NSA's Keith Alexander Doubles Down On His Plan To Spy On Wall Street To 'Protect' Wall Street

from the this-again? dept

Keith Alexander still doesn’t seem to realize that the public has seen through his bullshit, because he keeps doubling down. There were numerous reports this week on a speech Alexander gave, in which he talked up his plan to “protect” Wall Street by getting access to the financial industry’s networks.

Drawing an analogy to how the military detects an incoming missile with radar and other sensors, Alexander imagined the NSA being able to spot “a cyberpacket that’s about to destroy Wall Street.” In an ideal world, he said, the agency would be getting real-time information from the banks themselves, as well as from the NSA’s traditional channels of intelligence, and have the power to take action before a cyberattack caused major damage.

The thing is, this isn’t new. Back in July, the Washington Post’s excellent profile of Keith “collect it all” Alexander pointed out that he’d been pushing this exact solution for quite some time, though execs from Wall Street found the idea to be ridiculous, since they fully understood what it meant:

His proposed solution: Private companies should give the government access to their networks so it could screen out the harmful software. The NSA chief was offering to serve as an all-knowing virus-protection service, but at the cost, industry officials felt, of an unprecedented intrusion into the financial institutions’ databases.

The group of financial industry officials, sitting around a table at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, were stunned, immediately grasping the privacy implications of what Alexander was politely but urgently suggesting. As a group, they demurred.

“He’s an impressive person,” the participant said, recalling the group’s collective reaction to Alexander. “You feel very comfortable with him. He instills a high degree of trust.”

But he was proposing something they thought was high-risk.

“Folks in the room looked at each other like, ‘Wow. That’s kind of wild.’ ”

In other words, even well before all the details of Alexander’s overreach as NSA director came out, Wall Street execs had no interest in giving him such access to their networks.

But this is the same basic pitch that Alexander has been making for years. The biggest joke in the intelligence community is the fact that Alexander technically has two jobs: he’s both the head of the NSA — in charge of collecting information for surveillance — and the head of US Cyber Command, which runs the military’s “cyber” initiatives. Alexander loves to use the cover of his Cybercommand position to pretend that his focus is on protecting data and networks.

You may recall that, the NSA’s talking points on the breaking ground for the massive Utah datacenter were entirely focused on how the center would be used to protect the internet — leaving out how it would actually be used to spy on the network. Members of Congress have raised concerns for a while about the conflict of interest between Alexander’s two roles. The fact that he uses the Cybercommand role to pretend his focus is on cybersecurity, while in actuality he’s been destroying cybersecurity by undermining standards, creating backdoors and encouraging vulnerabilities is a huge problem.

But, perhaps even more stunning, is his inability to recognize that people aren’t believing what he says any more, such that he’d start pushing this ridiculous desire to get access to Wall Street’s networks yet again, years after it was rejected — but also after the evidence of his efforts to trample the 4th Amendment have become clear.

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Comments on “NSA's Keith Alexander Doubles Down On His Plan To Spy On Wall Street To 'Protect' Wall Street”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: So

Yeah, much like the CISPA retro-active immunity, where it turns out they were just trying to legalize something they were already doing, I’m betting the NSA is already pretty heavily in the Wall Street systems, and he’s just trying to get them to agree to give the NSA permission, so that if a future leak comes out and exposes that they’d been listening in for years, he can point out their agreement and say ‘Hey, they said it was okay, I was just trying to protect them!’

Anonymous Coward says:

“a cyberpacket that’s about to destroy Wall Street.”

So does he expect to be be able to filter out fake tweets? I’m pretty sure that those have done more damage to the markets than any hackers attempting to attack directly.

On a different note, if a single packet is capable of destroying Wall Street while he’s serving as their firewall and antivirus, then it would mean he’d failed horribly in his job, and the systems were already heavily compromised, just waiting on a single packet to trigger the malware.

Yeah, not surprised that Wall Street prefers to stick with their current, generally competent, private IT who they can sue or fire in the event of a screw up depending on whether they’re outsourced or in house.

Anonymous Coward says:

the thing i find more worrying, more frightening than anything else is that people such as Alexander and others like Hayden and Clapper were given the positions they were in the first place! doesn’t anyone bother to screen those that go for high level, high power positions or are they just let loose, willy nilly to screw up the entire country, possibly even the planet, with their megalomaniac ideas? who else would want to have complete control of the security forces, the military and the financial areas and expect to be given them, other than someone who has fallen out of a tree and hit every branch on the way down!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Protect. Right…

“Nice business you got here. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it. There’s lots of unscrupulous people around, you know…we can ensure that your trade secrets don’t suddenly end up in the hands of your competitors. For a nominal fee, of course.”


“Hey BigAmericanCorp. We heard that ForeignCompany was crushing you in the marketplace. For a small fee, we can arrange for a little ‘accident’ to happen to their servers.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Talking point

Alexander gets his way, and access to every major computer system in America. Some country that really really does not like America gets an Agent or two into NSA. America wakes up some fine morning to find all its major computer systems are down, corrupted and compromised. Make this a holiday weekend, so that many experts are away from home, phones down, credit cards not working, air traffic control systems down…
How long to recover?

