Here is what the American Surveillance State looks like (publicly) to Europe. This is a German assessment published in one of Europe’s leading publications. I confess I don’t like my country being thought of in this way.
Experts agree it is far more difficult for intelligence agencies to manipulate open source software programs than many of the closed systems developed by companies like Apple and Microsoft. Since anyone can view free and open source software, it becomes difficult to insert secret back doors without it being noticed.
Things become “catastrophic” for the NSA at level five – when, for example, a subject uses a combination of Tor, another anonymization service, the instant messaging system CSpace and a system for Internet telephony (voice over IP) called ZRTP. This type of combination results in a “near-total loss/lack of insight to target communications, presence,” the NSA document states.
Even more vulnerable than VPN systems are the supposedly secure connections ordinary Internet users must rely on all the time for Web applications like financial services, e-commerce or accessing webmail accounts.
One method is consciously weakening the cryptographic standards that are used to implement the respective systems.
The fact that large amounts of the cryptographic systems that underpin the entire Internet have been intentionally weakened or broken by the NSA and its allies poses a grave threat to the security of everyone who relies on the Internet — from individuals looking for privacy to institutions and companies relying on cloud computing. Many of these weaknesses can be exploited by anyone who knows about them — not just the NSA.