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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Google Scrambles to Counter NSA in Encryption Race

Matthew green is a cryptography or faster who joins me now from Baltimore  You were surprised by the level of the government's capabilities to crack the encryption codes. 

What do you make of Google trying to one up the government? 
I was surprised not just that they were cracking encryption but they were attacking products to make them weaker. Google has a number of adversaries, people in governments around the world, not just the nsa so the steps will make them stronger against all these countries. 

What would increasing the power of the encryption actually involved? 
Right now, it seems that quite a bit of data is not encrypted at all. It means it is possible for somebody to read it off the wire. They are now putting very powerful encryption devices that will encrypt every bit of information. 

Why wouldn't they have done this before? 
It costs a lot of money and takes power to encrypt the huge torrents of data that they shoot around the world. They are putting in the hardware now to do it. They are calling this a crystallographic arms race. 

If Google does this, shouldn't we assume the government is going to up its game? 
That's the problem. If the nsa wants your data, they have different ways of doing it and they can get people inside your company to help them. Google must be fighting a very top battle and i'm not sure how they are doing it. 

What do you imagine the reaction of the government will be? 
I think the government -- this is probably the worst thing that can happen from the perspective of the nsa. This is a huge capability and they will use a big chunk of it as a result of these leaks. You also talked about how many of these companies must be cooperating with the government or giving them some sort of backdoor access. Generally, cracking encryption codes is extremely difficult. One company that you single out is Microsoft. 

Why? 
I have no specific information but Microsoft is one of the largest commercial closed source software vendors that has an built into their product. They power a lot of the secured web. If you picked a company to backdoor, that would be the one. 

Do you imagine other companies working with the government, opening this back your and what kinds of companies are doing so? 
There is some specific information in these leaks that saw about vpn devices, routers that encrypted data across the internet. There is specific information about chip-makers putting backdoor into encryption chips. I will not name any companies that there are only a few companies that are large in this business. 

How do you reconcile both the offensive and defense of missions of the nsa? 
They obviously don't want other countries and other organizations to be able to get their hands on the data but they apparently want to get their hands on this data themselves. That's the upsetting thing about this. From what we are learning, by putting back-doors in the systems, the nsa has potentially thrown away the defense and made the u.s. much more vulnerable to attacks by other countries and there are other countries that have capabilities approaching the nsa. 

If tech companies like Google work on an hand saying -- on enhancing their own a tech, is there only -- is there anyway to make that data fail-safe like fort knox or is is the government always going to find a way to get to it somehow? 
This entire area is an arms race. If we find a way to build secure encryption, the government will find a way to break into data centers and in-store -- and install hardware tummy tuck. It is constant vigilance. 

Where does this go? What choice to consumers and companies have? 
I think we have some choices. We have learned that some types of encryption are strong and secure. The nsa is not omnipotent so we know what they are going after his weaker encryption systems and systems that have flaws built into them. Their capabilities are described as very fragile which means that if people make changes to the hardware and software they use,

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