William A. Hamilton (user link) says:

NSA and Wall Street

NSA launched its Follow the Money bank signal intelligence project in 1981, according to interviews with the former Reagan National Security Council staff members responsible for President Reagan’s new bank surveillance mission for NSA, who were interviewed for a July 12, 1989 PBS television documentary entitled “Follow the Money.” By the time President Reagan ordered the U.S. Air Force to bomb Libya in 1986, NSA was already tracking electronic fund transfers through Wall Street investment banks as evidenced by the television documentary’s report that the decision to bomb Libya had been predicated on NSA Signal Intelligence information from its penetration of the London office of the First Zchicago a Investment Bank.

A September 15, 2013 Der Spiegel article, based on NSA documents leaked by Snowden, reveals that the NSA bank surveillance project is not only still ongoing but also that NSA has an entire Follow the Money branch. The article also reveals that the British SIGINT agency, GCHQ, is worried that NSA’s Follow the Money bank surveillance project may be too deeply invasive of the privacy rights of citizens. What makes that concern truly extraordinary is that the GCHQ appears to operate under fewer constraints than even NSA.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: NSA and Wall Street


nearly EVERYTHING these slimepigs have ‘speculated’ about, or ‘wished for’ has turned out they’ve been doing it ‘illegally’ (which has no meaning any longer, THANKS TO SLIME LIKE THEM) for years or decades…

have no doubt they are doing this shit anyway, plus more we don’t/won’t know about…

alphabet soup spook orgs are INIMICABLE to the survival of small dee democracy…

(aside: dog damn it, either get a decent spel czech on this damn input box, or get rid of the damn thing: INIMICABLE is too a fucking word, you POS spel czecher…)

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Level of distrust

After meeting with him, and hearing his entertaining idea, I bet all those execs were laughing themselves silly in the executive bathroom.

“Holy cow, this guy really thinks we really trust him? What kind of booze is he on?”

“My tech people would kill him on sight if they ever got their hands on him.”

And of course, this one should be the newest point:

The Utah Datacenter is a walking fire box-and it isn’t even functional yet, or open. How competent is that?

I seriously doubt that any Wall St. exec would ever seriously allow this guy near their technology. Not in a million years.

Crusty the Ex-Clown says:

HSBC Money Laundering, LIBOR Rigging

How in hell can they continue to play pretend when there’s ample evidence that they can’t really catch anything (except a taxi driver sending a few thousand dollars overseas)?

Boston Marathon bombing?

LIBOR rigging by major banks?

HSBC laundering money for drug cartels?

What good are they? I’m beginning to think NSA stands for “Nerds Sitting Around.” Sheesh.

ECA (profile) says:


1. account tracking from banks..being able to track the MONEY corps may be sending OUTSIDE the USA..
2. Being able to SEE trades BEFORE they happen..even a few seconds, could make a trade worth LOTS of money.
3. Security. If hacking Wall street was EASY, it would of been done. AND the best point to do it..INSIDE wall street.

There are many levels to Security..and if they DIDNT USE them, they are VERY VERY stupid.
#1 the only thing accessible from the net, is OUTPUT..
INPUT must be HIGHLY secure..and registered, and CONTROLLED.

Im sorry, but I see where this situation could be totally abused, MORE…Then to give him access and control.
The AMOUNTS of data is To much for 1 person to deal with for EVEN a GROUP it would be enormous..and only replicate what Wall street already does.

GEMont (profile) says:

The road to hell....

This is probably not the best forum to air this thought, but it occurred while reading it, so….

With all of the years of secret intrusions into the internet, including as it turns out, direct links to the web backbone, and NSA operatives creating backdoors into unknown web software with unknown capabilities, it occurred to me that it may now be possible for law enforcement to have “evidence” of wrong-doing, such a state secrets or kiddie-porn, planted directly onto a citizen’s computer for later “discovery” by LEOs, eliminating the need to actually catch real bad guys and enhancing law enforcement’s apparent effectiveness in the public’s eye.

And then it occurred to me that real perps could use this very same process to deny ownership of real state secrets or kiddie porn they made or bought, that was found on their computers by LEOs, simply by claiming the LEOs had downloaded the material to their computers through the backdoors that have been manufactured for specifically that purpose by NSA operatives working inside IT companies.

In a way, the global surveillance of the public has created a near perfect escape clause for criminals who get caught with contraband material on their computer, since it is widely known now that Law Enforcement has the capabilities to pull off such stunts and the bad track record that proves they really would use it in such a manner.

At the same time, it has created a tremendous opportunity for Authority to plant evidence on the computers of innocents who have in some way, angered the powers that be or who stand in the way of those on top of the food chain getting what they desire.

They have done nothing to solve the known problems facing law enforcement through this overwhelming public surveillance, but have definitely created a greater problem than was originally apparent, both for the public and themselves.

GEMont (profile) says:


To comment more directly on this article, I have to say that if I were Mister Alexander, and I wanted Wall Street to keep on thinking that I was NOT already tapping their every communication, I would regularly ask them to let me do so in exactly the manner noted above.

I would make it sound like all I wanted to do was protect them from bad guys, as if I was utterly unaware of the huge security breach such access would create for Wall Street.

That way they would keep on thinking I was some sort of moron, and keep on thinking the moron was NOT yet surveilling their whole system.

If you’re still wondering why these guys retain their employment, this might lend a clue. 🙂

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