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Singapore & South Korea Help NSA Tap Undersea Cables 137

Posted by timothy
from the friends-in-need-with-lots-of-guns dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Singapore and South Korea are playing key roles helping the United States and Australia tap undersea telecommunications links across Asia, according to top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Indonesia and Malaysia have been key targets for Australian and Singaporean intelligence collaboration since much of Indonesia's telecommunications and Internet traffic is routed through Singapore. The NSA has a stranglehold on trans-Pacific communications channels with interception facilities on the West coast of the United States and at Hawaii and Guam, tapping all cable traffic across the Pacific Ocean as well as links between Australia and Japan. Japan had refused to take part."
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Singapore & South Korea Help NSA Tap Undersea Cables

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  • by it0 (567968) on Monday November 25, 2013 @05:00AM (#45512827)

    So I guess everybody is helping the US out with spying and such, but what is their motivation?
    1) They think it's the right thing to do?
    2) There is some (in)direct monetary gain?
    3) They also get spy data?
    4) They think the US is awesome?
    5) All of the above?
    6) Other?

    I feel like i just wrote a poll, but I'm geniunly interested for some insight.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      For scraps that fall from their master's table.

    • I was actually considering a VPN service that terminates in Singapore - they're generally very good about economic freedom.

      Now, no. Will other privacy-concerned people follow suit? Will we make enough of an impact that the VPN provider will need less space in the Singapore data center? Will those effects accumulate and hurt their local economy?

      Anybody know what the current reputation of The Netherlands is?

      • by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Monday November 25, 2013 @05:38AM (#45512937) Journal

        Anybody know what the current reputation of The Netherlands is?

        Awful. The prime minister even refuses to say anything bad about the unlawful interceptions, because "it could harm our interests as well". Clearly "our interests" do not include the interests of the citizens. And our domestic affairs minister wants to give the police unwarranted tapping powers with the possibility to install spyware, only controlled by their own organisation.

        Disclaimer: I live there.

        • Thank you for the information. The other two choices from this vendor are the US and the UK. On to the next honeypot, errr, vendor, then.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            With those alternatives, I would choose the Netherlands.

          • I'd get two, one in Iran, one in the US, encrypt both and chain them. Of course both will be tapped, but they will most certainly not cooperate. So one knows where you're coming from and one knows where you're going to, but neither knows both ends and either would have to break the encryption to the other machine to tap into the traffic.

            • I doubt any company on the planet exists that provides this service, considering the US's stance towards cryptography, let alone Iran in general.
        • When it comes to spying on citizens, the Dutch have a rather poor track record, with a history of phone taps and other activities. Ever since the Dutch joined the war on terror with a number of soldiers in the Afghan province of Uruzgan, ties with the NSA are rather close.

          Sources (in Dutch):
          1. Support of previous post (minister not wanting to criticize NSA): http://nos.nl/artikel/578418-rutte-kaken-op-elkaar-over-nsa.html [nos.nl]
          2. Thousands of phone taps already as early as 2009: http://www.nrcnext.nl/blog/2009/09 [nrcnext.nl]

        • by umghhh (965931)

          There was an interesting article on BBC site about the referendum in Switzerland. It ended :

          Switzerland's system of democracy means citizens can call nationwide votes on issues that concern them.(*)

          I considered that interesting because such explanation means also that all other citizens in old democracies in the West cannot really do anything on issues that concern them - such concept is foreign to them i.e. requires an additional comment. Seems like the whole concept about letting people decide is gone from Western democracy - the only thing we directly decide is what asshole is holding office and in US even

        • by Burz (138833)

          Anybody know what the current reputation of The Netherlands is?

          Awful. The prime minister even refuses to say anything bad about the unlawful interceptions, because "it could harm our interests as well". Clearly "our interests" do not include the interests of the citizens. And our domestic affairs minister wants to give the police unwarranted tapping powers with the possibility to install spyware, only controlled by their own organisation.

          Disclaimer: I live there.

          My condolences... http://slashdot.org/journal/570913/privacy-for-the-surveillance-age [slashdot.org]

      • they're generally very good about economic freedom.

        Now, no. Will other privacy-concerned people follow suit?

        No, because most "privacy-concerned" people already understand that "economic freedom" just means the freedom for people to gain unlimited power, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      • Doesn't matter very much what the Netherland's reputation is, if the NSA straddles the backbones that serve the country. I really don't understand how anyone has missed that vital fact. The US knows where all the cables are. If they don't control either terminus, they can just splice in to the damned thing any where they find convenient.

