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Beyond Carnivore: FBI Eyes Packet Taps
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2001 03:20:16 -0500 (CDT)
By: Max Smetannikov
October 18, 2001
Expect the FBI to expand its Internet wiretapping program, says a
source familiar with the plan.
Stewart Baker, a partner with law firm Steptoe & Johnson, is a former
general counsel to the National Security Agency. He says the FBI has
spent the last two years developing a new surveillance architecture
that would concentrate Internet traffic in several key locations where
all packets, not just e-mail, could be wiretapped. It is now planning
to begin implementing this architecture using the powers it has under
existing wiretapping laws.
The FBI has acknowledged a program called Carnivore, which sniffs
e-mail messages, but the new program is more extensive, Baker says.
"The FBI has been gradually developing a set of guidelines, standards
- call it what you will - a list of what law enforcement wants from
packet data communications systems," Baker said. "And they are in the
process of unveiling that over the next few months to ISPs and router
manufacturers and the like."
ISPs, Web hosters, vendors and other firms handling critical Internet
infrastructure should expect the FBI trying to schedule meetings to
deliver the details of their offering, and show the document
containing the technical specifications, Baker said. He indicated that
details of what this new surveillance architecture should look like
are not clear. It is also possible the FBI has retained some
well-known data infrastructure consulting firms to develop its new
The new architecture is different from Carnivore because it would
likely ask for certain types of data communications to be centralized,
"The goal might be to get companies that use packet data to have those
packets go to one place for purposes of wiretap and other intercept
capabilities," Baker said. "It's clear they [the Bureau] have decided
that in the next year or so they are going to make a big push on
packet data and they are going to use whatever leverage they can to
get people to cooperate and to build a set of packet data systems that
are more wiretap friendly than the ones we have today."
The FBI spokesman overseeing Carnivore and other wiretapping issues
didn't immediately return calls seeking comments.
Whatever the new initiative ends up looking like, the Internet service
provider community could be more likely to cooperate, shaken up by
Sept. 11, said industry executives. But no one has heard of the FBI
going beyond Carnivore at this point.
"The FBI are trying to get Carnivore with a lot more ISPs," said
Patrick Sweeney, president and chief executive of ServerVault, a Web
hosting firm specializing in secure hosting.
Reportedly, the FBI is trying to use sections of Title 18, the
wiretapping law, to extend its eavesdropping coverage to e-mail,
Sweeney said. While he was not familiar with the initiative Baker
described, Sweeney said Bureau's interest in tracking data
communications is not shocking, and might go beyond the FBI.
"There are so many agencies that are working on procedures where they
can make sure than entire comprehensive wireless and wireline tapping
can be put into place if need be," he said.
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- Beyond Carnivore: FBI Eyes Packet Taps InfoSec News (Oct 22)