It was reported in the press today that a series of files contained in the files stolen by Edward Snowden have been decrypted by the Russians and the Chinese which has given up vital strategic intelligence information forcing SIS (MI6) to move under cover agents out of potential harms way. This story interest me particularly especially with my interest in Cryptography and releasing a Pluralsight course about Cryptography.
There are a couple of things I am wondering. From a technical perspective, how were the files protected? Was it using AES, RSA, a combination of both? Where the files broken using a Brute force attack? Where the keys particularly weak. These are questions that I am sure I won’t get answers too, but I am curious none the less.
Aside from my own technical geeky curiosity, the other thing running through my mind is why is this even in the news in the first place. It is quite strange that we would hear anything about MI6 operations in the press, which leads me and many others like Former Conservative cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell from wondering if the news story was very well timed to coincide with the Anderson Report.
The Anderson Report is a long-expected report by the independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws has come down decisively in favour of sweeping new state powers of electronic surveillance.
David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has decided that the UK needs “comprehensive and comprehensible” rules to replace “fragmented” and “obscure” current legislation – a verdict welcomed by the government but immediately attacked by critics as yet another blank cheque for a ‘snooper’s charter.’ “
This news report on the breaking of files containing details on intelligence operations is also a very good way to discredit Edward Snowden who is believed by many, myself included, to have done a good thing by exposing the mass surveillance of the NSA and GCHQ. Ultimately I don’t think we will ever know what is really going on, but this story does go along way towards painting Mr Snowden in a bad light.
What are your thoughts on what has happened? Legitimate problem of decrypted files being foiled, or a smoke screen to vilify Mr Snowden who exposed one of the biggest surveillance covers up the world has known? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
UPDATE: Thanks to Scottish Yorkshire Guy in the comments for posting a link to Ryan Gallagher’s blog with a more detailed breakdown of the points that were released in the press.
This link also had a another post by Glenn Greenwald with some more information about how bad this piece of journalism was.