Experts on privacy and Internet security have blasted the US National Security Agency amid reports that the agency is accessing secure Internet communications.
The New York Times, ProPublica and The Guardian reported on Thursday that US and British spy agencies cracked the encryption that secures online communications including emails, banking transactions and phone conversations.
The report reveals that technology companies and Internet service providers have collaborated with the National Security Agency, giving it access to communications through “back door” channels.
Industry groups have sounded alarm at the new revelations, based on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
“This is a tragic case of myopia on the part of the NSA, and the surveillance infrastructure throughout the government,” said Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a Washington trade group.
“This is a fundamental attack on how the Internet works,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, a senior staff technologist at the Washington-based policy group Center for Democracy & Technology.
The American Civil Liberties Union also criticized the spy agency on Thursday. The NSA "is making the Internet less secure" and exposing Web users to "criminal hacking, foreign espionage, and unlawful surveillance," said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.
On Friday, US spy agencies said the latest media revelations would hurt American intelligence efforts. Intelligence officials had asked the Guardian, New York Times and ProPublica not to publish the reports.
The Office of the US Director of National Intelligence said in a statement that the published reports revealed "specific and classified details about how we conduct this critical intelligence activity” and “nonetheless provided a “road map … to our adversaries.”
Snowden earlier leaked confidential information that showed the NSA collects data of phone records and Internet communication of American citizens.
The former NSA contractor, who is charged with espionage in the United States, is currently staying in Russia. Snowden supplied reporters with 50,000 secret documents.