Thursday, August 8, 2013

Spying on Cyber Citizens, a foregone conclusion

The NSA PRISM revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden has blown the lid of one of the largest international surveillance operations of all times. The operation collects information called “metadata” which is an audit trail of all the online activities by cybercitizens.
Querying metadata can reveal the following online activity

1.    Email subject, recipient, message size, attachment name, time sent, senders email id and senders ip address

2.    Surf history such as website visited, time and number of visits

3.    Social network activity such as posts and comments

4.    Voip calls durations, destination number or id, and call time
Once a target has been identified, using the metadata it would be possible to conduct a detailed inspection into the targets email and other such content stored on web properties with interfaces to the PRISM system.

The collection and use of this information is not subject to authorization by courts and does not seem to be supervised in any way. Foreign citizen have no rights whatsoever as network traffic or content on foreign soil is considered to the property of that nation which legitamises the spying. This is the reason why the global optic fibre network is tapped at every country which has a landing point and the technology to do so.
Most at risk are journalists, politicians, businesses with global interests, businesses involved in competitive negotiation on global bids, bureaucrats and diplomats involved in policy negotiation.

From the revelations of the US PRISM network by the Guardian, it seems that either access to the network or its surveillance points are located at many sites outside the United States. It also proves the adage that in politics there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, as these surveillance networks spy more on friends than foe.There are many uses for surveillance networks, but history has shown that these are used primarily for economic and political reasons rather than than for national security.
All that Snowden have achieved is to make cyber citizens aware, but in no way has it resulted in the dismantling of the surveillance apparatus. Most countries actually prevent cyber citizens from using secure technologies leaving them wide open to surveillance by many governments and jeopardizing a nation’s economic interests.

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