[tor-talk] Fwd: according to leaked XKeyScore source NSA marks all Tor users as extremists, puts them on a surveillance list
coderman at gmail.com
Thu Jul 3 16:06:19 UTC 2014
On Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 8:36 AM, coderman <coderman at gmail.com> wrote:
> i presume you mean as below:
> (more a translation than additional QUELLCODE info though ;)
detailed technical info via J. Appelbaum, A. Gibson, J. Goetz, V.
Kabisch, L. Kampf, L. Ryge
The investigation discloses the following:
Two servers in Germany - in Berlin and Nuremberg - are under
surveillance by the NSA.
Merely searching the web for the privacy-enhancing software tools
outlined in the XKeyscore rules causes the NSA to mark and track the
IP address of the person doing the search. Not only are German privacy
software users tracked, but the source code shows that privacy
software users worldwide are tracked by the NSA.
Among the NSA's targets is the Tor network funded primarily by the US
government to aid democracy advocates in authoritarian states.
The XKeyscore rules reveal that the NSA tracks all connections to a
server that hosts part of an anonymous email service at the MIT
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. It also records details about visits to a
popular internet journal for Linux operating system users called "the
Linux Journal - the Original Magazine of the Linux Community", and
calls it an "extremist forum".
Three authors of this investigation have personal and professional
ties to the Tor Project, an American company mentioned within the
following investigation. Jacob Appelbaum is a paid employee of the Tor
Project, Aaron Gibson is a paid contractor for the Tor Project, and
Leif Ryge is a volunteer contributor to various Tor-related software
projects. Their research in this story is wholly independent from the
Tor Project and does not reflect the views of the Tor Project in any
way. During the course of the investigation, it was further discovered
that an additional computer system run by Jacob Appelbaum for his
volunteer work with helping to run part of the Tor network was
targeted by the NSA. Moreover, all members of this team are Tor users
and appear to be have been targets of the mass surveillance described
in the investigation.
It is a small server that looks like any of the other dozens in the
same row. It is in a large room devoted to computers and computer
storage, just like every other room in this industrial park building
on Am Tower Street just outside the city of Nuremberg. That the grey
building is surrounded by barbed wire seems to indicate that the
servers' provider is working hard to secure their customers' data.
Yet despite these efforts, one of the servers is targeted by the NSA.
The IP address 22.214.171.124 is explicitly specified in the rules of
the powerful and invasive spy software program XKeyscore. The code is
published here exclusively for the first time.
After a year of NSA revelations based on documents that focus on
program names and high-level Powerpoint presentations, NDR and WDR are
revealing NSA source code that shows how these programs function and
how they are implemented in Germany and around the world.
Months of investigation by the German public television broadcasters
NDR and WDR, drawing on exclusive access to top secret NSA source
code, interviews with former NSA employees, and the review of secret
documents of the German government reveal that not only is the server
in Nuremberg under observation by the NSA, but so is virtually anyone
who has taken an interest in several well-known privacy software
The NSA program XKeyscore is a collection and analysis tool and "a
computer network exploitation system", as described in an NSA
presentation. It is one of the agency’s most ambitious programs
devoted to gathering "nearly everything a user does on the internet."
The source code contains several rules that enable agents using
XKeyscore to surveil privacy-conscious internet users around the
world. The rules published here are specifically directed at the
infrastructure and the users of the Tor Network, the Tails operating
system, and other privacy-related software.
Tor, also known as The Onion Router, is a network of several thousand
volunteer-operated servers, or nodes, that work in concert to conceal
Tor users' IP addresses and thus keep them anonymous while online.
Tails is a privacy-focused GNU/Linux-based operating system that runs
entirely from an external storage device such as a USB stick or CD. It
comes with Tor and other privacy tools pre-installed and configured,
and each time it reboots it automatically wipes everything that is not
saved on an encrypted persistent storage medium.
