It recently came to light that the NSA snooped on the communications of Google and Yahoo users without ever breaking into a data center. Now, the New York Times is reporting, it appears that could be because it penetrated fibre optic cables.
The newspaper cites "people knowledgeable about Google and Yahoo's infrastructure" who believe that the NSA penetrated an internet backbone to spy on those using Yahoo and Google:
The Internet companies' data centres are locked down with full-time security and state-of-the-art surveillance, including heat sensors and iris scanners. But between the data centres information was unencrypted and an easier target for government intercept efforts, according to three people with knowledge of Google's and Yahoo's systems who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In fact, the Times points specifically to Level 3 Communications — "the world's largest so-called Internet backbone provider" — which looks after the cables used by Yahoo and Google. No surprise, then, that both have now started encrypting data that runs on cables between its data centres.
The newspaper doesn't speculate as to how exactly the NSA would've gone about tapping the cables, but in reality it was probably a darn sight easer than some of the complex maths it uses for the rest of its snooping. Also, there's something deliciously old-skool about tapping a cable, even if it is something we'd all rather didn't happen. [New York Times]