NSA’s decade-long plan to undermine encryption
It was only a matter of time before we learned that the NSA has managed to thwart much of the encryption that protects telephone and online communication, but new revelations show the extent to which the agency, and Britain’s GCHQ, have gone to systematically undermine encryption.
Without the ability to actually crack the strongest algorithms that protect data, the intelligence agencies have systematically worked to thwart or bypass encryption using a variety of underhanded methods, according to revelations published by the New York Times and Guardian newspapers and the journalism non-profit ProPublica, based on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
These methods, part of a highly secret program codenamed Bullrun, have included pressuring vendors to install backdoors in their products to allow intelligence agencies to access data, and obtaining encryption keys by pressuring vendors to hand them over or hacking into systems and stealing them.
Most surprising, however, is the revelation that the agency has worked to covertly undermine the encryption standards developers rely upon to build secure products. Undermining standards and installing backdoors don’t just allow the government to spy on data but create fundamental insecurities in systems that would allow others to spy on the data as well.