Among the many things WikiLeaks has outed is the existence of the SIPRNet, or Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, used by the U.S. Federal Government to exchange confidential information. Unfortunately, “confidential” came to mean about half a million users worldwide, among them the alleged WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning who allegedly, famously dumped thousands of documents in Julian Assange’s lap.
With the term “router” in the name, this network sounds like a parallel Internet, not a VPN-like operation. That means dedicated lines, private communications and an interesting DNS manipulation that layers additional top-level domains onto the existing ones.
EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet.com reveals a few facts about users and exposure at http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/daily_news/article.php/417342/Secret-Internet-Protocol-Router-Network-Made-Known-By-WikiLeaks.htm.
Popular Mechanics has a good “consumer-level” article at http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/how-to/computer-security/what-is-siprnet-and-wikileaks-4085507, light on the network protocols and a little heavier on the non-confidential details.
Also see the Wikipedia article on this former secret at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIPRNet.
While I find it unsurprising that the feds would operate a secret network like this, I am impressed at just how un-secret it is. One could practically guarantee that this isn’t the whole story.