Morning Security Brief: NSA Working to Break All Forms of Encryption, al Qaeda Threatens Anbar Province, And More

By Megan Gates

► The National Security Agency (NSA) is attempting to build a computer that could break almost any kind of encryption that exists to protect banking, medical, business, and government records around the world, according to The Washington Post, which obtained the information through documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The program is part of a $79.7 million research program called “Penetrating Hard Targets” and a majority of the work is under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park, Maryland. “The development of a quantum computer has long been a goal of many in the scientific community, with revolutionary implications for fields such as medicine as well as for the NSA’s code-breaking mission,” the Post reports. “With such technology, all current forms of public key encryption would be broken, including those used on many secure Web sites as well as the type used to protect state secrets.” 

► A group of Sunnis aligned with al Qaeda threatened to capture two Iraqi cities in the Anbar province—Falluja and Ramadi—in attacks on Thursday, setting fire to police stations, setting prisoners from jail free, and occupying mosques, according to The New York Times. “Dressed in black and waving the flag of al Qaeda, the militants commandeered mosque loudspeakers to call for supporters to join their struggle in both cities in the western province of Anbar, which have increasingly become centers of Sunni extremism since American forces withdrew from the country at the end of 2011,” the Times reports. The fighting began after Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite, ordered protest encampments in the two cities to be taken down and attempted to arrest a Sunni lawmaker. “The arrest attempt set off a firefight that left several bodyguards and the brother of the lawmaker dead, and led to clashes between the government and armed tribesmen.” The government was able to calm the situation and withdrew troops from Anbar on Tuesday, but once they left al Qaeda aligned militants attacked the cities forcing al-Maliki to send troops back into the province. Hospital officials reported at least 35 people killed Thursday and more than 70 wounded. Security officials estimated that over several days of fighting 108 people have been killed, including 31 civilians and 35 militants.

► With NFL playoff games slated to begin this weekend, the league is also beefing up security at the MetLife Stadium in Rutherford, New Jersey, which will host the Super Bowl on February 2, ESPN reports. The NFL is constructing a security perimeter of a double chain link and jersey barricade fence that’s almost four miles long and will encircle the stadium, a 300-foot buffer in all directions, and the Izod Center, the power station for the stadium. Extra steps have been taken to secure the power provider for this year’s game because of the blackout that occurred in the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans during the third quarter, causing a game delay. “The NFL has been thinking about the security of the Super Bowl since its very beginning, but particularly after 9/11,” said Frank Supovitz, NFL vice president of events in the ESPN article. “It is a Level 1 national security event as designated by the federal government.” The stadium will undergo further security measures to prepare for game day, including adoption of a vehicle and cargo inspection system, inspection of all materials within the stadium prior to game day, and screening fans through one of the 130 magnetometers erected around the security perimeter.


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