It seems like the NSA tried lobby and install mass-surveillance of all people on this planet as soon as 1993.

„First and most urgent, the current debate over the use of encryption undermines the promotion of privacy tools. The U.S. government proposed a technological backdoor with the Clipper Chip in the early 1990s, using the same arguments heard today. It failed spectacularly. Although technology has evolved since, the fundamentals of encryption have not. Policymakers in the United States and other countries should recognize that anything less than intact cryptography puts all users at risk. Developers cannot build software that allows law enforcement to access encrypted communications but prevents malicious actors from exploiting that access. Cryptography cannot distinguish good people from bad, so a backdoor for one is a backdoor for all.

Software tools for end-to-end encryption have been available to users since the early 1990s, when Phil Zimmerman created a program called Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) and released it to the public free of charge. However, nonexpert users have faced a number of challenges with these tools from the beginning. In a 1998 paper, „Why Johnny Can’t Encrypt,“ Alma Whitten and J. D. Tygar documented problems facing users of PGP. The authors found that participants had difficulty performing even basic tasks like encrypting and decrypting messages. Further studies have replicated these results with a variety of software programs.

Finally, a recent resurgence of a decades-old debate around the propriety of encryption technologies—particularly as they relate to law-enforcement efforts to thwart terrorism or investigate crimes—is creating tremendous uncertainty for software developers.

Apple and Google have both made upgrades to support user-controlled encryption by default in strategic products (iMessage’s encrypted chat, Android’s encrypted file system).

However, these nascent investments are unlikely to be followed by large-scale integration of privacy-preserving technologies, given that a multitude of conflicting requirements around cryptography loom on the horizon in different jurisdictions. For the United States, it is especially unfortunate that this debate emerges at a time when confidence in technology companies‘ ability to protect user data is still suffering from the fallout of the Edward Snowden revelations.“


The Clipper chip was a chipset that was developed and promoted by the United States National Security Agency[1] (NSA) as an encryption device, with a built-in backdoor, intended to be adopted by telecommunications companies for voice transmission. It was announced in 1993 and by 1996 was entirely defunct.

The Clipper chip was not embraced by consumers or manufacturers and the chip itself was no longer relevant by 1996. The U.S. government continued to press for key escrow by offering incentives to manufacturers, allowing more relaxed export controls if key escrow were part of cryptographic software that was exported. These attempts were largely made moot by the widespread use of strong cryptographic technologies, such as PGP, which were not under the control of the U.S. government.

However, strongly encrypted voice channels are still not the predominant mode for current cell phone communications.[9] Secure cell phone devices and smartphone apps exist, but may require specialized hardware, and typically require that both ends of the connection employ the same encryption mechanism. Such apps usually communicate over secure Internet pathways (e.g. ZRTP) instead of through phone voice data networks.

Following the Snowden disclosures from 2013, Apple and Google announced that they would lock down data stored on their smartphones with encryption, in a way so that Apple and Google could not break the encryption even if ordered to do so with a warrant.[10] This prompted a strong reaction from the authorities, with one of the more iconic responses being the chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department stating that „Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile“.[11] Washington Post posted an editorial insisting that „smartphone users must accept that they cannot be above the law if there is a valid search warrant“, and after agreeing that backdoors would be undesirable, suggested implementing a „golden key“ backdoor which would unlock the data with a warrant.[12][13] The members of the „The Risks of Key Recovery, Key Escrow, and Trusted Third-Party Encryption“ 1997 paper, as well as other researchers at MIT, wrote a follow-up article in response to the revival of this debate, arguing that mandated government access to private conversations would be an even worse problem now than twenty years ago.[14]


Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government Saving Privacy in the Digital Age is a book written by Steven Levy about cryptography, and was published in 2001. Levy details the emergence of public key cryptography, digital signatures and the struggle between the NSA and the cypherpunks. The book also details the creation of DES, RSA and the Clipper chip.[1][2]

Bullrun (stylized BULLRUN) is a clandestine, highly classified program to crack encryption of online communications and data, which is run by the United States National Security Agency (NSA).[1][2] The British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has a similar program codenamed Edgehill. According to the BULLRUN classification guide published by The Guardian, the program uses multiple methods including computer network exploitation,[3] interdiction, industry relationships, collaboration with other intelligence community entities, and advanced mathematical techniques.

Information about the program’s existence was leaked in 2013 by Edward Snowden. Although Snowden’s documents do not contain technical information on exact cryptanalytic capabilities because Snowden did not have clearance access to such information,[4] they do contain a 2010 GCHQ presentation which claims that „vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable“.[1] A number of technical details regarding the program found in Snowden’s documents were additionally censored by the press at the behest of US intelligence officials.[5] Out of all the programs that have been leaked by Snowden, the Bullrun Decryption Program is by far the most expensive. Snowden claims that since 2011, expenses devoted to Bullrun amount to $800 million. The leaked documents reveal that Bullrun seeks to „defeat the encryption used in specific network communication technologies“.[6]

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