The researcher Duncan Campbell analyzed a document leaked by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden focusing his investigation on the a term used in the secret slides that could have revealed a massive increase in the surveillance capacity of GCHQ and FiveEyes intelligence agencies.
Campbell is one of the authors of a report published a few days ago by the Nautilus Institute of Berkeley, other authors are Desmond Ball, Bill Robinson and Richard Tanter.
The report reveals that massive communications surveillance began more than 50 years ago, as soon as western nations first connected across the oceans using geostationary satellites. A joint effort of the US intelligence and other agencies, including GCHQ, allowed the creation of the ECHELON spy system.
With the diffusion of optical fibre submarine cables, the intelligence agencies spent a significant effort in order to tap them.
By analyzing the secret documents leaked by Snowden, the researchers noticed the word TORUS that means “doughnut”.
TORUS is mentioned in a slide that states:
“Torus increases access”
referring the increasing spying capabilities of the program.
“Torus is a brand new kind of satellite espionage, capable of soaking up calls and messages and data from 35 satellites at once.” reported Wired. “a Torus dish can monitor 70 degrees of the sky, without moving.”
According to the authors of the report, western intelligence agencies have built at least six new Torus collectors in the UK, Cyprus, Oman, Australia and New Zealand over the last eight years.
The Torus collectors are spying on communications in transit in 400 commercial communications satellites in orbit. The powerful systems are able to syphon data and telephone signals. The spying bases are equipped with nearly 200 traditional tracking dishes, the researchers have monitored their construction through satellite images available online.
The number of listening dishes has doubled since 2000, but the introduction of the six Torus system can dramatically improve spying capabilities of the intelligence agencies.
“Our research has uncovered how mass surveillance of satellite communications has grown. There are now 232 antennas available at the sites identified, almost double the capacity before 2001. The unique new aerials mean that the potential capacity has quadrupled.”
Let me suggest you to give a look to the report on satellite eavesdropping titled “Expanded Communications Satellite Surveillance and Intelligence Activities utilizing Multi-beam Antenna Systems,” by Desmond Ball, Duncan Campbell, Bill Robinson and Richard Tanter is published by the Nautilus Institute of Berkeley, NAPSNet Special Report, 28 May 2015.
(Security Affairs – Torus, surveillance)
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