I was interested in this story about how some major communications companies are shocked that the NSA tapped into their networks via the cables. Companies like Google and Yahoo say that the NSA got entry into its data systems without their knowledge.
People knowledgeable about Google and Yahoo’s infrastructure say they believe that government spies bypassed the big Internet companies and hit them at a weak spot — the fiber-optic cables that connect data centers around the world and are owned by companies like Verizon Communications, the BT Group, the Vodafone Group and Level 3 Communications. In particular, fingers have been pointed at Level 3, the world’s largest so-called Internet backbone provider, whose cables are used by Google and Yahoo.
The Internet companies’ data centers are locked down with full-time security and state-of-the-art surveillance, including heat sensors and iris scanners. But between the data centers — on Level 3’s fiber-optic cables that connected those massive computer farms — information was unencrypted and an easier target for government intercept efforts, according to three people with knowledge of Google’s and Yahoo’s systems who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
It is impossible to say for certain how the N.S.A. managed to get Google and Yahoo’s data without the companies’ knowledge. But both companies, in response to concerns over those vulnerabilities, recently said they were now encrypting data that runs on the cables between their data centers. Microsoft is considering a similar move.
“Everyone was so focused on the N.S.A. secretly getting access to the front door that there was an assumption they weren’t going behind the companies’ backs and tapping data through the back door, too,” said Kevin Werbach, an associate professor at the Wharton School.
Microsoft also claims to be stepping up its encryption in the light of these revelations.
There is good reason to be skeptical of these companies’ claims to innocence. They like to give the impression of being custodians of their customers’ privacy while at the same time are dependent on the government for many benefits and they may be playing both sides of the net.
I do not have the expertise to judge if what they say is true but being the skeptic I am, I always find it safe to assume, unless convinced otherwise, that government and big business are colluding against ordinary people,. History is on my side on this one.