For years, we have been told that “HTTPS” in the URL means that a site is secure, and we have believed that heavily encrypted sites (such as cloud-based applications) are also secure. On the other hand, we also know that a lot of hacking goes on.
So, the question — are we EVER safe — is really rhetorical, because the answer is never. Nonetheless, the following NY Times story is still unsettling. What do YOU think about the balance between privacy and surveillance in this era of heightened awareness of terrorism?
According to that story, as reported by Nicole Perlroth, Jeff Larson, and Scott Shane:
The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders, and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents. The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the E-mails, Web searches, Internet chats, and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.”
“The agency’s success in defeating many of the privacy protections offered by encryption does not change the rules that prohibit the deliberate targeting of Americans’ E-mails or phone calls without a warrant. But it shows that the agency, which was sharply rebuked by a federal judge in 2011 for violating the rules and misleading the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, cannot necessarily be restrained by privacy technology. N.S.A. rules permit the agency to store any encrypted communication, domestic or foreign, for as long as the agency is trying to decrypt it or analyze its technical features.”
“The N.S.A., which has specialized in code-breaking since its creation in 1952, sees that task as essential to its mission. If it cannot decipher the messages of terrorists, foreign spies and other adversaries, the United States will be at serious risk, agency officials say.”
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