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Poll
Do you trust Cryptography?
Yes. 33%
No, absolutely not. 14%
Sometimes. 14%
Only for other countries. 3%
I keep my secrets to myself; I'm an American! 33%

Votes: 27

 Knowledge Containment: A Tradition Under Attack

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Dec 19, 2001
 Comments:
Egyptian Papyrus, the Mirrors of Murano, the violins of Stradivarius, yes even the fabled swords of Damascus. Priceless icons of culture, to be sure, but what do they have in common with today's ATM systems, credit card verification networks and even our most complex computer software? Plenty. The common thread winding through time and space to connect all of these is a method of securing knowledge as old as Humanity itself. It's a system so intuitive - and so effective - that even 100 years ago we would never have thought to challenge it. But this legendary process, Knowledge Containment, today finds itself under brutal attack.

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Who would seek to undermine such a paradigm? The answer to that question begins on the island of Murano, in the Caspian Sea. Here, artisans learned the ancient art of mirrorcraft as it was passed down from father to son. A hot mercury bath was applied to the back of a paper thin sheet of glass, and as it cooled, it left a silvery, reflective residue on one side of the glass. Mounted on hardwood and framed, these mirrors were far better than the Bronze & Copper versions sold elsewhere in Europe and fetched a high price even when imported to America.

But capitalism demands that supply stay low for prices to stay high, and the artisans of Murano faced a problem. How could they control the supply of mirrors? Their answer: by containing the knowledge of mirrorcraft. The punishment for illegal knowledge transfer on Murano was very simple: if you taught an outsider, you were put to death.

The artisans of Murano had grasped a fundamental concept of security: if you reveal the workings of an intricate process, you no longer control the outcome of that process. Just as Stradivarius and Damascus held their secrets tightly to their breast, so today do our most successful companies and governments. The process of money transfers through ATM machines is a carefully guarded secret, punishable by devastating lawsuits or worse if revealed. America's National Security Agency (NSA) makes sure that potential employees waive many of their rights contingent to their employment with the agency, allowing the NSA to crack down on would-be information thieves. The entirety of the world's banking system uses closely guarded software whose inner workings must never be revealed. Think of what Osama's followers would have done with the ability to understand the inner workings of the New York Stock Exchange!

All of these organizations have grasped and successfully implemented the process of Knowledge Containment. Shouldn't we all? Well, if we are to believe what we're told by "The Popular Media", then the answer is: Absolutely Not!

A new movement is brewing in America, one that threatens to undermine the ancient traditions and successes of Knowledge Containment. Branding Knowledge Containment with the Politically Correct catchphrase "Security Through Obscurity", these gun toting radicals tout their propoganda to anyone willing to publish it. Their replacement for 10,000 years of wisdom? A 20 year old process called "Public Key Cryptography". The gist of their argument, as best it can be followed, goes something like this (I've made this very simple so the less technically oriented can understand):

  1. "Encryption" - There exist certain mathematical problems that cannot currently be solved that involve "factoring".
  2. "Ciphertext" - You should use these "factoring" problems to obscure your most precious information by dividing it by a large prime number.
  3. "Open Source" - You should reveal to the world at large exactly how your division process works, so that they can offer you helpful advice on how best to protect your information.
Sounds a little half baked, doesn't it? Well, you're not alone in your opinion. While many of our citizens may have been tricked into using this process to secure their information, you can rest assured that your personal information isn't being protected by such inanity. Do you know who owns your credit record? You shouldn't, that secret is pretty well guarded. Those who know the names of these three companies (let's call them "Trans Union", "Equifax", and "TRW" to protect their anonymity) tend to keep to themselves. Do you know how these companies protect your personal information? No? Well neither does anybody else, and that is why it's safe. It's a secret. This seems like an obvious point, but it's not. If the self-proclaimed leader of the "Cryptography" movement, Bruce Schneier, is to be believed, then these companies should tell everyone how they're securing your home address and telephone number. I, for one, shudder at the thought that a day could come when overeducated angry teenagers will be given the right to pore over the inner workings of the system that protects my bank account. If this idea bothers you as well, don't worry - help is on the way.

In his groundbreaking book, The Road Ahead, computer visionary Bill Gates states that the way to defeat "Cryptography" is completely obvious:

"The obvious mathematical breakthrough would be development of an easy way to factor large prime numbers."
- Bill Gates*

This revelation cuts through the hand-waving and dense technical jargon - getting directly to the point. The problem is that if anyone figures out how to "factor", everything that is currently protected by "Cryptography" instantly becomes un-protected. The "Cryptologists" (how morbid!) would like us to bet our future on the assumption that mankind will never solve their favorite math problem. History has shown this to be the absolute height of arrogance, and should we choose to take part in this parade of hubris, we shall surely go the way of the Titanic.

Indeed, it is likely that the community of Cryptologists has already secured a method for "factoring" that they intend to employ once widespread adoption of the "Cryptography" movement is achieved. It is not certain that the Cryptologist movement can decipher all of the methods they are advocating, but since they have a motive to keep that knowledge to themselves, it is probably safe to assume the worst. What can you do to protect your information? Simple:

  1. Keep your secrets to yourself.
  2. Resist Cryptologism in all it's forms: at work, at home, and in your local government.
  3. If someone urges you to transmit or "encode" your secrets in "Cryptographic" format, politely but firmly remind them that you prefer to keep your information safe. If this individual persists, consider contacting the authorities.
If enough Americans reject the Cryptologists, they will never gain the keys to our most vital information. Imagine a day when everyone's financial record was public knowledge, when a select group of mathematicians knew all of our governments secrets - a day when all Information was Free to cause havoc across the globe. This day can be averted only through education and vigilance.

The closely guarded secret of the Mirrors of Murano kept Italy at the height of economic prosperity throughout the Renaissance. But Knowledge Containment predates almost everything. Far before Jesus Christ was born, The Jewish Tribe knew from it's inception that it's very existence was tied to keeping it's inner workings a secret. That's why the Jewish punishment for teaching the Talmud (the 12,000 page Jewish Code of Law) to a gentile (non-Jew) is death. Are we so ready to throw away this wisdom? To abandon the security methods that have allowed civilization to advance this far? Surely not. We must keep America safe & secure. We must reject "Cryptography", and keep our secrets to ourselves.


