Skip to main content

Codename KARMA POLICE: British spies track web users’ online identities

KARMA POLICE is also the name of a popular song released in 1997 by the Grammy Award-winning British band Radiohead, suggesting the spies may have been fans. A verse repeated throughout the hit song includes the lyric, “This is what you’ll get, when you mess with us.”

Key parts:

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people’s online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs. The mass surveillance operation — code-named KARMA POLICE — was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom’s electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

As of 2012, GCHQ was storing about 50 billion metadata records about online communications and Web browsing activity every day, with plans in place to boost capacity to 100 billion daily by the end of that year. The agency, under cover of secrecy, was working to create what it said would soon be the biggest government surveillance system anywhere in the world.

The power of KARMA POLICE was illustrated in 2009, when GCHQ launched a top-secret operation to collect intelligence about people using the Internet to listen to radio shows. The agency used a sample of nearly 7 million metadata records, gathered over a period of three months, to observe the listening habits of more than 200,000 people across 185 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Spain, the Netherlands, France, and Germany.

A summary report detailing the operation shows that one aim of the project was to research “potential misuse” of Internet radio stations to spread radical Islamic ideas. GCHQ spies from a unit known as the Network Analysis Center compiled a list of the most popular stations that they had identified, most of which had no association with Islam, like France-based Hotmix Radio, which plays pop, rock, funk and hip-hop music.

GCHQ’s documents indicate that the plans for KARMA POLICE were drawn up between 2007 and 2008. The system was designed to provide the agency with “either (a) a web browsing profile for every visible user on the Internet, or (b) a user profile for every visible website on the Internet.” The origin of the surveillance system’s name is not discussed in the documents. But KARMA POLICE is also the name of a popular song released in 1997 by the Grammy Award-winning British band Radiohead, suggesting the spies may have been fans. A verse repeated throughout the hit song includes the lyric, “This is what you’ll get, when you mess with us.”

GCHQ vacuums up the website browsing histories using 'probes' that tap into the international fiber-optic cables that transport Internet traffic across the world.

... data collected by GCHQ as part of bulk “unselected” surveillance, meaning it is not focused on particular “selected” targets and instead includes troves of data indiscriminately swept up about ordinary citizens’ online activities. Between August 2007 and March 2009, GCHQ documents say that Black Hole [a massive repository] was used to store more than 1.1 trillion “events” — a term the agency uses to refer to metadata records — with about 10 billion new entries added every day.

As of March 2009, the largest slice of data Black Hole held — 41 percent — was about people’s Internet browsing histories. The rest included a combination of email and instant messenger records, details about search engine queries, information about social media activity, logs related to hacking operations, and data on people’s use of tools to browse the Internet anonymously. Throughout this period, as smartphone sales started to boom, the frequency of people’s Internet use was steadily increasing. In tandem, British spies were working frantically to bolster their spying capabilities, with plans afoot to expand the size of Black Hole and other repositories to handle an avalanche of new data.

By 2010, according to the documents, GCHQ was logging 30 billion metadata records per day. By 2012, collection had increased to 50 billion per day, and work was underway to double capacity to 100 billion. The agency was developing “unprecedented” techniques to perform what it called “population-scale” data mining, monitoring all communications across entire countries in an effort to detect patterns or behaviors deemed suspicious. It was creating what it said would be, by 2013, “the world’s biggest” surveillance engine “to run cyber operations and to access better, more valued data for customers to make a real world difference.”

In isolation, IPs would not be of much value to GCHQ, because they are just a series of numbers — like 195.92.47.101 — and are not attached to a name. But when paired with other data they become a rich source of personal information. To find out the identity of a person or persons behind an IP address, GCHQ analysts can enter the series of numbers into a separate system named MUTANT BROTH, which is used to sift through data contained in the Black Hole repository about vast amounts of tiny intercepted files known as cookies.

When you visit or log into a website, a cookie is usually stored on your computer so that the site recognizes you. It can contain your username or email address, your IP address, and even details about your login password and the kind of Internet browser you are using — like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. For GCHQ, this information is incredibly valuable. The agency refers to cookies internally as “target detection identifiers” or “presence events” because of how they help it monitor people’s Internet use and uncover online identities.

