In our recent report, “The Governance of Telecommunications Surveillance: How Opaque and Unaccountable Practices and Policies Threaten Canadians,” we discussed how the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) developed and deployed a sensor network within domestic and foreign telecommunications networks. While our report highlighted some of the concerns linked to this EONBLUE sensor network, including the dangers of secretly extending government surveillance capacity without any public debate about the extensions, as well as how EONBLUE or other CSE programs programs collect information about Canadians’ communications, we did not engage in a comparison of how Canada and its closest allies monitor domestic network traffic. This post briefly describes the EONBLUE sensor program, what may be equivalent domestic programs in the United States, and the questions that emerge from contrasting what we know about the Canadian and American sensor networks.
What is EONBLUE?
EONBLUE was developed and deployed by the CSE. The CSE is Canada’s premier signals intelligence agency. The EONBLUE sensor network “is a passive SIGINT system that was used to collect ‘full-take’ data, as well as conduct signature and anomaly based detections on network traffic.” Prior Snowden documents showcased plans to integrate EONBLUE into government networks; the network has already been integrated into private companies’ networks. Figure one outlines the different ‘shades of blue’, or variations of the EONBLUE sensors:
The report examines how contemporary telecommunications surveillance is governed in Canada. In it, we ask how much telecommunications surveillance is occurring in Canada, what actors are enabling the surveillance, to what degree those actors disclose their involvement in (and the magnitude of) surveillance, and what degree of oversight is given to the federal governments’ surveillance practices. We conclude that serious failures in transparency and accountability indicate that corporations are failing to manage Canadians’ personal information responsibly and that government irresponsibility surrounding accountability strains its credibility and aggravates citizens’ cynicism about the political process. In aggregate, these failings endanger both the development of Canada’s digital economy and aggravate the democratic deficit between citizens and their governments.
I have added one new item to the SIGINT Summaries page. The Summaries include downloadable copies of leaked Communications Security Establishment (CSE) documents, along with summary, publication, and original source information.1 CSE is Canada’s foreign signals intelligence agency and has operated since the Second World War.
Documents were often produced by CSE’s closest partners which, collectively, form the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence network. This network includes the CSE, the National Security Agency (NSA), the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Australian Signals Directorate (ASD),2 and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)).
All of the documents are available for download from this website. Though I am hosting the documents they were all first published by another party. The new documents and their summaries are listed below. The full list of documents and their summary information is available on the Canadian SIGINT Summaries page.
The new contribution comes from documents released by CBC and covers how Five Eyes intelligence analysts correlated telephony and mobile Internet communications information. For the first time I have noted, in the summary block, all of the codenames that were mentioned in the redacted document.
Synergising Network Analysis Tradecraft: Network Tradecraft Advancement Team (NTAT)
Summary: This slide deck showcases some of the activities, and successes, of the Network Tradecraft Advancement Team (NTAT). The slides focus on how to develop and document tradecraft which is used to correlate telephony and Internet data. Two separate workshops are discussed, one in 2011 and another in 2012. Workshop outcomes included identifying potentially converged data (between telephony and Internet data) as well as geolocating mobile phone application servers. A common mobile gateway identification analytic was adopted by three agencies, including DSD. NTAT had also adopted the CRAFTY SHACK tradecraft documentation system over the courses of these workshops.
In an experiment, codenamed IRRITANT HORN, analysts explored whether they could identify connections between a potentially ‘revolutionary’ country and mobile applications servers. They successfully correlated connections with application servers which opened up the potential to conduct Man in the Middle attacks or effect operations towards the mobile devices, as well as the potential to harvest data in transit and at rest from the devices. In the profiling of mobile applications servers it appears that EONBLUE was used to collect information about a company named Poynt; that company’s application was being used by Blackberry users, and the servers profiled were located in Calgary, Alberta (Canada).
The agencies successfully found vulnerabilities in UCWeb, which was found to leak IMSI, MSISDN, IMEI, and other device characteristics. These vulnerabilities were used to discover a target and it was determined that the vulnerabilities might let a SIGINT agency serve malware to the target. A ‘microplugin’ for XKeyscore was developed so that analysts could quickly surface UCWeb-related SIGINT material. (NOTE: The Citizen Lab analyzed later versions of UCWeb and found vulnerabilities that were subsequently patched by the company. For more, see: “A Chatty Squirrel: Privacy and Security Issues with UC Browser.”)
Formally known as the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC). ↩
The ASD was formerly known as the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD). ↩
Canadian SIGINT Summaries
The Canadian SIGINT Summaries includes downloadable copies, along with summary, publication, and original source information, of leaked CSE documents.
Parsons, Christopher; and Molnar, Adam. (2021). “Horizontal Accountability and Signals Intelligence: Lesson Drawing from Annual Electronic Surveillance Reports,” David Murakami Wood and David Lyon (Eds.), Big Data Surveillance and Security Intelligence: The Canadian Case.
Parsons, Christopher. (2015). “Stuck on the Agenda: Drawing lessons from the stagnation of ‘lawful access’ legislation in Canada,” Michael Geist (ed.), Law, Privacy and Surveillance in Canada in the Post-Snowden Era (Ottawa University Press).
Parsons, Christopher. (2015). “The Governance of Telecommunications Surveillance: How Opaque and Unaccountable Practices and Policies Threaten Canadians,” Telecom Transparency Project.
Parsons, Christopher. (2015). “Beyond the ATIP: New methods for interrogating state surveillance,” in Jamie Brownlee and Kevin Walby (Eds.), Access to Information and Social Justice (Arbeiter Ring Publishing).
Bennett, Colin; Parsons, Christopher; Molnar, Adam. (2014). “Forgetting and the right to be forgotten” in Serge Gutwirth et al. (Eds.), Reloading Data Protection: Multidisciplinary Insights and Contemporary Challenges.
Bennett, Colin, and Parsons, Christopher. (2013). “Privacy and Surveillance: The Multi-Disciplinary Literature on the Capture, Use, and Disclosure of Personal information in Cyberspace” in W. Dutton (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies.
McPhail, Brenda; Parsons, Christopher; Ferenbok, Joseph; Smith, Karen; and Clement, Andrew. (2013). “Identifying Canadians at the Border: ePassports and the 9/11 legacy,” in Canadian Journal of Law and Society 27(3).
Parsons, Christopher; Savirimuthu, Joseph; Wipond, Rob; McArthur, Kevin. (2012). “ANPR: Code and Rhetorics of Compliance,” in European Journal of Law and Technology 3(3).