Archive for the ‘crypto’ Category

Moving away from NIST

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Jon Callas, a leading cryptographer, is issuing a new version of Silent Circle, which by default uses only non NIST cryptography.

It was necessary to change the curves, since the NIST curves are probably backdoored. It was arguably not necessary to change the symmetric encryption and the hash, since they are unlikely to be backdoored. Nonetheless, he replaced AES with Twofish, and SHA with Skein-MAC.

absolutely, this is an emotional response. It’s protest. Intellectually, I believe that AES and SHA2 are not compromised. Emotionally, I am angry and I want to distance myself from even the suggestion that I am standing with the NSA. As Coderman and Iang put it, I want to *signal* my fury. I am so pissed off about this stuff that I don’t *care* about baby and bathwater, wheat and chaff, or whatever else. I also want to signal reassurance to the people who use my system that yes, I actually give a damn about this issue.

By moving away from anything NIST has touched he deprives the NSA of leverage to insert backdoors, contributing to the general good, from which his company, and thus himself also benefits. By opposing the NSA, he gives his company credibility that they will not secretly play footsy with the NSA behind closed doors, reassuring his customers and contributing to the particular good of his company and himself.

NIST curves backdoored

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Gregory Maxwell on the Tor-talk list has found that NIST approved curves, which is to say NSA approved curves, were not generated by the claimed procedure, which is a very strong indication that if you use NIST curves in your cryptography, NSA can read your encrypted data.

So don’t use anything NIST approved. (more…)


Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Cryptography needs random numbers, numbers unpredictable to an adversary. Computers are built to be as non random as possible, so this is a problem.  Intel created an instruction, RDRAND, that supposedly creates a random number on each read.

This instruction appears to be backdoored by the NSA. (more…)

How not to be spied on

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

It looks as though the major NSA tricks are:

  • Taking over routers using tricks similar to those botnet operators use to take over individual computers.
  • Twisting the arms of major corporations to backdoor their products and share information, for example Skype.
  • Encouraging the adoption of flawed cryptography with hidden backdoors through its standards arm, NIST.
  • Taking over individual computers using tricks similar to those of botnet operators. However they do not take over most people’s computers, since doing so indiscriminately on a large scale would get them caught and people would adopt methods to protect their computers, as against botnet operators.

Supposing this to be so, the software published by Guardian is likely to be fairly spy resistant, among them Ostel, a secure skype replacement. (more…)

All your keys are belong to us

Friday, September 6th, 2013

The official truth, which for once seems believable, is:

because strong encryption can be so effective, classified N.S.A. documents make clear, the agency’s success depends on working with Internet companies — by getting their voluntary collaboration, forcing their cooperation with court orders or surreptitiously stealing their encryption keys or altering their software or hardware.

So, the NSA has the private key that is used by your https server. The question then is, how?

If you leave the front door wide open, and you find your house has been burgled, it is possible that the burglars have a super secret underground tunnel that comes up into a well hidden trapdoor in your basement.

But chances are that they waltzed in through the wide open front door.

And by “wide open front door” I mean the common practice of the certificate authority making up your secret key for you and sending it to you.

Snowden, who knows what the NSA is up to, tells us:

Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on.

Trouble is, seldom properly implemented.

Strong, non human memorable, secret keys should be created in place on the device that their corresponding public key identifies, and never leave that device. There should be no user interface and no best practice procedures for managing such secret keys, only for managing the corresponding public keys, which should be presented to the user as guids or something like a guid, as something like a vin number. The way a sysem administrator should perceive setting up an https server is that the server makes up a guid, and he then gets a certificate from the certificate authority saying that the guid is good for his organization and/or domain name, and installs the certificate for the guid on the server. He should not need to know or think about private keys.

Bitcoin scaling problems

Friday, June 14th, 2013

When bitcoin was first proposed, I argued that the proposed algorithm failed to scale.

Well, when getting started, scaling does not matter.  Now, however, a bitcoin wallet is starting to cost substantial bandwidth and processing power.  There are plans to address this, but I am underwhelmed by those plans. The proposed plans will make bitcoin more centralized, and will still have scaling issues.

