This secret post-it note shows the NSA tapping into Google’s data centers

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

The Washington Post appears to have something of a scoop on its hands.

Confidential NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden appear to confirm that the United States is secretly intercepting data regarding millions of Google and Yahoo users, by compromising the main communications links that exist between each company’s worldwide network of data centers.

A slide from the NSA’s leaked “Google Cloud Exploitation” presentation, includes a sketch in the style of a post-it note, showing where Google stores its a data and a smiley face where the NSA says encryption is added and removed.

Google cloud exploitation

The project, codenamed “MUSCULAR”, is said to be a joint operation between the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ, and done without the permission or knowledge of either Google or Yahoo.

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The Washington Post quotes Google, who seem far from impressed by the revelations:

In a statement, Google said it was “troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers, and we are not aware of this activity.”

“We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we continue to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links,” the company said.

Do you remember when Google was blaming the Chinese for hacking into its systems during Operation Aurora, and how the United States leapt to its defence and pointed a wagging finger of disapproval at Beijing back in 2010?

Clinton statement on China hacking Google, 2010

It seems to me that Google and Yahoo should have been looking a little closer to home if they wanted to find out who was investing considerable resources into snooping on them and their users…

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

One comment on “This secret post-it note shows the NSA tapping into Google’s data centers”

  1. Richard Gadsden

    Strange that a joint GCHQ operation is NOFORN and not NOFORN//UK to allow Brits to look at it.

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