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Use Linux or Tor? The NSA might just be tracking you



In a post-Wikileaks, post-Snowden world, online security and privacy have become primary concerns for many internet users.

But it seems those intent on keeping pesky government agencies out of their online business may well be shooting themselves in the virtual foot.

As documents related to the XKeyscore snooping program reveal, the US's National Security Agency has started focusing its snooping efforts on Linux Journal readers, Tails Linux, and Tor users.

The XKeyscore program itself is a surveillance program concerned with collection and analysis of data, and was revealed as part of Edward Snowden's recent surveillance disclosures.

As TechSpot India reports, the program's source code has been analysed by members of the Tor project and security specialists for German broadcasters NDR and WDR.

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The analysis revealed two German Tor Directory Authority servers as being under NSA surveillance, as well as several specific IP addresses of the Tor Directory Authority.

Tor, based on the acronym The Onion Router, is free software that directs internet traffic through a network of worldwide relays to hide a user's true location.

The ARD report on the NSA's activities revealed that "Merely searching the web for the privacy-enhancing software tools outlined in the XKeyscore rules causes the NSA to mark and track the IP address of the person doing the search.

"Not only are German privacy software users tracked, but the source code shows that privacy software users worldwide are tracked by the NSA."

What's more, the report highlights the agency's focus on readers of the Linux Journal, which it's claimed the NSA deems an "extremist forum".

XKeyscore is also explained as being based on a series of 'rules', specifically directed at the infrastructure and the users of the Tor Network, the Tails operating system, and other privacy-related software.

Tails Linux is a 'live' operating system aimed at preserving privacy, which can be loaded onto any computer using a DVD, USB stick, or SD card.

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NDR and WDR contacted the NSA about their report, with the agency providing a response in which it claimed it "collects only what it is authorized by law to collect for valid foreign intelligence purposes - regardless of the technical means used by foreign intelligence targets.

The agency goes on to write: "XKeyscore is an analytic tool that is used as a part of NSA's lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system. Such tools have stringent oversight and compliance mechanisms built in at several levels.

"...All of NSA's operations are conducted in strict accordance with the rule of law, including the President's new directive."

The full response can be read in full here

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Got any thoughts on the latest NSA revelations? Let us know in the comments.


July 8, 2016, 12:37 pm

None of this is to say that they do not also collect everything else that goes by more mundane channels. So you are not "shooting yourself in the foot".


July 8, 2016, 6:02 pm

The rules of Law in the united states indicate that any government agency can do anything they like to a non-american , and good luck contacting your local congressman and filing a complaint because you don't have one. (Julian Assange of wikileaks fame would be the prime example)

they have essentially declared cyber-war on every non american on the planet.

So...what are you going to do about it ?

Peter J

July 10, 2016, 4:34 pm

The NSA has declared war on every citizen on the planet. Even if you are a US citizen they scoff at you. What they're doing by targeting Linux Journal readers is a crime. It's nothing short of a crime against free thought and expression.
What can I, or you, do about it? Nothing. But if the Linux Foundation had any worth (outside of licking corporate balls), and if Torvalds wasn't bending over backwards for the alphabet agenices (has to protect his paid position at Transmeta, you know...), maybe they could. But silence from the Linux camp. Fuck this.


July 10, 2016, 7:00 pm

So what do you suggest Pete? You leaving Linux? If so, to what?

Peter J

July 10, 2016, 11:44 pm

This goes well beyond my choice of OS: it's an attack on our individual freedoms regardless of if you use TOR or not, regardless of whether you use Linux, Windows, or even own a computer at all. Just sayin' that because it was the Linux Journal forum targeted I found it disappointing to see nothing being done, no pulling together of the 'Linux community' (too busy doing the important stuff, like bashing Ubuntu, I suppose).
I read about LJ getting targeted by the NSA about two years ago, and there have been strong rumours about TOR being compromised in some way for a while. These new developments confirm the earlier reports on LJ and all but prove the latter. It's a very sad state of affairs that obnoxious Linux fans and those who are sincerely concerned about their online privacy are now considered "extremists" by spy agencies. (I wonder how much worse the others could be?) I am not kidding you when I say I'm afraid of what kind of world is right around the corner.
For me, I'll stick with my mix of Linux and Windows and just assume every bit of crapware out there has been compromised either inadvertently or by design. But even non-computer people need to look at this and bring about some kind of change. One or two complaintants can't change anything. Choosing another OS (pick one) won't change a thing, either.


July 11, 2016, 3:02 pm

The answer to "what are we gonna do about it" (nsa spying on everyone and refusing to stop) ...

Throw dirt in the online profile they're trying to build on you.
"www dot ruinmysearchhistory dot com" would be a good example
befriend some people you don't like or agree with , opposite religion , opposite politics, whatever, just to confuse them.
register for new letters in stuf fyou hate, knitting , homosexuality (if you're straight) etc etc , just to make sure everything in the profile is wrong, rendering it worthless.

if 10% of the population can get on do not fly lists and watch lists, that's too many to deal with , those lists will be discarded.

G Zierl

July 16, 2016, 10:30 am

may I assume that if I draw curtains across my windows at night, I am likely to have the NSA/GCHQ install surveillance equipment to monitor my 'suspicious' activity in doing so?

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