A fresh set of National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden today to The Washington Post reveal how the NSA secretly broke into Yahoo and Google‘s data centers across the world to obtain private information from email documents and other cloud-based services. The program, called MUSCULAR, is detailed in document dated Jan. 9, 2013 which says the NSA collected over 181 million records in just 30 days.
MUSCULAR, which operated alongside British surveillance program GCHQ, copies entire streams of data as they travel through unencrypted fiber optic cables, presumably without the knowledge of the companies being infiltrated. Responding to The Washington Post, Google said it was “troubled by allegations” the NSA was infiltrating its data centers, adding that the company is not aware of this program. Yahoo also denied any knowledge of MUSCULAR.
The latest Snowden leaks are particularly worrisome considering that the NSA already has direct access to this information through the FISA Amendments Act, which gives it the right to request private information from these companies. When The Washington Post showed the document to two engineers close to Google they reportedly “exploded in profanity” before imploring the paper to publish them.
Meanwhile, speaking at a cyber-security summit shortly following today’s leak, NSA head General Keith Alexander denied any knowledge of MUSCULAR.