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Snowden’s Documents Reveal Encryption Standards That NSA Can't Crack

Question asked by Dhananjay Harkare in #Hacking and Security on Dec 29, 2014
Dhananjay Harkare
Dhananjay Harkare · Dec 29, 2014
Member of CrazyEngineers
National Security Agency also known as NSA, the US intelligence agency has been a hot topic of discussion after former member Edward Snowden revealed its dark side. An archive of Snowden’s documents suggests the encryption schemes that NSA can break easily along with those it can’t crack. The reports suggest that by 2012, NSA couldn't decrypt few emails and chats which were encrypted with right algorithms. The information about documents is shared by Der Spiegel which informs about NSA’s encryption-breaking programs and few standards that are troublesome for the agency.


The archive of Edward Snowden’s documents points to the fact that NSA begun collecting Skype conversations from February 2011 and in fall, the “mission” was declared to be accomplished. However, report suggest that NSA had been monitoring Skype even before that, but from Feb 2011, the programme came under the order from secret US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). If documents are to be believed, for NSA, encrypted communication is a threat. Even though these documents are nearly two years old now, NSA didn’t make any progress in cracking few strong encryption standards, experts believe. It is worth noting that Ed Snowden made the comment in 2013 that users can rely only on the correctly implemented strong crypto systems.

The US agency categorized their targets in five levels- from trivial to catastrophic. Tracing the path of a document over the Internet is considered as trivial, monitoring a Facebook chat is minor, decrypting mails sent over Russian mailing service mail.ru is moderate. However, all these aren’t a problem to NSA. For them, major problem is in decrypting the mails sent over Zoho service and monitoring users’ activity over Tor network. A protocol named Off-The-Record (OTR) which is used to encrypt instant messaging, is also something that NSA couldn’t decrypt so far.

For NSA, a combination of Tor, strongly implemented encryption standard, messaging system CSpace and a system for VoIP called ZRTP becomes catastrophe. Also Pretty Good Privacy aka PGP, used to documents and emails is unbreakable for NSA. The findings based on these documents were earlier presented on-stage by researchers. It would now be interesting to see if Edward Snowden has anything to say on this. We will keep you updated on that front.

Extra Reading: Report in detail and document images Posted in: #Hacking and Security

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