The Null Device

Don't miss: A detailed article, by Duncan Campbell, on the NSA/GCHQ's signals intelligence operations and capabilities, from World War 2 to Echelon.
Entering Chicksands' Building 600 through double security fences and a turnstile where green and purple clearance badges were checked, the visitor would first encounter a sigint in-joke - a copy of the International Telecommunications Convention pasted up on the wall. Article 22 of the Convention, which both the United Kingdom and the United States have ratified, promises that member states "agree to take all possible measures, compatible with the system of telecommunication used, with a view to ensuring the secrecy of international correspondence".
In 1996, shortly after "Secret Power" was published, a New Zealand TV station obtained images of the inside of the station's operations centre. The pictures were obtained clandestinely by filming through partially curtained windows at night. The TV reporter was able to film close-ups of technical manuals held in the control centre. These were Intelsat technical manuals, providing confirmation that the station targeted these satellites. Strikingly, the station was seen to be virtually empty, operating fully automatically.
Key word spotting in the vast volumes of intercepted daily written communications - telex, e-mail, and data - is a routine task. "Word spotting" in spoken communications is not an effective tool, but individual speaker recognition techniques have been in use for up to 10 years. New methods which have been developed during the 1990s will become available to recognise the "topics" of phone calls, and may allow NSA and its collaborators to automate the processing of the content of telephone messages - a goal that has eluded them for 30 years.
Under the rubric of "information warfare", the sigint agencies also hope to overcome the ever more extensive use of encryption by direct interference with and attacks on targeted computers. These methods remain controversial, but include information stealing viruses, software audio, video, and data bugs, and pre-emptive tampering with software or hardware ("trapdoors").

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