Normally a user's online traffic - such as emails, instant messages,
searches, or visits to websites - can be attributed to the IP address
assigned to them by their internet service provider. When a user goes
online over the Tor Network, their connections are relayed through a
number of Tor nodes using another layer of encryption between each
server such that the first server cannot see where the last server is
located and vice-versa.
Tor is used by private individuals who want to conceal their online
activity, human rights activists in oppressive regimes such as China
and Iran, journalists who want to protect their sources, and even by
the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in their efforts to infiltrate
criminal groups without revealing their identity. The Tor Project is a
non-profit charity based in Massachusetts and is primarily funded by
government agencies. Thus it is ironic that the Tor Network has become
such a high-priority target in the NSA's worldwide surveillance
As revealed by the British newspaper The Guardian, there have been
repeated efforts to crack the Tor Network and de-anonymize its users.
The top secret presentations published in October last year show that
Tor is anathema to the NSA. In one presentation, agents refer to the
network as "the king of high-secure, low-latency internet anonymity".
Another is titled "Tor Stinks". Despite the snide remarks, the agents
admit, "We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the
The former NSA director General Keith Alexander stated that all those
communicating with encryption will be regarded as terror suspects and
will be monitored and stored as a method of prevention, as quoted by
the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in August last year. The top secret
source code published here indicates that the NSA is making a
concerted effort to combat any and all anonymous spaces that remain on
the internet. Merely visiting privacy-related websites is enough for a
user's IP address to be logged into an NSA database.
An examination of the XKeyscore rules published here goes beyond the
slide presentation and provides a window into the actual instructions
given to NSA computers. The code was deployed recently and former NSA
employees and experts are convinced that the same code or similar code
is still in use today. The XKeyscore rules include elements known as
"appids", "fingerprints", and "microplugins". Each connection a user
makes online - to a search engine, for example - can be assigned a
single appid and any number of fingerprints.
Appids are unique identifiers for a connection in XKeyscore. Appid
rules have weights assigned to them. When multiple appids match a
given connection, the one with the highest weight is chosen.
Microplugins may contain software written in general-purpose
programming languages, such as C++, which can extract and store
specific types of data. The rules specifically target the Tor
Project's email and web infrastructure, as well as servers operated by
key volunteers in Germany, the United States, Sweden, Austria, and the
Netherlands. Beyond being ethically questionable, the attacks on Tor
also raise legal concerns. The IP addresses of Tor servers in the
United States are amongst the targets, which could violate the fourth
amendment of the US constitution.
The German attorney Thomas Stadler, who specializes in IT law,
commented: "The fact that a German citizen is specifically traced by
the NSA, in my opinion, justifies the reasonable suspicion of the NSA
carrying out secret service activities in Germany. For this reason,
the German Federal Public Prosecutor should look into this matter and
initiate preliminary proceedings."
One of NSA's German targets is 126.96.36.199. The string of numbers
is an IP address assigned to Sebastian Hahn, a computer science
student at the University of Erlangen. Hahn operates the server out of
a grey high-security building a few kilometers from where he lives.
Hahn, 28 years old and sporting a red beard, volunteers for the Tor
Project in his free time. He is especially trusted by the Tor
community, as his server is not just a node, it is a so-called
Directory Authority. There are nine of these worldwide, and they are
central to the Tor Network, as they contain an index of all Tor nodes.
A user's traffic is automatically directed to one of the directory
authorities to download the newest list of Tor relays generated each
Quellcode NSA "anonymizer/tor/node/authority" fingerprint.
Hahn's predecessor named the server Gabelmoo, or Fork Man, the
nickname of a local statue of Poseidon. After a look at the NSA source
code, Hahn quickly found his server's name listed in the XKeyscore
rules. "Yes, I recognize the IP address of my Tor server called
'gabelmoo'." he said. "Millions of people use it to stay safe online,
and by watching the server and collecting metadata about its users,
those people are put at risk." The rule shown to Hahn, published
below, has a fingerprint called 'anonymizer/tor/node/authority'. The
fingerprint targets users who connect to Gabelmoo and other Tor
Directory Authority servers. In Germany, the Tor Directory Authorities
like Gabelmoo that are specifically targeted by XKeyscore rules are in
Berlin and Nuremberg. Additional targets are located in Austria,
Sweden, the United States, and the Netherlands.
