Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

8/22/2013
01:55 PM
50%
50%

NSA Responds To Criticism Over Surveillance Programs

NSA says it only touches about 1 percent of online communications in the U.S.

The NSA has hit back after mounting criticism about its ability to intercept Web communications domestically, claiming that reports of its capabilities are "inaccurate and misleading."

The response follows a Wall Street Journal report stating the agency has the capacity to reach "roughly 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic."

According to The Wall Street Journal story, the NSA's filtering of the Web is carried out with telecom companies and designed to look for messages that either originate abroad, are sent abroad, or are entirely foreign and just passing through the U.S. But sources told the paper that the system's reach increases the chance that domestic communications will be accidentally intercepted.

"Press reports based on an article published in...[the] Wall Street Journal mischaracterize aspects of NSA's data collection activities conducted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," the agency says. "The NSA does not sift through and have unfettered access to 75 percent of the United States' online communications."

"In its foreign intelligence mission, and using all its authorities, NSA "touches" about 1.6 percent and analysts only look at .00004 percent of the world's Internet traffic," the NSA continues. "The assistance from the providers, which is compelled by the law, is the same activity that has been previously revealed as part of Section 702 collection and PRISM."

The agency's programs have been a lightning rod for controversy. Wednesday, the Director of National Intelligence declassified several documents related to the NSA's programs.

Among the revelations is that the NSA -- which is supposed to be focused on foreign intelligence -- likely collected tens of thousands of emails and other electronic communications between Americans every year due to its methods.

In a declassified opinion from Sept. 25, 2012, FISA Court judge John D. Bates wrote that the volume and nature of the information the government was collecting was "fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe."

"Under the circumstances, the court is unable to find that, as applied to MCTs [multi-communication transactions] in the manner proposed by the government, NSA's minimization procedures are 'reasonably designed in light of the purpose and technique of the particular surveillance to minimize the…retention…of nonpublicly available information'" of American citizens without their consent," he wrote in separate opinion Oct. 3, 2011.

"Today the NSA's compliance program is directly supported by over three hundred personnel, which is a four-fold increase in just four years," Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper wrote in a letter announcing the declassified documents. "This increase was designed to address changes in technology and authorities enacted as part of the FISA Amendments Act to confront evolving threats. It is also a reflection of the commitment on the part of the intelligence community…to ensuring that these extraordinary intelligence activities are conducted responsibly and subject to the rule of law."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Brian Prince is a freelance writer for a number of IT security-focused publications. Prior to becoming a freelance reporter, he worked at eWEEK for five years covering not only security, but also a variety of other subjects in the tech industry. Before that, he worked as a ... View Full Bio

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/10/2020
Pen Testers Who Got Arrested Doing Their Jobs Tell All
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/5/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-17478
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
ECDSA/EC/Point.pm in Crypt::Perl before 0.33 does not properly consider timing attacks against the EC point multiplication algorithm.
CVE-2020-15648
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
Using object or embed tags, it was possible to frame other websites, even if they disallowed framing using the X-Frame-Options header. This vulnerability affects Thunderbird < 78 and Firefox < 78.0.2.
CVE-2020-15649
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
Given an installed malicious file picker application, an attacker was able to steal and upload local files of their choosing, regardless of the actually files picked. *Note: This issue only affected Firefox for Android. Other operating systems are unaffected.*. This vulnerability affects Firefox ESR...
CVE-2020-15650
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
Given an installed malicious file picker application, an attacker was able to overwrite local files and thus overwrite Firefox settings (but not access the previous profile). *Note: This issue only affected Firefox for Android. Other operating systems are unaffected.*. This vulnerability affects Fir...
CVE-2020-15651
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-10
A unicode RTL order character in the downloaded file name can be used to change the file's name during the download UI flow to change the file extension. This vulnerability affects Firefox for iOS < 28.