It’s no secret now that the NSA has been harvesting information from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as your email and phone records. What you may not have known is that for years the NSA has had people collecting and decrypting everything you thought was safely encrypted and private.
Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.
“For the past decade, N.S.A. has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies,” said a 2010 memo describing a briefing about N.S.A. accomplishments for employees of its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. “Cryptanalytic capabilities are now coming online. Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.”
According to the New York Times, the agency has successfully cracked much of the software that encrypts and guards global commerce, banking systems, medical records, trade secrets as well as secured emails, web searches, chat logs and phone calls that use encryption techniques in order to protect your privacy.
According to their source there are certain “strong” crypto techniques which still stymie the NSA’s attempts to crack them but in cases like this they attack simply target the actual computers at one end or another and grab the information straight from the source before it’s encrypted or after it’s been decoded.
The NSA asked the Times not to publish this piece saying that they were concerned people might use the information to step up their encryption techniques.