The US’ National Security Agency can easily crack the mobile encryption technology and gain access to the billions of calls and texts that travel over public airways everyday, a secret document has revealed.
The US spy agency’s capabilities are sweeping as it can defect the encryption used by the majority of cellphones in the world offers thereby having wide-ranging powers to listen in on private conversations.
According to the Washington Post, US law prohibits the NSA from collection phone call records betweens Americans without a court order, however, experts said that if the NSA has the ability to easily decode encrypted cellphone conversations, then other nations can follow suit to track Americans’ calls, as well.
The encryption technology, known as A5/1 is considered by experts as vulnerable and needs to be upgraded to newer systems that are much harder to crack.
The documents revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden indicate that the spy agency can process encrypted A5/1 even without acquiring an encryption key, which unscrambles communications so that they are readable.
Chief scientist at Security Research Labs in Berlin, Karsten Nohl pointed that more than 80% of cellphones worldwide use weak or no encryption for at least some of their calls. A computer scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, David Wagner said that the encryption technology was designed 30 years ago, and one cannot expect a 30-year-old car to have the latest safety mechanisms
According to the report, even with a strong encryption, the protection exists only from a phone to the cell tower, after which point the communications are decrypted for transmission on a company’s internal data network and interception is possible on those internal links.