A top-secret GCHQ document from March 2009 reveals the agency has targeted a range of popular websites as part of an effort to covertly collect cookies on a massive scale. It shows a sample search in which the agency was extracting data from cookies containing information about people’s visits to the adult website YouPorn, search engines Yahoo and Google, and the Reuters news website. Other websites listed as “sources” of cookies in the 2009 document (see below) are Hotmail, YouTube, Facebook, Reddit, WordPress, Amazon, and news sites operated by CNN, BBC, and Channel 4 News.

In one six-month period between December 2007 and June 2008, the document says, more than 18 billion records from cookies and other similar identifiers were accessible through MUTANT BROTH.

The agency operates a bewildering array of other eavesdropping systems, each serving its own specific purpose and designated a unique code name, such as: SOCIAL ANTHROPOID, which is used to analyze metadata on emails, instant messenger chats, social media connections and conversations, plus “telephony” metadata about phone calls, cell phone locations, text and multimedia messages; MEMORY HOLE, which logs queries entered into search engines and associates each search with an IP address; MARBLED GECKO, which sifts through details about searches people have entered into Google Maps and Google Earth; and INFINITE MONKEYS, which analyzes data about the usage of online bulletin boards and forums.

GCHQ has other programs that it uses to analyze the content of intercepted communications, such as the full written body of emails and the audio of phone calls. One of the most important content collection capabilities is TEMPORA, which mines vast amounts of emails, instant messages, voice calls and other communications and makes them accessible through a Google-style search tool named XKEYSCORE. As of September 2012, TEMPORA was collecting “more than 40 billion pieces of content a day” and it was being used to spy on people across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, according to a top-secret memo outlining the scope of the program. The existence of TEMPORA was first revealed by The Guardian in June 2013.

In 2010, GCHQ noted that what amounted to “25 percent of all Internet traffic” was transiting the U.K. through some 1,600 different cables. The agency said that it could “survey the majority of the 1,600” and “select the most valuable to switch into our processing systems.” Many of the cables flow deep under the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. East Coast, landing on the white-sand beaches of Cornwall in the southwest of England. Others transport data between the U.K. and countries including France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway by crossing below the North Sea and coming aground at various locations on England’s east coast.

A little-known loophole in the law allows GCHQ to use external warrants to collect and analyze bulk metadata about the emails, phone calls, and Internet browsing activities of British people, citizens of closely allied countries, and others, regardless of whether the data is derived from domestic U.K. to U.K. communications and browsing sessions or otherwise.

Intelligence GCHQ collects on British persons of interest is shared with domestic security agency MI5, which usually takes the lead on spying operations within the U.K. MI5 conducts its own extensive domestic surveillance as part of a program called DIGINT (digital intelligence).

In isolation, a single metadata record of a phone call, email, or website visit may not reveal much about a person’s private life, according to Ethan Zuckerman, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Civic Media. But if accumulated and analyzed over a period of weeks or months, these details would be “extremely personal,” he told The Intercept, because they could reveal a person’s movements, habits, religious beliefs, political views, relationships, and even sexual preferences.

... 10 percent of the agency’s “targeting” of individuals for surveillance is audited annually and a random selection of metadata searches are audited every six months.

The spread of encryption … threatens our ability to do effective target discovery/development,” says a top-secret report co-authored by an official from the British agency and an NSA employee in 2011. “Pertinent metadata events will be locked within the encrypted channels and difficult, if not impossible, to prise out,” the report says, adding that the agencies were working on a plan that would “(hopefully) allow our Internet Exploitation strategy to prevail.”

Full report, documents, maps:


Read also:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Greece is about to become the blueprint for modern feudalism

globinfo freexchange
After almost ten years of an unprecedented crisis, Greece has been trapped into an ongoing, slow motion recession. The economy still struggling hard to recover, with unemployment and national debt being permanently in a red alarm mode.
As has been already pointed out, the result of the recent Greek national elections could be characterized "paradoxical" mainly for two reasons: 
First, the voters gave a clear governmental order to one of the traditional powers of the old political system, which are highly responsible for the Greek crisis that erupted in 2010. Several top names of the new government, and even New Democracy leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, have been accused of being involved in various corruption scandals, in the not so distant past.

Second, the fact that the voters elected perhaps the most fanatically neoliberal government ever. This means that Mitsotakis administration is expected to implement the brutal neoliberal policies imposed by Greece&…

How Joe Biden’s privatization plans helped doom Latin America and fuel the migration crisis

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden has boasted of his role in transforming Colombia and Central America through ambitious economic and security programs. Colombians and Hondurans tell The Grayzone about the damage his plans did to their societies.
by Max Blumenthal
Part 8 - Gutting public healthcare, driving more migration
The Alliance for Prosperity also commissioned the privatization of health services through a deceptively named program called the Social Protection Framework Law, or la Ley Marco de Protección Social.

