National Security Agency (NSA) actually has a real program named Skynet
Skynet, which was an evil military computer system that launches war on human race in the Terminator movies franchise, it is learnt that NSA has a program with the same name.
As per The Intercept reports, the NSA does have a program called Skynet. However, it has a less lethal but legally dubious aims. This one is a surveillance program that makes use of phone metadata to record the call activities and location of doubtful terrorists. An Al Jazeera journalist reportedly became one of its victims after he was kept on a terrorist watch list.
Chief bureau of Al Jazeera’s Islamabad office, Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan got traced by Skynet after he was recognized by US intelligence as a possible Al Qaeda member and given a watch list number. Zaidan, a Syrian national has taken a number of exclusive interviews with senior Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden himself.
According to a 2012 government presentation The Intercept obtained from Edward Snowden says that Skynet makes use of phone location and call metadata from bulk phone call records to identify fishy patterns in their communication habits and physical movements of the suspects.
The presentation indicates that SKYNET looks for terrorist connections based on questions such as “who has traveled from Peshawar to Faisalabad or Lahore (and back) in the past month? Who does the traveler call when he arrives?” It also looks for suspicious behaviors such as someone who engages in “excessive SIM or handset swapping” or receives “incoming calls only.” The goal is to identify people who move around in a pattern similar to Al Qaeda couriers who are used to pass communication and intelligence between the group’s senior leaders.
In addition to its misleading name, SKYNET has a few problems though. It happened to misidentify an Al-Jazeera reporter as a member of al-Qaida based on the criteria mentioned above. (It seems that the journalists meeting with sources and terrorists meeting with terrorist group leaders move in patterns that look same to the computer.) This misidentification would be disturbing even if the government did not make use of such metadata to make life-and-death decisions about who to kill with drone strikes. However, it does.
The NSA one should note has a second program too that is very similar to the Terminator‘s Skynet. As revealed by Edward Snowden in an interview with WIRED and James Bamford last year, this one is called MonsterMind. Like the film version of Skynet, MonsterMind is a defense surveillance system that would immediately and independently disarm foreign cyberattacks against the US, and could be used to launch retaliatory strikes as well. Algorithms under this program would remove massive repositories of metadata and examine it to recognize normal network traffic from anomalous or malicious traffic. Equipped with this knowledge, the NSA could immediately and autonomously find, and block, a foreign threat.
Snowden also stated that MonsterMind could one day be designed to automatically return fire without human interference against an attacker. Because an attacker could twist malicious code to keep away from detection, a counterstrike would be more successful in neutralizing future attacks. Sounds a lot like Skynet. However, there is no news from the NSA on why the iconic film name was not used for its real-world Skynet.