Browse Definitions:
Definition

SIGINT (signals intelligence)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

SIGINT (signals intelligence) is information gained by the collection and analysis of the electronic signals and communications of a given target.

Intelligence, in this context, is information that provides an organization or individual with support for making decisions and possibly gaining a strategic advantage. The term is often abbreviated as “intel.” Intelligence agencies worldwide use SIGINT in both foreign and domestic data gathering.

Originally SIGINT mostly consisted of communications intelligence (COMINT). SIGINT now has two main fields: COMINT, which is gathered through accessing the communications of individuals, and ELINT (electronic intelligence), which is gathered through the use of electronic sensors. SIGINT has also been extended to encompass information gathered from other types of signal interception and the disruption of these signals. Those activities are not covered by privacy laws. Since the invention of radio, the general consensus has been that radio waves cannot be owned, so interception is legal and as such does not require warrants as wiretap does.

The U.S. intelligence community claims that it only uses SIGINT related to the communications of foreign entities for the purposes of national security. However, documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013 and other revelations possibly brought about as a result of the Snowden effect demonstrate that the NSA has used many devices to gather SIGINT of both domestic and foreign targets through a program called Tailored Access Operations (TAO).

Examples include:

  • USB sticks secretly fitted with radio transmitters.
  • iPhone malware used to monitor the communications and activities of users.
  • Portable continuous wave generators that can monitor the keyboard activities of even offline computers through a keyboard vibration attack.
  • “LAMPSTAND” devices that can interfere with wireless connections at distances up to eight miles.

The term SIGINT was coined by the United States Department of Defense.

This was last updated in May 2015

Continue Reading About SIGINT (signals intelligence)

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

  • internal audit (IA)

    An internal audit (IA) is an organizational initiative to monitor and analyze its own business operations in order to determine ...

  • pure risk (absolute risk)

    Pure risk, also called absolute risk, is a category of threat that is beyond human control and has only one possible outcome if ...

  • risk assessment

    Risk assessment is the identification of hazards that could negatively impact an organization's ability to conduct business.

SearchSecurity

  • security information and event management (SIEM)

    Security information and event management (SIEM) is an approach to security management that seeks to provide a holistic view of ...

  • polymorphic virus

    A polymorphic virus is a harmful, destructive or intrusive type of malware that can change or 'morph,' making it difficult to ...

  • cyberterrorism

    According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, cyberterrorism is any 'premeditated, politically motivated attack against ...

SearchHealthIT

  • accountable care organization (ACO)

    An accountable care organization (ACO) is an association of hospitals, healthcare providers and insurers in which all parties ...

  • patient engagement

    Patient engagement is an ideal healthcare situation in which people are well-informed about -- and motivated to be involved -- in...

  • personal health record (PHR)

    A personal health record (PHR) is a collection of health-related information that is documented and maintained by the individual ...

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR)

    Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) are closely related practices that describe an organization's preparation for ...

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...

SearchStorage

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • hybrid hard disk drive (HDD)

    A hybrid hard disk drive is an electromechanical spinning hard disk that contains some amount of NAND Flash memory.

Close