Files show NSA cracks, weakens Internet encryption

4:24 PM, Sep 5, 2013   |    comments
NSA has violated privacy rules thousands of times a year, according to a new report. (Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)
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U.S. and British intelligence agencies have cracked the encryption designed to provide online privacy and security, documents leaked by Edward Snowden show.

In their clandestine, decade-long effort to defeat digital scrambling, the National Security Agency, along with its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), have used supercomputers to crack encryption codes and have inserted secret portals into software with the help of technology companies, theGuardian, the New York Times and ProPublica reported Thursday.

The NSA has also maintained control over international encryption standards.

As the Times points out, encryption "guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world."

The NSA calls its decryption efforts the "price of admission for the U.S. to maintain unrestricted access to and use of cyberspace."

A 2010 memo describing an NSA briefing to British agents about the secret hacking said, "For the past decade, N.S.A. has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies. Cryptanalytic capabilities are now coming online. Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable."

The GCHQ is working to penetrate encrypted traffic on what it called the "big four" service providers ---Hotmail, Google, Yahoo and Facebook, the Guardian said.

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