Web

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)

Smart Home

Booth babes, banned sex toys, and other mishaps at CES 2019

From female sex toys bans, to fake Tesla/robot collision stories, there was some weird stuff going on at CES 2019 this year. Here are some of the biggest mishaps and flubs at the world's biggest tech show.
Business

Apple banned from distributing some iPhone models in Germany

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Wearables

Alphabet’s health watch monitors your heart health, is approved by the FDA

A health monitoring watch being developed by Alphabet, Google's parent company, has received clearance from the FDA as a medical device. This means that the device has been found to be safe and can legally be sold in the U.S.
Movies & TV

From premiere date to footage: Here's all we have on 'Game of Thrones' season 8

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Cars

China’s GAC Motor cruises into Detroit with all-electric Entranze concept

Chinese automaker GAC Motor brought its all-electric Entranze concept to the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. This is the third straight year that GAC has appeared in Detroit, and the company has established a design center in California.
Web

Shutdown makes dozens of .gov websites insecure due to expired TLS certificates

The US government shutdown is causing trouble in internet security. As the shutdown enters day 22, dozens of government websites have been rendered insecure or inaccessible due to expired transport layer security (TLS) certificates.
Social Media

A quick swipe will soon let you keep bingeing YouTube on mobile devices

The YouTube mobile app has a new, faster way to browse: Swiping. Once the update rolls out, users can swipe to go to the next (or previous) video in the recommended list, even while viewing in full screen.
Computing

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.
Business

Cathay Pacific messes up first-class ticket prices — again

A couple of weeks ago, an error on Cathay Pacific's website resulted in first-class seats selling for a tenth of the price. On Sunday, January 13, the airline made the error again. The good news is that it'll honor the bookings.
Computing

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Social Media

YouTube to crack down on dangerous stunts like the ‘Bird Box’ challenge

YouTube already bans content showing dangerous activities, but new rules published by the site go into greater detail regarding potentially harmful challenges and pranks, including certain blindfold- or laundry detergent-based stunts.
Computing

Pinning websites to your taskbar is as easy as following these quick steps

Would you like to know how to pin a website to the taskbar in Windows 10 in order to use browser links like apps? Whichever browser you're using, it's easier than you might think. Here's how to get it done.
Computing

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.
Computing

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials and other data, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.