SIGINT is Signal Intellegence. It is the art and science of extracting meaningful information from the fact of communications. Not the contents of communications, but the fact a particular set of communications took place.
Historically it has been an important branch of intelligence gathering. The problem is that the communications game has been changing.
Today the BBC tell us that European governments are attempting to make us all more secure by watching all our communications.
Set aside for a moment whether I think this is a good idea (Sorry, I can’t, I don’t think this is a good idea) and think about whether it is effective.
If we all HAD to use email for communications on the internet, or specific closely regulated websites, then sure, maybe this would help. But frankly, we don’t, it isn’t and they can’t.
There are soo many different ways to communicate and soo many ways of decoupling the sender of a message from the eventual recipient that no amount of sigint gathering of http endpoints or email traffic logs will help.
With Twitter, Facebook, IRC communications, not to mention TOR and SSH, steganography and bit torrent. There is just no way to effectively track communications from sufficiently motivated people.
So, there are several possible reasons for trying it.
- They KNOW it does not work, but want to monitor traffic from people NOT sufficiently motivated. (Read Little Brother for some sobering thoughts, or read up on Carnivor, Omnivore)
- They think it will work, because some vendors have told them it IS possible (see We Lied for examples of this in the past)
- They KNOW this does not work, but this is a distraction from the real level of monitoring which is soo much more invasive (but just as doomed)
- Some other reason (Hey, I ain’t a genius here, maybe I got it wrong)
So, what are we to do?
- petition government?
- setup a TOR node?
- buy shares in data storage providers?
Who knows. I just fear this will not be the end of the attempts until people are reminded that some things just can’t be stopped.