Artist mails NSA ‘uncrackable’ mixtape

An artist has created what he claims to be an ‘uncrackable’ mixtape, using freely available encryption tools and housed on a home-made device, and posted it to America’s National Security Agency (NSA).

Neowin reports that the move is an attempt to voice disquiet over the NSA’s surveillance of electronic communication – and to highlight the importance of encryption tools.

Artist David Huerta describes how the mixtape is secured using freely available encryption tools via a post on Medium – and explains that the tracklisting has only ever been shared on paper, rather than digitally.

The ‘tape’ – actually a bespoke device created using an Arduino microcontroller board – is purposely recorded at low quality to mimic what Huerta imagines to be the low-quality of intercepted phone calls.

Encryption tools create ‘blind spot’

Vice reports that the device is meant to highlight the fact that while government organizations can compromise computer systems and devices, “the actual cryptography connecting those systems was still something it fundamentally can’t break.”

ESET Senior Security Researcher Stephen Cobb says in a blog post explaining the importance of encryption to business, “Encryption of files, whether stored on a drive or emailed via Outlook, not only gets you Safe Harbor when something does go astray, it also buys you considerable peace of mind.”

“The device contains a soundtrack for the modern surveillance state. It’s designed to be enjoyed only by people I have consented it to be listened to,” Huerta says.

Private key

Huerta kept one copy of the ‘tape’ and mailed the other to the NSA’s Maryland headquarters - minus the public key required to decrypt it. Huerta wants his tape to be “a reminder” of the power of encryption.

“Encryption is the blind spot to the NSA’s all-seeing eye. Math doesn’t need an information dominance center to enforce its rules. Math is the legal framework which the universe can only obey and will trump and outlast the rules of any human state,” he writes.

“For the common person to have access to encryption was the result of several Promethean acts of defiance against the military powers that wanted to make cryptography only available to themselves to weaponize.”

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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