Since Edward Snowden leaked NSA files to the press in early 2013, revelations of further surveillance have trickled out fairly regularly. The latest information from the leaked files is that the NSA have been able to store IMs and calls made using Skype since 2011.
“‘Sustained Skype collection began in Feb 2011,’ reads a National Security Agency (NSA) training document from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden,” according to Der Spiegel. “Less than half a year later, in the fall, the code crackers declared their mission accomplished. Since then, data from Skype has been accessible to the NSA’s snoops.”
Ars Technica notes that all Skype traffic has been available to the NSA for several years, whether it’s peer-to-peer calls, or client-to-landline calls. What’s more, once the NSA had access to a single Skype account, they were able to collect IM data from any other user participating in the conversation.
Der Spiegel quotes an internal NSA training document: “Did you know that ubiquitous encryption on the Internet is a major threat to NSA’s ability to prosecute digital-network intelligence (DNI) traffic or defeat adversary malware?”
Interestingly, encryption could well become a major problem for the NSA in the future. Kim Dotcom, founder of the defunct file-sharing service MegaUpload, has promised an encrypted video- and voice-calling service that also allows file sharing. In a series of tweets, he declares that the new service will be an NSA-free competitor to Skype.
Whatsapp is also planning to launch a voice- and video-calling service that might become available during the early part of this year. Given the dedication the company has shown to implementing good encryption protocols, Whatsapp could potentially be NSA free too.
As we get more information from leaks like these, it seems like the social media and mobile markets are responding. Services like Dotcom’s app and Whatsapp are trying to protect users in the new market, and an app called Snoopsnitch aims to let users know if their mobile voice calls and texts are being intercepted. Dotcom’s boastful claims that the NSA will come to an end may be more realistic than they appear.