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CNET: Feds Put Heat On Web Firms For Master Encryption Keys

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the our-public-servants dept.

United States 148

First time accepted submitter fsagx writes "The U.S. government has attempted to obtain the master encryption keys that Internet companies use to shield millions of users' private Web communications from eavesdropping. These demands for master encryption keys, which have not been disclosed previously, represent a technological escalation in the clandestine methods that the FBI and the National Security Agency employ when conducting electronic surveillance against Internet users."

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148 comments

Dupe (4, Informative)

rsmith-mac (639075) | about 9 months ago | (#44379785)

I know this is an important issue, but didn't we just do this exact same article yesterday?

http://it.slashdot.org/story/13/07/24/1812227/anonymous-source-claims-feds-demand-private-ssl-keys-from-web-services [slashdot.org]

Oh darnit! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44379811)

I wanted the first post saying it was a dupe!

Anonymous Source Claims Feds Demand Private SSL Keys From Web Services
Posted by Unknown Lamer on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @02:41PM
from the world-wide-fool-proof-cage dept.

[shakes fist at rsmith-mac]

Re:Dupe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44379825)

And you guys get mad at me and kneejerk downmod just because I say *niggers* even tho i dont actually express any hatred for black people or anybody.

NSA are niggers no matter what color their workers are. Dont you get it or do you need to rejoin the political correctness flock of sheep and get all pissy over a fucking word like back in elementary school? You are adults now. Ugly words go together with ugly things. NSA is ugly. Nigger is a ugly word. NSA are niggers. Don't you get it? Just get it man.

Re:Dupe (-1, Troll)

1s44c (552956) | about 9 months ago | (#44380041)

It's not that I find the word niggers offensive, it's just that it's a very bad description for the NSA. That word doesn't express the wrong they have done and continue to do, all it does is express your emotions towards them.

Re:Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380229)

The word has meaning pertaining to black people. Fuck off idiot. It's like if I started naming everything bad after you.

Re:Dupe (3, Funny)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 9 months ago | (#44379975)

Maybe we're in a loop like in that movie "Groundhog Day," where every day we wake up and learn the NSA are dicks all over again!

Re:Dupe (0)

1s44c (552956) | about 9 months ago | (#44380085)

That film was a third rate twilight zone ripoff. A bit like the NSA in that regard I guess.

Re:Dupe (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#44380157)

All the movies/shows that use the repeating day theme are PKD ripoffs. Twilight zone being the first to rip him off isn't special.

Dick v. the World (1)

tepples (727027) | about 9 months ago | (#44380217)

All the movies/shows that use the repeating day theme are PKD ripoffs.

Then why hasn't Dick's estate sued?

Re:Dick v. the World (1)

oobayly (1056050) | about 9 months ago | (#44381203)

Because they got a shit load of abuse for suing Google when they decided to call their phone Nexus One. That, or they're too busy working out ways to make more money from their father's work without inputting anything of their own.

As you might guess, I've a very low opinion of children of live of their parent's copyrighted works.

Re:Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380839)

Yeah...because the concept of getting it back to do it again never occurred to anyone in human history until PKD.

Re:Dupe (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380155)

And it will repeat, day after day, until we finally elect a libertarian majority congress. We're in for a long wait...

Re:Dupe (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#44380679)

I think this is being treated as coming from a more reputable source since it's CNET (form your own opinion).

But this shit, is stuff that matters.

They're trying very hard to implement the full-scale Big Brother crap. I don't see this being anything but some very scary shit. There isn't much room for freedom and anonymity when your government can watch everything you do.

Re:Dupe (1)

Tasha26 (1613349) | about 9 months ago | (#44380781)

Maybe it's good to regularly remind /. users how horrifically evil the Feds can be. I mean, are they out of mind? Master encryption key!? Why not also ask for their CC pin number and Paypal password?

Declined to Respond (4, Insightful)

nanospook (521118) | about 9 months ago | (#44379795)

From TFA.. "Apple, Yahoo, AOL, Verizon, AT&T, Opera Software's Fastmail.fm, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast declined to respond to queries about whether they would divulge encryption keys to government agencies." Now you know who is coughing up to the NSA..

Re:Declined to Respond (3, Insightful)

mmcxii (1707574) | about 9 months ago | (#44379881)

Don't think that they're the only ones. Given the current climate I think it is reasonable to assume that you're being monitored regardless of your method of communication.

