by Tom Simonite
July 27, 2012
The Internet should be adapted to allow
for oversight by the National Security Agency, the organization's
The U.S. Internet's infrastructure needs to be redesigned to allow
to know instantly when overseas hackers might be attacking public or private
infrastructure and computer networks, the agency's leader, General Keith
Alexander, said today.
Alexander spoke at the annual
DefCon computer hacking conference in Las Vegas. It was a symbolic
appearance that he said was motivated by a need to interest the hacker
community in helping to make the Internet more secure.
Alexander, who is also commander of the
U.S. Cyber Command, described the Internet
"at great risk from exploitation,
disruption, and destruction."
In recent years, many Internet users have become
familiar with the idea that websites can be knocked offline by denial of
service attacks, such as those employed by online activist groups such as
"My concern is that it's going to flow into
destructive attacks that could have consequences for our critical
national infrastructure and the Internet itself," said Alexander.
The decentralized nature of the Internet, and
the fact that the global network is built from a thicket of independent
public and private networks, is limiting efforts to protect against such
attacks, said Alexander, because it doesn't allow the NSA or law enforcement
to easily track Internet activity.
"We do not sit around our country and look
in; we have no idea if Wall Street is about to be attacked," said
The NSA is already running a trial with 17 U.S.
defense companies intended to demonstrate technology that could be deployed
to change that.
Under the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Cyber
Pilot, Lockheed Martin and other companies set up their computer security
systems to automatically alert the agency when the alarm is tripped.
They automatically pass a summary of what was
detected and the IP address associated with the event to the NSA over the
"All you need to pass is the fact of a
signature and IP address in real time, and we can take it from there,"
Alexander suggested that the NSA should be given
a wider checkpoint role across the Internet to protect core infrastructure
and all vital systems connected to it, drawing an analogy with an automatic
road toll system.
"What we need for cybersecurity is something
analogous to that," he said. "Think of us as the
EZ Pass on the
Alexander dismissed possible concerns about
giving the NSA too much oversight into how the Internet is being used.
"When you go down the highway, and you go
down the EZ Pass lane, what you're doing is sending that code. That
system is not looking in your car, reading the e-mail, or intercepting
anything, it's just getting that code."
Alexander also suggested rolling back the
decentralization of computer networks by saying that "thin client" computing
should be considered by large organizations.
Long out of fashion, the thin client approach
gives individual users relatively simple computers that access computing
resources that are controlled centrally. That could help large organizations
such as the U.S. Department of Defense, which currently has some 15,000
separately configured and operated sections of its network, said Alexander,
offering too many potential areas of attack.
Speaking about the fact that some DefCon attendees are leery of the NSA
interest in their event, a hacker known as Dead Addict, who has helped
organize the DefCon event since the first conference 20 years ago, said he
was pleased that Alexander wanted to engage with the hacker community.
"Many of us fear their surveillance and
offensive capabilities, but many of us share an interest in that
[offense] as well," he said.
He pointed out that the activities of all
hackers at DefCon rely on the Internet to be resilient and trustworthy.
"Our interests overlap."
Alexander claimed that taking such steps could
also be lucrative for the U.S., and foster new areas of business.
"This could help us with our economic
growth. Look at what fuels our economy," he said. "We're the ones that
helped develop, and helped build the Internet; we ought to be the first
to secure it."
“EZ Pass” Control for Internet
by Kurt Nimmo
July 30, 2012
Alexander, the NSA boss,
wants the government to
centralize the internet
and force users to use a
system analogous to EZ Pass.
EZ Pass is an
RFID transponder system used for toll collection on roads,
bridges, and tunnels in the United States.
“What we need for cybersecurity is something
analogous to that,” Alexander told the annual Def Con computer hacking
conference in Las Vegas.. “Think of us as the EZ Pass on the highway.”
“When you go down the highway, and you go down the EZ Pass lane, what
you’re doing is sending that code. That system is not looking in your
car, reading the e-mail, or intercepting anything, it’s just getting
that code,” he said.
In other words, the government should vet all
users with a checkpoint.
“All you need to pass is the fact of a
signature and IP address in real time, and we can take it from there,”
The super secret cryptologic intelligence agency
wouldn’t track and scrutinize your behavior on the internet, according to
The EZ Pass,
“system is not looking in your car, reading
the e-mail, or intercepting anything, it’s just getting that code,” he
EZ Pass, however, does not simply “get the code”
and allow access to the highway.