        Today, NO ONE has a good reputation for privacy. NO ONE can guarantee that the five-eyed-googly-monster isn't reading your every exchange. (Or, would that be the five-g

        • by AHuxley (892839)
          They are in NATO and have very strong sharing links for signals and telco taps going back to the 1980's with in the EU and for the UK and USA going back decades.
      • by Burz (138833)

        There are plenty of places that get favorable press for "economic freedom" because they ignore the dealings of (only) the wealthy. As far as overall freedom is concerned, however, I wouldn't place Singapore far from Dubai. Online traffic is intensely political now- not merely "economic activity".

        I think everyone concerned about privacy should look at I2P instead of VPNs... having "private" in the acronym doesn't mean that in 2013 they are much good in actually protecting privacy. Only a proper darknet can p

      • Does it really matter where your VPN terminates?

        You are still probably accessing servers in the US, so your data travels back to the US where it is dutifully monitored and logged.

      • by Dekker3D (989692)

        To add to Errol's reply.. Basically, our minister of security and justice, Ivo Opstelten, loves to act like a rabid fanboy of the book 1984, and of the things the UK and USA are already doing. We're just lagging behind a year or two on the field of "massive disregard for citizens' rights".

        Not an ideal choice, in other words.

        Source: dutch citizen. Annoyed dutch citizen.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      They are US allies and they need US support if there is a war especially between South Korea and North Korea. If they don't help, USA would terminate the sales of advance fighter jets to them and they will be dead meat if a war broke out. Have you forgotten what George Bush said after Sep 11. "Either you are with us or against us." Do you think these countries dare to piss off USA ? I am sure they filter away their own leaders conversation before they pass the intels to NSA. Which help to protect their ow
    • by jeti (105266)

      The US doesn't really need oil from the middle east. Europe and Asia do.

      • by Splab (574204)

        Out of curiosity, do you happen to be American?

        Europe sure as heck doesn't *need* the middle east for oil, we have huge oil fields in the north sea, which is quite capable of sustaining us should shit hit the fan. On top of that, we are working very hard on getting rid of our dependency on oil, so no, we don't *need* them.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        The US doesn't really need oil from the middle east. Europe and Asia do.

        Singapore doesn't.

        They are a major oil trading hub in SE Asia. Singapore and Malaysia are swimming in the stuff, so much so Australia gets all of it's petrol from Singapore (which is one of the reasons petrol in Oz is so expensive, Singapore Tapis consistently US$0.20 more expensive than Brent Crude or West Texas Intermediate).

        However both Singapore and South Korea are major trading partners with the US.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      2) direct.
      3) they think so or at least think they'll learn how to do it(right after the usa tap is their own tap).
      4) they're buying jets with sw from usa anyways.

      6) they think they can from 3) gain info to control political power and their own budget in their own country.

    • by bazorg (911295)

      I'd go for a mix of 2, 3 and fear of being hit in the head with bombs.

    • Self-interest (Score:5, Insightful)

      by golodh (893453) on Monday November 25, 2013 @05:49AM (#45512975)
      Nations usually act on a single motivating factor: self-interest.

      Given that we're asking this question on a US forum we can take it as granted that 60% of the readers couldn't find either country on a map and that 90% have zero knowledge of their political and historical position. So about 90% will be ill-equipped to understand where Singapore's and South-Korea's self-interests might lie. But now that the question is asked, we can remedy that.

      South Korea, needs the US to help defend themselves against neighbours who would be prepared to wage a full-scale war against them (North Korea). The US are pretty much the only ally of note and value they have, and they know it.

      Singapore is surrounded by neighbours that completely dwarf them (Malaysia, Indonesia) only 50 years ago encompassed them (Malaysia), have an Islamic majority (Malaysia) or a virulent Islamic minority (Indonesia) and are debating whether to become a fully Islamic state (Malaysia).

      Both countries have brought about an economic boom and depend on security (i.e. the absence of shooting wars), good trade relations with the West, open sea lanes and suchlike.

      In both cases a critical part of their national security is having accurate information on what their neighbours are really up to. And in both cases the only serious partner is the US. As a stabilizing factor, a main ally, or a party with whom to trade information that they themselves cannot collect (like e.g. satellite coverage, ocean reconnaissance, comprehensive traffic monitoring etc. etc.).

      For countries like that, helping the US eavesdrop on message traffic makes an uncommon lot of sense and is a small price to pay.

