Intercepting internet communication

Standard Internet messages are composed of packets called "datagrams". Datagrams include numbers representing both their origin and their destination, called "IP addresses". The addresses are unique to each computer connected to the Internet. They are inherently easy to identify as to country and site of origin and destination. Handling, sorting and routing millions of such packets each second is fundamental to the operation of major Internet centres. The same process facilitates extraction of traffic for communication intelligence gathering purposes.

The main method of filtering and analysing non-verbal traffic are called "dictionary computers" and utilise traditional information retrieval techniques, including keywords. Fast special purpose chips enable vast quantities of data to be processed in this way. The newest technique is "topic spotting".

At the present time, Internet browsers and other software used in almost every personal computer in Europe are deliberately disabled such that "secure" communications they send can, if collected, be read without difficulty by the US National Security Agency (NSA). US manufacturers are compelled to make these arrangements under US export rules.

The dramatic growth in the size and significance of the Internet and of related forms of digital communications has been argued by some to pose a challenge for intelligence agencies. This does not appear correct. During the 1980s, NSA and its UK and USA partners operated a larger international communications network than the then Internet but based on the same technology. According to its British partner "all GCHQ systems are linked together on the largest local area network (LAN) in Europe, which is connected to other sites around the world via one of the largest wide area networks (WANs) in the world. Its main networking protocol is Internet Protocol (IP). This global network, developed as project EMBROIDERY, includes PATHWAY, the NSA's main computer communications network. It provides fast, secure global communications for ECHELON and other systems.
1. A leading US Internet and telecommunications company had contracted with NSA to develop software to capture Internet data of interest, and that deals had been struck with the leading manufacturers Microsoft, Lotus, and Netscape to alter their products for foreign use.

2. The use of strong cryptography is slowly impinging on intelligence agencies' capabilities. This difficulty for these agencies has been offset by covert and overt activities which have subverted the effectiveness of cryptographic systems supplied from and/or used in Europe.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure