FFE Magazine

What are Snowden’s biggest revelations on government Spying?

6jun snowden leaks

Edward Snowden became a household name last year when he leaked top secret information from America’s National Security Agency (NSA) showing that governments can spy on ordinary people.

The revelations have caused uproar around the world. But the facts had been so immense and unbelievable that many people have lumped all of NSA’s actions into the term ‘government mass surveillance.’

However knowing what governments or other entities interested in collecting data from us are capable of doing and what technologies they have access too to do so, might make us think twice when using the internet and digital communication devices.


To help us remember what NSA is capable of doing to get our personal information, tech news website Mashable gave a rundown of the top 10 biggest revelations by Snowden:


1. NSA has access to Americans’ phone records. According to research, virtually all telephone companies in America are directed by a secret court to give their customer’s phone records to NSA. The constitutionality of such a directive has been debated in court, and support from President Barack Obama and Congress have led to the NSA Surveillance bill which aims to reform the programme.


2. NSA can request tech groups for user data. PRISM is an NSA programme that allows the agency to request user data from companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. At first, the tech companies denied knowing the protocol. But more recent actions show that the tech companies are fighting for government transparency.


3. NSA and their British counterpart tap Internet cables around the world. NSA and British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) are tapping Internet cables called optic fibres around the world to gather data. The NSA/GCHQ programme is called Tempora and works through collaborations with telecommunications giants.


4. NSA spies on foreign governments and their leaders. German newsweekly Der Spiegel revealed that NSA is spying on around 122 world leaders, including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, the French Foreign Ministry and leaders of the G8 and G20 countries.


Chancellor Merkel compared NSA spying of her phone calls to former East German secret police Stasi

Chancellor Merkel compared NSA spying of her phone calls to former East German secret police Stasi


5. NSA can spy on Internet users’ activities. In leaked NSA documents, a programme called XKeyscore was described as having the ‘widest-reaching’ system that can search ‘nearly everything a user does on the Internet.’


6. NSA hacks through Internet security codes. NSA has a series of techniques and tricks to decode encrypted communication. This is not only alarming because it can decode secret information. Undermining Internet security also opens secure networks to criminal hacking and espionage.


7. NSA infects the most secure systems with malware. NSA calls on an elite team of hackers called ‘Tailored Access Operations’ (TAO) that will use dirty tricks like malware infections to crack through the toughest security networks.


8. NSA infiltrates Google and Yahoo! data centres. Power Point presentations leaking ways to crack Google and Yahoo! data centres without them knowing have angered the tech companies. This led Google and Yahoo! to announce plans to strengthen their encryption systems versus infiltration.


6jun snowden leaks 2

Leaked Power Point slide showing how to crack Google’s data centre


9. NSA collects text messages worldwide. NSA doesn’t only rely on Internet data. They also intercept 200 million text messages worldwide every day through the programme Dishfire. NSA can also crack cellphone encryption to decode intercepted phone calls and texts.


10. NSA gets all phone calls in these countries. Through the programme MYSTIC, NSA gathers all phones calls made in the Bahamas and Afghanistan. Metadata from phone calls made in the Philippines, Mexico and Kenya are also collected by NSA.


One of Snowden’s recent revelations also suggested that NSA can eavesdrop on conversations through your mobile phone and can bug an iPhone even when turned off.








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