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As the scandal over NSA spying has unfolded, like a drip coffee pot, one revelation after another has come out revealing the extent to which the NSA possesses the power to pry into our private lives. In the latest NSA hack to emerge, we’ve discovered that the agency – along with its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ – was able to penetrate into the internal network of the world’s largest manufacturer of SIM cards, thereby making off with the encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications anywhere on the planet.

Gemalto, the company targeted by the British and American spy agencies agencies, is a Dutch company that makes the chips used in mobile phones and next-generation credit cards. All of the major US cellular companies – including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint – along with 450 other cellular providers are Gemalto customers.

After the Gemalto penetration, intelligence agencies can now listen in on mobile communications whenever they want WITHOUT needing approval from the telecom providers or governments. And, to top it off, this spying leaves no trace on the cellular operator’s network that the communications were even intercepted.

Highlighting the hacking skills of the NSA’s cyber sleuths, it turns out that Gemalto was completely in the dark about the penetration of its systems.

Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, noted that “Once you have the keys, decrypting traffic is trivial. The news of this key theft will send a shock wave through the security community.”

So, the next time you hear crackling on your cell phone line in the background – well, you may not be alone!

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