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.