Security expert: NSA "broke" the Internet

There are plenty of people who are pretty angry at the American National Security Agency (NSA) over its widespread global campaign of data-hoovering known as PRISM. However, gross invasion of privacy on an unprecedented scale and coordinated spying on the computer systems of allies may not be the only things that can be held up against the over-zealous snooping agency.

Security technologist and author Bruce Schneier claimed on Friday that the NSA may have "broken" the Internet.

Schneier, the author of "Applied Cryptography", and "Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World", made his comments during a presentation at the US Capitol building.

The author is a fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and is currently helping The Guardian to decipher the mass of documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden in June of this year.

Schneier claimed that in its rush to "weaponise" the Internet, the NSA had riddled the global network with security backdoors and exploits that will before long be easily tappable by the world's criminals.

The backdoors were sometimes unwittingly inserted into online platforms, but were often created with the compliance of software giants.

According to Schneier, the sophisticated attacks orchestrated by the agency "will be tomorrow's doctoral theses and next week's Science Fair projects."

"Over the past decade, we built standards where security is optional," he said.

He credited the work of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) with working to close the loopholes left by the NSA.

"The IETF is starting to work on ways to harden the Internet to make it more secure against all actors," he told attendants. "This is not because of the NSA's surveillance. They view this as the Internet is under attack and needs to be hardened—not against the NSA, but everybody. We think we have a two-to-three-year lead on what criminals can do right now."

The NSA has been operating under a sense of invulnerability, Schneier argued, believing that they would be the only ones capable of exploiting the weaknesses.

Image: Flickr (tr.robinson)