[cryptome] Re: NSA Utah Data Center Cabling, Emanations and Bizarre Planning

  • From: Andrew Hornback <achornback@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: cryptome@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 28 Jul 2013 20:50:10 -0400

On Sun, Jul 28, 2013 at 11:44 AM, John Young <jya@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Not much publicly available on the cabling and emanations
> protection of the NSA Utah Data Center. Surely highly advanced
>  measures are being applied.


> A lot of earthwork was done to create a flat site on a mountain side
> (preceded by a small air field).

This seems to be a process that Utah has gotten pretty good at after
leveling the "Point of the Mountain" in order to widen I-15.  I can
remember driving along I-15 and watching cargo aircraft (C-130s) landing at
Camp Williams years ago.

> No indication of underground construction except pits and trenches
> under the buildngs. With none on the surface there must be trenches
> for power and signal cable.
> No antenna have appeared on the site for transceiving data
> like those of other of its data centers, so presumably it is done
> by UG fiber optic (or antenna are hidden or remote).

I would assume that this facility is going to leverage the capabilities and
knowledge available in Utah (and Salt Lake City itself) since the
University of Utah is one of the early adopters of Internet2 (up to 100
Gbps of connectivity) and there's a supercomputing center on campus as

And again, I would assume that this data center is more of a storage and
processing facility than a collection facility - it would be really hard to
hide any kind of antenna in that terrain.


The pairing of structures at Utah, two of each type, data center,
> generator, AC, fuel tanks, etc., show redundancy also not seen
> elsewhere.

If you look at the FY2010 Military Construction Program form, you'll see
why this is:

NSA/CSS delivers responsive, reliable, effective, and expert Signals
Intelligence and Information Assurance products and services, and enables
Network Warfare operations to gain a decisive information advantage for the
Nation and our allies under all circumstances."

Under all circumstances seems to be taken seriously here.

> Not much to see of protection against missiles and aerial attack
> but that is the same at other NSA facilities. Wonder what supports
> that confidence.

Hill AFB is roughly 55 miles away with the 388th Fighter Wing currently
reporting 40 F-16s as combat ready.  If that's not enough, Nellis AFB is
about fifteen minutes away at Mach 2 (reportedly the operational velocity
ceiling for an F-16).  In the event of an ICBM attack, I think there are a
lot of options for defending the facility.

The odd bent shape of the site plan, with buildings not parallel to
> one another is intriguing. Could be aesthetic but may have another
> role, say to disperse richochet of inadvertent emanations.

Easier to defend in the event of an invasion attempt - think of the layout
in terms of a section of a castle turret or a fortification.

Quite a few recent government buildings avoid the traditional
> rectilinear site planning of buildings long considered to be most
> cost effective and authoritarian. Some like NGA HQ, NSA Utah
> and several at Ft. Meade look almost byzantine in layout, if not
> a shrewd design to limit echo, amplification, richochet, or best,
>  to befuddle satellite peepers.

There is that, but I think it has more to do with the physical security and
defense aspect than simply a matter of limiting emissions.

--- A

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