Think your digital information is safe with a little encryption? Or that password you spent so much time piecing together? Well, it doesn't mean much when the NSA has supercomputers devoted to knocking down any security you have. Better yet, they may have even made breaking into your software even easier for themselves before you even installed it on your computer.
New documents from leaker Edward Snowden show that the NSA is using supercomputers, technological trickery, court orders and persuasion to get into the files it wants. And they're not alone: the British agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), has teamed up with the NSA to develop the techniques that crack the encryption around your most sensitive information, like personal e-mails, banking data, medical records and chats. Reportedly, the supercomputers are able to break into encryption by using "brute force," and the agency has inserted secret "back doors" into software that allows them to gather data easily, all with the help of the tech companies that made said software.
Just this year alone, the NSA spent $255 million on Bullrun, the codename for their decryption program, which exists to "covertly influence" the design of software and "insert vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems" that only they would know about. "The encryption technologies that the NSA has exploited to enable its secret dragnet surveillance are the same technologies that protect our most sensitive information, including medical records, financial transactions and commercial secrets," said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.
"Even as the NSA demands more powers to invade our privacy in the name of cybersecurity, it is making the Internet less secure and exposing us to criminal hacking, foreign espionage, and unlawful surveillance.''
A 2007 doc from Snowden's leaks shows exactly what the NSA (at least, then) thought about the influence of their program: “In the future, superpowers will be made or broken based on the strength of their cryptanalytic programs,” the document said. “It is the price of admission for the U.S. to maintain unrestricted access to and use of cyberspace.”
Have complaints about the NSA? Find out how you can email the five man NSA review panel here.
[via New York Times]