60’s, (military, and actually pretty high security classification)and he told me that biggest joke was that “classified’ made sure that the paperwork got passed around twice as fast-and everyone had a copy.

Seems that nothing has changed in 50 years.

Roland says:

beware of burglaries

Glenn Greenwald (quoted @ ArsTechnica): “When I was in Hong Kong, I spoke to my partner in [Rio de Janeiro] via Skype and told him I would send an electronic encrypted copy of the documents,? Greenwald noted. ?I did not end up doing it. Two days later his laptop was stolen from our house and nothing else was taken.”

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