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How the Augury Platform Captures Email and Internet Data

Simon Coulthard October 07, 2022

2 Minute Read

According to contracting information and other documents examined by Motherboard (tech of VICE), several branches of the U.S. military have purchased access to an internet monitoring tool.

The “Augury” tool covers over 90% of the world's internet traffic and, in some cases, gives access to people's email data, browsing history, and other information like their sensitive internet cookies.

A Peek into the Augury Platform

The Augury platform was built by a cybersecurity company, Team Cymru, which packages a large amount of data and makes it available to government and corporate customers as a subscription service.

Cyber security professionals in the private sector use it to track the activities of hackers or assign blame for cyber attacks.

In a US government procurement file, Motherboard found a description of the Augury platform “The network data includes data from over 550 collection points worldwide, to include collection points in Europe, the Middle East, North/South America, Africa and Asia, and is updated with at least 100 billion new records each day.”

The Augury platform gives access to “petabytes” of data both current and historical.

The US Navy, Army, Cyber Command and the Defense Security and Counterintelligence Agency appear to have paid a total of $3.5 million to gain access to Augury.

This action allows the military to track internet usage using a massive amount of sensitive data.

Buying commercially available data from private organizations allows U.S. officials to obtain information that, in certain situations, would require a warrant or other legal process.

Location data gleaned from smartphones is usually at the heart of sales. Augury's acquisitions demonstrate that this method of acquiring access to data also applies to data that is more directly related to Internet activity.


How the Augury Platform Works

An essential component of data protection is transparency. You have a right to know which of your personal information is gathered, utilized, consulted, or otherwise processed, as well as how far the processing goes or will go.

Thus, online procurement records show that the Augury platform offers its users access to a wide variety of different forms of internet data. These kinds of information include packet capture data (PCAP) from protocols for file sharing, remote desktop, and email. 

PCAP is a broad term for a complete data capture that includes a great deal of specific information about network activity. The request that was sent from one server to another and its response are both included in PCAP data.

According to the procurement records, Augury's data may also comprise online browser activities, such as URLs viewed and cookie usage.

Due to their individuality, cookies might be useful for tracking. For instance, Facebook and Google utilize cookies to track a specific user's activity when they go between websites.

Augury also includes "netflow data," which paints a picture of the volume and flow of traffic within a network. This information may normally only be accessible to the server owner or the ISP delivering the traffic, and it may include which servers communicated to another. 

The server they are finally connected from can be seen by tracking the traffic through virtual private networks using that netflow data.

ISPs offer Team Cymru this netflow data in exchange for information. Without the consumers of the ISPs' knowledge, that data transfer is most certainly taking place.

The users almost definitely don't know that Team Cymru receives their data and then buys access to it. It is unclear how they acquire the PCAP and other more sensitive data, including whether it comes from ISPs or some other source.

Every action you take online generates a lot of data, which ISPs and data brokers then sell to a large number of potential customers - to be transparent, this is information you must know.

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