The National Security Agency, along with its British counterpart the Government Communications Headquarters, and several other nations are secretly trying to map the entire Internet in real-time, creating a worldwide surveillance tool on the scale of Google Earth.
Spiegel Online reports the ambitious program, codenamed “Treasure Map” (complete with its own glowing skull moniker) seeks to identify Internet routers and millions of individual devices in order to create an “interactive map of the global Internet” in “near real-time,” which would allow intelligence analysts to “map the entire Internet — any device, anywhere, all the time,” according to documents leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are jointly involved in the effort, which the report described “as a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird’s eye view of the planet’s digital arteries.” The system could also be used to plan online attacks as a map of the world’s digital battlefield.
The New York Times reported on Treasure Map late last year, but new Snowden documents examined in the report reveal the agencies successfully infiltrated major German telecommunications providers Netcologne and Telekom, the latter of which runs service to Britain and the eastern U.S. The undated documents hint at the possibility of surveilling not just data streams, but data from individual user devices. Telekom services 60 million customers in Germany alone.
“The accessing of our network by foreign intelligence agencies would be completely unacceptable,” a Telekom representative said in the report. The security departments of both networks were unable to locate the breaches in their systems described in the documents.
Employees of Stellar, a German satellite communications firm revealed to have been hacked in the documents, said that the hack of their central server and email server revealed in the documents indicate the the agencies could not only observe the network — they could shut down Internet service the company provides to various clients in Africa.
Documentary filmmakers Katy Scoggin and Laura Poitras, along with a reporter from The Intercept, met with Stellar staff to show them the documents.