NSA Eavesdropping

This is the line that's done best for me on the radio: "The NSA would like to remind everyone to call their mothers this Sunday. They need to calibrate their system."

Posted on May 13, 2006 at 12:59 PM • 24 Comments

Comments

pickyMay 13, 2006 1:35 PM

Not that it matters when you're reading it out loud, but lose the apostrophe.

TimMay 13, 2006 3:28 PM

Let's see, 298 million US citizens, about 270 million have phones. Perhaps 15% of them call their mothers. A quick 5 minute phone call recorded at 8 kbps would yield 11 TB of data generated in 1 or 2 days. I wish I had an internet connection that fast.

whumpMay 13, 2006 4:00 PM

@picky: I think that's "call their mother's [phone] this Sunday."

And don't forget the classic .sig:

"The NSA offers exciting and interesting work for recent college graduates in mathematics and computer science. Pick up the phone, call your mom, and ask for an application."

aikimarkMay 13, 2006 5:47 PM

Paula Poundstone's quip on this week's "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me" was pretty funny:

"You know what was really great about the old (phone) service ... Sometimes, I'd lose my place in the conversation and I'd go 'Where was I?' and then a helpful government voice would come on ..."

and second place was:
"Everybody who shows up at their local Qwest office is automatically on the FBI's highly suspicious list."

pinanoMay 14, 2006 12:06 AM

@aikimark: Is that because Qwest doesn't hand over records just because the NSA asks?

aikimarkMay 14, 2006 10:46 AM

@pinano

"Is that because Qwest doesn't hand over records just because the NSA asks?"

It is because NSA folded when Qwest asked NSA to show its FISA hand, or at least show a signed letter from the AG.

It was funny because Paula introduced it as a brilliant scheme to flush out terrorists. Everyone that wanted to evade NSA scrutiny would automatically switch carriers. Therefore, every new Qwest customer would be a suspect terrorist. The FBI should just post a squad of agents at every Qwest office to take pictures and interview new service applicants. :-)

John Smith III.May 14, 2006 11:21 AM

If you want to leave a message for the President, dial a random number.

another_bruceMay 14, 2006 2:38 PM

i hope it never comes out that i phoned a hyundai dealer once.

SukottoMay 14, 2006 3:56 PM

Brings to mind the old Smirnoff jokes.

In Soviet America, phone listens to you!

ZammboniMay 14, 2006 4:19 PM

... also brings to mind the great 1967 paranoia movie -- "The President's Analyst" starring James Coburn.

The omnipresent evil & villainous agency in that excellent movie was -- 'The PHONE COMPANY' {..not SMERSH}.

Are phone-companies now an evil conspiracy against the citizenry ?

Rob MayfieldMay 14, 2006 4:25 PM

... if invention calls necessity on mothers day, then NSA eavesdropping would be industrial espionage ?

Steven PMay 14, 2006 5:13 PM

Heh, Bill Maher used a similar line last week on his program. :-)

Rob MayfieldMay 14, 2006 6:17 PM

great minds think alike, or fools never differ ? ;-) Never heard of him ...

AnonymousMay 15, 2006 1:22 AM

Wanna crash the system? Call your mothers and tell them you never want to be bombed by Al Khaida ;-)

Done by millions at the same time, these keywords will ring a zillion of alarm bells in the NSA...

Ch.

JoachimMay 15, 2006 7:36 AM

Aloha!

"Wanna crash the system? Call your mothers and tell them you never want to be bombed by Al Khaida ;-)"

This can be expanded ad infinitum, and should consume more and more resources. You could say things like "I really wouldn't like to get bombed by terrorrist on Friday 13th when I'm planning to go to a party dressed as the president when he visited Ft Bragg last year.".

I guess this posting should "ring a bell" now, too! ;-)

MitchMay 15, 2006 10:56 AM

Reminds me of the days when we used to read our mail in Emacs, and insert headers like

X-NSA-Fodder: bomb Whitehouse nukes

etc.

DavidMay 15, 2006 12:07 PM

So, how do we all feel now that the NSA is sharing its database with the FBI? ABC News is reporting that the ongoing CIA leak investigation is using reporters' phone records to work out who is leaking to them.

Polls open in 175 days, 17 hours.

AnonMay 15, 2006 1:50 PM

"Polls open in 175 days, 17 hours."

Sadly I don't think a change of control would change much of anything. The democrats were briefed on this years ago and didn't spill the beans on it. They democrats in the senate compromised the patriot act into renewal. There really isn't much difference between the 2 parties right now. I'm thinking about going third party or just saving my gas money and staying home for the next election.

not really anonMay 15, 2006 10:12 PM

"So, how do we all feel now that the NSA is sharing its database with the FBI? ABC News is reporting that the ongoing CIA leak investigation is using reporters' phone records to work out who is leaking to them."

I'm very curious about all this too, now we've heard what we've heard today, after reading some articles Bruce put up last year

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/10/...

and

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/07/...

and the comments on them are interesting given recent revelations.

BTW, I came via google after after trying to remember how to figure out how to disable the cell phone gps ping locator doohickey thing now that there's these new revelations that that data is ferried through companies like Choice Point (correct me if I'm wrong) and stored in an NSA database somewhere...I think I saw on 24 one time you had to remove the battery and sim card, but that's just a pop culture workaround.

Anyway here's a reprint of Students comments from the first thread mentioned above:

"Why has it not been done before?

We are upset and complaining over the problems with RFID, while we have a complete monitoring solution, only needing some extra software to get running. The hardware is out there, everybody has an active tracking beacon, and in most cases there is also a database linking each person to their mobile phone. And try to live and work in the modern society without a mobile phone.

Just thinking about the amount of information that could be mined from the location data is staggering. Here (in Sweden) we have had cases where the police have used the automatic tracking of mobile phones to prove that some people were involved in a robbery and other people involved in a murder. The step to requiring that the phone companies store and make this information available “to combat violent crime and terrorism��? isn’t a large one. And then, when it’s available it could of course be used to stop other crimes. Speeding? Theft? Medical Insurance Fraud? Or any crime where the movements of a suspect is interesting. Unlike wiretaps this data doesn’t require a large amount of human resources to handle, as a matter of fact visualisation systems for this kind of data are well developed.

Combine this with the new laws that require the telecommunication companies to store information about who you communicate with through SMS, Internet and Telephone that are being rolled out in the EU.

Tinfoil hat? Perhaps. Still I am not sure if I would trust the goodwill of a mobile phone company, or the good will of the state with that kind of information. It seems like only the technologically savvy will have any sort of privacy if we go down this path. Time for new privacy laws?

Posted by: Student at October 27, 2005 08:57 AM"

Food for thought...my question, does removing the battery really work for taking a phone off the grid (how does the clock keep working) or does the sim card gotta be removed if you want to go under the radar of the Big Eye?

&FWIW, linked in my sig is just a vid on google I had nothing to do with except for being impressed by it (skip ahead to about exactly 2 minutes), enjoy.

Susan MainzerMay 16, 2006 11:12 AM

finally a place to put up my little NSA phone joke!:

I am so happy to be with Quest because they didn't give their records to the NSA, they would have but when the NSA called to ask, the call was dropped! (rimshot) sorry.

Hi Bruce! From Susan, Dan Farmer/Mark Pesce/Llew Roberts' friend.

BogMay 17, 2006 7:26 PM

You're all still a heck of a lot better off than the UK. Forget having an "In Case of Emergency" number listed under "ICE" in your cellphone. We've got "ICIGSSTITMFWACIS" numbers. "In case I get shot seven times in the mouth for wearing a coat in summer", you see.

*grim*

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