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The Ultimate Net Monitoring Tool? 293

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the corporations-striving-to-be-big-brother dept.
Wired News is reporting that the equipment found in the "secret" NSA room at AT&T wasn't some elaborate device designed by Big Brother. Rather, it is a commercially available network-analysis product that any company could acquire. From the article: "'Anything that comes through (an IP network), we can record,' says Steve Bannerman, marketing vice president of Narus, a Mountain View, California, company. 'We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their VOIP calls.'"
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The Ultimate Net Monitoring Tool?

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  • Encryption? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cwalk (899502) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @02:28PM (#15352751)
    I somehow doubt that they are just using a "commercially available network-analysis product". I mean what "commercially available network-analysis product" breaks encryption?
  • Time enough (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cerberusss (660701) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @02:31PM (#15352777) Homepage Journal
    'Anything that comes through (an IP network), we can record'

    Great! So, do you get the Amazing PauseTheUniverseTechnology free with this nifty gadget? Because it'll take some time to review "anything that comes through".

  • Re:Encryption? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @02:34PM (#15352804)

    I somehow doubt that they are just using a "commercially available network-analysis product". I mean what "commercially available network-analysis product" breaks encryption?

    Is this really news to anyone? I thought the original report showed they were using a Narus box. If I recall correctly it does not break encryption, but it will automatically make copies of matching encrypted flows for later analysis and cracking. My guess would be they just make copies of encrypted traffic they are interested in then move on to the big guns if it is really, really important (which they may or may not have ever actually done).

  • by Dark Paladin (116525) <`jhummel' `at' `johnhummel.net'> on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @02:35PM (#15352812) Homepage
    I'm so happy to know that the product the NSA - with the help of AT&T - used to analyze phone number patterns and the like can be purchased by any citizen.

    But - that's not the problem as I see it. The problem, to borrow and massacre a line from "Jurrasic Park", is that they were so eager to see if they could they didn't consider if they should.

    Take the domestic to international wiretap thing. Under US law, listening in on foreign conversations is A-OK (whether that's legal in other countries I'm not even going to worry about). But the law is clear: the second there's a domestic person on that call, the NSA has to get permission from the courts. And not only that, it can be a secret court. And not only a secret court, but they can do it up to 3 days after they start - so there's no issue of "Dang, we'd listen to this call from an Al Queda agent, but we can't because Michael Moore's on the phone, and the warrant will take too long!" No - they can start now, get the warrant later.

    Then there's the domestic phone call tracking. Even if this is not strictly illegal, it still smacks of wrong. (Yes, I think there are things not illegal that are still wrong. Like Mint Oreos. Very wrong, just not illegal.) Why? Because there's no independant, "checks and balances" oversight. And yes, I have things to hide, before you ask, so I don't want the government picking that out. Like people in politics I call because I disagree with their politicies, or calls to an abortion clinic for a friend of mine who's husband is abusive and says he'll kill her if she calls the clinic, or to a reporter because my place of work is doing illegal things (note for the clueless: the former might or might not be true, but they are examples of why people might not want the government tracking calls) - the list goes on. So I don't want the government snooping in on, especially when there's no guaruntee that Joe Politician can't look in and try and use that data against me or my family or the very government system itself.

    So, great to know that there are over the shelf components to track log files. I'm more interested in making sure that another branch of the government is at least watching out to make sure that this data is not being abused. No, I don't need all of the details - that's why we have elected leaders whom I (hopefully) trust enough to look out for my interests - I just want to make sure those interests are protected by the process.

    Which said process, so far, seems to be either willingly ignored, or outright violated.

    Of course, this is all just my opinion, and I could be wrong. And to the NSA folks tracking this post - Hi!
  • Err... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cperciva (102828) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @02:35PM (#15352816) Homepage
    the equipment found in the "secret" NSA room at AT&T wasn't some elaborate device designed by Big Brother. Rather, it is a commercially available network-analysis product that any company could acquire.

    Sure, anybody could acquire the hardware used. The trick is to get the equipment onto AT&T's network without ending up in jail.
  • Yawn. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BigMattyC (969603) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @02:36PM (#15352823)
    News: that the US Government is monitoring all the traffic flowing through the internet backbones provided by major US service providers. Not News(tm): that a company produces a device that can *GASP* *SHOCK* *HORROR* monitor network traffic. Get a grip.
  • Re:Spying (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @02:36PM (#15352827) Journal
    I wonder how this will make people feel now that everyone is complaining about how the "government" is listening and recording phone calls and what have you

    Except that people aren't. I read in TIME magazine last night that over 50% of the people interviewed think that the NSA call database is justified in the War On Terror (TM). Most people will only care if it influences thier ability to watch American Idol, and if not, oh well.

