Leaked US spying budget reveals investments in 'groundbreaking' cryptanalysis

The 'cryptology' program was set to receive $11 billion from the $52.6 billion budget asked by the intelligence community for 2013

The U.S. intelligence community is reportedly using a fifth of its US$52.6 billion annual budget to fund cryptography-related programs and operations.

Some of those funds are invested in finding weaknesses in cryptographic systems that would allow breaking encrypted communications collected from the Internet and elsewhere, according to a portion of a top-secret document published Thursday by The Washington Post and obtained from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The document is the fiscal year 2013 budget proposal summary for the National Intelligence Program, which spans 16 agencies with over 107,000 employees. The entire report called "FY 2013 Congressional Budget Justification" has 178 pages, according to the Post, but the newspaper only published 17, including a 5-page statement signed by U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

In his statement, Clapper listed the primary areas of investment for the intelligence community which included Signals Intelligence (SIGINT). In respect to SIGINT he wrote: "We are bolstering our support for clandestine SIGINT capabilities to collect against high priority targets, including foreign leadership targets. Also, we are investing in groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit internet traffic."

Cryptanalysis is the science of analyzing cryptographic systems in order to find weaknesses that would allow obtaining the contents of encrypted messages without advance knowledge of the encryption key.

Previous documents leaked by Snowden revealed that the NSA is collecting Internet communications en-masse with the help of telecommunication and technology companies. U.S. companies that operate the backbone telecommunications and Internet infrastructure are paid millions of dollars every year by the government to allow the NSA to collect data as it moves through their fiber-optic cables and networks, the Post reported Thursday.

The newly leaked budget reveals that this money is paid through a project called the "Corporate Partner Access" that was expected to cost $278 million during fiscal year 2013, the newspaper said. There are some other payments for "Foreign Partner Access" totalling $56.6 million, although it's not clear if these are for foreign companies, foreign governments or other entities.

The NSA's mass upstream interception of Internet traffic has prompted many people in the security community to wonder what the agency's crypto-cracking capabilities might be in relation to encryption schemes and protocols that are in widespread use on the Internet today. Some crypto experts believe that there is not reason to believe the NSA can crack strong encryption algorithms vetted by scientists, but others said that the feasibility of breaking widely used encryption protocols like SSL/TLS depends on various factors, like key size and other configurations.

While the leaked budget document does not provide details about the NSA's ability to crack encrypted communication, it does confirm that cryptography and cryptanalysis are one of the U.S. intelligence community's key areas of interest.

Twenty-one percent, or roughly $11 billion, of the 2013 budget was intended for the Consolidated Cryptologic Program (CCP), which includes NSA programs and is staffed by around 35,000 employees. This makes it the second most expensive program of the intelligence community after the Central Intelligence Agency program, which was supposed to receive 28 percent of the funds.

Of the $11 billion used to fund the CPP, around $2.5 billion, or 23 percent, were intended for "collection and operations" and $1.6 billion, or 15 percent, for "processing and exploitation." The program's biggest expenses were estimated in the "enterprise management and support" category which was set to receive 26 percent of the funds.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Government use of ITsecurityU.S. National Security Agencyencryptiongovernment

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?