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Carnivore substitute keeps Feds honest
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2001 02:21:45 -0500 (CDT)
By Thomas C Greene in Washington
Posted: 02/10/2001 at 20:32 GMT
The Forensics Explorers division of CTX is ready to go to market with
a Carnivore-like suite called NetWitness which, the company says, can
enable ISPs to surrender to the Feds only those specific bits of
information about a suspect which a court has authorized for
The NetWitness package can separate data to ensure strict, minimal
compliance with a pen register or trap and trace order, and later
associate the original content if a search warrant or a wiretap
warrant is issued, Forensics Explorers General Manager Mark Longworth
told The Register.
Because Carnivore is capable of capturing far more data than a pen
register or trap and trace order is meant to make available, an ISP
may well prefer to install its own kit rather than trust Carnivore
operators to stick to the letter of the law.
There are two chief problems with Carnivore in terms of
over-collection, as we reported in a previous article. First is the
fact that packet traffic belonging to perfectly innocent subscribers
passes through it along with the suspect's data. Basically, we have to
trust the FBI not to abuse this incidental access. The motive for them
not to do so is the looming possibility of screwing up a prosecution;
but now, in the wake of the 11 September atrocities, it's a fair bet
that the Feds are going to get a good deal more latitude from the
courts in borderline cases.
The second problem is that we have no assurance that, when used in
'pen mode', Carnivore doesn't capture more of the packet than its
origin, destination and time of transmission. It's quite possible that
the subject line of an e-mail memo would be captured, for instance.
This certainly goes beyond what's understood as a pen register or trap
and trace, where only the origins and destinations of phone calls are
to be recorded.
The FBI is exuberantly installing Carnivore on public networks now in
pursuit of the Bearded Chupacabra. But it's reasonable that an ISP,
however eager to cooperate in this venture, might well object to
having a mysterious 'black box' installed on its lines. But the fact
is, it doesn't have to, so long as it can provide the FBI with the
data it's authorized to collect.
Doing in-house surveillance can become a feature with which an ISP
might differentiate itself from its competitors. For example, you the
innocent subscriber can be assured that if a pen register is executed
against someone else on the network, your e-mail isn't going to end up
in the hands of the FBI. And if you're ever unfortunate enough to come
under federal scrutiny, you can be assured that the FBI won't be
getting any data beyond what's been legally authorized.
There is no logical reason for the FBI to insist that an ISP use its
black box. Phone companies don't let them install mysterious devices
on their lines, and neither should ISPs. These collections are covered
under the CALEA (Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act),
which obligates communications providers to comply, all right; but
that isn't the same as saying that only equipment cobbled together by
the Feds can be used.
The FBI's irrational devotion to Carnivore is most likely the result
of needing to justify the development costs, which we're told were in
the neighborhood of $3 million. Pushing it aggressively is essentially
a way of denying that it's a sub-standard tool.
The NetWitness kit is well within the reach of most ISPs; the
collector sells for approximately $2,500 and the analysis station for
between $35,00 and $45,000, Longworth told us. Network Ice offers a
free do-it-yourself Carnivore kit, but this requires development
effort. It may or may not end up cheaper than NetWitness, according to
the efficiency of one's in-house geeks.
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- Carnivore substitute keeps Feds honest InfoSec News (Oct 03)