Last week the Washington Post (WaPo)reported that documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA and it’s British counterpart GCHQ have been intercepting communications transferred by way of fiber optic cables between data center hubs operated by Google and Yahoo.
While the intelligence agency has denied the claims, WaPo is standing by the report and has offered up new evidence of the NSA’s surveillance operation geared at the Internet giants.
First of all, WaPo points out that NSA chief Keith Alexander stated the agency was not breaking into Yahoo and Google databases or servers, which does not address the claim that they were intercepting data communications as they traverse fiber optic cables.
“That’s never happened. […] This is not the NSA breaking into any databases. It would be illegal for us to do that. And so I don’t know what the report is, but I can tell you factually we do not have access to Google servers, Yahoo servers,” Alexander said when questioned by a reporter.
The distinction WaPo seeks to make is that they are asserting that the NSA and GCHQ are somehow tapping data from within Yahoo’s and Google’s private clouds, and they back up this claim with expert analysis of the NSA’s own slides that reveal the data in question could not have been extracted from anywhere else.
“This is not traffic you would encounter outside of Google’s internal network,” one of the experts told WaPo. “[The slide shows data in a format that is] only used on and between Google machines. And, also as far as I know, Google doesn’t publish their binary RPC protocol, which is what this resembles,” the expert continued.
WaPo goes on to conclude that the NSA’s slides “included samples of data structures and formats that never travel unencrypted on the public Internet,” and thus the NSA and GCHQ had to be intercepting the data from Yahoo’s and Google’s private clouds.
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