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Privacy is the asset of the decade

Image: Cathryn Virginia/Motherboard

Hacking. Disinformation. Surveillance. CYBER is Motherboard's podcast and reporting on the dark underbelly of the internet.

There's something of an open secret in the cybersecurity world: internet service providers quietly give away detailed information about which computer is communicating with another to private businesses, which then sells access to that data to a range of third parties, according to multiple sources in the threat intelligence industry.The information, known as netflow data, is a useful tool for digital investigators. They can use it to identify servers being used by hackers, or to follow data as it is stolen. But the sale of this information still makes some people nervous because they are concerned about whose hands it may fall into."I'm concerned that netflow data being offered for commercial purposes is a path to a dark fucking place," one source familiar with the data told Motherboard. Motherboard granted multiple sources anonymity to speak more candidly about industry issues.At a high level, netflow data creates a picture of traffic flow and volume across a network. It can show which server communicated with another, information that may ordinarily only be available to the server owner or the ISP carrying the traffic. Crucially, this data can be used for, among other things, tracking traffic through virtual private networks, which are used to mask where someone is connecting to a server from, and by extension, their approximate physical location.Team Cymru, one threat intelligence firm, works with ISPs to access that netflow data, three sources said. Keith Chu, communications director for the office of Senator Ron Wyden which has been conducting its own investigations into the sale of sensitive data, added that Team Cymru told the office "it obtains netflow data from third parties in exchange for threat intelligence." Do you work at a company that handles netflow data? Do you work at a...
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