It trades “a bit of privacy for a load of
convenience,” the New York Times
pointed out in 2005.
The NSA’s latest scheme to track and trace the online behavior of Americans
- despite Alexander’s assertions to the contrary - is part of a long history
of poking into the private affairs of Americans.
Following Truman’s executive order creating the super-secret intelligence
agency in 1952 as an instrument of the national security state, the NSA
launched Operation Shamrock.
The secret operation illegally intercepted the
telegrams of Americans without a search warrant and the telecoms of the day
fully cooperated, according to L. Britt Snider, a congressional
A few months after the 9/11 attacks, then president
“secretly authorized the National Security
Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to
search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved
warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to
government officials,” the New York Times
reported in 2005.
NSA officialdom attempted to portray the
warrantless searches as “a sea change” and new territory for the agency -
insisting that all previous searches were conducted on overseas
communications - despite
Operation Shamrock and the distinct
possibility the agency has engaged in likewise activity over its 60 year
by Catherine Rentz Pernot
After World War I, NSA's predecessor, a civilian code-breaking
agency known as the Black Chamber, working on behalf of the
government, would pick up telegrams every day from the telegraph
companies in violation of secrecy protections of the 1912 Radio
Eventually exposed and shut
down, the relationships regenerated after World War II, this time
with the NSA, which was formed secretly by an executive order by
President Truman in 1952.
As the NSA quietly grew into the world's biggest intelligence
agency, the telecoms similarly expanded in strength and breadth with
new technologies and increased communications coverage.
One NSA operation, code-named
"Shamrock," would become known as the largest intercept affair in
"For almost 30 years,
copies of most international telegrams originating or forwarded
through the United States were turned over to the National
Security Agency," announced Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), who
spearheaded the investigations that exposed Shamrock.
The program, he said,
"certainly appears to
violate section 605 of the Communications Act of 1934 as well as
the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution."
L. Britt Snider was the
then-30-year-old Congressional investigator who uncovered Shamrock.
In September 1975, after what
he described as a series of fruitless and "sometimes comical"
efforts to penetrate the goliath NSA, he won a breakthrough
interview with Louis Tordella, who had just retired as NSA's deputy
Tordella unveiled the essence
of Operation Shamrock: NSA had a secret room in New York City,
obtained with the help of the CIA, where each day it would copy
international telegrams sent through the three major communication
"We thought initially it
was only New York," Snider explained, "But it turns out to be
San Francisco, San Antonio, Washington, New York - all...
their offices that sent international telegrams."
When FRONTLINE asked how the
NSA got the companies to hand over telegrams during Shamrock, Snider
replied, "They asked."
The companies agreed to hand
over communications without warrants.
The revelation of Shamrock and other abuses by the Church Committee
investigations led Congress to enact the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978.
FISA set up a special secret
court and set of procedures to oversee intelligence agencies'
"What Congress said is,
'Phone company, don't hand this stuff over to the government
unless you have a warrant or other proper authority,'" explains
Cindy Cohn, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
which in January 2006 filed suit against AT&T for allegedly
illegally handing over its clients' communications to the NSA.
In order to convert a decentralized internet into a massive centralized
surveillance and tracking system, the government will have to sell us on the
largely bogus threat of cyber attacks and the over-hyped prospect of “dirty
numbers” shutting down power grids and the computer networks that run
We have covered this
mythical threat in detail, revealing that
in fact critical infrastructure is not connected to the internet and the
threat posed by hackers (who may or may not be government operatives) is
largely an issue for under-protected government and corporate networks.
Alexander peddled his scripted propaganda line in February when
he told the Wall Street Journal that the
hacktavist collective Anonymous may soon have the capability to take down
the power grid in the United States through a cyberattack.
Techies up to speed on the technology, however,
dismissed Alexander’s propaganda as absurd.
Jerry Brito, senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at
George Mason University,
told SecurityNewsDaily that while Anonymous
is capable of defacing websites and engaging in disruptive denial of service
attacks, it would take the resources of government to knock out networks. As
an example, consider the United States and Israel taking down Iran’s nuclear
infrastructure with finely honed malware.
The government and its super-secret intelligence agencies will not rest
until they convert the internet - in fact, the entire telecommunications
system - into a real-time surveillance and tracking tool.
Unfortunately, we are but one manufactured false flag event away from that
possibility becoming a reality.