Seems to me that we need an algorithm where no one computer needs to keep a copy of all transactions, or even a complete listing of who owns what coins, so as to maintain scaling all the way to operating all of the world’s transactions, and full decentralization both. (more…)

All your skypes belong to Microsoft

Friday, May 17th, 2013

All Your Skype Are Belong To Us

Microsoft is reading everything you write

Skype used to be the most secure instant messaging system and I have frequently recommended it on this basis. Microsoft, under Bill Gates, used to be the big company most willing to protect user’s privacy. Skype was recently purchased by Microsoft.

Heise Security then reproduced the events by sending two test HTTPS URLs, one containing login information and one pointing to a private cloud-based file-sharing service. A few hours after their Skype messages, they observed the following in the server log: – – [30/Apr/2013:19:28:32 +0200]
“HEAD /…/login.html?user=tbtest&password=geheim HTTP/1.1”

… In visiting these pages, Microsoft made use of both the login information and the specially created URL for a private cloud-based file-sharing service.


Bitcoin as a speculative bet

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Charting bitcoin, it looks good, if you are inclined to gamble on charts.  The recent collapse from two hundred dollars tested support at the hundred dollar mark, found plenty of support around there.  By and large, it is a good idea to buy at major support levels, since a speculative property is a lot more likely to go up than to break through the support level.   If it did not penetrate the support level for very long during the panic, likely will not do so now.

But I am an intrinsic value investor.  What is the intrinsic value of Bitcoin? (more…)

Free email addresses

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

For as long as comments remain open on this post, you can get a free email address, such that any mail sent to will be forwarded to the address requested in your comment.

I have discovered that yahoo does not like people registering email addresses by proxy, and google likes one true name to rule them all, insisting on it as part of the android operating system, among other places.  My intent is to obstruct such identity collecting activities by obscurity.  This redirect is not guaranteed to last forever, though it will last a long time, and is not secure against a serious adversary.  I will eventually delete the comments, so that people cannot discover the true email address by simply reading the comments unless they are quick off the mark.  Not all names are available.  There are already quite a lot of active email addresses.  I don’t intend to supply such obscurity to large numbers of people, because I am lazy, and because if I did, it would no longer be obscure, and  so am not going to put up an automatic system to support large numbers of addresses.

This, like voting for Cthulhu, is merely a gesture of protest, pointing in the direction of the need to change the world, rather than an actual attempt to change the world:  To actually change the world, use cypherpunks remailers and tor.

Google is evil

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Firefox reports your IP and all nearby wifi systems to Google. Thunderbird reports your IP to Google. From the nearby wifi systems, Google can locate you relative to nearby wifi points.. From a multitude of browsers reporting in, it can locate wifi systems relative to each other. When it does ground level photo drives for Google Earth, it locates wifi systems relative to streets and houses. Knowing the location of some wifi systems relative to streets and houses, it can locate all wifi systems relative to streets and houses. So when you launch a search for a sexual preference, or a politically incorrect fact, Google can tell where you are sitting, what house you are in, when you search for unapproved knowledge. It keeps this information forever.

The intent is that when you search for a restaurant or some such, Google will know to provide information about local restaurants. But Google notoriously plays ball with governments. More sinister uses are also possible. And why does Google need to know the geographic location where your email is coming from?

To turn this off:

  • Mozilla Firefox
    • Type ‘about:config’ in the address bar
    • Click through the warning
    • Type ‘geo.’ in the search box. A list of items appears
    • Doubleclick on the geo.enabled item till it reads ‘False’
    • Rightclick on the ‘geo.wifi.uri’ item and select ‘Modify’
    • Modify the item from evil google to ‘http://localhost’
  • Mozilla Thunderbird
    • Select Tools/Options/Avanced/General/Config Editor
    • click through the warning
    • type ‘geo.’ in the search box. A list of items appears
    • Doubleclick on the geo.enabled item till it reads ‘False’

Google piously proclaims:

Your privacy is extremely important to us, and Firefox never shares your location without your permission.

This is of course a lie. Firefox never shares your location to advertisers without your permission – but it does continually send your location to Google without your permission.

If your privacy was actually important to Google, the browser would only send this information to Google when advertisers requested it and you gave them permission.