* Reproduced with Permission. All Rights Reserved. "The Road Ahead" is a registered Trademark of Microsoft Corporation.

       
Tweet

I am a data thief (none / 0) (#2)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 10:51:34 AM PST
and I am very pleased, Mr Daxx. For if any people use the advice gained in this excellent article, they shall immediately purchase my EmporerProtect! security software, which uses OpenLock[TM] technology. This keeps your precious information completely secret, by not protecting it at all. That's right - all your information is safe! Continue to use EmporerProtect! in the knowledge that your data is safe.


Excuse me (none / 0) (#6)
by Exmet Paff Daxx on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 11:49:16 AM PST
I'm sorry but I do not welcome your sarcastic tone. No one needs software to protect their secrets at all, of course - my point was that many have protected their secrets for years without resorting to the use of computer software. The idea is to keep your secrets a secret, rather than putting them on a computer, dividing them by a large prime number, and publishing them for the world to see. I suggest you read the article again.


Daxx - King of Intellectuals (none / 0) (#14)
by because it isnt on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 05:00:19 PM PST
The idea is to keep your secrets a secret

That's fantastic! I cannot begin to imagine how many hours of research you spent solving this problem of cryptography. To think, none of the so-called "experts" have come up with the solution as of yet.

But I'm willing to bet that you spent night after night poring over those ancient documents, trying to solve the mystery in your head, logically deducing the end result from all the premises. And you beat the whole of the human race, through the centuries, to be the first person ever to arrive at the conclusion:
If you want something kept secret, don't tell it to anyone else.

Sir, I am awed by your glorious achievements, and humbly beg that you "go the extra mile" and solve the related riddle:
Alice wants to tell Bob something that nobody else must know (in other words, a "shared secret"). Assuming she can trust Bob to keep the secret to himself upon receipt, how can Alice guarantee that Eve (who is eavesdropping on all of Alice's conversations) doesn't find out the secret?
I look forward to your reply, may it be as magnificent as your thoroughly well researched article.
adequacy.org -- because it isn't

that's easy! (none / 0) (#16)
by philipm on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 06:55:38 PM PST
Commit criminal acts on Eve until she gets sent to mental home where no one would believe her no matter what she said.


--philipm

Not so simple (none / 0) (#24)
by because it isnt on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 12:40:13 AM PST
Imagine Alice is "the Allied forces HQ", Bob is "an Allied forces division, fighting the Germans on the eastern front", and Eve is "German spies". Or any scenario where it really isn't possible to ensure a secure communications channel between Alice and Bob, or even prove the existance of Eve.
adequacy.org -- because it isn't

dude, i beated you! (none / 0) (#26)
by philipm on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 05:06:14 AM PST
Come on, admit it you lost. Don't go changing the rules of the game now that you have lost.

OK, here, I'll play your NEW game:

First of all, agents of the government are not welcome here. I do not provide free advice to the government or the military.

Second, Why can't the upper class twit in BRITISH HQ just walk over and talk to the tank commander instead of blabbing the secrets over a public channel like some 4th grader? Huh? Why?

Is it too far? Then let the nice tank commander use his own judgement, you upper class twit! Or, better yet, take a car there!

Are there enemey forces searching cars on the way? Use a distraction! Take some spare russians or jews along with you and set them on fire when you meet a german. The Germans will be so busy laughing their ass off, that they will proably promote you to german general, thereby saving the tank commander from having to risk his life on the "advice" of an upper class twit like yourself.





--philipm

Not so sure... (none / 0) (#34)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 03:33:05 PM PST
First of all, agents of the government are not welcome here. I do not provide free advice to the government or the military.

These have their own sources. What about people critical to a government, who don't have the balls to challenge The Officially Sanctioned Truths openly (ie, because they don't want to get "vaporized" or harassed)? Don't they have the right to communicate too?

Second, Why can't the upper class twit in BRITISH HQ just walk over and talk to the tank commander instead of blabbing the secrets over a public channel like some 4th grader? Huh? Why?

Distance? Time? Impossibility of physical contact within reasonable timeframe (think a ship on the sea, or a bomber plane in the air, or a submarine)?

Admit it: for every instance you can do without an encryption system, there is a dozen or more where you can't. Your comments have merit - it's better to deny the adversary the possession of the ciphertext too. But often there is no need to keep the adversary without the knowledge of the plaintext forever; when you prepare a military operation (think Day D), the adversary will realize it at the moment of visual contact. If you will make it impossible to decipher the message until then, you achieved the goal. Encryption doesn't have to always serve to deny access to the data forever; it's purpose is in most cases to just slow the adversary down, if he gets ahold of the ciphertext.

You can deny the adversary the ability to detect transmission of the ciphertext as well; the wide palette of technics used is jointly called "steganography", with counterpart called "steganalysis". It's no big secret that NSA pours millions (billions?) dollars to steganalysis research, and that all more detailed results are considered top secret.

The only usable concept of security is the layered one. Unbreakable cipher isn't. Totally reliable message transport isn't. Uncompromitable data storage isn't. You can't make a scheme totally reliable; shit happens. But you can design it that *all* its layers have to fail in order to make it fail. If philipm's secure channel will get compromised, there is still a steganography layer to hide the message existence (...I am just delivering these pictures of kittens, sir...), and even if it will get revealed, cipher to protect the message content. So the adversary will have to a) capture the messenger, b) detect the presence of true message in the cover message, and c) decrypt the message.

The adversary always has a chance to win. But don't give him an easy victory.

-- The Mad Scientist


good point (none / 0) (#39)
by philipm on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 06:24:24 PM PST
Absolutely. Good point. And do you know what the best line of defense is?

DON'T SHARE THE SECRET WITH ANYONE.

and make sure that authority to make decisions is DISTRIBUTED, of course.

I'm afraid the Author's point will forever escape you.



--philipm

However... (none / 0) (#41)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 03:54:35 AM PST
DON'T SHARE THE SECRET WITH ANYONE.

