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Snowden used simple technology to mine NSA computer networks

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SnowdenThe National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden used inexpensive and widely available software to plunder the agency’s networks, it has been reported, raising further questions about why he was not detected.

Intelligence officials investigating the former contractor, who leaked thousands of documents to media outlets including the Guardian last year, determined that he used web crawler software designed to search, index and back up websites to “scrape” highly classified files, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

The unusual activity triggered a brief challenge from agency officials but Snowden persuaded them it was legitimate and continued mining data.

“We do not believe this was an individual sitting at a machine and downloading this much material in sequence,” an unnamed official told the Times. The process, the official said, was “quite automated”.

Web crawlers, also known as spiders, move from website to website, following links embedded in each document, and can copy everything they encounter. Snowden is believed to have accessed about 1.7 million documents.

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