The NSA's new Utah Data Center, codenamed Bumblehive, under construction. The NSA's new Utah Data Center, codenamed Bumblehive, under construction.

The National Security Agency may already have access to a significant amount of encrypted data that business and individuals considered secure from prying eyes, the New York Times reports.

According to the NYT:

The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.

This revelation is yet another secret overturned by documents leaked to the media from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The report notes that since 2000, the NSA has actively and secretly worked to circumvent encryption by capturing data before it is encrypted and introducing "weaknesses into the encryption standards followed by hardware and software developers around the world."

If accurate, this would be a devastating blow to the reliability of many Internet vendors. The NYT article didn't reveal exactly which Internet and software companies had cooperated with the NSA in this respect. Technologies affected include the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols used in secure online Web transactions, virtual private network (VPN) protocols and 4G smartphone encryption.