WikiLeaks exposes TrapWire, gets DDoSed

WikiLeaks has blown the lid off TrapWire, a secret government surveillance system that uses ordinary CCTV cameras — and then the site went down under a DDoS attack.

WikiLeaks has blown the lid off TrapWire, a secret government surveillance system that uses ordinary CCTV cameras — and then the site went down under a DDoS attack.

(London CCTV Irony image by Paul Vlaar, CC BY-SA 2.5)

It's as insidious a system as any we've seen. Using ordinary CCTV cameras, such as those you might see on train stations, in supermarkets and so forth, TrapWire scans for "persons of interest" in the US, sending encrypted packages of data every few seconds.

The software is made by a company called Abraxas, about which little is known.

According to Russian-owned news site RT, though, what is known is worrying.

Every few seconds, data picked up at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States, are recorded digitally on the spot, then encrypted and instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database centre at an undisclosed location, to be aggregated with other intelligence. It's part of a program called TrapWire and it's the brainchild of the Abraxas, a Northern Virginia company staffed with elite from America's intelligence community. The employee roster at Arbaxas reads like a who's who of agents once with the Pentagon, CIA and other government entities, according to their public LinkedIn profiles, and the corporation's ties are assumed to go deeper than even documented.

The WikiLeaks reveal came as part of its release of over five million emails from intelligence company Stratfor, which began in February of this year under the name The Global Intelligence Files.

The Guardian's Charles Arthur then found evidence of US Government involvement, revealing:

Documents from the US Department of Homeland Security show[s] that it paid US$832,000 to deploy Trapwire in Washington DC and Seattle.

In the wake of the leak, WikiLeaks came under a week-long DDoS attack, with the site taking up to 40GB per second. Wikileaks tweeted, "The range of IPs used is huge. Whoever is running it controls thousands of machines or is able to simulate them."

WikiLeaks is currently back online. You can read the relevant emails here, and a detailed analysis from Public Intelligence here.

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About the author

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

 

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