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Monday, August 5, 2013

NSA Surveillance Tool Allows Real-Time Access to Your Internet Data

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Chris Dougherty

NSA surveillance tool, XKeyscore, is a tool that provides intelligence analysts with real-time surveillance of your email, chat and browsing history. Tagged keyword terms and phrases may unknowingly put you under government scrutiny.

Yep, the government knows exactly what keywords you search for on Google. Just ask Michele Catalano and her husband about their recent experienceAccording to Catalano, “joint terrorism task force” officials, driving 3 black SUVs, stormed her home in Long Island, New York over an Internet search for the terms “pressure cookers” and “backpacks.” (You can read an important update to this story here Ed.)

The National Security Agency operates a world-wide network that collects information from social networks, email, chat, video calls, search engines and more. All of that information is then fed into large databases for storage and easy retrieval. Analysts can then sift through all of that information, with little more than a target’s email address. Once the search is completed, all of the resulting information can be tied together into a profile.

The NSA acknowledges existence of the program but strongly argues that access is limited and targets of the program are foreign nationals. In a press statement the agency said:

Access to XKEYSCORE, as well as all of NSA’s analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks….All of our analytic tools are aimed at information we collect pursuant to lawful authority to respond to foreign intelligence requirements – nothing more.
The Guardian sees it a little differently. In their recent report on the topic they wrote that XKeyscore may be the widest-reaching program the NSA currently has in their arsenal. They went on to say that the program allows analysts access to "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet" including emails and websites visited.

The report was based on documents recently leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who continues to evade officials. However, the U.S. Government is in hot pursuit of the man they are calling a “traitor”. Recently an airplane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was rerouted to Austria because of suspicions that Snowden was on board. In a press conference, Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia said that France, Portugal, Italy and Spain were all responsible for denying the plane permission to fly through their airspace. Bolivian Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra told CNN en Español that he believed the U.S. government was behind the rumors of Snowden being on the plane.

Days later, it was confirmed that Snowden has received political asylum in Russia.

Chris Dougherty is a grey hat hacker and online security expert. Please visit his blog,, for more excellent news and information about protecting yourself in cyberspace.

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