Morning Security Brief: NSA Cracks Encryption, a Webcam Company Violates Privacy, Internet Anonymity, and a Syria Update

By Laura Spadanuta

 Several news outlets, including the New York Times, reported yesterday that the National Security Agency (NSA) has figured out how to circumvent encrypted communications. Encryption protects everything from e-mail to bank records to medical data. The Times cited data provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden which states that the NSA regards its encryption cracking as one of its most "closely guarded secrets," and the article adds that the agency wanted users of these services not to know they are able to overcome encryption. The Guardian provides more information on how the NSA was able to break down encryption. Additionally, Bloomberg reports that NSA has also obtained access to or figured out how to access databases for some of the most popular e-mail and social media platforms. Bloomberg goes on to quote a study that states that U.S. cloud computing companies stand to lose billions because people will go elsewhere to store their data out of sight of the NSA.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is penalizing TRENDnet for making insecure webcam feeds, according to Consumerist. The FTC says a hacker was able to take advantage of a security flaw and posted live webcam feeds. The hacker was able to do so because the company was not encrypting user information but rather sending it out over the Internet as normal text. TRENDnet has agreed to sanctions that include a 20-year "security compliance auditing" program.

A Pew Research Center study finds that most users of the Internet would prefer to be anonymous but think that it's impossible. Eighty-six percent of Internet users have tried to clear their footprint online, doing everything from deleting cookies to encrypting their e-mail. Another 55 percent have taken steps to avoid observation by the government and other people or organizations. But 59 percent state that they don't think it's possible to be completely anonymous online.

Also in the news: The LA Times reports on lawmakers who still do not favor taking military action in Syria, while Time reports that President Obama has directed the Pentagon to expand its Syria targets. Russia has canceled a delegation that was headed to Washington, D.C., to lobby against military strikes in Syria. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner had turned down the offer to meet.


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