NSA uses online ‘cookies’ to find targets, Snowden documents reveal

VIA Snowden-e-lo-scandalo-NSA-l-Unione-Europea-sapeva-tutto_h_partb

The National Security Agency is secretly piggybacking on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using "cookies" and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.

The agency's internal presentation slides, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, show that when companies follow consumers on the Internet to better tailor their advertising, the technique opens the door for similar tracking by the government.

According to the documents, the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, are using the small tracking files called "cookies" that advertising networks place on computers to identify people browsing the Internet. The intelligence agencies have made particular use of the "PREFID," part of Google-specific tracking software known as the "PREF" cookie.

This cookie typically doesn't contain personal information, such as someone's name or email address, but it does contain numeric codes that enable Web sites to uniquely identify a person's browser.

In addition to tracking Web visits, the PREFID allows NSA to single out an individual's communications among the sea of Internet data in order to send out software that can hack that person's computer.

The NSA slides say the Internet cookies are used to "enable remote exploitation," although the specific attacks used by the NSA against targets are not addressed in the documents.

The NSA's use of cookies isn't a technique for sifting through vast amounts of information to find suspicious behavior; rather, it lets NSA home in on someone already..

Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-nsa-uses-online-cookies-to-find-targets-20131210,0,3728390.story