NSA has cracked encryption protecting your bank account, Gmail, and smartphone

nsa has cracked the encryption protecting your bank account gmail and more gchq crack

Encryption techniques used by online banks, email providers, and many other sensitive Internet services to keep your personal data private and secure are no match for the National Security Agency and British surveillance authorities, according to new reports from The New York Times, ProPublica, and The Guardian. The revelations are the latest to come from a trove of documents supplied by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Documents labeled “top secret” show that HTTPS and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), encryption technologies used across the Web to keep transactions protected from snoops of all kinds, have been cracked by government-owned supercomputers. Through their decryption program, codenamed “Bullrun,” NSA and U.K. counterpart GCHQ have also compromised virtual private networks (VPNs) and encryption used to protect 4G wireless signals.

The spy agencies have also reportedly coerced or, in some cases, collaborated with corporations to obtain backdoor access to users’ communications, files, and other data. According to reports, the files obtained by Snowden did not name specific companies that teamed with NSA and GCHQ. An earlier report from The Guardian shows, however, that Microsoft granted NSA analysts pre-encryption access to users’ Skype calls, Outlook emails, and SkyDrive cloud storage.

“For the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies,” read a 2010 NSA memo to GCHQ. “Cryptanalytic capabilities are now coming online. Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.”

The fact that the NSA has these capabilities may seem like a given – but it’s far from it: Modern cryptology is highly secure, and many doubted the spy agency had reached this level of penetration. Even the spies themselves were surprised by the NSA’s cryptanalysis capabilities. In another memo reported by the news agencies, GCHQ analysts who did not have prior knowledge of the decryption capabilities of the NSA “were gobsmacked” to learn about them.

While the NSA claims that its decryption capabilities are a crucial tool in its fight against global terrorism, critics argue that the agency’s efforts have made the U.S. less secure in the name of national security.

“The risk is that when you build a back door into systems, you’re not the only one to exploit it,” Matthew D. Green, a cryptography expert at Johns Hopkins University, told ProPublica. “Those back doors could work against U.S. communications, too.”

U.S. government authorities reportedly asked the news agencies to not report on Bullrun because doing so could cause enemies of the state to change their communication tactics, weakening U.S. security. The Times said it decided to publish its story “because of the value of a public debate about government actions that weaken the most powerful tools for protecting the privacy of Americans and others.”

ProPublica said in an open letter that it believes publication of the story is “in the public interest” for two reasons. First, unlike code cracking efforts during World War II, the NSA’s activities involve “eavesdropping on civilians,” not just military personnel. Second, ProPublica believes the surveillance severely impedes Americans’ civil liberties.

“Suppose for a moment that the U.S. government had secretly developed and deployed an ability to read individuals’ minds,” writes ProPublica. “Such a capability would present the greatest possible invasion of personal privacy. And just as surely, it would be an enormously valuable weapon in the fight against terrorism.

“Continuing with this analogy, some might say that because of its value as an intelligence tool, the existence of the mind-reading program should never be revealed. We do not agree.”

Indeed, given the NSA’s likely predictive analytics capabilities, the mind-reading analogy may be more real than many of us care to imagine.

(Image courtesy Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock)

Product Review

Mediocre battery and a big notch slight Google's otherwise perfect Pixel phone

Google’s Pixel 3 XL has two big flaws: The gigantic notch on the front, and mediocre battery life. That being said, this is the best Android experience you can find in a smartphone today.

Nvidia admits its 2080 Ti cards have a problem, but isn’t saying what it is

Nvidia has admitted that there is a wider problem affecting its RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition cards, despite earlier claims to the contrary. It has also promised to continue working with affected consumers to replace dead cards.

Everything you need to know about Garmin’s GPS watches and trackers

Garmin jumped into the GPS smartwatch and fitness tracker market five years ago and has built a portfolio of devices that rivals competitor Fitbit. Here's your guide to the latest and greatest fitness devices that Garmin has to offer.

The 100 best Android apps turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

Choosing which apps to download is tricky, especially given how enormous and cluttered the Google Play Store has become. We rounded up 100 of the best Android apps and divided them neatly, with each suited for a different occasion.
Emerging Tech

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale smashes online shopping records

The annual online shopping frenzy that is Singles' Day this year raked in $30.8 billion, up from $25 billion last time around. The Alibaba-organized event generates more in sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Apple to boost its Amazon presence with listings for iPhones, iPads, and more

Apple is about to start offering more of its kit on Amazon. The tech giant currently only has very limited listings on the shopping site, but the deal will see the arrival of the latest iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and more.

Zoom in on famous works through the Art Institute of Chicago’s new website

Art lovers, listen up. The Art Institute of Chicago has given its website a serious makeover with new features that let you get up close and personal with more than 50,000 artworks by famous (and not so famous) artists.

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.

Will Chrome remain our favorite web browser with the arrival of newest version?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.

Over a million veterans now eligible for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program

Comcast's low-cost Internet Essentials program, which provides internet access for just $10 per month, has expanded to include U.S. veterans. One million veterans now qualify for the service.

Google’s Squoosh will get an image web-ready with in-browser compression

Google's latest web app development is an image editing and compression tool, Squoosh. In just a few clicks, it can take a huge image and make it much lighter and web-friendly, all in your browser.

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Social Media

‘Superwoman’ YouTuber Lilly Singh taking a break for her mental health

Claiming to be "mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted," popular YouTuber Lilly Singh has told her millions of fans she's taking a break from making videos in order to recuperate.
Smart Home

Amazon has a huge team dedicated to enhancing Alexa and Echo

An Amazon executive on Tuesday, November 13 revealed the huge size of the team that's tasked with developing the Echo, the company's smart speaker, and Alexa, the digital assistant that powers it.