Giuseppe Macri, The Daily Caller
The National Security Agency has engaged in spying on hundreds of companies and organizations tied to cellphone networks in an effort to continually beat new encryption standards and surveil phones, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
Documents on a classified operation codenamed “AURORAGOLD,” obtained by The Intercept, give the first look inside how NSA is able to consistently crack encryption standards, including the latest 4G, before they’re even fully implemented.
According to the documents, those means include spying on more than 1,200 email inboxes belonging to international entities involved in cellphone encryption, including the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), based in London.
GSMA works hand-in-hand with numerous major U.S. companies, including Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T and Cisco, to develop enhanced privacy protocols. The U.S. government funds such efforts, along with companies.
Such surveillance gives NSA ample opportunity to find weaknesses in new encryption standards before they come to market.
The documents also explain signals intelligence agency plans to add purposeful flaws into security systems, meant to be exploited and tapped later. This is a tactic cybersecurity experts have frequently speculated the agency pursues, and many have criticized the tactic for its potential to globally weaken cybersecurity and open up new avenues for hackers and cyber criminals.
A cellphone security expert and cryptographer cited in the report said that the effort described in the documents “appears aimed at ensuring virtually every cellphone network in the world is NSA accessible.”
In response to the story, an NSA representative said the agency “collects only those communications that it is authorized by law to collect in response to valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence requirements– regardless of the technical means used by foreign targets, or the means by which those targets attempt to hide their communications.”
A representative for GSMA said in the report that the association was looking into the documents, and that, ”[i]f there is something there that is illegal then they will take it up with the police.”