09Feb, 2017

What Is XKeyscore And What Impact Does It Have?

A clear explanation of XKeyscore and its capabilities

Designed to search and analise the global internet data daily, XKeyscore (XKS), was an highly classified program implemented by the United State National Security Agency (NSA). Publically exposed by Edward Snowden in July 2013 as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald details informed of the sharing of the program with multiple international spy agencies. Some of these included Britain’s Government Communications, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment, the German Bundesnachrichtendienst, Australian Signals Directorate and the New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau German broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk (an ARD member) had the source code analysed by experts, in turn publishing excerpts on the XKeyscore code. More recently articles report on ‘flags’ set by user metrics marking ethnicity, race, sex and geolocation.

What Are XKeyscore Capabilities?

Written by multiple writers the actual capabilities of XKeyscore are open to interpretation, this is further added to due to the programs immense complexity. The NSA claims usage of the XKeyscore system remains somewhat restricted, however, Edward Snowden along with Glenn Greenwald, explain XKeyscore’s capabilities extend to the ability to access world-wide, unlimited surveillance on anyone, anywhere. Marc Ambinder the National Security Reporter at the Washington Post reported XKeyscore to be a sequence of interfaces, servers and backend databases acting as a data-retrieval system, accessing data and metadata obtained otherwise.

According To The Reports Late January 2016 Ed Snowden participated in a TV interview conducted by Norddeutscher Rundfunk, in response to direct questioning the following statements were made:

“This access provided for extended access of any website, all traffic, any computer activity is accessible, including that of the extensions and location tracking.”

“Fingerprints may be created by NSA. Achieved simply by tagging an individual, all network activity is tracked including friend associations. You location or security status will not prevent this intrusion.”

Snowden went on to say that the listening and reading of saved data was possible, and more specifically alarms to future activity and IP connections the user makes.

NSA Response

In swift retort to Snowden claims, the NSA defended XKeyscore as a lawful surveillance of foreign intelligence, stating that the need to protect the nation and its defenses drives an extended need for foreign data collection. Further assurances were offered that the XKeyscore system access provided security in that a triple layer system teamed with allowance of only those with job compliance the necessity to gain access. Moreover, these access systems required both stringency and compliance on many levels and each analyst is restricted in their personal abilities.

Conclusion XKeyscore is apathetic in it’s calculations, rather signalling other programs that are able to more freely and actively seek user information. Undoubtedly providing the largest scope of internet traffic scanning and collection, XKeyscore is an album of Internet User History.

What Does This Mean For You? We should all have a right to receive and expect privacy. All precautions possible should be taken in order to retain or gain your security. A plan toward a secure and private internet should be welcomed, encouraged and supported.

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