This somehow beats the idea of information exchange, doesn't it? Yes, the best defense against radio eavesdropping is radio silence. But its usefulness in certain cases is somehow... well... limited.

and make sure that authority to make decisions is DISTRIBUTED, of course.

...and how will they communicate with each other? Suppose they have to make decision on a modification of critical part of The Secret. To consult the change they have to communicate either the crucial part or the whole of The Secret. (Gets more complicated when The Secret is changing in real time - ie, battlefield or business situation - and you have to ensure all the parties involved in decisionmaking have the same version of The Secret.) Then you either have to get them all to one place (which can be impractical or even unachievable), or you have to encrypt the communication.

-- The Mad Scientist


 
How about... (none / 0) (#22)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 12:28:20 AM PST
Slipping him a note?

The Mixer


 
Daxx's main point: Disclosure = Death (none / 0) (#27)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 05:21:44 AM PST
Actually, I took the article's point to be that the most secure way of protecting information was to use the threat of punishment, preferably death. Don't encrypt, he says. And if someone pries, call the authorities. Hopefully they will rough the guy up and teach him a lesson.

The modern world is slightly more averse to using those tactics than were medieval guilds, preferring encryption and NDA's to blood oaths. The other problem with using these humanistic(??) knowledge protection tactics is that they depend on how trustworthy the knowledge-keepers are. So you end up needing a whole apparatus to ensure that your fellow guildsmen are trustworthy. If in doubt, better to eliminate.

Anyway, strange but thought-provoking article. Thanks Daxx.Personally, I think public key encryption will be safe for a few years yet, until quantum computers permit factoring of large numbers. Ultimately, though, quantum encryption will be the key to providing absolute security for data--unless the laws of physics themselves change, quantum cryptography is guaranteed secure. On the other hand, quantum cryptography isn't really about cryptography, it's about secrecy, i.e. reading the information changes that information.


 
Mirrors (none / 0) (#3)
by westgeof on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 11:13:38 AM PST
At what point in the mirror construction do they coat it with liquid ozone? Is this the part of the fabrication that they are attempting to keep secret? It makes sense, given how I've only seen this theory here.


As a child I wanted to know everything. Now I miss my ignorance.

Not Ozone (none / 0) (#5)
by Exmet Paff Daxx on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 11:22:31 AM PST
"At what point in the mirror construction do they coat it with liquid ozone?"

Well, they don't coat it with liquid ozone, they coat it with liquid mercury. I think perhaps you could read the article once more to absorb some more details. That aside, I can't really tell you any more about the process, because it's a secret - that's the whole point. The one piece of information I was able to share with you was leaked to the public recently as part of an academic project to understand the process now that mirror-making is essentially a commodity. Many in the scientific community are perplexed that the Venetians could work with such a volatile substance, but the underlying mechanisms continue to elude most metallurgists.

And don't even get me started on Damascus Steel.

This is the power of secrecy!



Not exactly mercury... (none / 0) (#19)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 10:10:28 PM PST
...but the amalgam of silver. After coating the hot glass with solution of silver in mercury, the glass is kept on high temperature for a while, the mercury evaporates, silver stays. Voila - you have a mirror.
Anyone with access to the orders of the workshops could've got suspicion about this. Which only illustrates how underused reverse engineering was through history.
-- The Mad Scientist



 
on't-day ead-ray is-thay essage-may! (none / 0) (#7)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 12:16:22 PM PST
The discussion of cryptography is not about giving your keys out to the world, it's about design of good locks - comparing different methods of encryption and finding that one is the equivilant of writing everything backwards, while another looks like garbage to anyone without a key.

If you don't want to let information out, it must not be made available. This is not about "if I tell you I would have to kill you" but "If I told you I would be killed, and now that I have said that I must kill you because you cannot know how we secure our information." Stop and think about it, when that second thought makes sense you may understand why cryptography is discussed.

This is about people from different professions discussing how their secrets can be kept so that everyone can learn from the mistakes of others, and make something even more secure. This is about making one more layer of locks before a thief can steal your knowledge. This is about being able to speak to another without a third person hearing your secrets, even when you must communicate in a very public way.

This is not about making locks that are open to all, but about making designs for locks that do not open to the wrong people.

Please don't quote material that is just plain wrong. You may have properly quoted Mr. Gates, but you unfortunately quoted a mistake. A Prime Number *cannot* be factored. check out www.dictionary.com if you don't believe me.
The gist he is going for is correct though. A way to find very large prime numbers for these mathematical keys would be devastating to cryptography. However, the creation of a teleportation device would prove to be equally devastating to the financial industry as theifs could walk theough walls and steal items right out of their safe deposit boxes....




 
You're a MORON - Public Key Encrytion is SAFE! (none / 0) (#9)
by PotatoError on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 02:29:29 PM PST
You dont seem to actually understand what public key encryption is. Cryptology isnt a movement no matter how much you wish it was. Its a secure method to keep your stuff secret.
I dont believe you would rather not encrypt your data. So next time you buy something using your credit card over the internet you are planning to do what? send the card details unencrypted? boy, that would be a hackers dream.

At the moment Public Key Encrytion is 100% secure.
NSA, FBI cannot break it even with all their computers...and man are they pissed about that.

Public Key Encryption is based around this maths problem: X * Y = Z where X and Y are prime.
It takes years to work out what X and Y are if you are only given Z. So if I pass Z around publicly, noone knows what X and Y is but me.
Look at this:

http://www.rsasecurity.com/rsalabs/challenges/factoring/

There are some challenge numbers - if you find the factors (X and Y) of the numbers on the RSA page (Z's), you could win up to $200,000. Thats how confident they are that you cant do it.

"Indeed, it is likely that the community of Cryptologists has already secured a method for factoring"
No thats rubbish, there are whole divisions of mathematicians working on cracking it but the only sure way so far is to test every possible number for X and Y and this is why it takes so long and cant practically be done. Mathematicians are the most unsecretive profession around (whats in it for them not telling anyway?).

