The NSA can crack cellphone encryption used by over 80 percent of cellphones across the globe.
A newly released US National Security Agency document shows the US spy agency can crack cellphone encryption used by over 80 percent of cellphones around the world to decode calls and texts that travel everyday over public airwaves between billions of cellphone users.
The internal document, which was obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and published by the Washington Post, shows the NSA’s ability to “process encrypted A5/1 GSM” gives it extensive powers to listen in on private conversations between cellphone users across the globe.
A5/1 is the most commonly used technology for encrypting communications which was developed in the 1980s in order to provide over-the-air communication privacy for users of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), or, in simple terms, cellphone users.
The encryption system is widely used by cellphones that depend on technology known as second-generation (2G) GSM, which is the most commonly used type of GSM technology worldwide.
While cracking newer forms of encryption used by more modern networks such as 3G and 4G is more difficult and requires a much heavier investment in time and computing power, it is indeed possible, encryption experts say.
Cellphone conversations are easier to intercept than traditional telephone conversations because the signals travel through the air.
When questioned by the Post on this latest revelation, the NSA issued a statement, saying: “Throughout history nations have used encryption to protect their secrets, and today terrorists, cyber criminals, human traffickers and others also use technology to hide their activities. The Intelligence Community tries to counter that in order to understand the intent of foreign adversaries and prevent them from bringing harm to Americans and allies.”
In October, German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Washington spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone calls using a listening station on the rooftop of the US Embassy in Berlin.
It was also reported that NSA agents are conducting similar operations from 80 US embassies and other government facilities around the world.
Source: Press TV