“The story, we believe, is an important one. It shows that the expectations of millions of Internet users regarding the privacy of their electronic communications are mistaken,” ProPublica’s editors said in a note.
“These expectations guide the practices of private individuals and businesses, most of them innocent of any wrongdoing. The potential for abuse of such extraordinary capabilities for surveillance, including for political purposes, is considerable,” they said.
The reports said the NSA has been working on breaking Internet encryption for more than a decade after the agency lost a battle to force technology companies to provide encryption “keys.”
The New York Times report said that while the ability to break encryption can be used to thwart terror plots, it can have unintended effects by weakening the security of communications.
“The risk is that when you build a back door into systems, you’re not the only one to exploit it,” cryptography researcher Matthew Green told the daily. “Those back doors could work against US communications, too.”
US intelligence officials had no immediate comment on the reports.