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Report: NSA paid company $10M to sell crackable encryption software

updated 06:26 pm EST, Fri December 20, 2013

Agency pushes vulnerable encryption standard

The National Security Agency has been accused of paying computer-security company RSA $10 million to sell encryption software vulnerable to surveillance, unnamed sources have told Reuters. The agency's role in promoting a crackable encryption standard was exposed earlier this year in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, however the latest report is the first to detail a formal contract and monetary compensation for compliance.

The NSA is said to have crafted its own pseudorandom-number generator to be used for data encryption, but with an undisclosed vulnerability that enabled backdoor access. Sources now claim the agency paid RSA to set the crackable standard as the default setting in the company's Bsafe security tools.

RSA, now owned by EMC, responded to the initial Snowden leak by notifying customers to stop using the vulnerable number-generator. The company has argued that it was unaware of the NSA's backdoor capabilities, however critics point to the alleged payment as evidence of complacence with government surveillance.

"RSA always acts in the best interest of its customers and under no circumstances does RSA design or enable any back doors in our products," the company said in a statement. "Decisions about the features and functionality of RSA products are our own."

Separate leaked documents appear to outline an NSA strategy that embraces collaboration with private-sector companies to minimize the effectiveness of security tools. A group of tech giants, including Apple and Google, recently met with President Obama to voice opposition to the agency's surveillance methods, however the government has yet to publicly announce any formal plans to rein in the programs.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Stuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 02-11-05

    There goes the privacy software industry! Who is going to believe any company that their software is NOT tampered with (deliberately, like the story, or not)? End of an era. Watch.

  1. Inkling

    Senior User

    Joined: 07-25-06

    I'm glad I don't own any RSA stock. If this allegation prove true, it's toast and rightly so.

    It's also true that Google and Apple don't have a leg to stand on in their criticism of the NSA.

    * Years ago, Google helped the Chinese government set up a firewall to squelch political dissent. They may have stopped doing that, but by then the Chinese government knew how to run their own firewalls.

    * Earlier this year Apple yanked an app containing books banned by the Chinese government. Here's what Bloomberg said: "The online bookstore provided access to 10 works, including three by Chinese writer Wang Lixiong, FT said, citing Hao Peiqiang, the app's developer. Books by Wang, who is also a political activist, are mostly banned in the country, according to the newspaper.

    Both companies should adjust their mottos and slogans:

    Google: Don't be evil (except where it is profitable)

    Apple: Be Different (except when a government demands conformity)

    Pitiful. Any sort of activity involves conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, both business and government agencies (here the NSA) tend to resolve them by always going with self-interest. The don't recognize any other responsibilities.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Business rather depends upon the ability to do business.

    Sad, but true.

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