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Friday, 22 September 2017 11:57

If Russia hacked US, evidence is in NSA database: claim Featured


Two former senior US intelligence officials claim that evidence, if any, of Russian interference in the US elections last year would still be available in NSA databases.

William Binney, a whistleblower and 36-year NSA veteran, and Ray McGovern, who worked for the CIA as an analyst for 27 years, are both part of a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

They wrote that they were sure about this because NSA alumni who were part of VIPS were "intimately familiar with NSA’s capabilities and practice with respect to bulk capture and storage of fibre-optic communications".

"Two of us actually devised the systems still in use, and Edward Snowden’s revelations filled in remaining gaps. Today’s NSA is in position to clear up any and all questions about intrusions into the DNC," Binney and McGovern wrote, referring to the hack of the Democratic National Committee last year.

"But is it not already too late for such an investigation? We hope that, at this point, it is crystal clear that the answer is: No, it is not too late. All the data the FBI needs to do a proper job is in NSA databases – including data going across the Internet to the DNC server and then included in their network logs."

The duo had claimed in July that the copying across of data from a DNC server had to be an internal job because the amount of data involved could not be transferred to a storage device on a WAN in the time available. They had noted that a computer directly connected to the DNC server or DNC Local Area Network, copied 1976 megabytes of data in 87 seconds onto an external storage device, a transfer rate of 22.7MBps.

"That principal finding relied heavily on the speed with which the copy took place – a speed much faster than a hack over the Internet could have achieved at the time – or, it seems clear, even now," they wrote.

"Challenged on that conclusion — often by those conducting experiments within the confines of a laboratory — we have conducted and documented additional tests to determine the speeds that can be achieved now, more than a year later."

Binney and McGovern said they had conducted three more tests to find out how quickly data exfiltration could be effected.

One was a 100Mbps line to pull data from a one-gigabyte file to Amsterdam. The peak transfer speed was 0.8MBps.

"Second, we used a commercial DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) to send the same one-gigabyte file to a commercial DSL in Amsterdam. The peak transfer speed was 1.8 MBps," they said.

"Third, we pushed the same one-gigabyte file from a data centre in New Jersey to a data centre in the UK. The peak transfer speed was 12 MBps."

They said none of these attempts had even come close to the average rate of 22.7MBps evident in the 5 July 2016 download/copy associated with the DNC.

"In fact, this happens to be the speed typical of a transfer to a USB-2 external storage device. We do not think this pure coincidence; rather, it is additional evidence of a local download," Binney and McGovern said.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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