drive wipe

Nicholas Leippe nick at
Thu Oct 23 17:32:53 MDT 2008

On Thursday 23 October 2008 04:36:23 pm Aaron Toponce wrote:
> Sorry. This is a topic that just drives me nuts. I'll leave it to rest.
> However, I was referring to computing resources. If the secret service
> NSA CIA assembly have X-amount of computing power at their command, I
> would imagine that we have 95% of those resources at our command as
> non-goverment civilians. That's all. In other words, I don't buy the
> common belief that the government has these super-quantum-uber computing
> systems.

What part about "the NSA measures it's computing power in _acres_" is so 
difficult to extrapolate? This fact has been known and acknowledged for quite 
some time. While it's exact meaning can certainly be debated, I'll bet you 
lunch that a single acre full of commodity hardware all dedicated to watching 
*your* data would make you uncomfortable (assuming you had something to hide).

Now, increase that to more than one acre, or replace that acre full of 
"commodity hardware" with specialized ASICs, and you begin to see how much 
their computing resources really could be said to dwarf most others. Also, 
take into account that anyone else that has computing resources in or nearing 
the same size class will most likely be dedicating them to whatever purpose 
the owners want--after all they foot the bill, which is most probably not 
going to be snooping your data or doing what you'd like with it. More likely 
crunching geological surveys searching for possible oil deposits, or folding 
proteins for drug research. Thus you couldn't really say that those resources 
are at our command. Your best bet to actually get to use a large facility 
would be within academia--and we all know how well those are typically funded.

I personally have never seen a data center that spanned even half an acre. 
This doesn't mean they don't exist, of course. But, how many colos or private 
facilities do you know of that are not only larger than an acre, but are also 
populated entirely with hardware owned by the same entity? One example: Center 
7's newest, and largest colo is only .25 acres. I really don't think there are 
going to be that many. The largest are probably the stock exchanges and 
banking facilities that handle huge volumes of generated transactional data 
and warehouse/mine that data.

Whether the NSA have quantum computers or some class of computing resource 
that has not been heard of outside their locked doors is just guessing, and 
IMO, I agree, much more unlikely--despite the fact that of all the people on 
the planet, if there were such a thing, they'd be the ones to want to have it. 
I think it's just a matter of having more of the best available than most 
anyone else. Or, replace the comparison "than most anyone else" with "than the 
very few other people with a similar agenda that are *not* government-funded" 
and I think it gets weighted even heavier.

In short, I think 95% is probably really stretching it. I really do think they 
have a significant advantage for their purposes. They have the budget to buy 
hardware specialized to their agendas, and in large quantities. Civilian 
budgets would have a hard time matching or even approaching those resources.
IMO, 5% is not a significant advantage. What the number is is only a guess, 
but I'd say 5% is far too low.

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