The latest published leak from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden lays bare details of the U.S. government’s highly classified 2013 intelligence budget, and makes the first reference in any of the Snowden documents to a “groundbreaking” U.S. encryption-breaking effort targeted squarely at secure internet traffic.
Modern internet transactions, whether between me and my bank, or between corporations online, depends of making secure connections that cannot easily be broken by anyone but those involved.
The latest leak implies that the NSA can break apart almost any online security measures. If so, then secure transactions via the Internet are dead. No one will use it for anything important if there cannot be safely encrypted communications.
The internet will be tremendously damaged.
It might not ever recover.
From Clapper, the head:
Also, we are investing in groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit internet traffic
21% of the entire intelligence budget is devoted to this cryptologic program, employing 35,000 people.
And supposedly the NSA has made some breakthrough years ago in cryptanalysis. It could well be that they ‘broke the code’ as it were, meaning that everyone’s security is at risk, not just terrorists.
And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”
Everyone is a target! Everyone who communicates on the web. Financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications They could have all of it.
This is more than metadata. This is more than looking for bad guys. This is undermining the very usefulness of the internet, destroying it in a basic way, making it radioactive not only for personal use but for economic.
This is what I have been worried about. If the NSA can easily break any encrypted online communication, they will have broken the internet. Because the same sort of security that allows you to bank online could be broken, allowing them to get encrypted passwords, allowing them into any account and do anything. They could actually get into something, make it look like you were doing the access and frame you for just about anything. Or just steal all your money.
How about spoofing your email to make it seem like you sent inappropriate emails? Or simply taking money out of bank accounts, making it look like a legitimate transaction? Or making it look like you tweeted inappropriate pictures? Or putting porn on your computer?
What happens when there is no security at all on the internet and actually no proof that anything you do is actually done by you? That a central authority can get access to anything anywhere. Being able to break any security means they can go anywhere online and do anything.
What happens when businesses cannot trust what they communicate to each other? Any secure data any company has sent via the internet might also be open for the NSA to do what they will.
Now, the vast majority of the NSA might not be involved in this at all. But 35,000 people are employed on this work. How many would it take, especially in a clandestine manner, to do really horrible things, both for political reasons or for personal?
This could be the thing that really worried the NSA about Snowden. This is much scarier and disruptive than anything else he has leaked. If true, none of us can be secure about anything, anywhere.
A broken internet really means the economic destruction of modern society. The NSA may have brought down the global economy. But I guess that is worth it, right?
I am seriously considering closing out all my accounts, buying up months worth of staples, getting to my escape location and hunkering down because of the economic havoc this could wreck.
Talk me down!