Quellcode NSA Fragments of XKeyscore rules targetting Tor directory
The expression below performs essentially the same function, but it
specifies the Tor directory authorities located in Five Eyes countries
(Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United
States) separately from those in other countries. As the comment
explains, the "goal is to find potential Tor clients connecting to the
Tor directory servers."
Another rule catalogs users connecting to known Tor relays. This is
not difficult, because the addresses of all normal Tor relays are
published by the directory authorities so that the Tor software on
users' computers can select its own path through the network. In
addition to the public relays, connections characterized as Tor based
on protocol identifiers are also cataloged.
Not only Metadata
Internet service providers in countries with strong censorship such as
China and Iran frequently block connections to known Tor relays. To
avoid this blocking, The Tor Project maintains a list of non-public
relays called "bridges" to allow users to avoid this type of blocking.
Bridges are run by volunteers and they share the details with the Tor
Project to help censored users reach the internet.
Quellcode NSA Microplugin which extracts bridge addresses from the
full text of Tor Project emails.
Users can request a bridge address via email or on the web. The
following fingerprints show two ways that XKeyscore attempts to track
Tor bridge users. First, the fingerprint "anonymizer/tor/bridge/tls"
records connections to the bridges.torproject.org server. Second, in
order obtain the actual bridge addresses for the purpose of tracking
connections to them in the future, the "microplugin" fingerprint
called "anonymizer/tor/bridge/email" extracts data from the body of
the emails that the Tor Project sends to its users.
This code demonstrates the ease with which an XKeyscore rule can
analyze the full content of intercepted connections. The fingerprint
first checks every message using the "email_address" function to see
if the message is to or from "bridges at torproject.org". Next, if the
address matched, it uses the "email_body" function to search the full
content of the email for a particular piece of text - in this case,
"https://bridges.torproject.org/". If the "email_body" function finds
what it is looking for, it passes the full email text to a C++ program
which extracts the bridge addresses and stores them in a database.
Quellcode NSA Fingerprint to identify visitors to the Tor Project website.
The full content of the email must already be intercepted before this
code can analyze it. XKeyscore also keeps track of people who are not
using Tor, but who are merely visiting The Tor Project's website
(www.torproject.org), as this rule demonstrates:
Quellcode NSA Rules targeting people viewing the Tails or Linux
Journal websites, or performing Tails-related web searches.
It is interesting to note that this rule specifically avoids
fingerprinting users believed to be located in Five Eyes countries,
while other rules make no such distinction. For instance, the
following fingerprint targets users visiting the Tails and Linux
Journal websites, or performing certain web searches related to Tails,
and makes no distinction about the country of the user.
The comment in the source code above describes Tails as "a comsec
mechanism advocated by extremists on extremist forums". In actuality,
the software is used by journalists, human rights activists, and
hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who merely wish to protect
The rules related to Tails clearly demonstrate how easily web searches
and website visits can be spied on by XKeyscore. On June 25, 2014, the
United States Supreme Court noted how sensitive this type of
information is in their Riley v. California decision against
warrantless searches of mobile phones: "An Internet search and
browsing history [...] could reveal an individual’s private interests
or concerns - perhaps a search for certain symptoms of disease,
coupled with frequent visits to WebMD."
Quellcode NSA C++ program which searches "raw traffic" for .onion addresses.
In addition to anonymous internet access, Tor also provides a
mechanism for hosting anonymous internet services called "Hidden
Services". These sites' URLs contain a domain name in the
pseudo-top-level-domain ".onion" which is only accessible using Tor.
