Looking For the NSA, the Press Digs Up the Fiber

November 26th, 2013 by · Leave a Comment

According to the New York Times and others today, the NSA spying revelations are reaching deeper into the network.  In other words, to get at the data Google and Yahoo may or may not have given them voluntarily, they may have been tapping into the fiber itself.  In particular they cite Level 3, but again without actually accusing them of, well, anything at all except maybe owning fiber.  But seriously folks, all this is mind-numbingly obvious.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to get the processed data all sorted and collated and searchable from the big content providers themselves.  At the wavelength or raw packet level it’s got to be a pretty darn difficult thing to spy on data streams hundreds of Gbps deep in any useful way, unencrypted or not.  But if in fact the NSA were doing such a thing, nobody could have stopped them.

Suppose the NSA goes to any fiber operator and says ‘Let use put some equipment in your hut/colo or we’ll just dig up your fiber and make our own splices somewhere without telling you, your choice.’   What would you do even if you objected to the whole project?  And would it matter?

If the NSA wanted the bits, they could get the bits any number of ways.  And apparently they did just that.  I’m at a loss to explain the need to find corporate entities to smear for something that they don’t seem to have had any recourse against.  It’s a political football to be sure, but sheesh…

Hell, every now and then the press wonders if undersea cables are being tapped via submarine a mile beneath the ocean.  Believe me, it’s a lot easier to find the stuff a few feet underground along the highway or railroad, or better yet hanging off a pole, in your own country where you have all strategic infrastructure mapped already anyway.  Nobody stands 24 hour guard on the fiber that sits under the streets and railroads out there… plenty of air, no sharks, and donuts around the corner.   And besides, if you *are* the authorities, who cares if it’s even guarded?

So why does Level 3 get the slime treatment this time?  Well that’s a no-brainer.  After all the industry consolidation, Level 3’s conduits hold more of the nextgen intercity fiber in the USA than just about anyone – particularly the kind of dedicated dark fiber strands that are likely hooking up the major global nodes of big content companies.  And of course the likes of Google, Yahoo, Verizon and AT&T have already gotten their share of fire from the press.  A new name was needed or it wouldn’t be news.  I wonder who’s up next.

We’ve known the infrastructure vulnerable that way since forever.  It’s just we were thinking of terrorists or other foreign evildoers doing the tapping.


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Categories: Fiber Networks · Government Regulations

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