      Whilst Snowden's relevations may have a beneficial effect on US *domestic* intelligence oversight, having such data-collection arrangements splattered on the front page are detrimental to the collective national security of the US, Singapore, and Korea.

      Turn it any way you want, knowing what people are up to gives you a head start in dealing with them, and the US have been a stabilizing factor in Asia for 60 years or so. Eroding this data-collection capability is the price we pay for openness. I'm not certain if the price is too steep, all I'm saying is that it's a very real price we pay. Even if not everybody realises it or wants to hear about it.

      • Re:Self-interest (Score:5, Informative)

        by aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) on Monday November 25, 2013 @06:35AM (#45513095)

        " Singapore is surrounded by neighbours that completely dwarf them (Malaysia, Indonesia) only 50 years ago encompassed them (Malaysia), have an Islamic majority (Malaysia) or a virulent Islamic minority (Indonesia) and are debating whether to become a fully Islamic state (Malaysia). "

        Minor correction with Indonesia. Like Malaysia, Indonesia is a Muslim-majority state. In fact, the majority is greater in Indonesia (at least 90% IRC). Malaysia in fact has a rather large, non-Muslim ethnic Chinese minority, which have been discriminated against per official policy.

        The problem with the Snowden revelations is likely to come more from Malaysia, which has adopted a more consistently anti-Western stance than Indonesia, which had been more business-like in its dealings with the West.

      • That's right, when the bad guys know what people are up to, they have a head start in fucking them over. Viewed this way, perhaps the price you talk about is not too steep at all.
      • I think the "self interest" here is that likely the same Multinational corporations (especially banks) are pulling the strings, and that the rivalry between many nations is more show than the public might think.

        The real security threat is the public. Al Qaeda and groups like that are useful tools that show up when someone needs invading. There might be "al Qaeda" people with real anger issues, but they only get reported on when there is "stuff that needs taking."

        The real hub-bub here with leaks of all this

      • by Xest (935314)

        "Nations usually act on a single motivating factor: self-interest. "

        I would qualify this, I think it's better phrased as:

        Nations usually act on a single motivating factor: perceived self-interest.

        What a nation, or at least, the leaders of a nation, perceive to be in their self-interest sometimes isn't. Tony Blair's government was convinced that attacking Iraq was in our self-interest but in reality it wasn't, it cost us billions in cash, it cost us lives, and it ripped our international reputation and pol

      • by Nyder (754090)

        Nations usually act on a single motivating factor: self-interest.

        Given that we're asking this question on a US forum we can take it as granted that 60% of the readers couldn't find either country on a map and that 90% have zero knowledge of their political and historical position. So about 90% will be ill-equipped to understand where Singapore's and South-Korea's self-interests might lie. But now that the question is asked, we can remedy that.

        ...

        Wrong forum, most the people here are college educated.

    • They get to divert attention from their own crimes and failures. Don't think they don't spy too. And have other problems they wish to go unremarked. The US is a great whipping boy. Blame every domestic problem on the US. Say the US bullied them into it. Works most of the time. Helps that it is true some of the time too.

      But that's not the diversion that I find most troubling. Yes, this spying is problematic, but that's not the biggest issue we face. While we're busy swilling down scandalous headli

    • 7) I'll take "Who has a huge nuclear arsenal and likely a death ray for $500 Alex."

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Re Why - Chai Keng, Singapore, RAF was used by the ~GCHQ from ~1945-71 as a "black station" hidden under RAF site cover.
      i.e. Singapore and Hong Kong where both open to the UK and the US was very interested in the flow of regional Russian signals.
      The motivation is the same as an Australia, Canada, NZ or other EU country - after generations it becomes 'tech' addictive to support the UK and USA.
      Top staff like the trips to the UK or US and seem to get on better with the UK and US than their own govs.
      Very fe
    • by epSos-de (2741969)
      Japan did refuse. China does refuse. Russia does refuse.
    • Can you really be that naive?

      The answer is that it's in their own self-interest, or what the leaders of the government think it's in their own self-interest. Which is what pretty much every political action boils down to.

      Singapore is a tiny nation surrounded by giants (in terms of population). It is totally dependent on water imports from Malaysia, for instance. It's a 5 minute boat ride from tens of millions of impoverished refugees (or invaders, depending on how you look at it). Are you surprised that Sin

  • Drop an Anchor (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe "Dropping Anchor" is code for wire tapping without permission. The old "a boat dropped anchor on the cable" so the internet is a trickle in Australia for 3 days trick.

