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Edward Snowden Says Encryption May Stop Us From Finding Aliens

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Robert Goodway

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2550 Edward Snowden Says Encryption May Stop Us From Finding Aliens
Encrypted data is “indistinguishable from cosmic microwave background radiation.” welcomia/Shutterstock

Alien communications could be reaching Earth, although we might not be able to distinguish them from background radiation, according to Edward Snowden. The CIA employee-turned-whistleblower believes encryption – turning data into a code that's difficult to read – harms our chances of detecting or being detected by alien species.

Snowden was speaking on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk podcast from Russia, where he has claimed temporary asylum. He suggested that if aliens encrypted their communications as we do, then they would be hard to identify.


“If you look at encrypted communication, if they are properly encrypted, there is no real way to tell that they are encrypted,” Snowden told deGrasse Tyson. “You can’t distinguish a properly encrypted communication from random behavior.”

We have been searching for extraterrestrial signals for half a century, but Snowden suggested that the movement away from open communications on Earth could be replicated in alien societies if they exist, meaning there is a restricted window of opportunity to intercept their signals.

“So if you have an alien civilization trying to listen for other civilizations or our civilization trying to listen for aliens, there’s only one small period in the development of their society when all their communication will be sent via the most primitive and most unprotected means.”

Maybe there are alien civilizations out there after all, but they started encrypting their communications long before we started looking for them – we could have been receiving the alien version of The Office all this time without even realizing it. 


But don't get too downhearted, ET fans. If there are aliens advanced enough to create electronic communication systems and then encrypt them, surely they're capable of broadcasting their own unencrypted "We're here!" signal.

[H/T: The Guardian]


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