If You Want the NSA to Monitor You, Do This.


NSA Spying

Want to attract the attention of NSA cubical dwellers? Then just use the TOR anonymizing system or try researching operating systems other Windows. As Patrick Tucker over at Defense One explains:

If you take certain steps to mask your identity online, such as using the encryption service TOR, or even investigating an alternative to the buggy Windows operating system, you're all but asking for "deep" monitoring by the NSA…

According to a recent report from the German media outlet Tagesschau, a group of TOR affiliates working with Tagesschau looked into the source code for [the NSA's] XKeyscore. They found that nine servers running TOR, including one at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, were under constant NSA surveillance. The code also revealed some of the behaviors that users could undertake to immediately be tagged or "fingerprinted" for so-called deep packet inspection, an investigation into the content of data packages you send across the Internet, such as emails, web searches and browsing history.

If you are located outside of the U.S., Canada, the U.K. or one of the so-called Five Eyes countries partnering with the NSA in its surveillance efforts, then visiting the TOR website triggers an automatic fingerprinting. In other words, simply investigating privacy-enhancing methods from outside of the United States is an act worthy of scrutiny and surveillance according to rules that make XKeyscore run. Another infraction: hating Windows…

If you visit the forum page for the popular Linux Journal, dedicated to the open-source operating system Linux, you could be fingerprinted regardless of where you live because the XKeystore source code designates the Linux Journal as an "extremist forum." Searching for the Tails, operating system, another Windows alternative popular among human rights watchers, will also land you on the deep-packet inspectee list.

The whole Defense One article is worth your attention.

I do wonder if my regular use of DuckDuckGo for searches worries the folks over at the NSA? For more background, see my article, "How to Keep Your Government From Spying On You." See also my collegue Scott Shackford's excellent post from yesterday on just how "inadvertant" the NSA's spying on American citizens really is.

Addendum: Should also direct your attention to my colleague Zenon Evans' thorough analysis, "Value Online Privacy? NSA Classifies You As An "Extremist," Collects More Than Metadata."

NEXT: Britain: Parents Who Don't Read to Their Kids Should Be Fined

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I am fairly sure that the NSA doesn’t need the excuse that you are using an anonymous service.

    If you can monitor everyone, you just monitor everyone. Problem solved.

  2. The haystack has to be unmanageable at this point.

    1. Not if you accept: Hay = Needle

  3. It should be noted that for better or for worse, the release of these protocols renders the entire program worthless as a counter terrorism tool. Once the enemy knows what you are looking for, they can easily avoid your surveillance.

    At this point, there is no justification for continuing this program. It can’t be effective anymore. It has been compromised. Even the people who think Snowden should be shot for compromising it, have no rational case for continuing it. But of course it will continue.

    1. But John, if we stop doing it, then they’ll stop avoiding it, and we can catch them doing it again!

    2. or use the surveillance system against itself, putting in false flags or “all is well” signals.

    3. Avoid it, hell no if I was an terrorist operative I’d be sending as many false signals through all those channels as I could manage just to make them waste their resources chasing ghosts.

      I’d give my team a bonus everytime a fake threat made it onto the news as a real threat.

      1. Yes, if they are smart, they will now manipulate it. So once compromised, it is worse than useless.

    4. It can’t be effective anymore.

      This assumes some initially nominal level of efficacy.

  4. This has to lead to a vicious circle. People hear about NSA surveillance, so they use Tor. The NSA sees those people using Tor, so they start surveilling them.

    1. As I’m planning to run a TOR bridge relay (hi NSA–I’ll keep you posted!) I look forward to driving their analysts stark raving mad with seemingly endless inter-family emails about whose turn it is to fund the booze for our annual lakeside vacation.

      They’ll be begging for mercy in no time…

  5. I think my Reason registration and comments are more than sufficient to get on the NSA’s naughty list.

    1. I figure that by reason of using this website, most of us are on multiple watch lists.

      (And, a bit off topic, I’m also surprised the SPLC hasn’t designated this site as a hate group yet. Give it time.)

      1. “R” is the 18th letter of the alphabet.

        SPLC is still working its way down.

        1. I’m not sure the mongoloids at the SPLC are smart enough to know their ABCs, so they may only stumble upon our wretched hive by accident.

  6. even investigating an alternative to the buggy Windows operating system, you’re all but asking for “deep” monitoring by the NSA

    1) What about investigating an alternative to the buggy Democratcare health system?

    2) Bill Gates strikes again.

    1. That’s it buddy, you’re going on the list for double secret monitoring

  7. This seems to strongly suggest that the long rumored backdoors into OSX and Windows are real.

  8. I looked up OS/2 on Wikipedia once… Am I on the watch list now?

    1. Your toothbrush is now programmed to report how long you brush as well as what brand of toothpaste you use.

      Also, you missed flossing between your second and third upper right molars last night.

  9. “if you are located outside of the U.S., Canada, the U.K. or one of the so-called Five Eyes countries partnering with the NSA in its surveillance efforts…”

    So…if you’re a resident of a foreign country not an ally of the US, are not a US citizen, and you’re attempting to encrypt or anonymize your electronic communications, the NSA might monitor you. Gee, for some reason, I don’t have a problem with this.

    1. That’s because you are an idiot.

      Do you have a problem with a foreign government monitoring your communications and reporting back to the US?

      Its not like the other 4 aren’t doing the same shit the NSA is.

  10. It’s much more effective to just hide in plain sight. If you go to extremes to cover up what you’re doing, the Feds will watch you more closely and you’ll never get away with it. Of course, you’ll make it a lot easier to convict you later if you don’t try to hide it.

  11. Enh, the Linux users are mostly harmless. It’s those OpenBSD fanatics you really have to worry about.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.