XKeyscore, revealed another surveillance tool used by NSA

Pierluigi Paganini August 02, 2013

Snowden revealed that NSA designed a system called XKeyscore considered the “widest-reaching” architecture for developing intelligence from the internet.

XKeyscore, NSA former technicians Edward Snowden revealed that the agency has another secret program to spy on user’s Internet experience tracking practically every his activity … PRISM isn’t an isolated surveillance program.

The NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’, XKeyscore gives ‘widest-reaching’ collection of online data analyzing the content of emails, social media and browsing history.

Snowden explained that a tool named DNI Presenter allows the NSA to read the content of stored emails and it also enables the intelligence analysts to track the user’s activities on Facebook through a system dubbed XKeyscore. 

Once again The Guardian has published an exclusive report on the NSA surveillance program, in particular it issued several NSA training slides from the program. Facebook chats and private messages become accessible to the intelligence agents simply providing the Facebook user name and a date range for the investigation, XKeyscore in fact provides instruments necessary for the analysis that are conducted also without any legal authorization or a warrant.

“A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.” The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its “widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from theinternet.

NSA agency justified its surveillance program with the following statements:

NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests,” said the NSA
Following some slides published by The Guardian:
XKeyscore Slide1
XKeyscore map

The NSA slides show that since 2008 the X-Keyscore platform was used to track activities related to 300 alleged terrorists around the world studying their habits and participations to various Internet forums.

“Analysts are warned that searching the full database for content will yield too many results to sift through. Instead they are advised to use themetadata also stored in the databases to narrow down what to review. A slide entitled “plug-ins” in a December 2012 document describes the various fields of information that can be searched. It includes “every email address seen in a session by both username and domain”, “every phone number seen in a session (eg address book entries or signature block)” and user activity – “the webmail and chat activity to include username, buddylist, machine specific cookies etc“.”

The documents revealed that in 2012 more than 41 billion records were collected and stored in a single 30-day period by XKeyscore that analyzes real time more than 20 terabytes of information (e.g. Emails, chats, social media operations and browsing histories) every day.

“The quantity of communications accessible through programs such as XKeyscore is staggeringly large. One NSA report from 2007 estimated that there were 850bn “call events” collected and stored in the NSA databases, and close to 150bn internet records. Each day, the document says, 1-2bn records were added.William Binney, a former NSA mathematician, said last year that the agency had “assembled on the order of 20tn transactions about US citizens with other US citizens”, an estimate, he said, that “only was involving phone calls and emails”. A 2010 Washington Post article reported that “every day, collection systems at the [NSA] intercept and store 1.7bn emails, phone calls and other type of communications.””

It’s not a mystery, we are all aware that US authorities, and probably many other intelligence agencies are able to track user’s Internet experience, we are all warned …

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Snowden, XKeyscore)

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