Open Carnivore

Ars Electronica “Golden Nica” winner (2002)

Carnivore is a surveillance tool for data networks. At the heart of the project is CarnivorePE, a software application that listens to all Internet traffic (email, web surfing, etc.) on a specific local network. Next, CarnivorePE serves this data stream to interfaces called “clients.” These clients are designed to animate, diagnose, or interpret the network traffic in various ways. Use CarnivorePE to run Carnivore clients from your own desktop, or use it to make your own clients.



Open Carnivore Diagram

This diagram shows, at a basic level, how the Open Carnivore system worked. It positions itself on a network segment and monitors the traffic of certain designated users, looking for specific keywords or phrases. If it finds a matching data string in the monitored traffic, it will intercept and store that transmission for later analysis by the Carnivore administrator.


Installations with multiple Carnivore clients:
Villette Numerique, Paris, 9.21.04-10.3.04
New York Digital Salon, New York, 2003
Ateneo Art Gallery, Philippines, 6.25.03-8.30.03
University of Michigan Gallery, Mount Pleasant, MI, 1.15.03-2.15.03
Eyebeam, New York, 10.15.02-12.1.02
Ars Electronica Center, Linz, 2002-2003
Art Futura, Barcelona, 10.31.02-11.3.02
The Watson Institute, Providence, 9.8.02-9.20.02
NTT InterCommunication Center, Tokyo, 6.21.02-8.11.02
White Columns, New York, 6.14.02-7.21.02
New Museum, New York, 5.2.02-6.30.02
Kontrollfelder, Germany, 4.5.02-5.5.02
Illinois State University Galleries, US, 2.26.02-4.3.02
Transmediale, Berlin, 2.5.02-2.10.02
Princeton Art Museum, US, 1.19.02-4.1.02

Additional installations of “Out of the Ordinary”: (permanent collection)
Electrohype, Malmö, Sweden, 10.23.02-10.27.02

Additional installations of “Police State”:
DETOX, 3.26.04-4.18.04, Oslo/Trondheim, Norway.
ElectroFringe, October 2-6, 2003, Newcastle, Australia.
SuperSonic, July 12, 2003, Birmingham, UK.
Dutch Electronic Art Festival (DEAF), 2.25.03-3.9.03, Rotterdam.
Darklight Film Festival, Sept 20-22, 2002, Dublin, Ireland.

Additional installations of “History of Art for the Intelligence Community”:
Neue Galerie, Graz, 10.27.02-11.25.02
Chelsea Art Museum, New York, 9.14.04-10.16.04

Additional installation of “ActiveMetaphore”:
BananaRAM Net.Festival, Ancona, Italy, 18/21 September 2002

Additional installation of “Order and Chaos”:
Techne02_Spazio Oberdan_Milan_Italy ? Oct. 30/02 > Feb. 02/03

Permanent installation of “Network is Speaking”:
XYZ, Milan, February 2004

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News Archive

The following news announcements documented the first two years of Carnivore’s development (June 2001 – May 2003)

05/05/03—Carnivore is covered today in The New York Times
03/02/03—View a film or another film of Jonah Brucker-Cohen’s “Police State” client. The footage is from DEAF 2003 in Rotterdam.
01/17/03—RSG documents numbered 000320, 000321, and 000322 have been declassified for public review.
12/29/02—The very first Carnivore Client, called RSG-CPE0C-1, is now web-accessable thanks to a nice Flash port by Todd Holoubek. Doron Golan of Computer Fine Arts has included RSG-CPE0C-1 in his new group project called
11/11/02-Carnivore begins talks with online gaming companies with a view to increasing the security of their networks. In particular, online poker networks are interested in using Carnivore to detect users who seek to exploit poker bonus offers and manipulate them for financial gain through multi player collaboration.
10/25/02—Vuk Cosic opens his “History of Art for the Intelligence Community” at the Neue Galerie in Graz.
10/15/02—”Beta Launch” opens today at Eyebeam. This is the largest Carnivore exhibition to date.
09/24/02—SF Camerawork puts Carnivore in their “net.narrative” show
09/07/02—Carnivore opens at the Ars Electronica Center for the 2002-2003 season.
09/05/02—Area3 made a dandy new client called World Wall Painters for the artFutura exhibition in Barcelona.
08/28/02—Check out Stats, a new client by the Witness.
08/16/02—Jonah Brucker-Cohen announces the first physical client. “Police State” is a Carnivore client involving twenty radio-controlled cars. See its premier in Dublin on 9/21, or catch a sneak preview at Ars Electronica.
06/17/02—RSG speaks: How We Made Our Own Carnivore.
06/14/02—Carnivore opens at White Columns in New York featuring a new client by Golan Levin.
06/03/02—Limiteazero releases Active Metaphore, a new Carnivore client.
05/20/02—Carnivore wins Golden Nica at Ars Electronica.
05/02/02—Carnivore opens at the New Museum (NYC). New work from Lisa Jevbratt, Paul Johnson, and others.
04/23/02—There is now an email list for folks making clients using CarnivorePE. To subscribe email with ‘subscribe carni_dev’
04/19/02—CarnivorePE version 1.3.3 is now available! CarnivorePE turns your computer into a personal data surveillance tool. Download info below…
01/30/02—Carnivore surveys data from RTMark, BIT and other hacktivists demonstrating at the World Economic Forum in New York.
01/18/02—Carnivore premiers at the Princeton Art Museum
12/01/01—Carnivore Clients are released by Mark Daggett, Entropy8Zuper!, Mark Napier and Praystation.
12/18/01—Mark Napier releases Black and White
12/11/01—The Guernica client is released by Entropy8Zuper!
11/19/01—Praystation releases amalgamatmosphere, the first public Carnivore Client
11/16/01—Paul Johnson joins the RSG to build Carnivore Server #2
10/26/01—Discussants on Slashdot are “terribly afraid of this falling into the wrong hands.”
10/26/01—Carnivore covered in Memepool and Metafilter
10/24/01—Eyebeam Atelier awards Artist-in-Residence to Carnivore
10/09/01—Make your own Carnivore using this schematic
10/01/01—”Food for thought,” writes The New York Times
09/15/01—Carnivore goes public
06/08/01—Carnivore is covered in Wired News

