NSA XKeyscore targeted Tor Directory Authority servers

Pierluigi Paganini July 04, 2014

The German broadcaster ARD published a report that reveals that NSA XKeyscore has targeted two Germany-based Tor Directory Authority servers.

The NSA surveillance program XKeyscore, according to a report published by German public broadcaster ARD, two Germany-based Tor Directory Authority servers have been targeted by the US intelligence. According to the report, the two cases are not isolated, in the past documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveled the secret project Stinks to track user in Tor  anonymizing network.

The broadcaster published for the first time the source code from XKeystore has been revealed, but ARD didn’t provide information on how it has received it.

XKeyscore gives ‘widest-reaching’ collection of online data, analyzing the content of emails, social media and browsing history. On August 2014 The Guardian journal has published an exclusive report on the NSA surveillance program providing several NSA training slides from the secret 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 the internet.

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 (egaddress book entries or signature block)” and user activity – “the webmail and chat activity to include usernamebuddylist, 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 source code published by the ARD demonstrates that the NSA track people who are believed to live outside the US and who request Tor bridge information via e-mail or who search for or download Tor or the TAILS  live operating system. The NSA tracked IP addresses of Internet users who were engaged in the mentioned activities.

In the XKeyStore code includes IP addresses of the Tor Directory Authority, part of the backbone of the Tor Network. These authorities are updated every our with information related to new Tor relays.

The post explains that also the authors, including the popular expert Jacob Appelbaum, were targeted by the XKeyscore.

“Their research in this story is wholly independent from the Tor Project and does not reflect the views of the Tor Project in any way,”  “During the course of the investigation, it was further discovered that an additional computer system run by Jacob Appelbaum for his volunteer work with helping to run part of the Tor network was targeted by the NSA. Moreover, all members of this team are Tor users and appear to be have been targets of the mass surveillance described in the investigation.” ARD stated.

you might also like

leave a comment