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British code-makers call for an investigation

The NSA and GCHQ have acted against public interest

A group of cryptographers in the UK has called on authorities in that country and the United States to conduct an investigation to determine which security products, protocols and standards have been deliberately weakened by the countries’ spooks.

The letter, signed by the University of Birmingham, University of Luxembourg, University of Southampton, University of Surrey, University of Kent, Newcastle University and University College London said that the NSA and British GCHQ had been acting against the interests of the public.

A couple of weeks ago leaked documents from the NSA and its UK counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, showed that the two agencies have been collaborating on projects that give them the ability to subvert encryption protocols. They had been working with unnamed security vendors to insert backdoors into hardware and software products. Security experts have been debating in recent weeks which products, standards and protocols may have been deliberately weakened, but so far no information has shown up.

Cryptography researchers in the UK are asking the UK and U.S. governments to reveal which ones are suspect. The letter said that by weakening cryptographic standards, in as yet undisclosed ways, and by inserting weaknesses into products which we all rely on to secure critical infrastructure.

“We believe that the agencies have been acting against the interests of the public that they are meant to serve,” the letter said.

By weakening everyone’s security so that they can listen in to the communications of the country’s enemies, they also weaken security against our potential enemies, the letter says.

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