US and UK intelligence have reportedly cracked the encryption codes protecting the emails, banking and medical records of hundreds of millions of people.
Disclosures by leaker Edward Snowden allege the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s GCHQ successfully decoded key online security protocols. They suggest some internet companies provided the agencies backdoor access to their security systems. The NSA is said to spend $250m (£160m) a year on the top-secret operation.
it is codenamed Bullrun, an American civil-war battle, according to the documents published by the Guardian in conjunction with the New York Times and ProPublica. The British counterpart scheme run by GCHQ is called Edgehill, after the first major engagement of the English civil war, say the documents. The reports say the UK and US intelligence agencies are focusing on the encryption used in 4G smartphones, email, online shopping and remote business communication networks.
The encryption techniques are used by internet services such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo. Under Bullrun, it is said that the NSA has built powerful supercomputers to try to crack the technology that scrambles and encrypts personal information when internet users log on to access various services. The NSA also collaborated with unnamed technology companies to build so-called back doors into their software – something that would give the government access to information before it is encrypted and sent over the internet, it is reported. As well as supercomputers, methods used include “technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications”, the New York Times reports. Read story here