Tech providers promise that popular encryption programs are secure. As you’ll see, this is probably not the case. Governments have worked for decades to make sure encryption software is vulnerable, mainly through the use of secret back doors.
As the 2013 surveillance disclosures revealed, Big Brother and his collaborators can track nearly every phone call and enter almost any computer. This includes devices, messages and data that have strong encryption protection.
Cracking Encrypted Communications
In addition to forcing tech firms to install back doors, the U.S. National Security Agency employs an army of mathematicians to decrypt intercepted messages. The agency’s efforts are matched by other governments. These capabilities are closely guarded secrets, of course, but keep in mind: Any promises regarding privacy and data security should be taken with a grain of salt — especially if these promises come from tech providers or government sources.
To understand, a little background is helpful.
The Spy Game is Ancient
For more than 2,500 years, powerful people have employed experts to create and decode secret messages. Nothing has changed. In the modern intelligence world, protecting secrets and unscrambling enemy intercepts are central activities.
Allied spies penetrated enemy communications during the 1940s and likely shortened World War II by several years. Our present mass surveillance apparatus emerged from these brilliant wartime breakthroughs (check out the Enigma and Purple Cipher programs for more info).
Beware: Most Encryption Software is Highly Compromised
Cryptographers work relentlessly to crack every imaginable encryption scheme — or, better, engineer a back door for secret access. As part of their efforts to weaken Internet encryption, government agents strong arm companies that operate in the tech sector. If a firm refuses to cooperate, it is coerced or infiltrated. The result? Internet users are increasingly vulnerable to hackers.
As Bennett points out in his 2002 espionage encyclopedia, the NSA undoubtedly has a back door to bypass the encryption protection on any networked or online computer:
“Today’s computer generated codes, of course, can have so many possible combinations as to make them effectively unbreakable. Indeed, the NSA devotes considerable effort to ensuring that as many as possible of the commercial codes have a ‘back door’ for government cryptographers to be able to read a wide range of commercial and private electronic communications quickly and easily. Other commercial coding companies around the world have been bought up by compliant U.S. computer software giants like Microsoft …
“The USA and other members of the UKUSA [‘Five Eyes’] network have too much invested in the future and too many threats from terrorists and organized crime to let advances in commercial coding companies ‘blind’ the intelligence services with unbreakable codes.” (Espionage: An Encyclopedia of Spies and Secrets, Richard M. Bennett, London: Virgin Books, 2002, pp.51-2; learn about “Five Eyes” at this link.)
Efforts to disable encryption were confirmed in 2013 by Edward Snowden’s disclosures of many of the NSA’s surveillance secrets.
Communication Secrecy is Easily Achieved
One dirty secret that receives scant attention is the fact that the NSA’s surveillance activities are essentially worthless when it comes to fulfilling the primary mission.
Our spies can’t effectively fight terrorists and criminals because bad guys have access to means for easily achieving absolute communication privacy. Therefore, Big Bro is doing no one any favors with his mindless pursuit of terrorist boogeymen. Even though mass surveillance can’t make us safer, the spies work hard to make information technology less secure for hundreds of millions who rely on the Internet for the transfer of private and proprietary data.
Government spies know that their eavesdropping is futile. Even if Big Bro could do what he wants (intercept, record, decrypt and analyze every message), that would not defeat extremists or enhance security. Those who say it would are uninformed.
This is the sad truth and the bad guys know it: They don’t need encryption software. When used properly, non-commercial ciphers and private codes are impenetrable. These precautions provide complete message security. (Read The Secrecy Problem to see why our spies are barking up the wrong tree.)
(Go here to continue learning about the mass surveillance menace.)