About Carnivore


CarnivorePE is inspired by DCS1000, a piece of software used by the FBI to perform electronic wiretaps. (Until recently, DCS1000 was known by its nickname “Carnivore.”) Improving on the FBI software, CarnivorePE features new functionality including: artist-made diagnosic clients, remote access, full subject targetting, full data targetting, volume buffering, transport protocol filtering, and an open source software license. Carnivore is created by RSG.

History Of Carnivore

In 2000, an independent group of network security specialists offered to perform an independent review of Carnivore, which had previously caused controversy among those with privacy concerns.

Previously, various privacy groups had claimed that Carnivore might potentially be set up to intercept and store more traffic than it should, when installed at an Internet service provider (ISP).

They also claimed that even if Carnivore intercepts massive amounts of data and successfully discards anything that is not relevant, it could (potentially) still violate the prohibition on “unreasonable searches and seizures” as specified in the Fourth Amendment.

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NANOG Carnivore Discussion

This video contains the full discussion at the 2000 NANOG meeting related to Carnivore and the FBI’s use of the software. The presentation gives details on how the program works and how it is (and could be) used. It also discusses the legal aspect behind using the software.

Arguments Against Carnivore

For the sake of completeness we would like to present a balanced argument regarding the use of Carnivore. We therefore feature the following video which argues against the use of Carnivore.

This material is republished despite the fact it is clear the author shows a lack of understanding about the fundamentals of the system and about the potential benefits of its use. We invite you to make up your own minds, however please watch the NANOG video as well.

Mass Market Or Customized Software: Which Is The Right Choice?

There are many business people who are faced with making a very important decision that will affect their companies for years to come. Should one choose off-the-shelf software like Microsoft Office, Intuit Quickbooks or an industry specific canned package for running the company? Or would it be better to have a customized software solution built from the ground up? This is a very real challenge for management, because it can affect how efficiently the business can handle its day-to-day operations.

In general, off-the-shelf software is very good for a company as long as it’s for dealing with general business chores such as bookkeeping, customers, contacts, inventory, etc. If it’s something that is very narrow and industry specific, then a customized solution will usually be the better choice. This is because the custom program will generally do a much better job of economizing time and labor in comparison to what a canned software package will likely do for the specialized process at hand.

Using myself as an example, I have made a number of custom software solutions for small and medium size companies in my local area. While I can design software for most any industry per the customer’s guidelines, I have typically done it for “manufacturing businesses”. Industrial companies are typically running very specialized processes to facilitate what they do. I have made customized programming solutions such as these:

I made a job card program for an electroplating job shop. This is basically a “recipe rolodex” for a large number of electroplating processes. It details what part numbers are involved, type of metal used to plate as well as the various steps involved along with their corresponding times.

I also created software for a tool and die shop that scanned a lengthy text file. This file detailed the physical layout for a 2 dimensional side view of a piece of metal with circles and arcs in it. My program automatically removed the concentric arcs and circles from the text file that the CAD/CAM software they were using wouldn’t get out. This saved them enormous amounts of time and work.

I have worked for an industrial pattern shop for a long time. I created a job costing  application that costs out pattern making jobs using labor, purchases and special materials from their data tables. This collective data is then “black boxed” through their proprietary job costing formula in their customized software. They can see how much money they are either making or losing on each job. In addition to all the time and work saved, this gives management a close up look at what is really happening in the business.

These are just a few examples from my own experience that make the case for customized software. Trying to replicate the efficiency in the above mentioned examples with canned software would create so much hassle and wasted time that it wouldn’t even be worth it. Doing all the work by hand with pen and paper would be a nightmare to be sure. But it wouldn’t be much worse than trying to do it with off-the-shelf software that isn’t really made to cater to a highly specialized process that is occurring multiple times throughout the day in a fast paced business environment.

In addition to my software development services, I also offer PC troubleshooting in my local area. To learn more about my computer repair services, please visit my website.