Promoted by Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández as a needed reform, the scheme was advanced through a classic shock doctrine-style episode: In 2015, close associates of Hernández siphoned some $300 million from the Honduran Institute for Social Services (IHSS) into private businesses, starving hospitals of supplies and causing several thousand excess deaths, mostly among the poor.
With the medical sector in shambles, Hondurans were then forced to seek healthcare from …

As Boris Johnson unleashes ultimate threat against Bremain capitalist faction, the British working class is suddenly in front of a unique opportunity

globinfo freexchange

In the merciless endo-capitalist war around Brexit, Boris Johnson decided to unleash the ultimate threat against Bremain capitalist faction. That is, a snap election with the 'danger' of a Labour victory under Jeremy Corbyn, which would be neoliberal capitalists' worst nightmare.
As already pointed out, despite the capitalist civil war, both major factions of the British capital remain deeply neoliberal in their ideological core. And therefore, both factions see a potential Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn, as a major threat.
Indeed, as ZeroHedgereported
As Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces the prospect of his rule being cut short, wealthy Britons have a message for Johnson's most likely successor: A 'no deal' Brexit makes no difference to them. But if Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn becomes PM, they will flee in droves, taking their money with them

[...]

The chairman of one Swiss asset manager who helps wealthy Britons shield th…

Tucker Carlson accidentally promotes one of the most anti-capitalist, real-Left positions!

globinfo freexchange 
We wouldn't believe it if we wouldn't have seen it and hear it with our own eyes and ears, but the following phrase came out from Tucker Carlson's mouth:

                    Every minute you are angry about race, is a minute you are not thinking about class, which, of course, is the real divide in this country. Working class people of all colors have a lot more in common - infinitely more in common with each other, than they do with some overpaid MSNBC anchor. And if you are allowed to think about that for long enough, you might start get unauthorized ideas about economics. And that would be disruptive to a very lucrative status quo. So, they whip you into a frenzy of racial fear so that it never enters your mind. It's a diversion. Everyone hates each other, they get to keep their money.
Here's why they're pushing racial division: so you won't notice the real divide, which is economic. pic.twitter.com/ZVLvQn2u9O — Tucker Carlson (@Tuck…

Roger Waters for Julian Assange

globinfo freexchange
On Monday, 3 Sept, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd will perform his classic 'Wish You Here' for Julian Assange outside the Home Office (interior ministry) in Marsham Street in the heart of London. John Pilger will be speaking. Join us at 6pm in solidarity with Britain's political prisoner.

On Monday, 3 Sept, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd will perform his classic 'Wish You Here' for Julian #Assange outside the Home Office (interior ministry) in Marsham Street in the heart of London. I will be speaking. Join us at 6pm in solidarity with Britain's political prisoner. pic.twitter.com/Lytg2GCZVQ — John Pilger (@johnpilger) August 30, 2019


Καταιγίδα επιχειρήσεων αποπροσανατολισμού από το Μητσοτακικό καθεστώς με τη βοήθεια της τραπεζομιντιακής χούντας

globinfo freexchange

Ο μηχανισμός του εγχώριου νεοφιλελεύθερου καθεστώτος επιδόθηκε τις τελευταίες μέρες σε έναν καταιγισμό επιχειρήσεων αποπροσανατολισμού προς τέρψιν του πόπολου, το οποίο έδωσε αυτοδυναμία στην πολιτική του συνιστώσα. Δηλαδή, στη χειρότερη δεξιά της μεταπολίτευσης.
Μετά το ταξίδι Μητσοτάκη στη Γαλλία, όπου είδαμε ένα χιλιοπαιγμένο έργο, το σόου του αποπροσανατολισμού ξεκίνησε από το Μάτι. Εκεί είχαμε ένα διπλό χτύπημα. Από τη μια τον Μητσοτάκη να ποζάρει στα καμμένα, διατυμπανίζοντας τη δήθεν αποτελεσματική του κυβέρνηση. Από την άλλη, την διαφήμιση των "καλών ιδιωτών", οι οποίοι ως καλοί Σαμαρείτες, ανέλαβαν δήθεν αφιλοκερδώς (Αφιλοκερδώς ΑΕ, όπως έλεγε και ο αξέχαστος Τζιμάκος), να καθαρίσουν την περιοχή από την επικίνδυνη καύσιμη ύλη.
Αμέσως μετά, απολαύσαμε άλλη μια κωμωδία από τις δυνάμεις καταστολής που έκαναν έφοδο στα Εξάρχεια για να τα "καθαρίσουν" από τους μετανάστες. Οι νεοφιλέλεδες της δεξιάς και τα ακροδεξιά δεκανίκια τους είναι μανο…