The code shown below finds and catalogs URLs for these sites which
XKeyscore sees in "raw traffic", creating a unique fingerprint for
each onion address. Each .onion address found in raw traffic is
extracted and stored in an NSA database:
Quellcode NSA "anonymizer/mailer/mixminion" appid matching all
connections to 188.8.131.52.
There are also rules that target users of numerous other
privacy-focused internet services, including HotSpotShield, FreeNet,
Centurian, FreeProxies.org, MegaProxy, privacy.li and an anonymous
email service called MixMinion as well as its predecessor MixMaster.
The appid rule for MixMinion is extremely broad as it matches all
traffic to or from the IP address 184.108.40.206, a server located on the
That server is operated by the Tor Project's leader Roger Dingledine,
an MIT alumnus. The machine at this IP address provides many services
besides MixMinion, and it is also one of the above-mentioned Tor
directory authorities. Dingledine said "That computer hosts many
websites, ranging from open source gaming libraries to the Privacy
Enhancing Technologies Symposium website."
Sebastian Hahn, the Tor volunteer who runs Gabelmoo, was stunned to
learn that his hobby could interest the NSA: "This shows that Tor is
working well enough that Tor has become a target for the intelligence
services. For me this means that I will definitely go ahead with the
When asked for a reaction to the findings, the Tor Project's Roger
Dingledine stated the following: "We've been thinking of state
surveillance for years because of our work in places where journalists
are threatened. Tor's anonymity is based on distributed trust, so
observing traffic at one place in the Tor network, even a directory
authority, isn't enough to break it. Tor has gone mainstream in the
past few years, and its wide diversity of users - from civic-minded
individuals and ordinary consumers to activists, law enforcement, and
companies - is part of its security. Just learning that somebody
visited the Tor or Tails website doesn't tell you whether that person
is a journalist source, someone concerned that her Internet Service
Provider will learn about her health conditions, or just someone irked
that cat videos are blocked in her location. Trying to make a list of
Tor's millions of daily users certainly counts as wide scale
collection. Their attack on the bridge address distribution service
shows their "collect all the things" mentality - it's worth
emphasizing that we designed bridges for users in countries like China
and Iran, and here we are finding out about attacks by our own
country. Does reading the contents of those mails violate the wiretap
act? Now I understand how the Google engineers felt when they learned
about the attacks on their infrastructure.”
NDR and WDR wanted to know from the NSA how it justified attacking a
service funded by the U.S. government, under what legal authority Tor
Network users are monitored, and whether the German government has any
knowledge of the targeting of servers in Germany. Instead of adressing
the questions repeatedly posed to them, the NSA provided the following
statement: "In carrying out its mission, NSA collects only what it is
authorized by law to collect for valid foreign intelligence purposes -
regardless of the technical means used by foreign intelligence
targets. The communications of people who are not foreign intelligence
targets are of no use to the agency. In January, President Obama
issued U.S. Presidential Policy Directive 28, which affirms that all
persons - regardless of nationality - have legitimate privacy
interests in the handling of their personal information, and that
privacy and civil liberties shall be integral considerations in the
planning of U.S. signals intelligence activities. The president's
directive also makes clear that the United States does not collect
signals intelligence for the purpose of suppressing or burdening
criticism or dissent, or for disadvantaging persons based on their
ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. XKeyscore is
an analytic tool that is used as a part of NSA's lawful foreign
signals intelligence collection system. Such tools have stringent
oversight and compliance mechanisms built in at several levels. The
use of XKeyscore allows the agency to help defend the nation and
protect U.S. and allied troops abroad. All of NSA's operations are
conducted in strict accordance with the rule of law, including the
President's new directive."
However, the research contradicts the United States' promise to
Germany that German citizens are not surveiled without suspicion.
Using Tor in Germany does not justify targeting someone, the German
attorney Thomas Stadler states: "Tor users do not breach any laws, it
is absolutely legitimate to act anonymously on the internet. There are
many good reasons to remain anonymous."
What is deep packet inspection?
