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PRISM: NSA's secret tool for tracking communication

Published on 06 November 13
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PRISM: NSA's secret tool for tracking communication

Whether you live in the United States or not, the amount of noise created by the latest security leak in NSA must have reached you by now and chances are youâre familiar with what it is all about. It has been revealed that the U.S. government, more specifically the National Security Agency has been busy keeping tabs on phone calls and emails with the help of some of the biggest names in technology. The companies who helped the government invade your privacy are busy justifying or denying their own role to their users. Within this war of words, what everyone is looking for are simple answers to questions like how did they do it? And how exposed am I?

Well hereâs what you are up against:

PRISM

Prism is the program used for collecting and processing the data that passes through American servers. Prism stands for "Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management, Details about this program were leaked recently by a 29 year old NSA contractor, Edward Snowden. The information leaked by Snowden, has been acknowledged by the Obama administration, thus proving its authenticity.

PRISM: NSA's secret tool for tracking communication - Image 1
What does PRISM do?

According to the U.S government, PRISM is not some covert government data collection and mining operation. It is in fact just software, a computer program that aims to process and analyze information. This information is not being collected illegally, since all the companies in possession of such data have divulged it willingly. In fact, these companies had literally held open their back doors for the government to access user information from their servers.

Some of those involved are big names in tech like Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook, Google, Apple, PalTalk, YouTube, and Skype. For voice mails and phone calls, the NSA gets its date from Verizon, but according to NSA that is just metadata, meaning the government only monitors who you call and for how long you talk. NSA denies actually listening to your voice mails and phone calls, but that does not change the fact that PRISM is not just monitoring user activity online, but also acts as a mobile phone tracker of sorts for all calls made within and outside the United States. As a matter of fact NSA has acknowledged that they possess the technology to easy track users through their cell phones but chooses not to invade their privacy.

So what exactly is Prism collecting and why?

Here is a list of things NSA might be snooping into as far as your phone and cell phone activity is concerned:

  • Comprehensive communications routing information

So far NSA has used the term "comprehensive communications routing information". This is a catch-all term meaning NSA can access and analyze almost any kind of user communication data, from reading emails to location tracking.

  • International Mobile Subscriber Identity [IMSI] number

The IMSI number is any phone or cell phone customers ID number. It was initially used for billing purposes and helped companies to track or identify customers through their identifying codes. With access to this number NSA can not only identify the user but also pinpoint his exact location.

  • International Mobile station Equipment Identity [IMEI] number

The IMEI number is located under the hood of most phones and is needed to identify a particular device. This code can help NSA track individual pieces of equipment.

  • Trunk identifier

Trunk identifier helps NSA determine how a call is routed through a system and where it originated from. In landline systems, the trunk identifier shows the regional center a call is routed through.

  • Telephone calling card numbers

Previously, calling cards were a great way of avoiding surveillance since they did not reveal origins of a phone call. However, anyone receiving calls made from such cards can still alert the NSA through their own number.



PRISM: NSA's secret tool for tracking communication

Whether you live in the United States or not, the amount of noise created by the latest security leak in NSA must have reached you by now and chances are youâre familiar with what it is all about. It has been revealed that the U.S. government, more specifically the National Security Agency has been busy keeping tabs on phone calls and emails with the help of some of the biggest names in technology. The companies who helped the government invade your privacy are busy justifying or denying their own role to their users. Within this war of words, what everyone is looking for are simple answers to questions like how did they do it? And how exposed am I?

Well hereâs what you are up against:

PRISM

Prism is the program used for collecting and processing the data that passes through American servers. Prism stands for "Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management, Details about this program were leaked recently by a 29 year old NSA contractor, Edward Snowden. The information leaked by Snowden, has been acknowledged by the Obama administration, thus proving its authenticity.

PRISM: NSA's secret tool for tracking communication - Image 1

What does PRISM do?
According to the U.S government, PRISM is not some covert government data collection and mining operation. It is in fact just software, a computer program that aims to process and analyze information. This information is not being collected illegally, since all the companies in possession of such data have divulged it willingly. In fact, these companies had literally held open their back doors for the government to access user information from their servers.

Some of those involved are big names in tech like Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook, Google, Apple, PalTalk, YouTube, and Skype. For voice mails and phone calls, the NSA gets its date from Verizon, but according to NSA that is just metadata, meaning the government only monitors who you call and for how long you talk. NSA denies actually listening to your voice mails and phone calls, but that does not change the fact that PRISM is not just monitoring user activity online, but also acts as a mobile phone tracker of sorts for all calls made within and outside the United States. As a matter of fact NSA has acknowledged that they possess the technology to easy track users through their cell phones but chooses not to invade their privacy.

So what exactly is Prism collecting and why?

Here is a list of things NSA might be snooping into as far as your phone and cell phone activity is concerned:

  • Comprehensive communications routing information
So far NSA has used the term "comprehensive communications routing information". This is a catch-all term meaning NSA can access and analyze almost any kind of user communication data, from reading emails to location tracking.

  • International Mobile Subscriber Identity [IMSI] number
The IMSI number is any phone or cell phone customers ID number. It was initially used for billing purposes and helped companies to track or identify customers through their identifying codes. With access to this number NSA can not only identify the user but also pinpoint his exact location.

  • International Mobile station Equipment Identity [IMEI] number
The IMEI number is located under the hood of most phones and is needed to identify a particular device. This code can help NSA track individual pieces of equipment.

  • Trunk identifier
Trunk identifier helps NSA determine how a call is routed through a system and where it originated from. In landline systems, the trunk identifier shows the regional center a call is routed through.

  • Telephone calling card numbers
Previously, calling cards were a great way of avoiding surveillance since they did not reveal origins of a phone call. However, anyone receiving calls made from such cards can still alert the NSA through their own number.

This blog is listed under Telecommunications Community

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