Reports have emerged Sunday, from 'Five Eyes' collaborator Britain, that Russia and China have managed to crack the strong encryption used by Edward Snowden on his stash of top secret U.S. intelligence documents.
In response to the alleged cracking Britain has pulled out agents from live operations in "hostile countries."
Security service MI6, the British version of the CIA, has removed agents from certain countries, according to unnamed officials at the office of British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Home Office, and security services.
Despite alerting the public to a vast illegal spying operation by U.S. secret police forces, the secrecy-loving Obama administration still wants Snowden to stand trial for disclosing the illegal programs and fleeing the country for Moscow in 2013 when threatened with life in jail.
Russia and China have now both managed to crack the encrypted documents, which contain details of secret intelligence techniques that could allow British and American spies to be identified, the officials said.
However Prime Minister Cameron's office was quoted as saying that there was "no evidence of anyone being harmed."
All British intelligence agencies declined to comment on the reports.
The revelations are highly interesting for two reasons.
The first is that if Russia and China can crack Edward Snowden's encryption it means they can crack virtually any encryption known to mankind. Snowden is a security professional and used extremely strong, military grade, encryption on his trove of documents. Unless he foolishly exposed his key, which seems unlikely, the revelation that both countries can crack such strong encryption is new and highly concerning.
Nearly all encryption used in business and communication is significantly weaker than what Snowden used on his documents.
The second interesting piece, assuming the reports are true and not just propaganda to turn sentiment against Snowden, is that if Russia and China can crack such encryption the United States likely can too.
As the FBI argues for weaker encryption complete with backdoors, which we covered here, the U.S. is able to crack virtually any encryption on the face of the planet if it wants to.
If Snowden's encryption has indeed been broken by foreign governments, Americans need to vocally argue for much stronger encryption on virtually everything we do.
If we don't start using such tough encryption, Russia and China will easily steal all of our state and commercial secrets, if they haven't already.