Deep Packet Inspection, or DPI, refers to the class of technology
which examines the content of data packets as they travel across a
network. A packet is the fundamental unit of transfer in packet
switched networks like the internet. While DPI is commonly used by
organizations to monitor their own networks, its use on public
networks for censorship and surveillance has been widely condemned by
privacy advocates and the United States government alike.
In 2012, the head of the U.S. Delegation to the World Conference on
International Telecommunications, U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer, said
“some companies have used deep packet inspection technologies to not
look at aggregate customer information, traffic information, et
cetera, but to look at individual customer information. So looking at
individuals and what sites they’re on and how much capacity they’re
using, et cetera, as you can imagine, we’re very much opposed to that
because we feel that’s a violation of people’s privacy and gets into,
obviously, censorship, et cetera”.
Despite its public political condemnations of invasive DPI use, the
United States "Intelligence Community" and its "Five Eyes" partners
(Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom) operate
massive internet-scale DPI systems themselves, including XKeyscore.
The use of XKeyscore is not limited to these partners, however. The
software has been shared with the German BND and BfV, as well as the
Swedish FRA, amongst others.
Active vs Passive
XKeyscore and the systems that feed it are considered "passive",
meaning that they silently listen but do not transmit anything on the
networks that they are targeting. However, through a process known as
"tipping", data from these programs can trigger other systems which
perform "active" attacks.
Quantum is a family of such programs, including Quantuminsert,
Quantumhand, Quantumtheory, Quantumbot, and Quantumcopper, which are
used for offensive computer intrusion. Turmoil, Quantum, and other
components of the Turbulence architecture are running at so-called
"defensive sites" including the Ramstein Air Force base in Germany,
Yokota Air Force base in Japan, and numerous military and non-military
locations within the United States.
Both Turmoil and XKeyscore feed selected data to real-time "tipping"
programs, such as Trafficthief, which can both alert NSA analysts when
their targets are communicating and trigger other software programs.
Selected data is "promoted" from the local XKeyscore data store to the
NSA's so-called "corporate repositories" for long term storage,
analysis and exploitation.
In 2013, the British newspaper The Guardian revealed that by 2008 more
than 150 internet surveillance facilities around the world were
running the XKeyscore Deep Packet Inspection software. All of the
internet traffic observed by XKeyscore, both metadata and full
content, is analyzed and stored temporarily at the collection sites
for periods ranging from days to weeks, while selected data is
forwarded on to other locations for long-term storage.
The storage, indexing, and querying functions are performed at or near
the collection sites because the volume of data being collected is too
large to forward everything back to facilities in other countries.
Analysts working from various locations around the world may search
specific XKeyscore sites, or send their queries to a collection of
XKeyscore provides a modular architecture in which tens of thousands
of small computer programs, or rules, written in XKeyscore's
specialized programming languages called Genesis and XKScript as well
as general-purpose languages such as C++ and Python, are run against
all traffic to categorize it and extract data. This indexing of the
"full take" allows analysts to query the temporary storage stored at
the XKeyscore site, effectively sifting through already pilfered
communications which occurred before they had deemed them interesting
for a specific reason.
XKeyscore can be fed by several different programs, including
Wealthycluster and Turmoil. These programs "sessionize" the data,
which means that individual connections, such as a request for a web
page, are reconstructed from the stream of intercepted packets.
Locations where the NSA runs XKeyscore include Special Source
Operations (SSO) sites, typically found at or near major
telecommunication providers' infrastructure; Special Collection
Service (SCS) sites, usually located inside diplomatic facilities like
embassies and consulates; and FORNSAT sites where satellite
communications are intercepted. All of these types of sites are known
to exist in Germany.
Other "Five Eyes" partners also operate XKeyscore installations. The
United Kingdom's Tempora program runs the largest instance of
XKeyscore. Both the software itself and limited access to NSA
databases have been shared with so-called "3rd party" partners
including Germany. The German foreign intelligence agency BND and the
domestic intelligence agency BfV are testing the Software.
More information about the tor-talk