What the CIA WikiLeaks Dump Tells Us: Encryption Works

0 Posted by - 15th March 2017 - Technology

If the tech industry is drawing one lesson from the latest WikiLeaks disclosures, it’s that data-scrambling encryption works, and the industry should use more of it.

Documents purportedly outlining a massive CIA surveillance program suggest that CIA agents must go to great lengths to circumvent encryption they can’t break. In many cases, physical presence is required to carry off these targeted attacks.

"We are in a world where if the U.S. government wants to get your data, they can’t hope to break the encryption," said Nicholas Weaver, who teaches networking and security at the University of California, Berkeley. "They have to resort to targeted attacks, and that is costly, risky and the kind of thing you do only on targets you care about. Seeing the CIA have to do stuff like this should reassure civil libertarians that the situation is better now than it was four years ago."

Four years ago is when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of huge and secret U.S. eavesdropping programs. To help thwart spies and snoops, the tech industry began to protectively encrypt email and messaging apps, a process that turns their contents into indecipherable gibberish without the coded "keys" that can unscramble them.

The NSA revelations shattered earlier assumptions that internet data was nearly impossible to intercept for meaningful surveillance, said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Washington-based civil-liberties group Center for Democracy & Technology. That was because any given internet message gets split into a multitude of tiny "packets," each of which traces its own unpredictable route across the network to its destination.

The realization that spy agencies had figured out that problem spurred efforts to better shield data as it transits the internet. A few services such as Facebook’s WhatsApp followed the earlier example of Apple’s iMessage and took the extra step of… http://www.cio-today.com/story.xhtml?story_id=104690 via http://www.cio-today.com #CIO, #Technology