Surveillance

FBI Wants to Patch Right In to Telecom Providers to Collect Metadata

If your phone provider doesn't have the tools to give the feds what they want, don't worry! The FBI is more than happy to provide them.

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Here be dragons
Credit: camknows / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Everything eventually in due time is not enough. The FBI wants it all, now, immediately. Declan McCullagh at CNet reports a push by the FBI to force telecoms to install surveillance tools on their own networks for the benefit of the feds:

The U.S. government is quietly pressuring telecommunications providers to install eavesdropping technology deep inside companies' internal networks to facilitate surveillance efforts.

FBI officials have been sparring with carriers, a process that has on occasion included threats of contempt of court, in a bid to deploy government-provided software capable of intercepting and analyzing entire communications streams. The FBI's legal position during these discussions is that the software's real-time interception of metadata is authorized under the Patriot Act.

Attempts by the FBI to install what it internally refers to as "port reader" software, which have not been previously disclosed, were described to CNET in interviews over the last few weeks. One former government official said the software used to be known internally as the "harvesting program."

Carriers are "extra-cautious" and are resisting installation of the FBI's port reader software, an industry participant in the discussions said, in part because of the privacy and security risks of unknown surveillance technology operating on a sensitive internal network.

It's "an interception device by definition," said the industry participant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because court proceedings are sealed. "If magistrates knew more, they would approve less." It's unclear whether any carriers have installed port readers, and at least one is actively opposing the installation.

All this information can get pretty confusing for non-techies. How is this different from the other surveillance news that's been disclosed? McCullagh explained this software is intended to be pushed onto telecom providers that don't have the technical ability or knowhow to collect and provide the FBI with the customer metadata on their own. So any telecom trying to resist orders to provide data to the FBI on the basis that they don't have the resources to collect what they're looking for, those folks may be out of luck and may end up with software systems within their company over which they have no control.

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  1. All this information can get pretty confusing for non-techies. How is this different from the other surveillance news that’s been disclosed?

    No, it’s pretty easy:

    The FBI wants to create a duplicate of all data that’s transferred through said provider’s service and probably direct it to some server farm in Ohio or wherever. Then, when you become a problem, they want to basically look at everything you’ve ever done on the internet and lock you away forever for whatever bullshit reason they deem fits at the time.

    Everything else they say is just obfuscation of this particular fact so that they don’t scare you into open revolt immediately.

    1. my classmate’s step-aunt makes $64/hour on the laptop. She has been out of work for 8 months but last month her income was $16550 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more ………………. WEP6.COM

      1. I admire your stick-to-it-iveness and focus, Work Bot

        1. I want to see a cage match between Anon Bot and Work Bot.

          I will have a site up taking wagers shortly.

          1. I’m in – $5 on Anon Bot – he’s a slipperly little sucker. Probably Italian…

            1. I’ll give you $20 bucks on 4:1 anon bot:work bot. Anon-bot’s been at it far longer.

              1. But WomSom recently fell to MappRapp. MappRapp is new and untested.

                1. The vigor and desire of youth versus age and treachery – that age-old battle. It’ll be classic!

                  1. MappRapp is no Tiggy Foo.

                    1. Tiggy Fooooooooo!

    2. open revolt

      If only.

      1. If only.

        See? Inciting rebellion. Bye-bye, Lynchpin.

        1. BAM! It’s all for the best. Just lie back and think of Epi’s mother.

        2. In all seriousness, open revolt doesn’t have to be violent. I used to think most Americans still cared about privacy and civil liberties, even if they didn’t much care about economic liberty and other personal freedoms. The lack of mass protests about this is disheartening to say the least.

          1. open revolt doesn’t have to be violent.

            I wasn’t criticizing the violence of an open revolt.

          2. All it taked is for enough of the public to come together on a few issues, repeal the patriot act, repeal NDAA, defund the NSA, and restore the fourth amendment, then there wouldn’t be anything the politicians could do. It doesn’t require violence when 300 million people are holding the threat of it.

            Which is why the pols are working at a fevered pitch to divide us by race, religion, sex, sexual preference, or any other bullshit they can use to divide and keep powerless the people.

            That seems to be starting to fail now, so we need a big huge terror threat to distract us. It’s so predictable that it’s pathetic.

          3. Snowden’s mistake was revealing all this while a Democrat was president. If there were a Rethuglican in the WH, the protests would be enormous.

            1. Snowden’s mistake was revealing all this while a Democrat was president.

              This on wheels.

  2. Oh good the Fed Gov is finding new efficiencies! Wait…

  3. So they’ve moved from “we can compel you to give us business records that you have that we want” to “if you don’t have the business records we want, we can compel you to let us make them so we can have them.”

