Courage our network

Edward Snowden reveals that NSA disconnected Syria from the internet by mistake

Wired has just published a new interview with Edward Snowden. James Bamford, known for path-breaking coverage of the NSA and the broader US intelligence community, spent “three solid days over several weeks” with the NSA whistleblower.” In a March 2012 article on the construction of the NSA’s Bluffdale Data Center, he alerted many to the sheer scale of the agency’s ambitions before documentary evidence was available to prove it.

The interview uncovers information about certain NSA activities for the first time. Edward Snowden reveals that, in 2012, a division of NSA hackers attempted to install malware in core infrastructure at one of Syria’s major ISPs and a mistake left the server entirely nonfunctional, taking the entire country off the internet. At the time, amid the country’s civil war, the outage was widely seen as a deliberate act of the Syrian government.

Wired also discloses, by way of Snowden, the existence of a new cyberwarfare program: MonsterMind. While Snowden worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, the tool was being developed to scan the enormous data flows passing through the data center for signs of foreign cyberattacks. Instead of just stopping such attacks entering the country, MonsterMind would automatically counterattack, without a human being needed to make the decision. In the interview, Edward Snowden identifies two key problems with the system: the likelihood of a mistargeted attack and the scale of the information connection that is required to make the system work:

These attacks can be spoofed… You could have someone in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?

And if we’re analysing all traffic flows, that means we have to be intercepting all traffic flows. That means violating the Fourth Amendment, seizing private communications without a warrant, without probable cause or even a suspicion of wrongdoing. For everyone, all the time.

Wired released a short video to accompany the interview – a transcript follows below

My name is Ed Snowden. I used to work for the government and now I work for the public.

Technology is the greatest equaliser in human history.

It allows us to try on new faces, join new communities, engage in new conversations and discover who we are and what we want to become.

Our generation is facing a time where governments around the world are questioning whether or not individuals can be trusted with the power of technology, if we can be left to our own devices and use it creatively rather than destructively.

And while I don’t know the answer to that question, what I do know is governments should not be the ones to decide: we should.

And what I did was not to benefit myself. I didn’t ask for money. I gave this information back to public hands. The reason I did that was not to gain a label but to give you back a choice about the country you want to live in.