    "I'm just going to go drop an anchor on this call"
    "We were dropped anchor off the coast of China last week"

    • by mjwx (966435)

      Maybe "Dropping Anchor" is code for wire tapping without permission. The old "a boat dropped anchor on the cable" so the internet is a trickle in Australia for 3 months trick.

      Fixed that for you, the last time someone accidentally dropped an anchor on the SEA-ME-WE 3 cable between Indonesia and Australia it took months to get it fixed.

  • wait a second! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gravis Zero (934156) on Monday November 25, 2013 @06:22AM (#45513057)

    that makes me ponder, were these cuts accidental or red herrings?

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/06/georgian-woman-cuts-web-access [theguardian.com]
    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=4267160 [go.com]
    http://tribune.com.pk/story/527148/undersea-internet-cable-cut-effects-50-of-pakistans-traffic/ [tribune.com.pk]
    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/mar/28/damaged-undersea-cable-internet-disruption [theguardian.com]

    i'm aware you can tap fiber without disrupting it but it's underwater which seems difficult to start with and it doesn't mean all the cuts were by the NSA. (since apparently everyone is spy happy)

    everything is suspicious now :((((

    • everything is suspicious now :((((

      All data should be encrypted from now on.

    • by Narcocide (102829)

      Yea... I've got an even better one for you. Remember when there was that big scandal about Google Street View cars getting caught "accidentally" wardriving [latimes.com] and everyone couldn't believe they could have done such a thing on accident?

      I had almost forgot about it too.

    • Re:wait a second! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by coofercat (719737) on Monday November 25, 2013 @09:33AM (#45513705) Homepage Journal

      What's to say they didn't really cut the undersea cable? How about they cut it on nice-and-cosy dry land, but told you it was actually an undersea problem?

      Or... how about they wanted to cut the cable on dry land, but couldn't because it would disrupt everyone using it. Instead, they called up their pals in the Navy and asked them to rent a ship and drop anchor on the cable. At the same time, they cut the cable on dry land, added in their splitters and then let the cable company repair the under-sea problem. When the cable company lit the cable up again, they recalibrated it for the repair to the undersea cut, and the split cut, but never knew about the split cut.

      Or... how about they just got into the cable companies ahead of time and tapped it right there, and actually the anchor drops were real accidents?

      Either way, the cables got tapped, and we got screwed over.

    • by Xest (935314)

      This conspiracy theory came up along time ago after a few cables were cut off the coast of Egypt some years back. People were saying it must be a conspiracy because it's so impossible that 2 undersea cables could be cut in such a short time span.

      At the time I looked into it and found a link to a fairly objective organisation which I frankly can't remember who published some information and stats on the issue. I think it may well have been the IMO - the International Maritime Organisation that all UN states

    • by Shatrat (855151)

      I work in Telecom, fiber cuts happen every day on major networks. Backhoes and rats cut underground fiber, trucks and squirrels cut aerial fiber. It would easy to put a splitter in place, but hard for it to stay in place without someone noticing. I think in most of this tapping the carrier is complicit.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      From what I can tell from TFA, this isn't Cold War-era splicing a listening device into a cable in the middle of the ocean. It's getting the country where the cable comes up to the surface on board with the surveillance, and they simply eavesdrop on the cable traffic when it's split apart and routed to different cables on its way to the final destination.

      This certainly helps explain why the U.S. Navy decommissioned NR-1 [wikipedia.org] in 2008. While ostensibly it was for deep sea research and salvage operations (e.g.
  • too lazy to find links. but a handful of undersea cables were 'mistakenly' cut by various excuses. I'm sure many people knew it was b.s. and that the gov was splicing them.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      When the undersea cable was cut off the coast of Egypt, it also severed classified networks in Iraq (where I worked at the time). That one really was a drug anchor. Posting anon because I already modded; this is all unclassified info.
  • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Monday November 25, 2013 @11:55AM (#45515123)
    1. High-tech culture
    2. Anime
    3. Hentai
    4. No NSA

    Time to move to Japan!
  • And Japan? Need we remind them what happened the last time they opposed the Good ol' USA? It would be best for everybody if 'all the ships sailed in the same direction'.

  • Having so much NSA associated countries could be a hint of a new world order appearing, no more first/second/third world but the ones with the USA in this and the rest attacked ( puttng backdoors in their networks [www.nrc.nl] for future action, causing unrest in population using social networks, and of course, stripping all their populations from a basic human right) by them sometimes without noticing that. So far the confirmed list of the NSA associated countries include UK, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Sou

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