Archives September 17, 2014

Telstra’s data vacuum

“Australia’s leading telecommunications company, Telstra, has installed highly advanced surveillance systems to “vacuum” the telephone calls, texts, social media messages and internet metadata of millions of Australians so that information can be filtered and given to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The Australian government’s electronic espionage agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, is using the same technology to harvest data flows carried by undersea fibre-optic cables in and out of Australia.

Confidential documents obtained by Fairfax Media reveal the secret technology used to trawl Australians’ telecommunications and internet data for analysis by ASIO, the ASD and law enforcement agencies.

All Australian telecommunications and internet service providers by law must maintain interception and data-collection capabilities for government.

The leaked documents reveal that a little-known Melbourne-based company is a key provider of the secret monitoring technology.

Newgen Systems, owned and managed by local telecommunications engineer Robert Perin, is the sole Australian supplier for Gigamon, a large Silicon Valley-based information technology firm that specialises in what it terms “network traffic visibility solutions’’.

Gigamon’s hardware enables telecommunications and IT network administrators to track, inspect and analyse all data flows undetected without affecting the performance of networks.

A key application of the technology is interception of telecommunications and internet data.”

New datacentre for Australian spook agencies

“The Australian government has been building a state-of-the art, secret data storage facility just outside Canberra to enable intelligence agencies to deal with a ‘’data deluge’’ siphoned from the internet and global telecommunications networks.

The high-security facility nearing completion at the HMAS Harman communications base will support the operations of Australia’s signals intelligence agency, the top-secret Defence Signals Directorate.

Privately labelled by one Defence official as ‘’the new black vault’’, the data centre is one of the few visible manifestations of Australia’s deep involvement in mass surveillance and intelligence collection operations such as the US National Security Agency’s PRISM program revealed last week by US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Fairfax Media has confirmed Australian intelligence agencies receive what Defence intelligence officials describe as ‘’huge volumes’’ of ‘’immensely valuable’’ information derived from PRISM and other US signals intelligence collection programs.

Australian agencies assist the US to target foreign nationals and Australian citizens who are of security and intelligence interest to both countries.”

NSW Police and FinFisher spyware

“The New South Wales police have used sophisticated hacking software to monitor the phones and computers of Australians, according to documents published by WikiLeaks.

In a new cache published on Monday NSW police are listed as a client of Gamma International, a German company that develops powerful spyware to remotely monitor computer use.

The documents show that NSW police have used several of the company’s spy programs for a number of investigations at a cost of more than $2m.

The software – known as FinSpy – allows widespread access to computer records, including extracting files from hard drives, grabbing images of computer screens, full Skype monitoring, logging keystrokes and monitoring email and chat communications.

“When FinSpy is installed on a computer system it can be remotely controlled and accessed as soon as it is connected to the internet/network, no matter where in the world the target system is based,” earlier documentation published by WikiLeaks said.”

Australian spies in global deal to tap undersea cables

“The nation’s electronic espionage agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, is in a partnership with British, American and Singaporean intelligence agencies to tap undersea fibre optic telecommunications cables that link Asia, the Middle East and Europe and carry much of Australia’s international phone and internet traffic.

Secret information disclosed by United States intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed that the British Government Communications Headquarters is collecting all data transmitted to and from the United Kingdom and Northern Europe via the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable that runs from Japan, via Singapore, Djibouti, Suez and the Straits of Gibraltar to Northern Germany.

Australia is connected to SEA-ME-WE-3 by a link from Singapore to Perth, and GCHQ’s bulk interception includes much of Australia’s telecommunications and internet traffic with Europe.

Australian intelligence sources have also told Fairfax Media that Singaporean intelligence co-operates with Australia in accessing and sharing communications carried by the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable which lands at Tuas on the western side of Singapore Island.

Access to this major international telecommunications channel via Singapore’s government-owned operator SingTel and the country’s Defence Ministry has been a key element in an expansion of Australian-Singaporean intelligence and defence ties over the past 15 years.

It also underpinned the former Howard government’s approval of SingTel’s takeover of Australia’s second largest telecommunications company, Optus, in 2001.

Commissioned in 2000, the 39,000 kilometre long SEA-ME-WE-3 cable is owned by an international consortium that includes British Telecom, SingTel Optus, Telstra and other telecommunications companies across Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Telstra has an 80 per cent stake in the southern segment that covers the 5000 kilometres between Singapore and Western Australia.

The Australian Signals Directorate also accesses the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable traffic from the cable’s landing in Perth.

Australian intelligence expert and Australian National University professor Des Ball said that intelligence collection from fibre optic cables had become “extremely important” since the late 1990s because such communications channels now carry more than 95 per cent of long distance international telecommunications traffic.”