Endpoint // Privacy
8/13/2014
04:30 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

NSA Collected More Records Than Court Allowed

New documents show the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is stumped by the NSA's "systemic overcollection."

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has obtained documents that show that the National Security Agency consistently violated some of the restrictions the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) placed upon the NSA's Internet Metadata program.

Despite all the redactions, the documents make it evident that compliance officials did not provide adequate oversight, and that the NSA collected more information than it was authorized to collect, widely shared information with agents and agencies not authorized to view it, and tried to persuade the court to act outside its own authority and grant wider permissions than legislation would allow.

The details about what precisely was approved by the FISC are mostly redacted. Whatever they are, the NSA acquired more "categories of information" than it was permitted to acquire. However, the court seems to waver in its assessment of whether the NSA officials were just ignorant or willfully playing dumb.

From the documents:

    As described by the government, the unauthorized collection resulted from failures to [REDACTED] in the manner required... By the government's account, the lack of required [REDACTED] did not result from technical difficulty or malfunction, but rather from a failure of "those NSA officials who understood in detail the requirements"... The government assessed the violations to have been caused by "poor management, lack of involvement by compliance officials, and lack of internal verification procedures -- not by bad faith."

No matter the reason, the NSA committed what the court called "systemic overcollection" for years. Nearly every stored record included at least one piece of data the agency was not authorized to keep.

    The government has said nothing about how the systemic overcollection was permitted to continue... On the record before the Court, the most charitable interpretation possible is that the same factors identified by the government [REDACTED] remained unabated in full effect: non-communication with the technical personnel directly responsible [REDACTED] resulting from poor management. However, given the duration of this problem, the oversight measures ostensibly taken since [REDACTED] to detect overcollection, and the extraordinary fact that NSA's end-to-end review overlooked unauthorized acquisitions that were documented in virtually every record of what was acquired, it must be added that those responsible for conducting oversight at NSA failed to do so effectively.

The documents further state:

    The Court had specifically directed the government to explain whether this unauthorized collection involved the acquisition of information other than the approved Categories... In response, the Deputy Secretary of Defense stated that the "Director of NSA has informed me that at no time did NSA collect any category of information... other than the [REDACTED] categories of meta data" approved... This assurance turned out to be untrue.

    Regarding the information obtained through unauthorized collection, the Court ordered the government to describe whether it "has been, or can be, segregated from information that NSA was authorized to collect," "how the government proposes to dispose of" it, and "how the government proposes to ensure that [it] is not included ... in applications presented to this Court."

Upon review, the NSA decided that the collected data could not be sufficiently segregated. It simply "eliminated access to the database" altogether.

However, the NSA still wanted to access and use some of the records it had collected without authorization, asserting that the records were important to national security. The FISC was ultimately swayed by the government's assertions and therefore granted, "albeit reluctantly," the right to access, use, and disseminate the "overcollected" information.

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
securityaffairs
50%
50%
securityaffairs,
User Rank: Ninja
8/18/2014 | 4:30:12 PM
Re: what's new?
The TAO unit made an error, their intent was to implant a malware in the Syrian system to hijack the traffic and spy on their Government.

The incident represented a serious risk for US 

 
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
8/18/2014 | 4:03:15 PM
Re: what's new?
Hey Pierluigi! Thanks for sharing that link. Interesting that the headline says NSA "accidently" caused the Syrian Internet blackout. I'm not sure whether it's scarier if they did it on purpose or by mistake. 

 

 

securityaffairs
50%
50%
securityaffairs,
User Rank: Ninja
8/14/2014 | 11:52:00 AM
Re: what's new?
Hi Marylin ... have you read about the Intenet Blackout in Syria 2012 ... 

 

http://securityaffairs.co/wordpress/27568/intelligence/internet-blackout-syria-nsa.html

 

NSA seems to be everywhere ;-)
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
8/14/2014 | 11:19:59 AM
Re: what's new?
I'm not surprised either. Nor am I confident that the FISC has the technological expertise to  make the proper judgements in these matters.
securityaffairs
50%
50%
securityaffairs,
User Rank: Ninja
8/13/2014 | 5:27:10 PM
what's new?
I'm not surprised ... what we know it is just the tip of the iceberg ... and don't forget that NSA isn't unique intelligence that use technology to monitor communications and Internet access worldwide.

I'm not surprised ....
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-0619
Published: 2014-10-23
Untrusted search path vulnerability in Hamster Free ZIP Archiver 2.0.1.7 allows local users to execute arbitrary code and conduct DLL hijacking attacks via a Trojan horse dwmapi.dll that is located in the current working directory.

CVE-2014-2230
Published: 2014-10-23
Open redirect vulnerability in the header function in adclick.php in OpenX 2.8.10 and earlier allows remote attackers to redirect users to arbitrary web sites and conduct phishing attacks via a URL in the (1) dest parameter to adclick.php or (2) _maxdest parameter to ck.php.

CVE-2014-7281
Published: 2014-10-23
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in Shenzhen Tenda Technology Tenda A32 Router with firmware 5.07.53_CN allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that reboot the device via a request to goform/SysToolReboot.

CVE-2014-7292
Published: 2014-10-23
Open redirect vulnerability in the Click-Through feature in Newtelligence dasBlog 2.1 (2.1.8102.813), 2.2 (2.2.8279.16125), and 2.3 (2.3.9074.18820) allows remote attackers to redirect users to arbitrary web sites and conduct phishing attacks via a URL in the url parameter to ct.ashx.

CVE-2014-8071
Published: 2014-10-23
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in OpenMRS 2.1 Standalone Edition allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the (1) givenName, (2) familyName, (3) address1, or (4) address2 parameter to registrationapp/registerPatient.page; the (5) comment parameter to all...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.