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NSA Cracked Into Encrypted UN Video Conferences 427

Posted by timothy
from the for-the-greater-good dept.
McGruber writes "According to documents seen by Germany's Der Spiegel, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) successfully cracked the encryption code protecting the United Nations' internal videoconferencing system. NSA first breached the UN system in the summer of 2012 and, within three weeks of initially gaining access to the UN system, the NSA had increased the number of such decrypted communications from 12 to 458. On one occasion, according to the report, while the American NSA were attempting to break into UN communications, they discovered the Chinese were attempting to crack the encryption code as well."
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NSA Cracked Into Encrypted UN Video Conferences

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:35PM (#44669899)

    were trying to break in , so we did it first to warn you.

    • by updatelee (244571) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:46PM (#44669975) Homepage

      Exactly. So it's OK the USA does it but not the Chinese?

      UDL

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @01:12PM (#44670149)

        Of course. We may do every kind of atrocity, for it is in the name of peace and democracy.

        • by quacking duck (607555) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @02:44PM (#44670851)

          Of course. We may do every kind of atrocity, for it is in the name of peace and democracy.

          But not in the name of the Doctor!

          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 25, 2013 @04:54PM (#44671711)

            Of course. We may do every kind of atrocity, for it is in the name of peace and democracy.

            But not in the name of the Doctor!

            The DOCTOR? Please state the nature of the medical emergency.
             
            Let's get the Borg in and hear what THEY have to say on uncrackable encryption!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Exactly. So it's OK the USA does it but not the Chinese?

        Who is making moral judgements? As long as some countries might become a threat in the future, every other country will spy. The alternative is to be caught off guard and lose a war. You don't have to like it, but pretending to be shocked makes you come off as incredibly naive. Put "prisoner's dilemma" into the search engine of your choice to understand the problem better.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by shiftless (410350)

          Who is making moral judgements? As long as some countries might become a threat in the future, every other country will spy. The alternative is to be caught off guard and lose a war. You don't have to like it, but pretending to be shocked makes you come off as incredibly naive.

          Yeah, and? The U.S. has spent decades loudly vilifying the Chinese in news media for doing things like this...and now they're getting exposed for the liars and hypocrites they really are.

      • by icebike (68054) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @02:44PM (#44670853)

        Exactly. So it's OK the USA does it but not the Chinese?

        Actually, I suspect at least half the break-ins blamed on the Chinese are actually the NSA doing it, then planting a trail designed to point to the Chinese. Not that I doubt the Chinese are doing hacking, just that because the do attempt to penetrate important sites, the NSA can use that as cover.

      • by dywolf (2673597) on Monday August 26, 2013 @09:08AM (#44675843)

        actually this is the sort of thing I would expect a spy agency to do.
        this is about getting an edge in the foreign relations / diplomatic game.
        and im ok with this, its the same as spying on embassies (which everyone also does).
        this is still spying on "the other guys", which is what spies are supposed to do.

        its the "spying on our own citizens for their own safety" that I have a problem with.
        this? business as usual, and acceptable at that.

  • The dilema ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:40PM (#44669927)

    If the NSA can do it, so can other people. So should the NSA reveal what they can do so the UN can switch to more secure communications. Or should the NSA have continued to monitor with the knowledge that the Chinese, Russians and probably a few others were also listening in?

    • Re:The dilema ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:44PM (#44669965)

      If the NSA can do it, so can other people. So should the NSA reveal what they can do so the UN can switch to more secure communications. Or should the NSA have continued to monitor with the knowledge that the Chinese, Russians and probably a few others were also listening in?

      Where's the dilemma? Yes. No.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by spire3661 (1038968)
      The NSA shjouldnt be fucking monitoring the UN. I really hate how everyone thinks it is okie dokie to spy all they want. Spying is an act of WAR.
      • Re:The dilema ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @01:09PM (#44670131)

        Spying is an act of WAR.

        If spying were an "act of WAR", then EVERY government has a casus bellum against EVERY OTHER country.

        Face it, espionage has been a fact of life between governments since at least the time of the ancient Greeks...

        • Re:The dilema ... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dotancohen (1015143) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @01:43PM (#44670381) Homepage

          Face it, espionage has been a fact of life between governments since at least the time of the ancient Greeks...

