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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Tor

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.

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