Nicholas Weaver, a University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) expert in network surveillance and security issues, set out to build a miniature bulk surveillance system capable of performing all the primary tasks of a U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spy system after the Edward Snowden leak exposed the agency's XKEYSCORE program.
Established around 2008, NSA's "widest reaching" surveillance program uses more than 700 servers to store data drawn from the Internet's backbone and mine the data for patterns and connections.
Weaver, a senior researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at UC Berkeley, examined the documents and realized the spy agency was doing the same security research he has been doing for a decade. Moreover, Weaver realized he already had off-the-shelf equipment that met the criteria for emulating the NSA.
Weaver says it took him about 50 hours to assemble his surveillance system, including writing about 600 lines of code for the intrusion detection component. He notes it would cost someone about $850 to build something like his 100-Mbps system, and there was little new about the surveillance technology.
"When national security programs are hobby-level, you really have to worry that anybody else can do them," Weaver says.
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