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EU denies rumours NSA has broken its encryption system

The spy who didn't give up the codes

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Paranoia is alive and well at the European Union (EU) Commission, which has been forced to officially deny its encryption system has been compromised by the NSA (National Security Agency).

Fears of eavesdropping by the ultra-secretive US spy agency grew out of comments by a Commission employee, Briton Desmond Perkins, who told a EU Parliamentary committee of regular but unsuccessful attempts by the NSA to crack the Commission's encryption system.

As reported on the UK Crypto mailing list, Perkins told the EU Parliament Echelon Committee last month that he knew of the NSA's activities because he had a relative (now retired) who worked at the agency. However these comments resulted in speculation that Perkins was an NSA mole.

Lodewijk Briet, a senior Commission official, has stepped in to quash the speculation and tell the Echelon committee "the suggestion that US agencies control or have access to EU codes is complete rubbish, and simply not true". Furthermore, Perkins was an honest man and certainly not a spy, Briet added.

It's well known that the NSA attempts to intercept and decode the communications of government agencies including those between the Commission's missions. This might even be successful but the point here is that there's no evidence from what Perkins said to prove this one way or another.

Certainly official denial shouldn't be taken at face value but isn't it just as credulous to believe everything is compromised?

We're inclined to believe Brian Gladman, former technical director at Nato, and noted encryption expert, who told us that "the concern that there was someone in the Commission working to undermine its encryption system is a bit of a storm in a teacup." ®

External links

Tales of spies, bugs and back doors from the ukcrypto mailing list
European Parliament Echelon committee (not up to date)

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CIA patching ECHELON shortcomings
French Echelon report says Europe should lock out US snoops
Echelon spy system wildly exaggerated - official
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US National Security Agency (NSA) badly crippled

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