30 December 2016

This Small Company Helps Enable Global Surveillance

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As we’ve seen with the Snowden leaks, agencies like the NSA and GCHQ don’t work alone when it comes to surveillance. They have help from certain corporations that enable governments to spy on millions, if not billions of people. Now, details have emerged about a little-known company that helps the GCHQ vacuum up massive amounts of data.

The company is called Endace, and it’s in New Zealand. New Zealand is part of the Five Eyes, five countries that band together to enact global surveillance: United States, Austria, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

While AT&T has been helping the NSA, Endace is helping the British equivalent: Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The Intercept has intercepted multiple internal documents and emails from Endace that show how the company has an important role in helping governments.

For example, certain leaked files show that Endace has a Moroccan security agency as a customer. This agency is implicated in torture investigations. Other documents show that Endace has sold its surveillance hardware to a half dozen government agencies from countries like the US, Israel, Denmark and more.

However, GCHQ has bought various data acquisition systems and probes to secretly monitor traffic passing over the web. Between 2009 and 2012, documents leaked by Snowden show that GCHQ greatly expanded its internet surveillance. The leaked Endace documents shed further light on this matter.

According to Endace, it creates technology to let its clients “monitor, intercept and capture 100% of traffic on networks.” The company’s motto is “power to see all” and its logo is an eye. The company’s origins are somewhat benign: a team of professors and researchers at Waikato University developed network monitoring tools to measure data on the internet, which was in its infancy at the time of the project in 1994.

A scary amount of international undersea data cables crosses British territory. As much as 25% of all global internet traffic flow through these cables, and the GCHQ views this as a gold mine. As far back as 2009 GCHQ monitored the equivalent of a million emails per minute in terms of data. They tapped 87 10Gbps (gigabytes-per-second) cables and analyzed the data with Endace’s technology.

By 2011 GCHQ’s goal was to tap 415 of these cables and stated its long-term goal was to steal the data from 800 10Gs cables. The agency made deals with Endace to help grow its surveillance apparatus. In a 2010 Endace statement of work for GCHQ, it mentioned a £245,000 ($299,500) deal to upgrade the agency’s technology.

The worst part is that these leaks won’t affect Endace in the slightest. When you have the most powerful government surveillance agencies as clients, you have no limits. It’s up to each person to take steps to secure their online presence. The easiest way to protect your privacy online is with a VPN service like LiquidVPN. If you are more technically adept and do not want the luxury of their built-in security tools, then we recommend rolling your own VPN with Streisand.
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