GNU hackers unmask massive HACIENDA surveillance program and design a countermeasure

After making key discoveries about the details of
HACIENDA, Julian Kirsch, Dr. Christian Grothoff, Jacob Appelbaum, and
Dr. Holger Kenn designed the TCP Stealth system to protect
unadvertised servers from port scanning.

According to Heise Online, the intelligence agencies of the
United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are
involved in HACIENDA. The agencies share the data they collect. The
HACIENDA system also hijacks civilian computers, allowing it to leach
computing resources and cover its tracks.

Some of the creators of TCP Stealth are also prominent contributors to
the GNU Project, a major facet of the free software community and a
hub for political and technological action against bulk
surveillance. Free software is safer because it is very hard to hide
malicious code in a program anyone can read. In proprietary software,
there is no way to guarantee that programs don’t hide backdoors and
other vulnerabilities. The team revealed their work on August 15, 2014
at the annual GNU Hackers’ Meeting in Germany, and Julian Kirsch
published about it in his master’s degree thesis.

Maintainers of Parabola, an FSF-endorsed GNU/Linux
, have already implemented TCP Stealth, making
Parabola users safer from surveillance. The FSF encourages other
operating systems to follow Parabola’s lead.

The Free Software Foundation supports and sponsors the GNU
Project. FSF campaigns manager Zak Rogoff said, “Every time you use a
free software program, you benefit from the work of free software
developers inspired by the values of transparency and bottom-up
collaboration. But on occassions like these, when our civil liberties
are threatened with technological tools, the deep importance of these
values becomes obvious. The FSF is proud to support the free software
community in its contributions to the resistance against bulk

The Free Software Foundation works politically for an end to mass
. Simultaneously, the Foundation advocates for
individuals of all technical skill levels to take a variety of
actions against bulk surveillance

About Julian Kirsch, Christian Grothoff, Jacob Appelbaum, and Holger Kenn

Julian Kirsch is the author of “Improved Kernel-Based Port-Knocking in
Linux”, his Master’s Thesis in Informatics at Technische Universitat

Dr. Christian Grothoff is the Emmy-Noether research group leader in
Computer Science at Technische Universitat Munchen.

Jacob Appelbaum is an American independent computer security
researcher and hacker. He was employed by the University of
Washington, and is a core member of the Tor project, a free software
network designed to provide online anonymity.

Dr. Holger Kenn is a computer scientist specializing in wearable
computing, especially software architectures, context sensor systems,
human machine interfaces, and wearable-mediated human robot

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to
promoting computer users’ right to use, study, copy, modify, and
redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and
use of free (as in freedom) software — particularly the GNU operating
system and its GNU/Linux variants — and free documentation for free
software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and
political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites,
located at and, are an important source of information
about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF’s work can be made at Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

About the GNU Operating System and Linux

Richard Stallman announced in September 1983 the plan to develop a
free software Unix-like operating system called GNU. GNU is the only
operating system developed specifically for the sake of users’
freedom. See

In 1992, the essential components of GNU were complete, except for
one, the kernel. When in 1992 the kernel Linux was re-released under
the GNU GPL, making it free software, the combination of GNU and Linux
formed a complete free operating system, which made it possible for
the first time to run a PC without non-free software. This combination
is the GNU/Linux system. For more explanation, see

Media Contacts

Zak Rogoff
Campaigns Manager
Free Software Foundation

“Knocking down the HACIENDA” by Julian Kirsch, produced by GNU, the
GNUnet team, and edited on short notice by Carlo von Lynx from #youbroketheinternet is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution
NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.

Source: Free Software