According to The Washington Post, the NSA has been able to secretly break into "the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world" allowing them to "collect at will from among hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans." Infographic here.
The NSAs principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agencys British counterpart, GCHQ. From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.
The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.
The MUSCULAR project appears to be an unusually aggressive use of NSA tradecraft against flagship American companies. The agency is built for high-tech spying, with a wide range of digital tools, but it has not been known to use them routinely against U.S. companies.
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