WASHINGTON — The U.S. National Security Agency has secretly succeeded in breaking much of the encryption that keeps people’s personal data safe online, according to reports by The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica.
The reports, produced in partnership and published Thursday, are the latest to emerge based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
According to the reports, the NSA, alongside its UK equivalent, Government Communications Headquarters, better known as GCHQ, has been able to unscramble much of the encoding that protects everything from personal e-mails to banking systems, medical records and Internet chats.
The agencies’ methods include the use of supercomputers to crack codes, covert measures to introduce weaknesses into encryption standards and behind-doors collaboration with technology companies and internet service providers themselves.
“Through these covert partnerships, the agencies have inserted secret vulnerabilities — known as backdoors or trapdoors — into commercial encryption software,” The Guardian states.
The Guardian cites a 2010 GCHQ memo that it says describes a briefing on NSA accomplishments given to GCHQ employees.
“For the past decade, NSA has lead (sic) an aggressive, multi-pronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies,” the memo reportedly says. “Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.”
A second memo is quoted as saying that when the British analysts, who often work alongside NSA officers, were first told about the program, “those not already briefed were gobsmacked.”
For more on this CNN story, click here.