What I want to know is what are you planning to use if you dont use public key encryption? You cant lock all you life in a box - sometimes you need to send personal information to people or companies. By encrypting it you keep it safe from prying eyes and thats fact.

"If enough Americans reject the Cryptologists, they will never gain the keys to our most vital information"
That just shows your lack of understanding of the subject.
<<JUMP! POGO POGO POGO BOUNCE! POGO POGO POGO>>

sigh, is it really so hard? (none / 0) (#10)
by philipm on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 03:31:30 PM PST
Potato, Potato, Potato - why must you be so dense? The Author said nothing about your ability to break public key encryption. Everyone assumes that method is foolproof from you, and that your mom made a Catholic Error when she had you.

You know, I think you can't handle someone questioning your daily habits - perhaps adequacy is not for you.

I am sorry for the personal insults - you probably don't care if you get negative or positive attention, but will you ever even attempt to listen and learn? You are the small fish in the adequacy pond.

For your information, computers are creating horrible central failure points in our lives. You know how taking drugs for every thing under the sun creates super strong mutant bacteria? You know how using one strain of food for a whole nation creates horrible risks? You know how the catholics planted POTATOES AND NEARLY WIPED THEMSELVES OUT YOU INSENSITIVE RACIST!

.........must calm down......

Well, you see the world's security forces have been able to break public encryption for years. That's why its called public. All you need is a slightly larger computer. Public Key encryption is solely for the petty ignorant criminal - Real criminals would do exactly what the author says. Meanwhile YOU can be sure that your data is safe - except from anyone who really wants to see it!


--philipm

More rubbish (none / 0) (#12)
by PotatoError on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 04:27:05 PM PST
I agreed or accepted everything up to the last paragraph. I can accept someone questioning my daily habits but when I see that their question is so flawed I feel I should point it out so that noone is taken in by the dangerous advice attached to it.

"Well, you see the world's security forces have been able to break public encryption for years. That's why its called public."
The word 'public' in public key encryption is describing how the method works - it isnt describing who uses it.

The worlds security forces have not been able to break public key encryption because at the moment it is widely known as mathematically impossible to factor the sum of two primes. Even with the biggest computer in the world it would take a century at least for most encryptions. The world security forces dont own the best mathematical geniuses in the world so therefore they dont control research into breaking this maths problem.
Anyway if the world security forces can break public key encryptions then:

Why are there severe US laws against exporting encryption programs to countries outside the US. ie its on the same level as arms smuggling. ?
A. Because the NSA cant crack PKE and are scared of it becoming widespread (which it is already).

Why is the FBI developing Magic Lantern - a program to steal private encryption keys off users computers?
A. Because they cant directly decrypt public key encryptions from the public keys.

Why are there US laws against encoding data above a certain level (above 128 bit I think)?
A. Because anything over that limit, the NSA's computers take too long to decrypt it and the NSA dont like not being able to know what people are saying.

Why does the FBI request encryption keys from suspect's ISP when they want to read their emails?
A. Because they cant crack the encryption themselves.

I hope you are now convinced by the fact that noone can currently crack Public key encryption (if it is used properly that is - if someone uses a ridiculously low level of encryption then it can be decrypted obviously) and that the author is spreading mis-information.

"Real criminals would do exactly what the author says"
Real criminals use encryption. sorry but its the truth and is why the FBI and NSA are so peeved. And anyway what is the author suggesting people use if they dont use encryption?
Say businessman A needs to send an email to businessman B, telling them of something important and confidential then how is the author saying they should do it?

The authors argument was akin to saying: "Dont lock your house in case someone knows how to pick locks"
<<JUMP! POGO POGO POGO BOUNCE! POGO POGO POGO>>

stop praying to your heartless god (none / 0) (#17)
by philipm on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 07:15:04 PM PST
"The word 'public' in public key encryption is describing how the method works - it isnt describing who uses it."

No No No. Why are public bathrooms called public? Because they are FOR the public. Similarly, public keys are what the government ALLOWS you to have. Do you really think that this is not a scam by the powerful to keep themselves in control?

OK - Let's assume for a minute that I believe in your "prime number factoring" catholic religious fantasies (I don't). Lets say the Level of encryption that gurantees no one on earth can read your message in the lifespan of a human being (accounting for computing advances) is X. How hard do you think it would be for the powerful to manipulate events so that the level actually in use was like X/100000? Especially with the complete ignorance of mathematics displayed by people with "Error" in their name?That is easily the situation the way it is today. Instead of listening to the Author's insightful comments you spend your time praying to some scientific terms you heard some educated monkey repeat. How can you be so blind?



--philipm

PKI (none / 0) (#21)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 11:47:05 PM PST
Wait, I hear people talking about encryption. Currently you can encode messages upto 2048-bits. But the point is, I thought the government will not allow any encryption that can't be broken to be released to the public anyways.

The point of the government to deploy Magic Lantern is not because they can't crack it, it's because they don't have time. Time's a bit#$.


Thats true (none / 0) (#31)
by PotatoError on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 02:31:01 PM PST
Thats true. You must be able to encode data further but I dont know any programs which do it higher than that. In fact I only know of up to 1024.
<<JUMP! POGO POGO POGO BOUNCE! POGO POGO POGO>>

 
Look!!! (none / 0) (#30)
by PotatoError on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 02:29:17 PM PST
Look are you just trying to annoy me now? I guess so cuz Public bathrooms???? lol.

Goto www.RSAsecurity.com and read what PKE is. It uses a Public Key and Private Keys. The public key can be viewed by anyone but can only be used decrypt the data with the private key. Thats why its called Public Key Encryption.

Look, Not all the world geniuses work for governments. Many of the worlds best mathematicians dont even live in the US. Therefore the government couldnt silence them. These are the people who would come up with the 'solution'. But I doubt anyone ever will.
Put it this way - theres more chance that someone proves Pi is not neverending.
I agree im no good at maths but Ive been following encryption for a while now as it interests me and from all the things I know im basically 100% sure that noone will crack it for centuries. If you ever try to crack it yourself you will see how difficult it really is.
Look heres one of the RSA challenge numbers:

18819881292060796383869723946165043980716356337941
73827007633564229888597152346654853190606065047430
45317388011303396716199692321205734031879550656996
221305168759307650257059

This one is only 576 bits. Even the NSA would take ages cracking it.
If you can find a fast method which finds the two numbers which multiply together to make it you solve the problem, break PKE, bust RSA, make millions and ruin the world. Good luck :)



<<JUMP! POGO POGO POGO BOUNCE! POGO POGO POGO>>

ok - lets pick ssh (none / 0) (#38)
by philipm on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 06:18:59 PM PST
ssh is safe, right?

