Der Spiegel details Treasure Map, the NSA's "Google Earth for global data traffic"
The National Security Agency and its British counterpart, GCHQ, have access to information stored by German telecoms and the devices connected to them, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden to the German publication Der Spiegel.
The access was gained as part of a program, Treasure Map, meant to create an "interactive map of the global Internet" in "near real-time." In its report, Spiegel explains the scope of the program and what agency employees can do with it:
Employees of the so-called "FiveEyes" intelligence agencies from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which cooperate closely with the American agency NSA, can install and use the program on their own computers. One can imagine it as a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird's eye view of the planet's digital arteries.Creating that map requires access not only to the information on telecoms' databases, but also information contained on the devices connected to those networks, including individual routers and all of the smartphones, tablets, and computers that rely on them to connect to the Internet.
Spiegel's report is the first to offer specific details about Treasure Map and its effect on German telecoms, but it's not the first to report the existence of the program. That honor belongs to the New York Times, which described the goal for Treasure Map in a report published last year:
Relying on Internet routing data, commercial and Sigint information, Treasure Map is a sophisticated tool, one that the PowerPoint presentation describes as a 'massive Internet mapping, analysis and exploration engine.' It collects Wi-Fi network and geolocation data, and between 30 million and 50 million unique Internet provider addresses — code that can reveal the location and owner of a computer, mobile device or router — are represented each day on Treasure Map, according to the document. It boasts that the program can map 'any device, anywhere, all the time.'The revelation is likely to further strain relations between Germany and the United States over the latter country's surveillance programs. Germany and its leader, Angela Merkel, have been critical of the NSA's programs for the last year, especially since it was revealed that the agency included Merkel in its wide-reaching effort to spy on the private conversations of world leaders.
One symptom of Germany's growing discontent with the NSA's programs is its decision not to renew a contract with Verizon, which has provided the German government with Internet tools for years, when it expires in 2015 because of the company's compliance with the NSA's efforts.
Der Spiegel includes the ire of the chief executives of several German telecoms in its report, but it's careful to note that none of them have found issues with "important routers" in the country:
Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom's security division has conducted a forensic review of important routers in Germany, but has yet to detect anything. Volker Tschersich, who heads the security division, says it's possible the red markings in Treasure Map can be explained as access to the Tat14 cable, in which Telekom occupies a frequency band in Britain and the US. At the end of last week, the company informed Germany's Federal Office for Information Security of SPIEGEL's findings.It then ends with this salacious tidbit, which is basically a slap in the face to Germany and its stated desire to keep the NSA and its partners in Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand from invading the privacy of millions of citizens -- and Merkel -- via these surveillance tools:
The classified documents also indicate that other data from Germany contributes to keeping the global treasure map current. Of the 13 servers the NSA operates around the world in order to track current data flows on the open Internet, one is located somewhere in Germany.[illustration by Brad Jonas]