Surveillance Systems

Last Updated: 1 October 2001


Carnivore (aka DCS1000)

Carnivore is a controversial computer system designed by the USA's FBI to monitor, intercept and collect Internet communications (email, web pages accessed, etc). Carnivore is placed on an Internet Service Provider's system and collects data on a removable hard-drive. A court order and the ISP's knowledge and assistance is required to install the system. Controversy surrounds the use of Carnivore because it can intercept and collect communications by people who have nothing to do with the FBI's investigation, for example, if the system is purposely or accidentally misconfigured, or presumably if the software is faulty. For more information see:


Echelon is a global electronic surveillance system. For further information, see:

  • How governments spy on us, Karen Dearne, Australian IT, 25 Sep 2001
    "Australia and New Zealand are key partners in Echelon, the satellite spying system whose existence is still being denied by US authorities, a European Parliament report has concluded.

    'That a global system for intercepting communications exists, operating by means of co-operation proportionate to their capabilities among the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, under the UKUSA agreement, is no longer in doubt,' the committee investigating Echelon says.
    The system's primary purpose is 'to intercept private and commercial communications, not military communications', it says..."

  • European Parliament resolution on the existence of a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications (ECHELON interception system) (2001/2098(INI)), 5 Sep 2001
  • Echelon Watch, Cyber-Rights and Civil-Liberties UK
  • How terror slipped through the net, Duncan Campbell, London, The Age, 30 Sep 2001
    "...According to the FBI, the conspirators did not use encryption; once found, the e-mails could be openly read.

    ...There is also evidence that the terrorists used simple open codes to conceal who and what they were talking about. This low-tech method works. Unless given leads, even the vast Echelon network run by NSA and GCHQ cannot separate such messages from innocuous traffic.

    NSA's problem, says Gladman [Dr Brian Gladman, formerly responsible for electronic security at the Ministry of Defence and NATO], is that 'the volume of communications is killing them. They just can't keep up. It's not about encryption'.

    The NSA has been trying to keep up with the Internet by building huge online storage-systems to sift e-mail. ...The problem with NSA's purely technological approach is that it cannot know what it is looking for. While computers can search for patterns, the problem of correlating different pieces of information rises exponentially as ever more communications are intercepted..."