NSA's Project Marina stores EVERYONE'S metadata for A YEAR

Latest Snowden leak shows government economical with the truth


New details from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have shown the existence of Project Marina, a metadata collection system that collects details on the activity of almost all internet users, regardless of whether they are legitimate subjects for enquiry or not.

The US government has always insisted that – as far as possible – data is only collected on either non-US citizens or people deemed worthy of investigation. But according to a training manual obtained by Snowden, all the internet metadata slurped by the NSA's surveillance apparatus is fed into Marina and stored for a year so that analysts can pore over it.

"The Marina metadata application tracks a user's browser experience, gathers contact information/content and develops summaries of target," the analysts' guide leaked to The Guardian explains – a statement that sounds remarkably like Facebook's business plan.

"This tool offers the ability to export the data in a variety of formats, as well as create various charts to assist in pattern-of-life development," the manual says, "Of the more distinguishing features, Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days' worth of DNI metadata seen by the Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection." [Emphasis in original.]

Marina gets its metadata from such sources as the PRISM scheme the agency runs with commercial partners, data it buys from other companies, feeds from its taps on international data pipelines, and other sources. Oddly, the phone metadata the NSA collects is not included in Marina, possibly for compliance purposes.

In a response to the latest leak, the NSA told the paper that its data collection follows procedures approved by the US attorney general and the secretary of defense, which safeguard the privacy of US citizens.

"All queries of lawfully collected data must be conducted for a foreign intelligence purpose," it said. "We know there is a false perception out there that NSA listens to the phone calls and reads the email of everyday Americans, aiming to unlawfully monitor or profile US citizens. It's just not the case.

"NSA's activities are directed against foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements from US leaders in order to protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." ®

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • US cyber chiefs: Moving to Shields Down isn't gonna happen
    Promises new alert notices but warn 'we can sometimes predict thunderstorms but not lightning strikes'

    RSA Conference A heightened state of defensive cyber security posture is the new normal, according to federal cyber security chiefs speaking at the RSA Conference on Tuesday. This requires greater transparency and threat intel sharing between the government and private sector, they added.

    "There'll never be a time when we don't defend ourselves –— especially in cyberspace," National Cyber Director Chris Inglis said, referencing an opinion piece that he and CISA director Jen Easterly published earlier this week that described CISA's Shields Up initiative as the new normal. 

    "Now, we all know that we can't sustain the highest level of alert for an extensive period of time, which is why we're thinking about, number one, what's that relationship that government needs to have with the private sector," Easterly said on the RSA Conference panel with Inglis and National Security Agency (NSA) cybersecurity director Rob Joyce.

    Continue reading
  • Beijing-backed baddies target unpatched networking kit to attack telcos
    NSA, FBI and CISA issue joint advisory that suggests China hardly has to work for this – flaws revealed in 2017 are among their entry points

    State-sponsored Chinese attackers are actively exploiting old vulnerabilities to "establish a broad network of compromised infrastructure" then using it to attack telcos and network services providers.

    So say the United States National Security Agency (NSA), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which took the unusual step of issuing a joint advisory that warns allied governments, critical infrastructure operators, and private industry organizations to hurry up and fix their IT estates.

    The advisory states that network devices are the target of this campaign and lists 16 flaws – some dating back to 2017 and none more recent than April 2021 – that the three agencies rate as the most frequently exploited.

    Continue reading
  • How ICE became a $2.8b domestic surveillance agency
    Your US tax dollars at work

    The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has spent about $2.8 billion over the past 14 years on a massive surveillance "dragnet" that uses big data and facial-recognition technology to secretly spy on most Americans, according to a report from Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology.

    The research took two years and included "hundreds" of Freedom of Information Act requests, along with reviews of ICE's contracting and procurement records. It details how ICE surveillance spending jumped from about $71 million annually in 2008 to about $388 million per year as of 2021. The network it has purchased with this $2.8 billion means that "ICE now operates as a domestic surveillance agency" and its methods cross "legal and ethical lines," the report concludes.

    ICE did not respond to The Register's request for comment.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022