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.

Edward Snowden : Secret Files Decrypted by the Russians and Chinese
Edward Snowden : Secret Files Decrypted by the Russians and Chinese

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.’ “

Read more:

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.


  1. It really does seem highly suspicious as to the timing but also the content of the press release. Although it is possible that a brute force attack might have taken long enough that, coupled with the time of discovery of the codes being broken plus the spies being moved to warrant this amount of time for it to be true. But with the fact the current government wants their advanced, uncountable, access to data, it seems very unlikely its anything other than political spin. The thing is we have been here before, several of the key security issues have come from the NSA demanding break-ability or backdoors into encryption in the 90’s that still effect us today and have caused billions of dollars worth of damage, not to mention lose of lots of personal data. So why this demand for the same again is beyond anybody in the industry, if for no other reason other than it opens everything up to state sponsored cyber attack too. And your right I think until the day he dies Edward Snowden will be vilified by US/UK government agencies to try to ensure the public is on their side. The thing is, if the politicians thought to themselves oh wait lets be fair and not try and influence the minds of the public before we make this decision then they should have waited, but they cant stop themselves. Just my personal take on the situation anyway 🙂

    1. Thanks for the link. It makes interesting reading. There is another article linked from that poise by Glen Greenwald that makes for interesting reading too. I have added an update to my post.

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