Do you know that most people who use ssh don't actually use public and private keys, but let the computer exchange plaintext keys and then just use a password, without a valid private key?

Next generation internet security protocol that everyone's firewall passes through is secure?

I'm sorry. Wrong. IPsec key exchange occurs in PLAIN TEXT.

Its a good thing they don't ley you near mathematics or computers.


--philipm

SSH (none / 0) (#43)
by PotatoError on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 10:38:06 AM PST
If people use SSH without enabling encryption then they might as well not use it as it wont be secure. There are many different encryption ciphers SSH allows you to choose from but all of them use encryption keys. Yes, some of them are based on symetric algorithms such as DES and only have a private key but this key must be transmitted to the host somehow and it is always done using PKE to stop anyone from getting hold of it who isnt supposed to. Therefore all encrypted data transfer uses a public and private key somehow or another.
There are private keys for all encrypted data sent via SSH, its just that SSH creates them for you. Any password used to encrypt data is basically the same as a user-made private key which isnt very useful unless the recipient knows the password too.
RSA exchanges public keys as plain text. Thats why they are called public - because it doesnt matter who sees them.
Anyway I thought this article was arguing about the factoring problem - not keys. All other algorithms use the same type of functions - ones which are easy to do one way but take ages to do the other. For all these functions, it could be that one day someone could find a way of doing them fast but they are the best we have got. Thats just life.

<<JUMP! POGO POGO POGO BOUNCE! POGO POGO POGO>>

sigh (none / 0) (#44)
by philipm on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 04:48:57 PM PST
Man, this is so painfull. Sometimes you just have to let McDonalds make the french fries.

P Keys: If you didn't enter a carefully randomly generated password which is then used at every transaction and, also, if you didn't store your private key on a floppy which you take out of your computer - YOU are not using PKE technology! Its a stupid catholic liberal myth. See how ignorant you are?

IPsec: Think VPN, secure web pages, credit card transactions use PKE? Not while the IPsec key exchange is done in plaintext the don't.

Sorry,

You have lost
Have a nice day.




--philipm

This is the truth. (none / 0) (#47)
by PotatoError on Sat Dec 22nd, 2001 at 08:54:45 AM PST
The problem with using a cypher which uses a single password or key (like IPsec) is that both the sender and reciever must know it. But how do you pre-arrange such a password or key? You cant simply send it to one another because this will comprimise its secrecy. The answer is to use PKE to send the key or password secretly - this is what IPsec uses.

Look the sender and the recipient have two keys - a private one and a public one.
The public key is public and can be distributed.
The private key is secret and stays on the users machine - it is very important that it stays secret.
Encryption is done with the public key.
Decryption is done with the private key.

First the private key is generated randomly.
Then the corresponding public key is calculated from the private key so that the private key decrypts data which the public key encrypts.

But hang on if the public key and private key are related, what stops someone from calculating a users private key their public key?
The answer is the public key is generated from the the private key using a one way function - an example of a one way function is to use the factoring problem. This way it is easy to generate the public key from the private key but takes far too tiem consuming to work the other way round.
Now the public key can be disclosed to anyone as they wont be able to use it to work out the private key.
That means once data is encrypted using the public key, it doesnt matter who sees the public key as only the corresponding private key can decrypt the data.
Now how secure data transfer occurs is the recipient sends their public key to the sender. The sender then encrypts the data using the recipients public key. Now the only key that can decrypt the data is the recipients private key (which sits securly on their machine) so not even the sender can now decrypt the data. The data can now be sent securly to the recipient without the threat of anyone reading it.
Once the recipient gets the encoded data, they decrypt it using their private key and the private tranfer is sucessful.
The beauty of this method is that the sender and recipient dont have to pre-arrange passwords or keys - neither do any of them have to specify these keys, the encryption programs can generate them themselves. Good programs will destroy these keys once data has been decrypted.

This is why a system using one key or password must use PKE to send this key or password securly to the other user. It isnt obvious that many programs do this as it all happens in the background. The IPsec protocol is no exception.

Of course if a fast method of reversing the one way function is found then the encryption method will be rendered useless. So really the security of PKE is down to mathematics rather than the theory of the process itself which is secure.

There are other one way functions in use today other than the factoring problem. One such one is the logarithm problem. But of course a breakthrough for any one way function could happen at any time. But then we could simply switch over to using programs which use another one. Also the factoring problem has been under scrutiny from the time of the ancient greeks so stands pretty good chance of not being solved any time soon.




<<JUMP! POGO POGO POGO BOUNCE! POGO POGO POGO>>

 
Time to learn you. (none / 0) (#23)
by nx01 on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 12:30:37 AM PST
So next time you buy something using your credit card over the internet you are planning to do what? send the card details unencrypted?

Of course not! You don't reveal details like that online in the first place! As one of the more intelligent "online pundits" said, "Sending email is like sending a postcard, only less secure because it [the postcard] passes by fewer eyeballs." Now I ask you, my hacker friend, would you send a postcard with your credit card number on it? I would hope not. You are much better off sending it in an envelope, or relaying it on the phone.

At the moment Public Key Encrytion is 100% secure.

If you knew anything at all about how public key encryption works, you would realize that this statement is patently false. It is difficult to break, but not impossible.

NSA, FBI cannot break it even with all their computers...and man are they pissed about that.

(very basic description of public-key encryption snipped)


Right. It would take, say, a quantum computer? Trust me, if IBM is releasing the results of their research to the public, it is highly likely that the Government already knows about it.

And really, with knowledge about how to hack into government servers, what would stop the hackers from using these advanced computers to break public key encryption!?

