NSA’s spies divide targets into two broad categories: data in motion and data at rest. Information moving to and from mobile phones, computers, data centers, and satellites is often easier to grab, and the agency sucks up vast amounts worldwide. Yet common data such as e-mail is often protected with encryption once it leaves a device, making it harder—but not impossible—to crack.
Retrieving information from hard drives, overseas data centers, or cell phones is more difficult, but it’s often more valuable because stored data is less likely to be encrypted, and spies can zero in on exactly what they want. NSA lawyers can compel U.S. companies to hand over some of it; agency hackers target the most coveted and fortified secrets inside computers of foreign governments.
The iPad version (sub required) has an interactive graphic of NSA’s various (known) programs. Click to enlarge