Massive cloud networks from companies like Google and Yahoo cache and serve up much of the data on the Internet -- and the NSA has secretly tapped into the unencrypted links behind those company’s enormous servers, according to a new report from the Washington Post.
By tapping into that link, the NSA can collect data at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, the Post reported -- including not just foreign citizens and “metadata” but emails, videos and audio from American citizens.
Operation MUSCULAR, a joint program of the NSA and its British equivalent GCHQ, relies on an unnamed telecommunications provider outside of the U.S. to offer secret access to a cable or switch through with Google and Yahoo pass unencrypted traffic between their servers. The massive servers run by the company are carefully guarded and strictly audited, the companies say; according to Google, buildings housing its servers are guarded around the clock by trained personnel, and secured with heat-sensitive cameras, biometric verification, and more.
Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw a drawing of the NSA’s hack revealed by Edward Snowden; the drawing includes a smiley face next to the point at which the agency apparently was able to tap into the world’s data.