          And soon, it we don't so something about it:
          Year 4026, in the Human's Republic of Earth: "Face it, government surveillance of citizens in their own homes has been a fact of life since at least the time of the ancient American empire..."

        • Re:The dilema ... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @01:53PM (#44670469) Homepage Journal

          So you justify your actions by "everyone else is doing it"? That's just as immoral as "the (potential) ends justify the means".

          An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. In this case, trust is the sight lost. And not caring about trust between partners is short-sighted.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by elucido (870205)

          Spying is an act of WAR.

          If spying were an "act of WAR", then EVERY government has a casus bellum against EVERY OTHER country.

          Face it, espionage has been a fact of life between governments since at least the time of the ancient Greeks...

          Espionage is how wars are prevented. We'd have a world war constantly for hundreds of years if not for the spy wars. World War 1 would never have ended.

        • by Nyder (754090)

          Spying is an act of WAR.

          If spying were an "act of WAR", then EVERY government has a casus bellum against EVERY OTHER country.

          Face it, espionage has been a fact of life between governments since at least the time of the ancient Greeks...

          And yet you can be put to death if caught spying...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No, spying is NOT an act of war. In fact, spying probably stopped WW 3 from happening several times. Since we were spying on the USSR, (And them on us), both sides knew where things stood and how far they could push.

        And as to the NSA spying on the UN, big deal. that is one place they should be spying on. You could probably cook a steak from all the radio waves emanating from the bugs, taps and other assorted intelligence gathering devices in and around that building.

      • Re:The dilema ... (Score:5, Informative)

        by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @01:12PM (#44670157)

        Spying is an act of WAR.

        Spying is almost never considered an act of war. Although it has at times lead to war, for instance the Ems Dispatch [wikipedia.org] and the Zimmermann Telegram [wikipedia.org].

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        In your sad little world perhaps.

        If governments believed that, the entire world would constantly be at war since everyone does it to everyone.

        The world is bigger than your fantasy.

        • Silly me for expecting the leaders of our world to act honorably....
          • How on earth can you expect such a thing? You give them effective control over yourself, and everyone around you. And yet, you never pick them based on "honor". You do, however, pick them based on such silly things as: "immigration", "job creation", "taxes", "gay rights", "anti-gay rights", "religion", "feel-good rhetoric", and a multitude of other, non-consequential traits and promises. I'm not saying those things aren't important, just that in the grand scheme of things, they're pretty divisive and distra
      • Re:The dilema ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by plover (150551) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @01:20PM (#44670199) Homepage Journal

        Spying is an act of WAR.

        No, spying has been an illegal but ongoing act of governments everywhere, and has been true across history. It's unethical, highly offensive, unjustifiably immoral, and dangerous to the agent if you act on the knowledge gained, but it's not an act of war.

        The primary differences between the NSA and all other spying is that they have essentially unlimited resources, technology, and personnel to throw at it, and they are very, very good at it.

        Where the NSA is lacking, though, is with actual infiltration. They have no agents hiding inside every possible organization. They are instead performing their spying on the communications that the other people are using. It's cheaper, easier, more reliable, and more "politically acceptable" to tap conversations. It's expensive, difficult, and unreliable to have a source reporting from within the organization, and it's politically unpalatable when an agent is discovered and killed or tortured for their treason.

        Typically, infiltration has been the job of the CIA and similar spy agencies in other countries, but their historic mission has been to infiltrate an entire nation-state. Nations are easier to spy on because the attack surface is large, and they can get useful benefits from spies anywhere in the government, military, or police. It's much harder to infiltrate a religious or tribal clan, where it's a smaller group where everyone is personally known to the others.

        Where it gets dodgy, though, is not in the passive (or even aggressive) monitoring. It's when the monitors begin injecting their own information in order to influence the behavior of others. It's obviously one thing to overhear a voice on the radio saying "we'll meet at the ABC building on Thursday," but a completely different thing to alter the voice on the radio to say "let's meet at the 123 building on Thursday" to lead them into an ambush. Deploying an agent provocateur can indeed be an act of war, even via the proxy of communications.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ColdWetDog (752185)

        We have always been at war with Eurasia.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by geek (5680)

        Spying actually prevents wars as it allows governments to act diplomatically before the shit hits the fan. However, spying on ones own citizens is what dictatorships do to oppress their own people. The NSA was created specifically to spy on foreign nations, just like every other country does.

