US and UK crack encryption codes used by millions to protect email
According to files leaked by Edward Snowden to the Guardian, the British and American intelligence agencies have deciphered the digital encryption used to protect the privacy of users’ emails, private data and online interactions.
The documents reveal the top secret practice of working alongside internet service providers and technology firms to ensure vulnerabilities are written in to encryption standards so that the National Security Agency (NSA) and their British counterpart, Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), can exploit them.
This is in addition to other practices, such as using supercomputers to crack encryption via “brute force” methods and secret court-orders, forcing companies to hand over master keys to their software.
The NSA reportedly spends $250 million a year of taxpayers’ money to “covertly influence” the product design of leading technology companies. Shockingly, the documents reveal the apparent contempt of the security services for the general public, describing them as “adversaries”.
A GCHQ internal document from 2010 states: “For the past decade, NSA has lead [sic] an aggressive, multi-pronged effort to break widely used internet encryption technologies…Vast amounts of encrypted internet data, which have up until now been discarded, are now exploitable.”
The hacked encryption would allow the US and UK governments to view internet users’ online communications, bank details and even medical records.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organisation which defends users’ digital rights said in a post on their website: “What is clear is that these NSA programs are an egregious violation of our privacy. We can, and should, enjoy a future where it is still possible to speak privately with fellow citizens, to freely associate and engage in political activism, and to be left alone when we want to be.”