There will no doubt be much hand wringing and such with respect to the bombshell dropped by the NY Times today: N.S.A. Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web
Privacy concerns aside, there are at least two major concerns with this. First, if the NSA has, indeed, cracked the encryption behind SSL and VPN, then the Internet is now officially broken as a means of trusted commerce. If you couple the ability to hack the Internet’s most fundamental security protocols with the NSA’s reported information sharing program with other agencies, then it is not outrageous to suggest that any information you transmit via the Internet can and will be viewed by any interested government agency, encrypted or not.
Second, if the NSA has weakened the various security protocols and related processing hardware by installing backdoors and hacking servers, then you can bet that the Chinese, with their notoriously effective espionage network, has discovered these backdoors and hacks as well. So, not only does the NSA now have unrestricted access to all information passed and/or stored on the Internet, but probably the Chinese as well.
But, this quote is probably the one that has, more than anything else, signaled the demise of the Internet:
Ladar Levison, the founder of Lavabit, wrote a public letter to his disappointed customers, offering an ominous warning. “Without Congressional action or a strong judicial precedent,” he wrote, “I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”
By forcing American companies to secretly weaken their security standards, the NSA has single-handedly destroyed trust in any of the hardware and software products produced by these companies that, in any way, encrypt, store, or touch any of the data passing through their systems. Indeed, they have officially destroyed any and all trust in the Internet as a viable means of securely transmitting information.
Given the ubiquity of the Internet as a means of communication, I think it is safe to say that the repercussions of this will be quite far reaching and profound.