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MDSchafer
07-08-2014, 05:47 AM
So, I was wondering if someone could explain to me what the NSA could gather about people they deem terrorists. Obviously I think the'd have access to your web-based email, social networks and forums posts like this, but what could they access information loaded to cloud storage sites like DropBox and google drive?

Also, is it possible to scan phone conversations for a significant metro area and filter out the voice that you're looking for?

C.bronco
07-08-2014, 05:52 AM
I am sure all of this. Also, living close to an army base with helicopters roaming, they can tell when you're home and how many are in your house, including shapes and sizes, with infrared.

Telergic
07-08-2014, 07:53 AM
There is an extensive series of articles from the Guardian and the Washington Post explaining NSA capabilities. Bruce Schneier's blog (go back to the period of the Snowden revelations) is also useful if you know enough about computers already, which I suspect from your question you don't.

The short answer is when the NSA really wants to target someone they can get an enormous amount of information.

Techniques include:

altering the target's hardware -- a computer the target orders from Dell or Lenovo or whoever will be physically intercepted en-route or even at the factory depot and a bug installed

using zero-day software attacks on the target's equipment to install trojan horses and keystroke readers and the like

using more or less legitimate means (secret subpoenas and national security letters and coerced cooperation) to convince Internet service providers and telecom and backbone providers to record the target's activity

using completely illegitimate means (hacking and intrusion) on foreign service providers

compromising both commercial and open source encryption software


... using all these techniques, they can gather almost every bit and byte an unwitting target may communicate. A target would have to be both supremely tech savvy (or have the support of a skillful and dedicated IT organization) and take extraordinary measures (constantly ditching and swapping out stolen phones, never using the same computer twice, etc) to have a prayer of evading their scrutiny.


Edit: oh yeah, I think it's at the limit of current tech to analyze voice conversations and use a "voiceprint" to ID a speaker over an entire metro area. It's probably impossible to do in real-time over such a large area due to the physical layout of the networks. It would be a very expensive effort, too, involving phone company cooperation if it was at all possible. It could also be easily defeated if the speaker uses a voice-scrambler, including one of those cheap toy voice-changers. But for analyzing the streams coming from a particular small set of phone lines or mobiles, as opposed to an entire metro area, it would be much easier to do, though.

ClareGreen
07-08-2014, 10:10 AM
So, I was wondering if someone could explain to me what the NSA could gather about people they deem terrorists. Obviously I think the'd have access to your web-based email, social networks and forums posts like this, but what could they access information loaded to cloud storage sites like DropBox and google drive?

Yes. Assume they can get to everything.


Also, is it possible to scan phone conversations for a significant metro area and filter out the voice that you're looking for?

No. Technically possible, but no-one has that much processing power - and you'd be getting constant false positives because there are people who sound the same, and false negatives if voice distortion was used. However, anyone scanning phone conversations for a significant metro area for a specific person is attacking the problem from the wrong end, for now at least - easier to bug the person, wiretap their phones and intercept their mobile comms than monitor what has to be terabytes of data per second.

MDSchafer
07-08-2014, 06:59 PM
Thanks, and does Homeland Security have their own tactical assets, or would they use the FBI, private contractors or something else.

ironmikezero
07-08-2014, 08:08 PM
How do you mean "tactical assets"? See the link...

http://www.dhs.gov/department-components

Be aware that you may be treading into classified territory...