No thats rubbish, there are whole divisions of mathematicians working on cracking it but the only sure way so far is to test every possible number for X and Y and this is why it takes so long and cant practically be done. Mathematicians are the most unsecretive profession around (whats in it for them not telling anyway?).

What's in it? How about lots of money! The Government can pay off anyone really making progress... easily. And, if not, there are other ways of making sure they don't talk.

As for your explanation of how factoring can't be done, another way to go about this would be to join the P and NP problem sets. Factoring belongs to the NP-Complete set. P is a much less complex set. By finding a common link, you would be able to join P and NP, creating a NAT-P set. This would allow you to factor large numbers as a correlary of the traveling salesman's knapsack problem.

What I want to know is what are you planning to use if you dont use public key encryption? You cant lock all you life in a box - sometimes you need to send personal information to people or companies. By encrypting it you keep it safe from prying eyes and thats fact.

Well, if you must relay information online, why not use a one time pad system? We could have a central pad distribution site, and a different pad for everyone to use for each day of the year. Then, it would be totally secure -- not just pretty secure, like a public key system.

That just shows your lack of understanding of the subject.

Oh really? Who needs encryption besides people who have something to hide... like terrorists, pedophiles, and hackers. You know. Criminals.

Good day.


"Every time I look at the X window system, it's so fucking stupid; and part of me feels responsible for the worst parts of it."
-- James Gosling

PKE is safe and YOU KNOW IT (none / 0) (#29)
by PotatoError on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 02:11:40 PM PST
You are just drawing this out arent you? you have no evidence that PKE has been cracked. In fact if it had been we would all know about it as all hell would let loose. You dont seem to realise the difficulty there would be to cover up the discovery of a solution to the factor problem (the likelyhood is that there IS no solution). The company at the cutting edge of this is RSA. Goto www.RSAsecurity.com and see. They actively encourage people to find a solution as this is how they test their encryption system. They share how it works and all the information about it, even offering money and still noone has come close.
All mathematicians make their work public regually and work in groups internationally on big problems like this. Their progress is published to other mathematic groups regually as its not all secrecy and "i want to be the first to get it", all of them will share their learning. This is something the NSA couldnt silence. Its just not possible because of the internet.

"You don't reveal details like that online in the first place...would you send a postcard with your credit card number on it?"
If the postcard was encrypted using PKE at a significant level then YES because NOONE but me and the recipient could read it. Even the NSA would take 100 years to decypher it by which time I no longer care. Thats the point of Public Key encryption. Of all the internet frauds that have occured NONE have been done by breaking PKE. Most are done by hackers breaking into company systems where the data is NOT encrypted.

Quantum computers dont exist yet and thats for sure. The technology isnt quite there yet. Not everything can be 'silenced' and 'secreted' like you say - real people work for the government, not everything is a cover up. I bet you also believe that the moon landing was faked and every employee at NASA are in on it. There are actual people working for RSA labs and IBM too you know.
Even if quantum computers exist, even they would take too long breaking a 1024 or 2048 bit encryption. The author brings a nice science fiction "what if" story to us but I know for sure it isnt so I am just letting people know. Really though, If you want to stop encrypting your data go ahead.

"And really, with knowledge about how to hack into government servers, what would stop the hackers from using these advanced computers to break public key encryption!?"
You've been watching too many inaccurate hacker movies. Script kiddies can break into PUBLIC government sites because there is nothing on them so why bother protecting them? But the important government servers arent hooked up to the internet so NO hacker can get in.

A one time pad system wouldnt work. How are you going to send the information to this distribution site? Data is vulnerable while its travelling to location too and is data to be stored unencrypted on the distribution site? Hackers dream.
Also I wouldnt want my private data going somewhere where the NSA, FBI and HackerX has their nasty little trojan programs installed.
The reason this idea isnt used is because its inferior to the current system.

"Who needs encryption besides people who have something to hide... like terrorists, pedophiles, and hackers. You know. Criminals."
Here goes:
-Banks
-Building Societies
-Security Firms
-Police
-Security Forces (and yes, the FBI uses PKE)
-Insurance Companies
-Small Companies
-Home Users (it isnt illegal to want privicy)
-Just about anyone else who wishes to transmit sensitive/confidential/private data.

I use encryption in protest against the laws restricting it.



<<JUMP! POGO POGO POGO BOUNCE! POGO POGO POGO>>

grow up (none / 0) (#37)
by philipm on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 06:11:54 PM PST
Dude, I don't think you understand. The Author isn't interested in debating why your irrational monkey procedure and ooga booga hand waving is safe. You see - a secret is something you DONT TELL ANYONE.

Since your knowledge of maths is admittedly small, why do you think some slick oil salesman didn't convince you about how PKE is the bomb.

Grow up. This is the real world.


--philipm

 
My wife says I talk in my sleep ... (none / 0) (#11)
by pyramid termite on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 04:19:19 PM PST
... so, how can I keep my secrets to myself? I considered trying hypnosis, but I'm not sure I can trust the hypnotist to pry my secrets out of me when I'm under, receiving his instructions not to talk in my sleep. Before going to bed in the last week, I've written over and over, "Talk in ROT-13 when you're sleeping", thinking it might make me do that when I'm sleeping. Unfortunately, I wake up in the morning with a sore tongue and throat and a splitting headache. Furthermore, my wife keeps asking me what "Ymb" is and why I keep making kissy sounds when I say it. I'm afraid of breaking my teeth in pieces if I attempt PGP with this method. I asked my cousin Caleb for his opinion and he says that I should put duct tape over my mouth when I'm sleeping. But he fixes everything with duct tape and anyway, it sounds uncomfortable and I don't want wierd white sticky stuff on my face when I wake up as people may think things.

I'm currently considering forgetting everything I know, but I keep remembering new stuff to forget. The bottom line is, I can't trust myself to keep my secrets. Can anyone help?
He who hides his madman, dies voiceless - Henri Michaux

OK sure (none / 0) (#18)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 08:23:08 PM PST
Since it is a holy time of year, I thought I might help some of the less fortunate souls you find scattered around the net.