  • Re:Spying (Score:2, Insightful)

    by usurper_ii (306966) <eyes0nly&quest4,org> on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @02:48PM (#15352930) Homepage
    Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

    Usurper_ii
  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nonlnear (893672) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @02:50PM (#15352954)
    By sending IP packets, you are distributing your work. Narus could make a fair use argument that would be a chilling parody of the arguments posted by folks who troll around slashdot arguing that fair use covers anonymous torrents.

    If you don't like it, encrypt it.

  • Re:Time enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @03:13PM (#15353138) Journal
    Actually, this is an interesting point. If I send an email containing a copyright document (e.g. a draft of an article I have written, sent to my editor), and it passes over their connection, then they will copy it. This copying involves making an unauthorised copy of a copyrighted work. Since I live in the UK, my email is copyrighted in the UK, and the copyright works in the USA via the Berne convention. If a private company is violating this copyright then they owe me significant damages (thanks to certain paid-for legislation). If it is the US government, then they are in violation of the Berne convention. If the USA is violating the Berne convention, then we can regard all works originally copyrighted in the USA as being in the public domain in the rest of the world. Either way, it sounds like I win...
  • Re:Spying (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jtheletter (686279) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @03:19PM (#15353189)
    I read in TIME magazine last night that over 50% of the people interviewed think that the NSA call database is justified in the War On Terror

    Was the article getting those numbers from Time's own poll, or the recently released telephone poll of 502 (IIRC) Americans which there are plenty of problems with? This is exactly why the saying "there are lies, damn lies, and statistics" is applicable. This single - IMHO flawed - poll is being used at every media outlet to show people there isn't a problem and 'see, most Americans think this is ok so You Should Too.'

    Well that's not what democracy is about, it's not about groupthink, otherwise there would be no wheelchair access to most places, plenty of towns would probably still have public buildings segregated by race/class/religion, etc, etc. Majority - or mob - rule is something that democracy tries to prevent, just because the majority thinks one way does not mean they are right. And yet people allow themselves to be coerced by one stupid poll after another. Let's face it, anyone who is willing to answer a 50 question telephone poll is likely not terribly interested in their privacy, that fact alone should invalidate the poll as it introduces an unmeasurable - but likely significant - bias. My thought is that a more thorough, in-person poll with a larger sampling will show that in fact most Americans don't think this program is ok. But until such a less biased poll is conducted then all that will be referenced is this stupid poll that forwards the government's agenda. And if I'm proven wrong then so be it, in that case then this poll should no longer be quoted to assauge people's fears of this domestic spying program, but should be used as an alarm that this country is asleep! The populace needs to be woken up. Until 100% of the people are screaming mad at a warrantless datamining/spying program undertaken by the government against anyone and everyone regardless of guilt, then it means we have some educating to do! You wouldn't let a government agent swing by every morning and look at all the mailing addresses on letters going to/from your house, why the hell would you let them do the same to your phone records? Because you can't see it? Because "it doesn't affect me"? If nothing else the whole program is stupid because the government is looking for a needle in a haystack in these communications and thus far all their efforts are doing is adding more hay! Some of the 9-11 hijackers' calls were intercepted before 9-11, but they weren't translated in time to be of any use. Now we're expected to believe that fewer agents sifting through more data will somehow prevent another attack of the same sort? Laughable if it weren't so damn unfunny.
    [/rant]

  • Re:Encryption? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @03:40PM (#15353373)
    If you know A, a known terrorist

    If you know A is a terrorist, why hasnt he been arrested? If he's not in the country, why isn't he wearing a cruise missle as a hat yet? This "oh lets see who else he can implicate before we take him down" attitude is why binLaden is still alive now, and is probably directly responsible for 9/11.

