NSA Can Read Most Encrypted Emails, Texts: Report

Dennis Faas's picture

After the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance scandal broke earlier this year, many Internet users have attempted to protect their private data. In some cases this simply involves deleting temporary Internet files.

Others, however, have gone a step further by using encryption techniques to protect sensitive information stored in emails and text messages.

However, a new report from Britain's The Guardian newspaper and non-profit organization ProPublica reveals that the NSA has tools that allow it to read many encrypted messages.

NSA Invests Billions in Decryption Research

The report cites data leaked by Prism surveillance whistle-blower and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. These documents show that the NSA has invested billions of dollars in developing advanced techniques capable of overcoming encryption.

The report says the NSA has been undertaking this research for more than thirteen years and that the agency's focus during that time has been on cracking encryption techniques used for protecting emails and text messaging. (Source: cnet.com)

The report does not contain information showing which private companies have worked with the NSA to overcome encryption.

The New York Times says this kind of data is carefully guarded and only available to a select few analysts operating in the 'Five Eyes', which includes the United States and those countries most willing to cooperate with the NSA.

Those countries include Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.

"New Access Opportunities" Discovered

The report also reveals that Britain's intelligence agency, the GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), has been working with the NSA to crack encrypted data stored by Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft.

A document from Snowden says that, together, the GCHQ and NSA have found "new access opportunities" for gaining access to Google's systems. (Source: pcworld.com)

For its part, the National Security Agency says it carries out these operations in an effort to protect U.S. citizens.

It says decrypting information is a vital process that allows it to compete with similar agencies operating under the aegis of the Chinese and Russian governments. (Source: pcworld.com)

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