        It sucks but thats how the world is.

      • The US hasn't declared war since WWII.
      • Re:The dilema ... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gmuslera (3436) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @02:00PM (#44670511) Homepage Journal
        Spying is not an act of war, but is an act of aggression. Doing it in the very place where peace and agreement is try to be made between nations is a clear signal that US don't care at all about those topics. Stop being fooled about "we are doing this because we care about people", all is just another plot for getting more power and more money.
      • by elucido (870205)

        The NSA shjouldnt be fucking monitoring the UN. I really hate how everyone thinks it is okie dokie to spy all they want. Spying is an act of WAR.

        Spying is how you prevent wars.

      • by RGRistroph (86936)

        According to the UN Charter itself, spying would not be an act of war, definitely not a reason to start one. See:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapter_VII_of_the_United_Nations_Charter [wikipedia.org]
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casus_belli [wikipedia.org]

        As a practical matter, we cannot allow spying to be considered a reason to go to war, because by it's nature it is hard to prove and easy to fake; it would basically be giving states the right to start a war whenever they want. At times in history we've tried that, such when most of t

      • by mysidia (191772)

        The NSA shjouldnt be fucking monitoring the UN. I really hate how everyone thinks it is okie dokie to spy all they want. Spying is an act of WAR.

        Perhaps the UN should have sanctions against any member found to be spying on them.

        Although, frankly... the UN as an organization with rampant corruption deserve to be spied upon, almost as much as the EU deserves to be spied upon.

        As far as i'm concerned: it's individuals that have a right to keep secrets, not foreign governments.

      • by gtall (79522)

        Not really. Spying performs a vital function to keep nations from war by not misinterpreting the other side. If you have a really sharp spy capability, you don't get surprised and do something stupid.

        Just to give you an idea, during Kruschevs' tenure, he wanted to boot the allies from West Berlin, and he used the threat of putting nukes on missiles since they had just punted their satellite up there. The U.S. balked during the negotiations and the K-Man figured he'd be able to roll Eisenhower since Ike had

    • What dilemma? You keep spying and tell your government that you shouldn't use the encryption 'cause it's insecure.

    • It is similar to the 'stolen art conundrum'. If a picture has been stolen repeatedly over the centuries, and is stolen again, is it really a crime?
  • by shentino (1139071) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:42PM (#44669953)

    If I was the state department I would be furious about this.

    Short of a direct attack on a diplomat I don't think there is a worse breach of international custom and law.

    Snooping on citizens is bad enough, but this is playing with fire.

    • by jovius (974690) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:48PM (#44669997)

      It's a cruel reality. Instead of using advanced high tech and knowledge to create impartial and protected communication networks for the UN the member countries try to take the systems down for their own use.

      • by jittles (1613415)

        It's a cruel reality. Instead of using advanced high tech and knowledge to create impartial and protected communication networks for the UN the member countries try to take the systems down for their own use.

        I will say that reporting the issue to the UN has a host of problems related with it.

        1) The UN is a group of nation states that would all be interested in the capability of tapping UN Conversations. If the US can do it, Russia and China can too. If the US announces a vulnerability then it will cause other Nation States to redouble their efforts.
        2) It is possible that in their haste to replace encryption systems in place the UN could replace their systems with something that has other security issues

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:55PM (#44670047)

      The UN doesn't care any more. There is barely a power structure left which isn't dominated by US flunkies.

      The world was rightly scared of the USSR, but it should be far more worried about a one-superpower world.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EmagGeek (574360)

      The US has veto power against any resolution the UN might pass against the US. Nothing to worry about...

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @01:24PM (#44670239)

      In theory, yes. In fact it's like the school bully going through your lunch box and you catching him doing it. What are you gonna do? Beat him up? C'mon...

  • by protoporos (900257) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:43PM (#44669959)
    Am I the only one seeing a war on information soon descending upon us?
    Governments, once they realize the full breadth & capability of the US surveillance, and the fact that they themselves are vulnerable, and not only their citizen... they will soon decide to take action! And of course the US, having the confrontation with China in mind (and that it cannot weaken its position in such a critical time), will not back down easily.