So the answer is yes, I'll help you. Mail me all your secrets and I will bury them in my backyard for you - no charge. (Please note I am not extending this offer to other than the above poster)


 
Cryptograhy: NO ALTERNATIVE (none / 0) (#13)
by PotatoError on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 04:46:32 PM PST
How else do you send private, confidential message to someone else or send sensitive data across the internet (credit card details, etc)? Would you think of using.....

<cryptography> The practise and study of encryption and decryption so that data can only be decoded by specific individuals.

or would you use

<keep it to myself> oh shit, now it cant get there.
<<JUMP! POGO POGO POGO BOUNCE! POGO POGO POGO>>

 
Do you even know what you're talking about? (none / 0) (#15)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 05:56:37 PM PST
A cryptologist is someone who develops those codes that allow your bank information and other data safe. A cryptologist is not some cyber-punk with some huge financial conspiracy to take over all wealth or information. If you really wanted to give those a name, i suppose hacker would work, but even that name has taken on such a broad meaning in pop-culture. Adequacy allows the posts of wishful literaries' works of complete idiocy backed with little to no research.


 
Reverse-engineering. (none / 0) (#20)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 10:47:51 PM PST
Two words that put fear to the very heart of every security-through-obscurity advocate.

Couple years back I used to spend days with paper, pen, color pencils, disassembler, and programs infected by computer viruses (or memory snapshots), figuring out how those little critters work. I used to get complete commented assembly code from the binary in several hours to few days.

Manual-only approach is awfully routine and time-consuming (and, worse, error-prone). By the time it got boring I found there are semiautomatic ("submachine") decompilers; I don't know the current conditions, but couple years back Russians were producing great stuff (ie, IDA - Interactive DisAssembler). Plus there are debuggers that allow stepping through the code in real time.

When you face the adversary with enough resources (ie, a government or a bigger corporation) who goes after your secrets, it's foolish to rely on vendor's promises of security. Any pimple-faced kid with a 486 can rip the algorithm from the very guts of your "supersecret" software; then it's on a nearby mathematician to find an algorithmic breakthrough, or on the very same pimple-faced kid to find an implementation fault. (Hint: Never rely on "Protect with password" features of Microsoft products. Swiss cheese is 6-inch panzer if you comparison its bulletproofness against them.) When you deny access to the source, you create small obstruction for the attackers and huge problem for the defenders.

I prefer the version where both the attackers and the defenders have the same informations to work with. Concerns (grave) with compromising of the physical machine can be alleviated by red/black zone setup; the secure machine runs the barebonest software it can, unusual or non-standard way configured OS, communicating over the keyboard or over a floppy, and performing regular hardware audits - but the implementation details are beyond the scope of this comment.

Sorry to shatter your world. This is the reality.

PS: If you worry about algorithmical breakthrough (which I don't worry about much; I worry more about quantum or DNA computers and brute-forcing the keys, or about TEMPEST attack, trojan horse, or physical compromision of the machine, or even "rubber-hose cryptography"), you always have Vernam cipher, aka one-time pad. You also can nest algorithms (if you use different keys and take precautions against the possibility of creating conditions for known-plaintext attack that could weaken some of the scheme's layers).

-- The Mad Scientist




Yea (none / 0) (#33)
by PotatoError on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 02:43:34 PM PST
i agree with most of that. I liked your red/black zone idea. Are you talking about 2 separate machines or 2 layers in a single one?

I think when quantum computers arrive that the government might block them from being sold commercially so they are one step ahead. Thats my only fear.
<<JUMP! POGO POGO POGO BOUNCE! POGO POGO POGO>>

Zoning (none / 0) (#40)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 02:58:52 AM PST
i agree with most of that. I liked your red/black zone idea. Are you talking about 2 separate machines or 2 layers in a single one?

Two physically separate machines. When there is no technical possibility to transfer data between the machines without the operator's knowledge (either retyping them from terminal to terminal, or moving them via floppy or manually-controlled wire connection) even full compromising of the insecure zone doesn't reveal more than traffic analysis about the secure zone.

If you want to be really secure, use TEMPEST-shielded machine for the secure zone, and don't underestimate physical security means. More details for request.

I think when quantum computers arrive that the government might block them from being sold commercially so they are one step ahead. Thats my only fear.

It is for sure they will attempt to, and it is highly probable they will succeed for some time. That time is the critical period where the playing field will not be leveled; the problem is that the very existence of these machines will be kept top-secret. Vernam ciphers, aka one time pads, can save the day even against the best computers on the adversary's side, but the key management is... well... annoying.

-- The Mad Scientist


 
R R R (none / 0) (#36)
by philipm on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 06:03:00 PM PST
Hmm. I don't think you're a scientist, and you don't seem to be sane enough to qualify as mad.

Lets see - The Author suggests being careful of what information you share and especially not using this public bathroom key encryption nonsense.

Your counterargument is that you were a hacker, and that some idiot, that was stupid enough to let you near his computer, couldn't protect his information because you stole it.

Thanks for the tip.

I suggest you learn to read first.


--philipm

Nonsense? (none / 0) (#42)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 06:46:22 AM PST
Lets see - The Author suggests being careful of what information you share and especially not using this public bathroom key encryption nonsense.

Of course you have to be careful about whom you are giving the plaintext. But you also have to be careful about the path it travels through, and how it is stored; encryption isn't guaranteed to save you ass, but can help if properly used. (If improperly used, you get only false feeling of security and sooner or later a nasty surprise.) Also, if asymmetric ciphers are, as you say, "nonsense", why there is so much of investments into the related math research, and why high-profile institutions, from banks to military, rely on them?

NSA is financing projects that are closely related with combinatorics, theory of numbers, and research of nondeterministic polynomiality. Why they are doing so? Most likely because they can't crack the PKI at this moment, and they are hoping to find some clue how to attack the scheme, as even their "enemies" rely on the same scheme.

FBI has to resort to other methods of retrieving the plaintext (Magic Lantern, hardware keystroke recorders...), which can be taken as indirect proof that if the attack tools exist, they aren't "on the street" yet. I know for sure that at this moment security services of smaller countries have no knowledge about any eventual algorithmical weakness of currently used asymmetric encryption algorithms and have to resort to exploiting of implementation weaknesses.

