Ran across a story in Wired about the new NSA Utah data center today which is scheduled to be operational in September of 2013.
This new data center is intended to house copies of all communications intercepted the NSA. We have talked about this data center before and how it’s going to store YB of data (See my Yottabytes by 2015?! post).
One major problem with having a YB of communications intercepts is that you need to have multiple copies of it for protection in case of human or technical error.
Apparently, NSA has a secondary data center to backup its Utah facility in San Antonio. That’s one copy. We also wrote another post on protecting and indexing all this data (see my Protecting the Yottabyte Archive post)
NSA data centers
The Utah facility has enough fuel onsite to power and cool the data center for 3 days. They have a special power station to supply the 65MW of power needed. They have two side by side raised floor halls for servers, storage and switches, each with 25K square feet of floor space. That doesn’t include another 900K square feet of technical support and office space to secure and manage the data center.
In order to help collect and temporarily storage all this information, apparently the agency has been undergoing a data center building boom, renovating and expanding their data centers throughout the states. The article discusses some of other NSA information collection points/data centers, in Texas, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Tennessee, and of course, Maryland.
New NSA super computers
In addition to the communication intercept storage, the article also talks about a special purpose, decrypting super computer that NSA has invented over the past decade which will also be housed in the Utah data center. The NSA seems to have created a super powerful computer that dwarfs the current best Cray XT5 super computer clusters that operate at 1.75 petaflops available today.
I suppose what with all the encrypted traffic now being generated, NSA would need some way to decrypt this information in order to understand it. I was under the impression that they were interested in the non-encrypted communications, but I guess NSA is even more interested in any encrypted traffic.
Decrypting old data
With all this data being stored, the thought is that the data now encrypted with unbreakable AES-128, -192 or -256 encryption will eventually become decypherable. At that time, foriegn government and other secret communications will all be readable.
By storing this secret communications now, they can scan this treasure trove for patterns that eventually occur and once found, such patterns will ultimately lead to decrypting the data. Now we know why they need YB of storage.
So NSA will at least know what was going on in the past. However, how soon they can move that up to do real time decryption of communications today is another question. But knowing the past, may help in understanding what’s going on today.
So be careful what you say today even if it’s encrypted. Someone (NSA and its peers around the world) will probably be listening in and someday soon, will understand every word that’s been said.