What goes around comes around (NSA helps Iranian govt edition)

bdsesq sent in a story on Ars Technica highlighting how the US government’s drive for security back doors has enabled the Iranian government to spy on its citizens.

“For instance, TKTK was lambasted last year for selling telecom equipment to Iran that included the ability to wiretap mobile phones at will. Lost in that uproar was the fact that sophisticated wiretapping capabilities became standard issue for technology thanks to the US government’s CALEA rules that require all phone systems, and now broadband systems, to include these capabilities.”

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What goes around comes around (NSA helps Iranian govt edition)

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Sometimes there is some trivial way around doing something really, really hard:

26th Chaos Communication Congress
Here be dragons
Exposing Crypto Bugs through reverse engineering

Breaking good crypto is hard. It takes a genius to find a flaw in AES or Blowfish. On the other hand, it is also difficult to program cryptography correctly. Thus the simpler way of breaking a cryptographic software is often to reverse engineer it and find the crypto errors that were made by the programmers.

In this talk the simple errors will be demonstrated that were discovered when reverse engineering three products for evaluation or forensic purposes. In each case, a simple error gave access to information that was supposed to be protected by the best crypto algorithms.

The demos will be the following:

  • the FIPS 142-3 level 2 certified MXI stealth USB key (before it got patched)
  • a version of the E-capsule private safe from EISST
  • Data Beckers now defunct Private Safe software
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Insurance, it is pity that it is needed

Wikileaks feels it needs insurance so it has released an 1.4 gigabyte encrypted file, that everyone can download, but cannot be decrypted until wikileaks releases the encryption keys.

Several thousands have it, and all that will be needed is the keys.  Unless of course someone with some really really large powerful computers spends some serious time decrypting.

Why did wikileaks do this?  With threats being made against Julian by the neocon spokesmen, and the US security establishment, it isn’t any wonder that wikileaks feels they need some insurance.

There are two interesting facets about this insurance file, though.

First, if someone has a quick way around the encryption standard used, (I suspect this is not the case, but don’t know so) they will have decrypted the file.  If anyone can do it, it would be the NSA.  So this release could be an experiment, called “Does anyone know how to rapidly decrypt AES256?”  Probably AES256 is still secure, but who really knows this?

Second, the keys have become a secret that wikileaks needs to protect.   It is an interesting development that wikileaks now has to keep secrets.  They might find that more difficult to do than they think!  Those keys would be worth very much money, and it is certain that different organizations would pay very much to get those keys.  How will everyone at wikileaks who knows those keys resist temptation to make a few hundred thousand or so on the side?

And perhaps the goal of the effort to discredit Julian is to drive dissension over when to use the insurance.  The release of the keys publicly would certainly drive down the value of those keys.

We will see if anyone tips their hand that they know the contents of that file, because there would, depending on who decrypts the file, be some limited disclosures of the information, or perhaps renewed attempts to attack or discredit wikileaks.  Since one of these has already happened,  have to ask, is their a flaw in AES256?  Does someone have some real fast secret way of decrypting AES256?

(NB: corrected some typos 10:58 after posting)

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Insurance, it is pity that it is needed