- (Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)
New reports based on classified materials suggest that U.S. and British intelligence agencies have circumvented various encryption methods to access secure online communications including emails, banking transactions and phone conversations.
The documents provided by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden to The New York Times, ProPublica and The Guardian point to those governmental spy agencies being able to decipher data even if some level of encryption is used.
The U.S.' National Security Agency and Britain's GCHQ, were able to develop these capabilities by using supercomputers, court orders, and cooperation from technology companies, according to the documents obtained.
If the reports are accurate, the highly secretive program would defeat much of the protection that is used to keep data secure and private on the Internet.
"It's pretty shocking," Joseph Hall of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights organization, told AFP.
Hall said that if the reports are true, "it means that the elements that keep information secure in transit are fundamentally undermined."
Bruce Schneier, a cryptographic specialist who follows national security issues, called the revelations "explosive."
"Basically, the NSA is able to decrypt most of the Internet. They're doing it primarily by cheating, not by mathematics," Schneier wrote on his blog.
The revelations comes shortly after Ladar Levinson, owner and founder of Lavabit, an encryption service, was forced to suspend operations while under pressure from the NSA.
"My Fellow Users, I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what's going on– the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests," he explained on his blog.
Lavabit was reportedly the email service of choice for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.