Bad news, America. All that effort you and your favourite companies have put into encrypting data was for nothing. After spending billions on research and supercomputers, the NSA can now crack almost any type of encryption according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Nothing is safe.
Against the US government's wishes, The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica just published complementary corroborating, unnerving exposés into the NSA's top secret encryption techniques. The investigation also found that the agency spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year building backdoors into all kinds of software. Meanwhile, the bulk of the NSA's efforts go towards breaking through the most widely used encryption methods like Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), virtual private networks (VPNs) and smartphone encryption services. In effect, the agency can do whatever it wants.
The encryption cracking happens in a couple of different ways. According to the leaked memos, the NSA ideally finds away around the encryption by grabbing text before it's encrypted or after it's decrypted. Meanwhile, the agency is trying constantly trying to covertly influence international encryption standards and is pouring resources into new code-breaking techniques and will more or less do anything to gain access to the information it's seeking. "The intelligence community has worried about 'going dark' forever, but today they are conducting instant, total invasion of privacy with limited effort," Paul Kocher, a cryptographer that helped create the SSL system, told The Times. "This is the golden age of spying." [NYT, Guardian, ProPublica]