    Seems to me that’s stretching even the concept of stretching the statute.

    1. It’s a slippery, stretchy slope.

  4. this software is intended to be pushed onto telecom providers that don’t have the technical ability or knowhow to collect and provide the FBI with the customer metadata on their own

    Truly, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help…you give us what we want. Now.”

    Charming.

  5. As a telcom engineer who has built several large networks I must say I would NEVER allow any device I didn’t personally approve of in my network. All privacy implications aside, these networks are crazy sensitive and difficult to keep humming along. A foreign (as in not mine. not as in from other countries) piece of government shit has no place in my network. You would quickly lose the ability to respond to troubles and record keeping becomes even more of a nightmare.

    1. And thus you demonstrate that you are an enemy of the state and must be eliminated.

      Good bye, Mister Bandit…

      1. The day that Almanian! disappeared the commentariat.

        1. I was just following orders.

          You know who else “just followed orders”….

          1. Everyone in the Army with rare exceptions.

            A friend pointed out that based on statistical evidence, your only bet is the conscience (or ego) of the local commander, because there aren’t a lot of good episodes where the enlistees stayed in their barracks rather than doing what they were told. You get your Mannings, but even them aren’t disobeying a direct and fresh order but rather standing orders that have been in place throughout their service.

      2. Yeah I have wondered about some things at my previous employers before. Our Tier II group handled taps and they hated the requests. These were the brightest of the brightest and they were required to stop everything there were on and go to a special room to talk to a bureaucrat and then go pull data. Not a one of them spoke nicely of the process.

        1. If they were that bright, they would’ve said “oh we can’t do that.”

          1. Well, these were LEO requests and FBI requests. They had the proper “procedure” so they are not as bad or as illegal as the stuff we hear about now. These were just regular old warrants.

            1. At least those came with warrants.

    2. Your mistake is in thinking of it as “your network”. The government has decided that is not the case.

      1. This is a very good point. “Nice little network ya got there…”

    3. As a telcom engineer who has built several large networks I must say I would NEVER allow any device I didn’t personally approve of in my network.

      If you do some googling back in the early Bush years there were some pretty dark reports of just this very activity going on where a telecom engineer was asking questions about devices being built in entire rooms which, based on his expertise and interpretation were massive data-grabbing network switches.

      He didn’t want these devices on his network and he was politely told to go get stuffed.

      My point here is (as a network engineer) is that you may not have a choice.

  6. That network- you didn’t, umm, you know…

  7. There was a time I actually believed The road to Serfdom was about somebody else’s country.

    1. It was about a government that other people deserved.

  8. I’m not sure what our government will do next. After the story broke about NDA sharing info with the DEA, even the FluffPo commentariat have turned against them.

    1. My guess is they spun the story to make it look like Bush’s fault?

  9. See, this Snowden thing they were so afraid of, it was actually a blessing in disguise for the Obama Administration.

    They were afraid breaking the story would anger voters, and they’d have to shut down the program, but that was nothin’ to be afraid of…

    Now that it’s out in the open, they can start advocating for this stuff in public! The American people are so much more complacent than even the Obama Administration realized!

    Now get down on your knees, America, and pray that Obama doesn’t give us what we deserve.

    1. There is nothing they can do about it. The media is never going to play it up. That would embarrass Obama. And we can’t have that. And there is a large enough bi partisan security state lovers in Congress to keep it. So the American public can go fuck themselves.

      1. And it’s been that way for a long time.

        If the American people wouldn’t stand up for themselves when they used our tax money to bail out Wall Street investors, why would they stand up for themselves now.

        But I’m not prepared to blame the media or Obama anymore. It’s the American people themselves who are to blame. They’re like battered housewives who keep taking their abusive husbands back–over and over again.

        At some point, you gotta stand up for yourself, and if we never do, then that’s nobody else’s fault but ours.

        1. Pretty much. Stand up and vote people out of office over this. If you won’t do that, then it isn’t that important to you.

        2. But I still blame the people in charge. And I especially blame the media. The media drives a lot of public opinion. And they are complete power loving cowards.

          1. Thankfully the “media” is becoming more fragmented as people can obtain their news from many many more sources.

            1. Unfortunately, a large percentage of Americans who actually vote, are 65+ years of age. They watch the mainstream news channels. Sorry, I had to collectivize our elders there.

              My dad won’t touch a computer, he’s constantly repeating everything that he hears on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, or the others. He believes all of it.

              He thinks that Rand Paul is a real kook, just like his dad, and that Muslim terrorists are ready to pounce out from under his bed at any moment. I wonder why?

              1. My wife and I along with my sister-in-law and her husband all pitched in to buy a new computer for my mother-in-law. We even paid for a techie to set everything up and teach her the basics.

