Traffic analysis and the war on drugs

16 December 2007

A fascinating article was published on the New York Times:

Wider Spying Fuels Aid Plan for Telecom Industry by Eric Lichtblau, James Risen and Scott Shane (16 Dec 2007)

Amonst other things it describes how telcos have been collaborating since the 90s with the US goverment to provide inteligence in the “war on drugs”. Some traffic analysis related snippets:

“In the drug-trafficking operation, the N.S.A. has been helping the Drug Enforcement Administration in collecting the phone records showing patterns of calls between the United States, Latin America and other drug-producing regions. The program dates to the 1990s, according to several government officials, but it appears to have expanded in recent years.”

 Another interesting passage relates to the economics of attack vs defence in computer security: if the govenment seeks to achieve security through surveillance, then it has to promote vulnerabilities in the infrastructure:

“The same lawsuit accuses Verizon of setting up a dedicated fiber optic line from New Jersey to Quantico, Va., home to a large military base, allowing government officials to gain access to all communications flowing through the carrier’s operations center. In an interview, a former consultant who worked on internal security said he had tried numerous times to install safeguards on the line to prevent hacking on the system, as he was doing for other lines at the operations center, but his ideas were rejected by a senior security official.”

Similar mechanics might have led to the greek interception scandal.


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