A newly unearthed NSA program known as ‘Muscular’ is able to tap into the main communications links that connect Google and Yahoo data centers worldwide. The project is said to be operated jointly by the NSA and their British counterpart, GCHQ, according to documents supplied to the Washington Post by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
One document dated January 9, 2013, reveals the agency captures millions of records from the two search giants each day and sends them to NSA data warehouses. In one 30 day period, more than 180 million records were collected which includes metadata, text communications, audio and video.
The NSA doesn’t keep everything they collect but they do keep a lot, the Post said.
Both companies maintain multiple data centers around the world and for the sake of redundancy, data from one center is routinely sent to another data center. This, for example, would help keep services running in the event of a power outage or similar incident at any one data center. And while data centers themselves are reportedly kept under heavy security, it’s the fiber links between the centers that is allegedly the weak point in the chain where the NSA leeches data from.
Google said they were troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between their data centers and they are not aware of such activity. A spokesperson for Yahoo told the publication they have strict controls in place to protect the security of their data centers and they have not given the NSA or anyone else access to their data centers. Perhaps Yahoo doesn’t fully understand the scope of what’s going on here?
NSA director, General Keith Alexander, refuted the allegations in an published interview with Bloomberg. Alexander said the NSA doesn’t have access to Google servers or Yahoo servers, which may be true, but he didn’t specifically address the question of whether or not they have access to the communications links between them. Did he speak with carefully chosen phrases or is he flat out denying these latest allegations?