[ExI] The NSA's new data center

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Tue Apr 3 07:28:18 UTC 2012

On Sun, Apr 01, 2012 at 09:25:54PM -0600, Kelly Anderson wrote:
> On Sun, Apr 1, 2012 at 3:21 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:
> > I am only talking about what is feasible. NSA is a pretty conservative
> > shop, so I don't think they'd be pushing the envelope.
> I'm honestly a little confused by this statement Eugen... The NSA
> employs the top graduates in mathematics, computer science and

Those top graduates who would work for that particular employer.
So far Wall Street has proved to be a far more reliable attractor
of top talent, since paying top salaries. The patriot card is 
unlikely the draw the best and brightest.

> cryptography. They likely have the most advanced super computers in
> the world.

Anyone with the budget can order the most advanced supercomputer.
Many on http://www.top500.org/ do have that budget.

> http://www.ltionline.com/news/nsa-to-use-latest-supercomputing-capabilities-to-combat-threats-to-u-s/
> They are rumored to build their own hardware when the occasion

You can build your own hardware. Just submit a VHDL specification
to a fab. 

You will not be able to beat the likes the Intel and AMD, or even ARM
at their game. Guess what, neither does the NSA. They're just a customer.

> warrants. They have one of, if not the largest database on the planet.

So does Google and Facebook.

> They almost certainly have the best decryption software. They have

If NSA wouldn't lead the field in cryptoanalysis one would wonder
what their reason to exist are. But in practice nobody works through
a strong cryptosystem. One works around it.

> leading edge technology to analyze billions of satellite photographs
> from the best spy satellites out there, taking pictures with less than
> 6 inches of resolution (some say much less). If that's not leading
> edge, I don't know what is.

I grant you that they have definitely the lead in automatic image
> So how is it that you can say they are "conservative" and not "pushing
> the envelope"? It just seems like a rather outlandish claim...

Why is NSA a conservative shop? Because they're a government organization
that can't afford to fail spectacularly. In fact, they always failed the
best when straying from the their competency too much.

And if you read Bamford religiously, you'd *know* that they're not
into the bleeding edge.


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