Citibank blocks funds for insulin: more than 450,000 Venezuelans affected

The US bank Citibank blocked, in August this year, part of the funds destined to import 300 thousand doses of insulin, a criminal act that affects more than 450 thousand patients, the Venezuelan Ministry of Economy and Finance reported.

On the other hand, the BSN Medical laboratory, based in Colombia, after receiving payment for the purchase of 2 million units of antimalarial treatment, denied the clearance of the drugs.
The ministry indicated that this fact caused the Swiss bank UBS AG to block the transactions made by the country with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), destined for the purchase of vaccines for the immunization program.
Given this circumstance, Venezuela and PAHO sought alternatives with banks from other countries, although this situation led to a 4 month delay in the immunization program.

The national government also revealed that other pharmaceutical transnationals such as Pfizer and Novartis refuse to sell medicines, reagents and supplies to Venezuela.
F…

The untold Socialist history of the United States

globinfo freexchange

Abby Martin spoke with renowned Marxist Economist Richard Wolff to discuss the growing popularity of Socialism under Trump and its historical roots in America, misconceptions about Russia and China’s economic success and Marx’s theory of alienation and monopoly capitalism.

Wolff explains:

A hundred years ago, 1916 to be precise, was the first time that the Socialist Party of America put forward a candidate for president. His name was Allan Benson and he ran for president a hundred years ago and he got 600,000 votes in the United States. That worked out to three percent of the vote.
The Socialist Party thought that was a good beginning, so they ran again four years later, in 1920, little less than a hundred years ago, and they had a different candidate. A man named Eugene Victor Debs, a head of the railway Workers Union, very good orator. And he did better. He got 900,000 votes. That's a 50% increase in four years, four percent of the total vote.
Four yea…

US sanctions on Venezuela are 'sociopathic'

The Grayzone
The Grayzone's Max Blumenthal discusses his heated exchange with a former Obama official and a member of Venezuela's far-right opposition over the basis for crippling US sanctions on Venezuela. Max also recounts his recent reporting trip to Venezuela, where he witnessed the impact of US economic warfare and the Venezuelan people's defiant resistance. 

Ο πραγματικός λόγος που ο Μπόρις Τζόνσον πιέζει για Brexit χωρίς συμφωνία

globinfo freexchange

Το Βρετανικό πολιτικό τοπίο μοιάζει να γίνεται όλο και πιο χαοτικό όσο πλησιάζουμε την 31η Οκτωβρίου, ημερομηνία-τελεσίγραφο που έχει ορίσει ο τωρινός Βρετανός πρωθυπουργός, Μπόρις Τζόνσον, ο οποίος μάλιστα απειλεί με ένα Brexit χωρίς συμφωνία. Ολόκληρη η χώρα φαίνεται να βρίσκεται υπό το καθεστώς μιας γενικής νευρικής κρίσης, με τα διάφορα στρατόπεδα υπέρ και κατά του Brexix, το καθένα για τους δικούς του λόγους, να έχουν λάβει θέσεις μάχης σε μια "όλοι εναντίον όλων" κατάσταση. 
Όπως ανέφερε η Εφημερίδα των Συντακτών:  
«Στις Βρυξέλλες και στο Λονδίνο ένα ερώτημα ακούγεται όλο και πιο δυνατά: Mπορεί να αναχαιτιστεί ο Μπόρις Τζόνσον;»… Καυτή και εύλογη η απορία που μετέφερε χθες το πρακτορείο Associated Press, καθώς εντείνεται ραγδαία η ανησυχία και στις δύο πλευρές της Μάγχης πως ο νέος, σκληροπυρηνικός μπρεξιστής, πρωθυπουργός του Ηνωμένου Βασιλείου όχι μόνο δεν μπλοφάρει επιμένοντας πως θα βγάλει τη χώρα από την Ε.Ε. στις 31 Οκτωβρίου με ή χωρ…