This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user's access to websites -- all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets.
One method is to bend the cable and extract enough light to sniff out the data. "You can get these little cylindrical devices off eBay for about $1,000. You run the cable around the cylinder, causing a slight bend in cable. It will emit a certain amount of light, one or two decibels. That goes into the receiver and all that data is stolen in one or two decibels of light. Without interrupting transfer flow, you can read everything going on on an optical network," said Everett.
The loss is so small, said Everett, that anyone who notices it might attribute it to a loose connection somewhere along the line. "They wouldn't even register someone's tapping into their network," he added.