A NEW CACHE of Edward Snowden documents have revealed that the NSA was actively monitoring file-sharing networks more than 12 years ago.
According to a report at The Intercept, the NSA formed a research group dedicated to studying peer-to-peer internet traffic, via apps including LimeWire, eDonkey, Kazaa and BitTorrent, to see if it could find valuable intelligence by monitoring such activity.
"One question that naturally arises after identifying file-sharing traffic is whether or not there is anything of intelligence value in this traffic," the NSA document begins.
"By searching our collection databases, it is clear that many targets are using popular file sharing applications; but if they are merely sharing the latest release of their favourite pop star, this traffic is of dubious value (no offence to Britney Spears intended)."
The document goes onto reveal that the NSA successfully cracked the encryption of at least two of these file-sharing sites - Kazaa and eDonkey - which gave it access to users' email addresses, country codes, names, the location of the downloaded files and a list of recent searches."
"We have developed the capability to decrypt and decode both Kazaa and eDonkey traffic to determine which files are being shared, and what queries are being performed," the researcher wrote.
This also the NSA the ability to look deeper into user behaviour, which lead to the discovery that some were using P2P systems to share files that weren't "simply harmless music and movie files."
"With more widespread adoption, these tools will allow us to regularly assimilate data which previously had been passed over; giving us a more complete picture of our targets and their activities," the document adds.
As noted by The Intercept, Kazaa shut down in 2012, but the eDonkey network - although not as popular as it once was - is still active, and still uses "the same vulnerable encryption it did in 2004."
A representative of the eMule developer team told the website: "There is no doubt the NSA could spy on the traffic if they wanted to," adding that "preventing this was not the aim of the protocol encryption (and not much of an issue back then in the old days when this feature was coded)."
The newly-surfaced document reveals that the NSA, along with the UK's GCHQ, went on to hack BitTorrent and other torrent sites. In one case, the GCHQ shared information about a pedophile ring with London's Met police and could search out users sharing files with "jihad" in the filename on eMule, in another instance.
A GCHQ spokesperson said to The Intercept: "All of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary, and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office (IPCO), and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.
"All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK's interception regime is entirely compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights." µ
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