Music artist trolls NSA by sending an “uncrackable” mixtape

The emergence of the Snowden leaks of 2013 revealed the extent of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program. The leaks revealed privacy invasion on a mass scale, through mass email raids and several phone hacking scandals. While many internet users have since become more cautious, it has emerged that one user has challenged the NSA to decrypt something that is allegedly “uncrackable”- his mixtape.

In late May, hacker Artist David Huerta sent a mystery package to the NSA headquarters. The box contained an encrypted mixtape that can’t be accessed due to the private key-based cryptography. Through the use of an Arduino board and a wave shield sandwiched in between two laser-etched pieces of transparent acrylic, Huerta says he was able to produce an “uncrackable” mixtape.

The New York based engineer says the poor audio quality was meant to replicate a typical wiretapped phone conversation.

“The use of a giant-ass Arduino and wave shield was chosen since the (shitty) 44KHz wave file format gave it roughly the same audio quality I figured a wiretapped AT&T phone conversation would have."

Huerta also put a lot of thought into the transparent design of the cassette. The software engineer says it symboilises the “hidden exploitation of proprietary smartphones" by computery mercenaries such as the HackingTeam. Huerta added the device would not be a black box, “figuratively or literally”.

The design of the cassette is ironically transparent, unlike the NSA's motives.

While the NSA has the power to penetrate a number of systems, Huerta ensures the organisation does not have the technology, or private key, to crack the mixtape.

Perhaps, this small but powerful invention can inspire a generation of products that can ward off the prying eyes of the NSA. 

Source: Medium via Motherboard | Images via Motherboard

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41 Comments

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It's very easy to make something that is uncrackable, and you don't need an arduino or any form of technology at all. You only have to use some random long text as a substitution key and no computer in the world will be able to crack it.

Interesting. Cassette used to be the only media storage in the early 90s and rarely have any sorts of security protection for user privacy. In fact, i have no idea how he manage to implement an encryption into a mixtape that's so archaic which they never mention or give out any clue.

Edited by Master of Earth, Jul 15 2014, 3:23pm :

Where (other than the title) does it say he is a music artist? Everything else says he is a Software Engineer...

neonspark said,
PR stunt.

and such a lame one that the article itself hardly even makes sense, because the idiocy just bewilders the mind.

The NSA's supercomputers don't use kilowatts of power, they use gigawatts. I'm actually confident they'll crack it. They probably even have quantum computers around, for one purpose...

neufuse said,
Surprised they didn't go and arrest him for sending a "suspicious package" to the NSA
can't not arrest him just like that. he much do something to get arrested

Gaara sama said,
can't not arrest him just like that. he much do something to get arrested

Not really. The nsa just has to privately send him offshore.

Gaara sama said,
can't not arrest him just like that. he much do something to get arrested

yet you can get arrested for leaving a "suspicious package" near any gov building... arrested != tried or convicted, just taken in and held for questioning

Gaara sama said,
can't not arrest him just like that. he much do something to get arrested

You clearly don't know how they work. :p

I think some miss the point. He doesn't expect them to care. It is not a challenge. It is a political message.

Please read the article again, carefully.

Northgrove said,
He doesn't expect them to care. ... It is a political message.

I think it's more an attempt of self-promotion on the artist's part... which Neowin are pandering to! :p

The NSA won't spend a second of resources on this and will trash it, that's even if it makes it through the off-site mail sort facility, they have probably already flagged it visually due to the package shape/color etc being posted in the image.

I don't get it. What's the point? So he has something that is uncrackable. Like he is the only person in the world that has something uncrackable and then he sends it to the NSA? Why would they even care? Besides, most of the technology in use today hasn't been cracked yet, but that is not necessarily how the NSA works. I mean, sure they do try to crack things but why waste the resources when you can just issue a NSL to a company and force them to turn over their encryption keys?

tomcoleman said,
why waste several thousands dollars and man power on this crap.

just bin it

It is what most people think about the NSA.