Encryption / NSA / GCHQ and Open Source software

So, apparently the NSA and GCHQ are able to break some encryption protocols/formats, and have widespread access to Skype / Hotmail / Outlook / Gmail / Facebook etc.

I’m not sure why this is thought to be a surprise. It’s their job to do this, right?

While I’m not convinced the widespread trawling of data has been done with appropriate safeguards in place (it doesn’t sound like it has been) it isn’t that different to how it was an openly acknowledged secret that the state had automated monitoring of phone calls for certain keywords/phrases 10-15 years ago (nuke, bomb, anthrax etc) which no one particularly cared about then.

I’m skeptical that the revelations will have much of an effect on “professional” terrorists – who must have already been aware that anything transmitted electronically could not be guaranteed safe from eves-dropping. The main harm will surely be that the West can no longer claim the ‘moral high ground’ when it comes to surveillance / monitoring / hacking / infiltration – which it used to with states like China and North Korea.

Perhaps the revelations will lead to a wider uptake of open source software (which is presumably harder for a state to infiltrate/backdoor)? Certainly it should now be exceedingly hard for any state to justify using Microsoft Windows in any part of government where the information is classified/secret.

 

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