Your counterargument is that you were a hacker, and that some idiot, that was stupid enough to let you near his computer, couldn't protect his information because you stole it.

I still am a hacker, and making decent living from it. The computer in question was my own one, the code in question was mostly files friends brought me to tell them how they work. Any device, being it hardware or software, is at the same moment its own documentation; you only have to know how to read it. I know some methods; it saved me a lot of problems quite many times.

I have some experiences with both setup, attack, and defense of data storage/transmission/protection systems; believe me, closed-source is not as secure as you may think - that binary files are incomprehensible gibberish for you doesn't mean your adversary can't read them with ease. (Believe me - he can.) Attack and defense are no more different than two sides of one coin, being it cryptography/cryptoanalysis, cracking/defending a network, or classisal military attack/defense paradigm. You can't attack well without the knowledge of defense, and you can't defend well without knowledge of attack. The best admins are hackers. (Just this week I had a repeated (always failed) break-in attempt to one of the machines in my care. Nice reminder to my client that I am worth of the money he pays.)

When the society is technology-dependent, knowledge of technology - both its strong points and vulnerabilities - becomes extremely valuable asset. (If only to show the boss or the client that using MS-IIS as a webserver is not too wise decision; waving papers is by far not as effective argument as demonstrating a break-in into their supposedly secure machine. Especially when using only a web browser and bare hands.)

-- The Mad Scientist


 
Alice and Eve (none / 0) (#25)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 01:12:44 AM PST
Even better, commit crimnal acts on ALICE until SHE is put in a mental home so that any supposed "secret" that she may leak out is only a step above gibberish anyway. In fact, I propose a system of using paired mental asylum patients who seem to inexplicably understand each other yet be totally incomprehensible to anybody else as a medium of transferring sensitive information. After all, the government may have bribed all the mathemeticians in the country but it certainly isnt crazy


I got ar beter one (none / 0) (#48)
by philipm on Sun Dec 23rd, 2001 at 04:07:44 AM PST
Lets say Alice, lets call her Lezbo Hitler, wants to communicate with Bob, lets call him Stalin bin Laden. How can Lezbo Hitler and Stalin bin Laden talk to each other? Its simple, their love can not be kept apart. Eve, lets call her Taco Snotting Victim, must get involved. She is the only one that can make sure this romance goes forward.

Remember, TALKING solves problems.


--philipm

 
Why knowledge containment is inadequate (none / 0) (#28)
by Melquiades on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 07:12:38 AM PST
And yet, hidden within this very editorial is evidence that the proposed "knowledge containment" strategy is utterly inadequate to the task at hand. The author began by flat-out stating the methods used to make Murano mirrors.

If this is publically known, then at some point, the Muranoan death threat apparently was not sufficient to maintain secrecy (it's amazing what someone will do for a few hundred florins) and the secret got out.

History is in fact awash of poorly kept secrets. Examples include the blueprints for the atomic bomb, the control tones for Ma Bell's telephone network, the encryption keys for DVD's, the functioning of the Enigma device, early numbering schemes for credit cards, and IBM's BIOS in the PC.

The purpose of cryptography is to mitigate the effects of poor secret containment by building systems that are hard to break into, even if the attacker knows exactly how they work. This is necessary, because people have shown themselves to be particularly bad at knowledge containment.


yes your right (none / 0) (#32)
by PotatoError on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 02:34:37 PM PST
but what was that about IBM BIOS? Is there a story i have missed?
<<JUMP! POGO POGO POGO BOUNCE! POGO POGO POGO>>

IBM Bios (none / 0) (#35)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 03:42:09 PM PST
Well, to explain, there is a myth that the IBM BIOS had to be reverse engineered.

It was copyrighted code and not Open Source in the GNU sense, but the BIOS source code for the PC, PC-XT, and PC-AT is published, with comments, in the IBM Technical Reference manuals.

This actually made it more difficult for the cloners to produce a non-copyrighted version, as anybody exposed to this source code was 'contaminated' and couldn't be hired to write a compatabile BIOS.

The people who finally did write a clone BIOS, and who opened the floodgates that resulted in the clone market, had to write a compatible BIOS based on a spec derived from the published BIOS source code but written by a seperate team who wrote none of the code.

It is a common myth that they had to 'reverse engineer' the IBM BIOS. Nope. The source is published.



 
Dear Sirs, (none / 0) (#45)
by Martino Cortez PhD on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 10:51:55 PM PST
You are correct - so called "encryption" is bad. How can you trust the people who create The technicians who created my financial transation network asked to install an encryption program called "blowfish", which they claimed would protect us. I told them that encrypton is Un-American. Even our presidents tell us to avoid such hacker software.

I stated that this network would handle thousands of transactions per second. I asked how they knew that the "cryptologists" where hiding information from us. Why should we use software that will protect my network, when everybody knows how the protection software works? I told them, if you know how it works, then a hacker could just run the program in reverse, and get the un-protected message.

Regardless, after reading an excellent article in a stock trading newsletter, I advised my staff to use an protected "closed-source" unbreakable encryption software which according to the article was time tested and had no known "back-doors".


--
Dr Martino Cortez, PhD
CEO - Martin-Cortez Financial Corporation
Copyright 2002, Martino Cortez.

you, sir are a genius (none / 0) (#46)
by philipm on Sat Dec 22nd, 2001 at 05:40:14 AM PST
From: http://www.meganet.com/Technology/explain.htm
"
Why do we keep pronounce VME is unbreakable, very simple:
When a transmission of conventional algorithm is sent, it includes an encrypted form of the actual data. Given that a hacker have enough computing power and time, any message can be deciphered. With the VME engine the case is different; the actual data is never transferred. Therefore, when intercepted by a hacker, the results will yield absolutely nothing.
"

Aha! Now this is how you put technology to good use. Thank you, good sirs. Computer kiddies of scripts will be of you in fear everywhere.

No more unprotection reverse engineering will be used for bad.





--philipm

 

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