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Showing posts with the label RSA

Australian Department of Human Services Releases an Auth Mechanism Called PLAID and it Stinks

Recently a division of the Australian Department of Human Services released an authentication mechanism to secure smart card transactions. They named their creation Protocol for Lightweight Authentication of Identity, or PLAID. The plan was to allow other Australian government agencies to use the auth protocol for free. Feeling very sure of themselves, Ozzy's DHS released the protocol for inspection. A group of cryptographers from two universities stepped up to do the deed. The Information Security Group of Royal Holloway, University of London was one such school. Representing the Continent was Cryptoplexity of Technische Universit├Ąt Darmstadt, Germany. And do the deed they did. As it turns out, PLAID is a lemon. It does just about everything wrong. It implements an RSA encryption function poorly, which is a bit suspicious given RSA's recent history with that Five Eyes Intelligence service from the Western hemisphere we all love to hate, the NSA. Beyond that, the function i

Is Encryption Becoming Illegal Again?

Way back in 1993, the Internet was a very different place. SSL would not be released for another two years; it would take some time after that until it was used commonly. The Clipper Chip project had just been announced, threatening to offer an explicit, physical back door to all electronic communications devices for the US Justice Department and anyone with a basic understanding of computer science. In 1993, Encryption was a weapon . Washington viewed encryption's only function as a wartime tool to protect military and intelligence communications. The notion that encryption could or should be used as a foundation of protecting online commerce and banking simply did not occur to Big Brother. Into this situation came Phil Zimmerman. Phil had designed and programmed an encryption application called Pretty Good Privacy in 1991. Before that time, cryptography tools were almost entirely the purview of those with the biggest of Smarty Pants: mathematicians, logicians, researchers,

NSA Targets Systems Administrators with no Relations to Extremism

The Details This is a bit of an old story, but I've found to my unpleasant surprise that the issues surrounding the story are not widely understood or known. Here's the gist: leaks from the US intelligence service have explicilty confirmed that the NSA targets systems administrators that have no ties to terrorism or extremist politics . If you are responsible for building and maintaining networks, the NSA will place you under surveillance both personally or professionally; they will hack your email, social network accounts and cell phone. The thinking behind this alarming strategy is that compromising a sysadmin provides root-level access to systems that enable further surveillance; hack an extremist's computer, and you track just that extremist. Hack a sysadmin's computer, and you can track thousands of users who may include extremists among them (its a strategy that is remarkably similar to the targeting of doctors in war zones ). Five years ago such a lead paragr