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Tech: Not all that sensational

JohnInKansas 13 May 13 - 07:14 PM
JohnInKansas 13 May 13 - 07:18 PM
JohnInKansas 13 May 13 - 08:35 PM
Stilly River Sage 14 May 13 - 01:33 AM
JohnInKansas 14 May 13 - 06:10 AM
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Subject: Tech: Not all that sensational
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 13 May 13 - 07:14 PM

A recent new "news" posting claims that a FOI demand has resulted in the release of a "Spy Manual" telling NSA people how to find "everything on the internet."

For the curious, the article is at:

NSA Internet Spying Guide Made Public

> By Chloe Albanesius
> May 9, 2013 05:35pm EST

> In the movies, government spies are often seen in high-tech lairs, creeping into the dark corners of the Web with ease and cracking codes with a few clicks. But if a recently released NSA "Guide to Internet Research" is any indication, the life of an online spy is not exactly a high-octane, Web-powered thrill ride.

> The document, which was made public via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, dates back to 2007, so much of the information is a tad antiquated. The report author even comments that it was "out of date before it reached your desk." The topic of social networking is mentioned, but not discussed in any great detail, for example, which is not entirely shocking since Twitter was still in its infancy in 2007.

> Still, there is enough information to fill almost 650 pages. There are tips for maximizing online searches, how to look up email address and find people online, domain name lookups, finding Internet access points, and more. As Wired pointed out, there are some interesting search tips, or "Google Hacks," (find confidential spreadsheets by typing filetype:xls site:za confidential), but the information is not exactly going to help you crack the NSA and learn the government's secrets.

> The document, however, was labeled as "unclassified" (but for official use only), so the really juicy secrets and Internet tricks are probably still filed away. There's also a stamp on the guide that says the opinions in the guide "do not represent the official opinion of [the] NSA."

> "The overall implications of the Internet for how we work and how we play are just beginning to be discussed and understood," the report concluded. "The point, of course, is that no one is out of reach of this powerful, invasive technology."


The actual document looks "unsensational" to the point of being dull for those looking for conspiracies, but appears actually to be quite well written, and is apparently part of an ongoing effort by one single author to inform "anybody interested" about what the internet does and how it works.

While I haven't read the whole thing, my initial impression is that it's well written, and it includes information that more people probably knew in 2007 when this version was written than should know the same stuff now and don't. Some of it is a little dated, but a lot of the discussion seems to be about stuff that's pretty much the same.

This version was "published" by the NSA and was marked "Official Use Only" but the book (this was the 12th edition?) apparently has been published openly. The "Official Use Only" most likely is because the NSA didn't pay the royalties, but wanted people in the organization to be at least "marginally competent" if they ventured into the web. (Government agencies do that a lot.)

An initial look at the "book" indicates that the writer had an interesting and sometimes amusing style that might be sufficiently engaging for some people's "recreational reading." It definitely doesn't read like an "official NSA document."

I had thought I would include a couple of excerpts, but find that the PDF as downloaded doesn't include the "text layer" necessary to copy text out of it, and a conversion (that may or may not be really successful) will take "a few hours."

The news report gives a link where you can download the document. It's rather large (bitwise as well as pages) so it's recommended that you right-click and "save target as" so the download can run while you do something else useful.

> For more tips and tricks circa 2007, the entire report is available online for some light reading. Untangling_the_Web.pdf

Take a look if it sounds like fun. I may change my mind after I get it in shape to go through a little more, but it looks like just another "book about the internet" with a possibility that it's a little better than most.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Not all that sensational
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 13 May 13 - 07:18 PM

I did intend to include at the end of the previous post:

"... and it's free."


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Subject: RE: Tech: Not all that sensational
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 13 May 13 - 08:35 PM

First paragraph in the NSA version of the book, that I tried to copy earlier and couldn't:

One of the most famous stories about libraries tells of the tenth century Grand Vizier of Persia, Abdul Kassem Ismael who, "in order not to part with his collection of 117,000 volumes when traveling, had them carried by a caravan of 400 camels trained to walk in alphabetical order." However charming this tale may be, the actual event upon which it is based is subtly different. According to the original manuscript, now in the British Museum, the great scholar and literary patron Sahib 'Abbad so loved his books that he excused himself from an invitation by King Nuh II to become his prime minister at least in part on the grounds that four hundred camels would be required for the transport of his library alone."

Seemed sort of an odd way to kick things off, but the "style" appears to continue, with similar interjections throughout the book.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Not all that sensational
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 14 May 13 - 01:33 AM

Something to share with colleagues and see what they can ferret out of it. Thanks, John!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Not all that sensational
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 14 May 13 - 06:10 AM

I haven't looked too deeply in the "book," but in the first few pages I glanced at I got the impression that the author is someone I'd probably like to read, just for the slightly smart-a** interjections I saw.

The news report distorted what it was all about so much that I found it slightly offensive, especially once I figured out what it was all about; but I guess I've gotten over that enough to do some reading once I get a break from some "other business."


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