How the NSA was able to snoop on our email

Mathematician Edward Frenkel explains the mechanics behind the NSA's snooping

We've expended quite a bit of time and effort debating the ethics and legality of the NSA's hacking of private emails, but we haven't dedicated nearly as much energy discussing how, exactly, the NSA pulled off this feat. In the video below, UC Berkeley professor Edward Frenkel takes 10 minutes to explain the mathematics behind the NSA's efforts.

Encryption relies on two basic functions: what Frenkel calls "clock arithmetic," and elliptic curve cryptography, which uses elliptic curve algorithms to scramble and unscramble messages. If any of these terms leaves you scratching your head, fear not: Frenkel does an excellent job explaining what these concepts are and how they work, then showing how the NSA was able to reverse-engineer a way to predict the outcome of the elliptic curve cryptography algorithms and therefore hack encrypted emails.

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