US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of
the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to
protect the privacy
of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to
top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.
Those methods include covert measures to ensure NSA control over setting of international encryption standards, the use of supercomputers to break encryption with "brute force", and – the most closely guarded secret of all – collaboration with technology companies and internet service providers themselves.
Through these covert partnerships, the agencies have inserted secret vulnerabilities – known as backdoors or trapdoors – into commercial encryption software.