    This datamining is a waste of time and money. If we dont know who the terrorists are, the best we'll find out is the popularity of pizzahut vs. dominos. If we do know, then we should be arresting them before they manage to blow anything up or recruit more terrorists to their cause.
  • Re:Spying (Score:3, Insightful)

    by woolio (927141) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @03:41PM (#15353379) Journal
    Was the article getting those numbers from Time's own poll, or the recently released telephone poll of 502 (IIRC) Americans which there are plenty of problems with? This is exactly why the saying "there are lies, damn lies, and statistics" is applicable.

    Is doesn't matter if the polls are inaccurate.... What is the majority of the masses *believe* the poll? They will change their opinions if they think that idea "X" is generally supported. Remember, most of the registered voters didn't even vote!

    This is just an old marketing trick... Present the *image* that something is popular and that's what it will become (bandwagon advertising).

    So the numbers that 60% of Americans would give up every constitutional right for the war on terrorism doesn't even matter.... What really matters is that 75% of Americans, upon hearing the 60% number, **WILL** give up their rights.

    THAT's the real problem.
  • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @03:56PM (#15353496) Homepage
    Then there's the domestic phone call tracking. Even if this is not strictly illegal, it still smacks of wrong. ... Why? Because there's no independant, "checks and balances" oversight ... I'm more interested in making sure that another branch of the government is at least watching out to make sure that this data is not being abused. No, I don't need all of the details - that's why we have elected leaders whom I (hopefully) trust enough to look out for my interests - I just want to make sure those interests are protected by the process.

    There is oversight. Congressional committees were informed years ago. However election season is upon us so there is a lot of fake outrage and posing for the cameras and microphones going on.
  • Re:Spying (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jtheletter (686279) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @04:22PM (#15353697)
    Tried to state that myself and then I just sort of flew off the handle, heh. Anyway, I totally agree. This poll is being touted to make everyone get in line and stop questioning the program.

    Anyone who blindly changes their mind over a poll with a slim majority difference deserves what they get. Unfortunately for the rest of us we'll be getting it too. :-/

  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday May 17, 2006 @05:06PM (#15354069)

    I am suspecting that the ISPs who INSISTS the newbie/uninformed windoze users and Mac users install that ISPs crackware CD masquerading as an 'experience enhancing/improving' software tool is really just a Trojan to facilitate later offline decryption.

    I seriously doubt this, but it is easy enough to find out. Make a vm of windows and save it. Install the software save it. Take a look at the bits and figure out what has changed. Has it touched any of the encryption libraries or programs? Just copy them off and checksum them even.

    But, if LINUX users DON'T need the damned CD, why do windoze and Mac users need it.

    They don't of course. Most of those CDs just run a script, some are even easy to look at. In fact, the one time I had to setup a mac for a cable modem I just looked at their script, grabbed the DNS server, mail server, and netmask, etc. from it and input them by hand in my config. It worked just fine. The reason they tell you have to run the CD is because they hire support moneys working minimum wage to read a script into the phone when you call. It is easier for them to tell you to double click a script then walk you through making manual configuration changes.

  • by Jtheletter (686279) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @10:48AM (#15357381)
    Wow, scary. I knew that most of the mail system had this kind of automation but I failed to put 2 and 2 together on it. I'm willing to bet that this information is probably already being collected and mined according to the points you outlined, especially after the anthrax scare in 2001. (BTW: wtf ever happened to that? IIRC no one was ever caught and it sort of just fell off the public radar, but I don't think there's been closure on that act of terrorism that could in theory happen again, even with whatever safeguards are in place.)

    My point about the mail was more of an argument to give to people who think that the NSA having all their phone logs w/o a warrant is OK. I'm willing to bet that once they hear the parallel idea of a physical agent showing up daily and writing down their mail addressing info in a log all of a sudden a light will go on - gee maybe this is a bit invasive. People need to be change their thinking from "This is ok by me because I have done nothing wrong" TO "Why am I being searched/tracked when I have done nothing wrong?"

  • by blair1q (305137) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:42AM (#15357799) Journal

    What makes it okay is that:

    THE INTERNET IS NOT SECURE

    You have been told this from the moment you first entered the Internet.

    Anyone and everyone can see and record every byte you emit from your computer.

    The only detail is that the NSA, being a government entity, can not use the information as evidence in a court action against you, nor can they use any information that they gather only because they had this information.

    So I don't understand why people are outraged about the privacy issue. It's the issue of being able to prosecute those caught using this method that's the real problem. The existence of this intelligence program taints every case against anyone accused of any crime involving information transiting the internet.

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