According to a newspaper report, freshly disclosed top-secret files show the UK and U.S. spying agencies have had access to personal data, online transactions and emails of hundreds of millions of people, who had been given assurances about their privacy.
The documents revealed by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden and reported by the British daily The Guardian expose the fact that the guarantees given to customers by Internet companies to maintain their privacy were readily and easily compromised, which means the UK and U.S. spying apparatuses, GCHQ and the National Security Agency (NSA), respectively, had cracked the data’s online encryption.
According to the documents, the big spies have been using sophisticated methods systematically and in collaboration with internet service providers (ISPs) and technology firms themselves – to use supercomputers to break encryption with “brute force”, as well as employing covert measures to allow them have control over setting of international encryption standards.
Through these covert partnerships, the spies managed to insert secret vulnerabilities – known as backdoors or trapdoors – into commercial encryption software.
The files include information suggesting that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually by the U.S. and British governments to “covertly influence” technology companies’ product designs.
Senior British spies have also been working to find ways to crack encrypted traffic in Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Hotmail as the big four ISPs, according to the documents.