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NSA Spying on Europe/Asia SEA-ME-WE-4 Undersea Telecom Cables

In Archive, Hacking, NSA, NSA Files, Surveillance, TAO on December 30, 2013 at 2:25 AM




It is in no way true to say that the NSA has its sights set exclusively on select individuals. Of even greater interest are entire networks and network providers, such as the fiber optic cables that direct a large share of global Internet traffic along the world’s ocean floors.

One document labeled “top secret” and “not for foreigners” describes the NSA’s success in spying on the “SEA-ME-WE-4” cable system. This massive underwater cable bundle connects Europe with North Africa and the Gulf states and then continues on through Pakistan and India, all the way to Malaysia and Thailand. The cable system originates in southern France, near Marseille. Among the companies that hold ownership stakes in it are France Telecom, now known as Orange and still partly government-owned, and Telecom Italia Sparkle.

The document proudly announces that, on Feb. 13, 2013, TAO “successfully collected network management information for the SEA-Me-We Undersea Cable Systems (SMW-4).” With the help of a “website masquerade operation,” the agency was able to “gain access to the consortium’s management website and collected Layer 2 network information that shows the circuit mapping for significant portions of the network.”

It appears the government hackers succeeded here once again using the QUANTUMINSERT method.

The document states that the TAO team hacked an internal website of the operator consortium and copied documents stored there pertaining to technical infrastructure. But that was only the first step. “More operations are planned in the future to collect more information about this and other cable systems,” it continues.

UPDATE: Orange to Take Legal Action After Report of Spying via Its Cable


NSA document: “20 major accesses” to undersea cables worldwide

Related Links:

US Hacked Pacnet, Asia Pacific Fibre-Optic Network Operator, in 2009

NSA Asked Japan for Help Tapping Asia-Pacific Fiber-Optic Cables in 2011, Request Denied

Glimmerglass Intercepts Undersea Cable Traffic for Spy Agencies / NSA Contracts with Glimmerglass Networks

The Creepy, Long-Standing Practice of Undersea Cable Tapping

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