Does the phrase “XKeyscore” mean anything to you? If your answer is “huh?” then Daniel McCarney has a site you can visit.
McCarney, a security engineer and hacker, set up join.xkeyscore.club over the weekend as a reminder of the National Security Agency’s XKeyscore tool. Internally the NSA said the program, which Glenn Greenwald reported first reported on for The Guardian back in 2013, gave analysts access to "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet."
Visitors to join.xkeyscore.club are greeted by a background of tiled XKeyscore logos (as displayed in NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden). The logos are overlaid by moving static, and the sound of static plays in the background, over a faint instrumental version of The Star Spangled Banner.
A black box in the center of the page invites you to "JOIN THE XKEYSCORE CLUB" before informing you there's been an error: "You are already a member." A smiley emoticon below links out to threeletter.agency, another of McCarney's projects which has been up since May 2014. At threeletter.agency visitors are also met with the noise and appearance of static, as well as the admonition "You lack sufficient clearance to exist."
McCarney decided to set up join.xkeyscore.club after attending the Black Hat Conference earlier this month. He described Black Hat as "a very self congratulatory party environment dominated by vendors that, on the one hand shill nearly useless products, and on the other operate as private arms of the surveillance state." Projects like xkeyscore.club and threeletter agency are his "outlets for feelings of extreme dissatisfaction with the state of the industry, the lack of progress made, and the general ethics/attitudes of those that participate in it."
The projects are also works-in-progress. I asked McCarney if the static noise on threeletter.agency had any meaning, and he explained that he didn't want to give anything away, adding "this is a body of work that I expect to grow and I'm not sure where it will end. There are outstanding connections to be surfaced."
Keep your eyes peeled, and your internet connections secure.
UPDATE: Man Bartlett just pointed out an easter egg in join.xkeyscore.club's source code. The same language is also in threeletter.agency's source code. It reads:
Always remember to check the source code, kids.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org