The National Security Agency (NSA), which is supposedly tasked with security domestic networks in addition to exploiting foreign networks, has caused a lot of damage to overall computer security. It appears one of its efforts, inserting a backdoor into the Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generation algorithm, may have bit the State in the ass:
The government may have used compromised software for up to three years, exposing national security secrets to foreign spies, according to lawmakers and security experts.
Observers increasingly believe the software defect derived from an encryption “back door” created by the National Security Agency (NSA). Foreign hackers likely repurposed it for their own snooping needs.
The software vulnerability was spotted in December, when Juniper Networks, which makes a variety of IT products widely used in government, said it had found unauthorized code in its ScreenOS product.
The case is especially frustrating to security experts because it may have been avoidable. The hackers, they say, likely benefited from a flaw in the encryption algorithm that was inserted by the NSA.
For years, the NSA was seen as the standard-bearer on security technology, with many companies relying on the agency’s algorithms to lock down data.
But some suspected the NSA algorithms, including the one Juniper used, contained built-in vulnerabilities that could be used for surveillance purposes. Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 appeared to confirm those suspicions.
Karma can be a real bitch.
This story does bring up a point many people often ignore: the State relies on a great deal of commercial hardware. Its infrastructure isn’t built of custom hardware and software free of the defects agencies such as the NSA introduce into commercial products. Much of its infrastructure is built on the exact same hardware and software the rest of us use. That means, contrary to what many libertarians claim as a pathetic justification not to learn proper computer security practices, the State is just as vulnerable to many of the issues as the rest of us and is therefore not as powerful as it seems.