U.S. NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking

“The National Security Agency is secretly piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using ‘cookies’ and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance,” Ashkan Soltani, Andrea Peterson, and Barton Gellman report for The Washington Post. “The agency’s internal presentation slides, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better serve them advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government. The slides also suggest that the agency is using these tracking techniques to help identify targets for offensive hacking operations.”

“According to the documents, the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, are using the small tracking files or “cookies” that advertising networks place on computers to identify people browsing the Internet. The intelligence agencies have found particular use for a part of a Google-specific tracking mechanism known as the ‘PREF’ cookie. These cookies typically don’t contain personal information, such as someone’s name or e-mail address, but they do contain numeric codes that enable Web sites to uniquely identify a person’s browser,” Soltani, Peterson, and Gellman report. “In addition to tracking Web visits, this cookie allows NSA to single out an individual’s communications among the sea of Internet data in order to send out software that can hack that person’s computer. The slides say the cookies are used to ‘enable remote exploitation,’ although the specific attacks used by the NSA against targets are not addressed in these documents.”

“The NSA’s use of cookies isn’t a technique for sifting through vast amounts of information to find suspicious behavior; rather, it lets NSA home in on someone already under suspicion – akin to when soldiers shine laser pointers on a target to identify it for laser-guided bombs,” Soltani, Peterson, and Gellman report. “‘On a macro level, ‘we need to track everyone everywhere for advertising’ translates into ‘the government being able to track everyone everywhere,” says Chris Hoofnagle, a lecturer in residence at UC Berkeley Law. ‘It’s hard to avoid.’ …Some browsers, such as Apple’s Safari, automatically block a type of code known as ‘third-party cookies,’ which are often placed by companies that advertise on the site being visited. Other browsers such as Mozilla’s Firefox are also experimenting with that idea. But such settings won’t prevent users from receiving cookies directly from the primary sites they visit or services they use.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Insidious. How deep does it go?

United States Constitution, Amendment IV:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Visit reformgovernmentsurveillance.com today.

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30 Comments

        1. And everyone called him a traitor all summer long. Those who fumed so vehemently somehow manage to be continually grateful for the insight into the myriad they are being spied upon by their own government.

          From zero to hero?

          Oh, and by the way, it’s not Edward Snowden, it’s Chelsea Snowden. His name (and gender) have changed.

          1. You are getting Edward Snowden (NSA whistleblower) confused with Chelsea Manning, who used to be know as Bradley Manning. She is the one who blew the whistle on massive corruption by the US military and State Department. Watch the Collateral Murder video, which is just one thing among the thousands (millions?) of document she sent to Wikileaks. Also, she is an example of what happens when you stick around to “face the music” – tortured by being held in solitary confinement for years, limited access to trial by journalists, limited interaction with your attorneys.
            Chelsea Manning’s fate proves that Edward Snowden was wise to flee the injustice and possible torture he would have faced at the hands of embarrassed corrupt US officials.

            1. Yet another MDN headline to immediately skip past. Already read enough from people who know practically nothing about a subject bitching and moaning about it, even though it impacts them 0 %.

  1. And when the next war/terrorist act occurs everyone will look at US gov’t and say “Why America? Why didn’t you stop this?!? Why didn’t you see this coming? Waaaaah…waah…waah…sob…”

  2. This reminds me to clear out all my cookies and turn them off completely. I should also put a post-it note over my iMac camera too.

    Of course, the government is only keeping us safe.

    Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

  3. … politics. The BEST MDN can claim is that it refers to an Apple competitor, ergo it is Apple related.
    To answer the question, it goes TOO deep. The 911 tragedy proves one thing – having the information only makes the retaliation easier. They HAD the information ahead of time, yet did not act on it. This was the Bush II administration, but it could easily be blamed on the Clinton administration as well. This deep surveillance was of no use vs Tim McVeigh, nor was it of use against Ted Kaczynski, nor was it of use vs Eric Rudolph.
    It just MIGHT have been of use against the 911 crew, but nobody was paying attention. They were just gathering their info and taking notes on the best/most-often-visited porn sites around.

  4. In my experience using Safari, Google are very adept at using persistent cookies; perhaps this is the reason. I use Cookie to check and delete tracking cookies, but although it is set to delete any Google cookies they keep reappearing.

    They only vanish if I quit and restart Safari.

  5. Google’s “Do no harm” … just leave the door open for others to do it. Keep your hands “looking” clean (as they share/sell people’s personal lives to the highest bidder or anyone that will pay for it).

  6. And we have eight years of bush Cheney threatening to imprison democrats who dared challenge the limitless spy powers Bush demanded.

    Remember bush’s attorneys telling America that the president can declare any American a terrorist, just for voicing opposition to the president’s policies on terror?

    The grand days when real conservatives sued that administration over it’s sickening rejection of constitutional limits on the spying on Americans? The exposing of the AT&T wiretapping across the nation?

    Remember 2008, when GOP ran a candidate attacking Obama for being willing to reign in the patriot act?

    Don’t fall for this bullshit claims that GOP aren’t responsible for the NSA mess. After a decade of granting limitless power, there was no way Obama could reign that in.

    1. We can argue this back and forth ’till the cows come home. Clinton & Obama had Bin Laden in the sights multiple times and didn’t pull the trigger. Plenty of blame to go around on both sides of the aisle! The problem is WE allowed government to get this big! And we allowed “safety” to become the focus instead of liberty. Just think of the TSA and NSA. This won’t change until we are willing to get rid of career politicians!

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