ZDNetGovWeek: NSA sees through encryption, let's all act surprised

ZDNetGovWeek: NSA sees through encryption, let's all act surprised

Summary: It's been another week in the shadowy world of government intrigue and there's yet another Guardian-fueled NSA uproar, this time over encryption. ZDNet's Tom Foremski says it best: it's a secret society that can't keep a secret.


ZDNet's worldwide team provides global 24/7 technology news and analysis. In addition to my own coverage analysis here in the ZDNet Government column and on ZDNet's DIY-IT, every week I'll bring you a selection of the best government-related articles posted by our intrepid reporters and analysts. Here are some of the most interesting from the last week.

Top stories this week

Has the NSA broken SSL? TLS? AES?
Indications suggest that SSL and other fundamental Internet security technologies have indeed been compromised by the NSA.

UK, US able to crack most encryption used online
By weakening encryption standards, inserting vulnerabilities into vendors' technology, and using supercomputer-backed password crackers, the US and the UK are able to break encryption used to back technologies like SSH, HTTPS, and VPNs.

The secret society that can't keep a secret
The more we try to keep secrets in the dark the more they come into the light... Technology won't help.

If you think the NSA is bad, try the Putin-controlled Chrome toolbar
I am not making this up. You can't make this stuff up. This is what the world is coming to.

New claims NSA can access data on iOS, Android, BlackBerry
US spy agency the NSA boasted internally of being able to unlock encrypted data on smartphones by leading manufacturers, a German news magazine has reported.

Yahoo publishes first transparency report; U.S. made most requests
Yahoo's latest move in clearing its name in the wake of the NSA scandal is the publishing of its first transparency report.

In light of the NSA, how to think about encryption
The back door policy the NSA is reportedly encouraging may provide a short-term tactical advantage, but it may prove to cause us all problems in the long-term.

Has the NSA broken our encryption?
Reports of new Edward Snowden leaks of NSA documents claim that "the agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption" on which we rely on the Internet. Are we defenseless now?

Microsoft, Google v. NSA lawsuit to proceed
The negotiations have failed, the government requests for delays are over, and the parties are proceeding to litigation.

Syrian Electronic Army placed on FBI wanted list
The Syrian Electronic Army's hacking campaigns have raised the ire of the FBI.

Other government coverage around ZDNet

A new, secure and free Internet… Dream on
Bruce Schneier thinks we (engineers) should re-engineer the Internet to make it harder for governments to conduct surveillance. This is just silly. If we aren't willing to re-engineer it to stop criminals we sure won't do so to stop governments.

Turnbull caught by surprise on internet filtering policy
Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull was forced to defend an opt-out internet filtering policy he'd only heard about minutes before going on radio.

Coalition backflips on internet filtering policy
In a massive backflip, the Coalition has claimed it was 'poor wording' in a policy for opt-out internet filtering, despite Liberal MP Paul Fletcher defending it to ZDNet.

Coalition confirms: Internet filtering by default
The Coalition MP put in charge of policy around child safety online, Paul Fletcher, has confirmed that filtering of adult content from fixed-line internet services and mobile internet will be turned on by default unless a user opts out of it.

Australian opposition vows to implement internet filter by default
The Coalition will require ISPs and mobile telcos to filter internet services by default unless a user opts out of it.

Coalition to cut IT research centre NICTA's funding
National ICT Australia's future is in doubt, after the Coalition today announced that it would cut AU$42 million in funding for the IT research organisation under savings measures released today.

Brazilian postal service talks about "anti-snooping" email system
The organisation discusses the drivers behind the project, aimed at fending off security risks

Aussie businesses out of time for privacy reform changes: Symantec
Upcoming changes to Australia's Privacy Act have a number of contentious points, but businesses are out of time to say they simply didn't know.

Time to tackle tech's price gougers in New Zealand
Australia has looked at the issue of overcharging from tech vendors, and so should New Zealand.

Topics: Government, Government Asia, Government AU, Government US, Government UK, Privacy, Security


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • people, do something with the fascistic US gov!!!!

    people, do something with the fascistic US gov!!!!
    this is not about terrorism, this is about power and controlling people!
  • people, do something with the fascistic US gov!!!!

    people, do something with the fascistic US gov!!!!
    this is not about terrorism, this is about power and controlling people!
  • It's not the ability that's the problem

    It's how much it is being applied by our own government to it's own citizens without a warrant issued by a judge. It is also how the encryption systems were subverted that gives further cause for concern.
    Alan Smithie
  • Privacy is dead

    Online privacy is truly dead, and it will not come back. Who will trust any type of internet communications after this summer's revelations?

  • Thigs were a bit sensationalist this time around . . .

    I noticed that things were a bit sensationalist this time around . . .

    . . . even though there were really no details of the NSA's cracking abilities. I'm sure they have some, but the extent is not really known. The claim that the "UK, US able to crack most encryption used online" frankly has no evidence.

    Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't, but I require a lot more than a reporter's say so to err on the side of believing it.

    Big claims requires big evidence - and we really didn't get big evidence. Just big claims. So I'm not really inclined to believe everything that was said.
  • Why

    do you all keep thinking the NSA is some lone wolf out there? The NSA is a just a small fraction of the big black ops budget... The scarey boogie man terrorist has expanded it ten-fold over the years. 911 was a design, not a tragedy!
  • "SPIES GONE WILD" - he Sequel

    The news out of NSA just keeps getting worse. This is "SPIES GONE WILD" the sequel. In view of these depressing revelations, we can only do what we little we can do to protect what's left of our privacy. Encryption won't keep NSA out entirely, but it will make it harder for them to pick us out of the crowd. Decrypting still takes extra time & effort and that little bit of hassle may be enough to keep their noses out of your business. The same goes for storing stuff on Dropbox, iCloud, etc. Take it down and stash everything in a CloudLocker (www.cloudlocker.it), which works just the same but it's private and stays in your home where they still need a warrant to see inside.
    John Reynolds
  • nsa, fbi outrageous activities

    USA intel use bio-chem weaponry, DEW, etc., on selective Targets foreign & domestic:

    For twenty five years I have been surveilled 24/7 and for ten years I have been tortured by DEW by the fbi assassins in their efforts to imprison or kill me.



    Very few credible persons have proof of the atrocities committed by the fbi/cia/dod/doj and the same few are often denied a forum to record same; all mainstream media block my posts and many Indymedia prevent my publications. The general population also shows little interest in holding murderous tyrants of the US government responsible for their crimes because they (the people) benefit in the main from the atrocities committed by their leaders in the name of the people. Nevertheless, my work must continue because *mankind as a whole and in its awakened senses, finds totally unacceptable torture, imprisonment (often by secret courts and in one's own body), assassinations, mass murders, etc. as I and others describe.



    My affidavit:


    Additional bedtime reading:

    federal burro of investigation:


    fbi operative tells me: "kill yourself":

    We must hold fbi responsible:



    fbi operative 'paint me doubtful' proclaims to the world that I am a possible "mass murderer":


    We must prosecute fbi:

    fbi historically:

    The Age of Madness:


    A de facto overthrown government , USA: