My Opinion of How Edward Snowden Breached the NSA when I was a Young Student

Fajar Purnama
4 min readFeb 9, 2021


This is the thirteenth assignment from my Masters Advanced Network Security Course which has never been published anywhere and I, as the author and copyright holder, license this assignment customized CC-BY-SA where anyone can share, copy, republish, and sell on condition to state my name as the author and notify that the original and open version available here.

1. Introduction

On the 20th century we have seen news of leaked official governmental documents by Wikileaks for example [1]. One of the largest and latest leaked is on period 2013–2014 where thousands of classified documents belonging to Nation Security Agency (NSA) in United State of America (USA) leaked to all over The World. Initially it was breached by NSA’s network administrator at that time Edward Snowden, and the documents were handed to journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras. The documents mainly exposed about the mass surveillance and its future plan to monitor everything by NSA. For example direct access to American’s Google and Yahoo accounts, record of all phone conversations and everything done on the Internet records, harvesting millions of emails and contacts, spying users of second life and world of warcraft alike, and plan on spreading malware to connect to their fake facebook server in order to intercept connection. All of it can be described by on of the title of Greenwald’s book entitled “No Place To Hide” which states the NSA’s objective to collect it all, process it all, exploit it all, partner it all, sniff it all, and know it all. [2]

The main question on this essay is how did Edward Snowden breach the NSA? The simple answer is he used key and certificate based attack. The world of cyber war had evolved from the motivation of disruption, cyber crime, cyber espionage, and now destruction of trust and creditability that could lead a company to bankrupt. The first threat the cyber world have faced are worms and virus in 1997, it then evolves to for-profit malwares in 2004, next is advance persistent threat (APT) in 2007, finally 2010 key and certificate based attacks were introduced. Edward Snowden simply following the trend (using key and certificate based attack) and made his breach in 2013. [3]

Fajar Purnama

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