Code-Named LEVITATION, Program Led by Canada’s Communications Security Establishment Collects Up to 15 Million Downloads Daily
A detailed expose, published today by journalists Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald forThe Intercept, reveals that the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s equivalent to the NSA, has been intercepting and analysing data on up to 15 million file downloads each day as part of a covert surveillance dragnet named LEVITATION.
The revelations about the spying initiative, reported by The Intercept in collaboration with CBC News, are the first from the Snowden files to show that the Canadian government has launched its own globe-spanning Internet mass surveillance. Listed targets of surveillance included IP addresses in allied countries such as the U.K., U.S., Spain, Brazil, Germany and Portugal.
LEVITATION taps into Internet cables and vacuums up records from more than 100 popular websites commonly used to share videos, photographs, music, and other files — a process wherein CSE indiscriminately collects and stores huge volumes of data showing uploads and downloads initiated by ordinary Internet users not suspected of any wrongdoing.
Key takeaways from LEVITATION include:
- LEVITATION logs up to 15 million downloads daily from popular sites like RapidShare and SendSpace.
- LEVITATION logs the unique IP address of each computer that downloaded files from the sites.
- Analysts can later use the IP addresses to track down the user should the agency want to find out more about the identities of people downloading any particular file.
- CSE’s analysts can use IP address as a kind of search term, entering it into other surveillance databases that they have access to, such as the vast repositories of intercepted Internet data shared with the CSE by the NSA and its British counterpart the GCHQ.
- If successful, searches will return a list of results showing information such as the Facebook accounts or Google accounts associated with the people downloading the files. This gives away their names and potentially their locations, opening the door for further surveillance.
- The CSE monitored downloads in closely allied countries, including the U.K., U.S., Spain, Brazil, Germany and Portugal.
In a top-secret PowerPoint presentation from mid-2012 a CSE analyst jokes about how the LEVITATION system gets clogged in the hunt for terrorists with information on innocuous downloads of the musical TV series Glee.
Experts are troubled by this broad collection process, Ron Deibert, director of the University of Toronto-based Internet security think tank Citizen Lab, described LEVITATION an illustration of the giant X-ray machine over all our digital lives.”
* Read the full article at The Intercept HERE *