    Net neutrality is the first that could go, but I'm not sure it will be the last.

    Do you think that Snowden will prove to be the trigger to the 3rd WW? (but an information/electronic one this time)
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Sunday August 25, 2013 @01:28PM (#44670271) Homepage

      Well, the US has already said that military action could be an appropriate response to state hacking/cyberwarfare.

    • OMG! You're right!

      Run Away! Run Away!

      No, you're not. This sort of thing has been going on for a long time. Before you spied on encrypted communications you drilled holes in the wall and stuffed a microphone in it. Before that you stuffed your eye into the hole. I'm not sure what Ogg did, probably something like crawling into the ventilation passage in his enemy's cave and hope everyone didn't fart too much.

    • by elucido (870205)

      Am I the only one seeing a war on information soon descending upon us?

      Governments, once they realize the full breadth & capability of the US surveillance, and the fact that they themselves are vulnerable, and not only their citizen... they will soon decide to take action! And of course the US, having the confrontation with China in mind (and that it cannot weaken its position in such a critical time), will not back down easily.

      Net neutrality is the first that could go, but I'm not sure it will be the last.

      Do you think that Snowden will prove to be the trigger to the 3rd WW? (but an information/electronic one this time)

      You think they didn't know that already? They knew before you did.

    • "Am I the only one seeing a war on information soon descending upon us?"

      No [wikipedia.org], but you may be the only one with a six digit SlashID who thinks you might be.

  • Leaked? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:46PM (#44669977) Homepage

    So where did Der Spiegel get these documents? On Friday, Edward Snowden accused the US government of intentionally leaking documents to The Independent that were potentially damaging, in an effort to discredit the responsible reporting being done by The Guardian and the Washington Post. He said he had never worked with nor even spoken to anyone at The Independent. Is the same thing happening here?

  • by Shoten (260439) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:47PM (#44669979)

    RT is infamous for being virulently anti-American; it's a Russian news organization with an agenda that is fairly obvious at times. Now, that said, Der Spiegel is a totally valid news organization...so can someone provide something directly from that, instead of interpretation by people with their own agenda regarding this?

    Ah, never mind: here you go: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/25/us-usa-security-nsa-idUSBRE97O08120130825 [reuters.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      so can someone provide something directly from that,

      That would be here [spiegel.de], translated here [google.com].

      Unless I'm not following the Translationese though, I can't see any mention of the Chinese in the network.

  • Fuck the (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:48PM (#44669999)

    USA.

    First you make bribing politicians legal, destabilize the entire world's banking industry and start war after war in 3rd world countries so your military industrial complex can get more tax payer money. And now new private contractors show up and bribe some politicians who in return give them the right and money to spy on whoever they want.

    And do you even protest or riot? No you assholes whine on /. I think there have been more protests here in germany over that than in the US

  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:53PM (#44670027)
    Why would any country trust a closed-sourced product produced by a US Technology firm?
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      I'd assume they wouldn't. Chances are anything the NSA thought they were getting was just misinformation deliberately handed to them.

    • by elucido (870205)

      Why would any country trust a closed-sourced product produced by a US Technology firm?

      Why would any country trust a closed source product produced by anyone?

    • by Dutchmaan (442553)
      You mean like electronic voting boxes?
  • Hold the Phone Here (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Was the encryption cracked, or was it just bypassed?

    Very worrisome if it's the former.

    I can't tell if they just disabled encryption on one of the end points.

  • the chinese where exploiting huawei routers firmware, while nsa where at it with the cisco stuff
  • I'm not condoning what the NSA has done, but this is firmly within their mandate. Who they spy on and how may be completely secret. The fact that this is what they do is not.
    From their Mission Statement:
    The Signals Intelligence mission collects, processes, and disseminates intelligence information from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and to support military operations.

    Cheers,
    Bruce.
  • What about bugging the White House? I mean, anyone can get to be president (in theory of course, in practice it is any multimillionaire with lots of friends in the US establishment). You've got to check on them, or else how can they be trusted? And what about all those that know the president or is related to the president, you've got to check on what they are saying ... and so on.
  • Hold up. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bistromath007 (1253428) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @02:49PM (#44670883)
    Are you telling me the NSA actually spends time and money on doing the job it's supposed to, not just spying on US citizens? I am absolutely shocked.

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