R-o-c-k in the NSA
October 13, 2005 2:30 PM   Subscribe

NSA gets patent on locating the physical location of web surfers "There are still many advantages to knowing the physical location of a party one is dealing with across electronically switched networks. For example, in the realm of advertising, knowing the geographic distribution of sales or inquires can be used to measure the effectiveness of advertising across geographic regions." Advertising, mmm hmmm.
posted by jeremias (24 comments total)
thank god for countermeasures. fuck big brother... yeah you NSA.
posted by specialk420 at 2:33 PM on October 13, 2005

At first glance this looks like simple triangulation performed with latency using the known locations of various routers.
posted by Ryvar at 2:34 PM on October 13, 2005

Countermeasures? A Renold's Wrap hat won't, er... foil their plan?

posted by illovich at 2:37 PM on October 13, 2005

now , you can ALL fear the american government .
posted by mishaco at 2:39 PM on October 13, 2005

Please don't give this to the RIAA and MPAA.

Er, not that I'm doing anything wrong.
posted by JeremyT at 2:44 PM on October 13, 2005

At first glance this looks like simple triangulation performed with latency using the known locations of various routers.

Now that would be very stupid.

Is this any diffrent then looking up the address of the person the actual IP is registered too (like AOL, for example)?
posted by delmoi at 2:48 PM on October 13, 2005

What could possibly interest a semi-secret government agency in that sort of techno

posted by clevershark at 2:59 PM on October 13, 2005

but why a patent?
posted by caddis at 3:01 PM on October 13, 2005

fuck big brother... yeah you NSA.

They're so coming for you.
posted by baphomet at 3:07 PM on October 13, 2005

Let's be realistic here. Anything the NSA is willing to publicly patent is the least scary thing they've ever done.
posted by smackfu at 3:09 PM on October 13, 2005

posted by Joeforking at 3:13 PM on October 13, 2005

What caddis asked. Even if someone else had the patent, what's going to prevent the NSA form using whatever they damn well please? Ethics?

Or is this perhaps just PR to frighten bad guys into using carrier pigeons and cleft sticks?
posted by IndigoJones at 3:13 PM on October 13, 2005

Filed: December 29, 2000

Five years ago. Not that this is a good thing since I'm sure its a quick little code job to have the coordinates of enemies of the state fed straight into that secret space based laser weapon and have dissenters vaporized where they sit and type.

But there are plenty of other things that are happening as we speak that are alot more alarming than what the NSA is doing publicly.
posted by fenriq at 3:22 PM on October 13, 2005

Isn't this more likely a case of the NSA wanting to keep this technique from being made widely available by a private company?
posted by mullacc at 3:22 PM on October 13, 2005

That wasn't me .... you see... it was my identical twin brother ... I swear.... You got nothing on me.... heh
posted by R. Mutt at 3:42 PM on October 13, 2005

So... would these countermeasures include multi-chained proxies and the like?

Man, I have to study up on this. Damn. I'll have to clear room in my brain. Forget the hit dice # for cloud giants perhaps. Delete where "Kraven the Hunter" comes from. Lotsa useless knowlege in there.

I just like anonymity man. Although I'm happy if the NSA is patenting this to keep it out of the hands of private companies.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:05 PM on October 13, 2005

The more likely scenario, I believe, is that the NSA patented it as the result of work performed by a private company, to ensure that the NSA retains control over the code and IP created under contract by the private company.
posted by FormlessOne at 4:17 PM on October 13, 2005

joeforking -

We know.


p.s. The mole on your ass is cute.
posted by swell at 6:03 PM on October 13, 2005

It ought to be pretty trivial to hack your TCP stack to add random delays or whatever to screw up their latency calculations...
posted by kindall at 6:09 PM on October 13, 2005

Delays in TCP have already been used as covert channels, so I don't see why kindall's idea wouldn't work fine.
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:20 PM on October 13, 2005

I already thought the NSA could do this.
posted by troutfishing at 8:27 PM on October 13, 2005

kindall: Yep. Really doubtful that this can be achieved as described in the patent blurb. There is not nearly enough precision in the measurement and it would be really easy to mess with the data.

I worked on a system that attempted to do a similar thing, but only to the nearest city. That level of precision can be achieved (most of the time) by looking at the router nearest the user. From there, even if you could resolve the ping time to a distance, you would be left with a circle or band around the router's location, and you would need some other information to find the exact location. Like the customer database of the ISP, possibly.
posted by yoz420 at 2:32 AM on October 14, 2005

brilliant idea they've got there. now... does this mean we all have to click that little "reply to ping" button in our firewalls and routers, so NSA can have their fun? ..or will this just have the opposite effect?

oh but hey, could it be, that maybe, that's exactly what they're aiming for - beware of NSA's new weapon:

posted by psychomedia at 8:55 AM on October 14, 2005

It's more likely a services based scanner that does a number of scripted tasks against a node to assertain any relavent information from it(IP address for one, then you look at who owns that IP, what router that IP is bound to, where that router is, what further downstream systems there are in place, whether you are behind a NAT, etc, etc,). Physical location is not the hardest thing in the world (at least as far as approximation) and once they've got what block of what city you are in down, they can send in foot patrols or just cordone off the area and require anything entering or leaving the area to show proper identification.
Welcome to the future of cat and mouse. As long as you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.

Oh, and a side note, the NSA is not evil in everything it does. They are entrusted with the security of our nations communications infrastructure, which, seeing as how it is a conglomeration of private entities, is no small task. Hence the need for so much secrecy and such a heavy handed approach to dealing with "criminal elements". I'm sure they were all slapping themselves in the forehead when they got "absorbed" into Homeland Security.
posted by daq at 9:57 AM on October 14, 2005

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