                That was over a year ago. My mother-in-law has rarely, by her own admission, used the computer. She claims that she “is bored by it”.

                She would rather watch CNN and Lifetime.

                1. ipad with facebook app and nothing else?

                  The thing that amazes me, is that my 85+ year old grandparents are way more technically savvy than my 63 year old father… who retired from a technical profession last year.

                  1. is that my 85+ year old grandparents are way more technically savvy than my 63 year old father… who retired from a technical profession last year.

                    Give your 63 yo father a break. He’s just tired of it.

                    Over my 25 year career, I went from knowing everything about the hardware in your desktop, memory speeds, socket types…always built my own boxes, to having to go to one of the PC techs to help advise me on building a PC.

                    Because when you spend your day managing stuff on the enterprise level, you just stop caring how your tablet works.

                2. Damn – I just assumed you were going to tell us your mother-in-law now makes $82 an hour, $6385 last week working just a few hours, and just bought a new Mazda.

        3. If the American people wouldn’t stand up for themselves when they used our tax money to bail out Wall Street investors, why would they stand up for themselves now.

          People will eat more shit than you want to think about them eating.

  10. Beyond the obvious civil liberties problems with this, these clowns are going to destroy the US telecom industry. What kind of a nut would do business with a US company after hearing this? Give this hist ten years and there won’t be a single US firm left operating internationally.

  11. You know who else “just followed orders”….

    But Seattle is beautiful this time of year.

  12. It’s the American people themselves who are to blame. They’re like battered housewives who keep taking their abusive husbands back–over and over again.

    D’oh!

    Collectiviser Alert!

    1. So we can’t refer to any group of people at all?

      1. Who’s this “we” you refer to, collectivist?

        1. Societies in general are responsible for what happens to them.

          1. I’m reminded of the reality TV show where imprisoned anarchist libertarian commenters compare the minarchist commenters to the guards.

            1. Oh, you’ve been watching Hit & Run: The Show?

      2. NO! Collectivizer!

  13. I’ll just leave this here. Consider any Tor-based browsing in Firefox compromised.

    Security researchers tonight are poring over a piece of malicious software that takes advantage of a Firefox security vulnerability to identify some users of the privacy-protecting Tor anonymity network.

    The malware showed up Sunday morning on multiple websites hosted by the anonymous hosting company Freedom Hosting. That would normally be considered a blatantly criminal “drive-by” hack attack, but nobody’s calling in the FBI this time. The FBI is the prime suspect.

    1. Interesting thing with this one. The exploit goes to an IP range that more or less screams NSA.

      The trick here is, the people who made it must have been smarter than leaving evidence like that in there. You’re attacking TOR users. Just make a damn TOR hidden service that serves it out, you can let people wonder who is behind it.

      It makes me think they just want to scare people off of TOR.

    2. The owner of Freedom Hosting was rolled for “facilitating” kiddie porn. It doesn’t seem like anyone has accused him of using or distributing the stuff though.

      1. That’s the other part that makes me think it was a “scare people off TOR” idea. I could see tossing the exploit on one or two Freedom Hosting sites, but this was all (or nearly all).

        That would make detection of the exploit much quicker. If they just tossed it on two or three kiddie porn sites, they could nab everyone going to them, then expose it later.

  14. Sometimes dude, you jsut have to roll with it.

    http://www.Privacy-Rox.tk

    1. Anonbot really screwed the pooch on this one. Of course, his links are probably backdoored by the NSA, too.

  15. I am currently reading a history of the Inquisition. If you just go through it and replace “heresy” with “terrorism” it works pretty well as a post 9-11 narrative.

    Hopefully in a couple hundred years they will be viewed similarly.

    1. They are – by you and me and sarc and Epi and Warty and Old Mex et al.

      1. Yep, all 22 of us.

  16. Net Neutrality: All your packets are belong to us.

  17. “If magistrates knew more, they would approve less.”

    “My doctorate’s in English, Fred; but that seems like a pretty strong pulse to *me*.”

    Seriously, so the “judicial” procedure is something like “approve unless we have — that is, care sufficiently to gather — enough information to to make a real decision”?

    Arggh!! 8-(

  18. You know what would be awesome?

    If every single telecom in the country told the feds to get bent and then sent out a letter or email to each of their subscribers describing what it was the government was trying to do and how it would negatively affect their internet usage.

    But that will never happen.

    1. The whole program is secret – I’m pretty sure sending out notices as to what the feds have done and want to do is illegal. Businesses are only going to stand up to the feds if their customers demand it. Right now, if I were a teleco, I wouldn’t feel confident at all that my customers would support me telling the feds to get bent.

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