Online Encryption Isn’t Keeping the NSA From Snooping on You

The NSA has worked with tech companies to insert backdoors into encryption software.

Online Encryption Isn’t Keeping the NSA From Snooping on You

Think encryption software will deter wandering eyes? Think again. New reports show the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), have cracked much of the encryption used to protect citizens’ private data, including online transactions, medical records, banking information, emails, phone calls, chats, and more.

In addition to using supercomputers to break encryption with brute force, the agencies also had secret partnerships with technology companies and Internet service providers, allowing the NSA and GCHQ to insert vulnerabilities, or backdoors, into security software. The NSA spends $250 million a year working “with tech companies to ‘covertly influence’ their product designs,” reports the Guardian. The collaborating companies were not named in the reports by the Guardian, New York Times, or ProPublica, but they note that after the NSA failed to win public favor in the 1990s to insert backdoors into encryption software, it chose instead to do so in secret.

[Image: Flickr user Dave Crosby]

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.



More Stories