Linux News Today: NSA's XKEYSCORE Surveillance Is Running on Hundreds of Red Hat Linux Servers
Details about the NSA surveillance program unveiled by Edward Snowden are still coming to light, two years after the initial revelations were made. From the looks of it, at least one of the components of the NSA surveillance is being run from Red Hat Linux servers.
The fact that NSA is running the XKEYSCORE computer system on a Linux distribution should not be all that surprising, although it does make for an interesting topic. The developers hired by the NSA have built a lot of code of their own, but the NSA chose a Linux distribution to run on the hundreds of servers that are spread out all over the world.
If you’re not up to speed with everything NSA did or currently does, XKEYSCORE is the kind of system that you would think only exists in movies. For example, Snowden says that it can be used to read anyone’s email, anywhere in the world, as well as to track hardware as it connects online. Moreover, it can track people, associations, and it can even build a sort of unique fingerprint of the user in the online space. If you’re online, XKEYSCORE has the potential to find you.
Of course NSA is using Linux
Red Hat Linux is a commercial operating system, but it’s using open source packages. It’s one of the most common types of servers out there, and it’s really not all that surprising that it’s being used. If the report had said something like Window Server, well, that would have been much more interesting.
Here is what the guys from the famous The Intercept publication are saying about XKEYSCORE, which itself is built for Linux:
“XKEYSCORE is a piece of Linux software that is typically deployed on Red Hat servers. It uses the Apache web server and stores collected data in MySQL databases. File systems in a cluster are handled by the NFS distributed file system and the autofs service, and scheduled tasks are handled by the cron scheduling service. Systems administrators who maintain XKEYSCORE servers use SSH to connect to them, and they use tools such as rsync and vim, as well as a comprehensive command-line tool, to manage the software.”
There are hundreds of XKEYSCORE servers around the world and it’s impossible to understand their reach. We’re used to seeing Linux being used in places like NASA or ISS, but it’s not always going to be that glorious. Sometimes it powers an NSA server that’s spying on people.