In related news: Domestic spying got the OK (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44379853)

Congress agrees: Americans no better than foreigners, spy on everyone!

Re:In related news: Domestic spying got the OK (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 9 months ago | (#44379877)

Well they're right about that.

As many people keep chanting, we're the ones who "elected" them. *cough*elected*cough*

Re:In related news: Domestic spying got the OK (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 9 months ago | (#44379991)

"We" collectively have elected these Idiots. However, "I" have not voted for a winner in at least 30 + years. So .... don't blame me. Blame the "vast majority" of people who think we only have two parties. Republicrats and Demicans. Or as I call it, Men who look like pigs and pigs who look like men (see Animal Farm)

Re:In related news: Domestic spying got the OK (0)

BitZtream (692029) | about 9 months ago | (#44380267)

I will blame you.

I'll blame you for resorting to childish name calling, which makes your point completely disappear as people instantly flag you as just some other ranting lunatic.

Second ... STOP USING FUCKING BOOK REFERENCE WHEN YOU UTTERLY FAILED TO UNDERSTAND THAT PLOT. God, the slashdot meme of all time is for people to reference 1984, while Animal Farm is closer, you still failed to get the actual point. Stop trying to reference it to look smarter.

Re:In related news: Domestic spying got the OK (1)

1s44c (552956) | about 9 months ago | (#44380107)

Well they're right about that.

As many people keep chanting, we're the ones who "elected" them. *cough*elected*cough*

Yes. We had the choice of freedom destroying warmonger or nice guy who turns out to be a freedom destroying warmonger. Our two party system only works were the two parties are not the same.

Two parties my ass. (4, Insightful)

ulatekh (775985) | about 9 months ago | (#44380817)

Our two party system only works were the two parties are not the same.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...the left-leaning half of the Ruling Party is no more, or less, virtuous than the right-leaning half of the Ruling Party.
The only real difference between them is how they want to kill us. The left want to smother us in a stifling nanny-state bureaucracy that'll collapse under its own weight, and the right want to abandon us to fend for ourselves. The latter is more sustainable, but either way we die a miserable death.

Re:In related news: Domestic spying got the OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380111)

That's not really true. Thanks to redistricting, there is actually very little point to elections nowadays. When it comes to Congress, there's no such think as a fair election.

Obama sided with Cheneyesk Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380317)

And Obama sided with the extremist in the Republican party to keep the surveillance of US citizens.

This block of data is all American data, who called who, when where they were (cell tower triangulation), their subscriber id needed to link it to their name, bank etc. If it includes the cell tower handshake data (almost certainly true), then its the location of where you are even when you're not making a phone call. Simply having your phone with you, means its handshaking with towers as you move around, marking your position and that's metadata too.

No question that this is domestic surveillance, no question that its unfiltered, and its only about a terabyte of data a day (300 million * 40 calls a day * 100 bytes estimated) so its only a tiny tiny portion of the data NSA is capturing.

The claim it is anonymous is false, CDR metadata includes the subscriber ID needed for telephone billing which links to the identity of the person.

I bet Senate was told three lies:
a) It's anonymous, which is untrue because the id is in the CDR.
b) I bet they were not told about the location tracking, even when you are not making calls, courtesy of the tower handshake the phone does as you move around. This is a lie by omission.
c) That there is judicial protection in place on these. There isn't, the FISA warrant was supposed to separate good and bad intercepts, capturing everyone's data necessarily captures both good AND bad.

That's FAR from over (by 7 votes)...apk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380341)

Since Gen. Alexander & president Obama did "last second 'lobbying'" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/24/justin-amash-amendment_n_3647893.html [huffingtonpost.com] ONLY - & yes, I strongly suspect that of those mere 7 votes, the ones that sent it over the top were coerced. After all, nobody's going to tell me that J. Edgar Hoover style blackmail tactics or bribes/favors (ala lobbyists, since that is all that really is with another term assigned to it) didn't take place. Nobody in their RIGHT MIND likes this stuff going on, period. Nobody. Clapper & Alexander outright LIED to congress (twisting words using DIRECTLY, just like how they CLAIM there is no easy CENTRAL way to query their own mail but they do it to everyone else - I found that hilarious & disgusting, since mail is really DBMail and to select/insert/update/delete into those, you NEED to have abilities for that... What they told us, unless someone can show me otherwise, is total bullshit. Hypocritical bullshit). It's wrong. Just like screwing with protesters was. Just like the IRS used against political opponents of the current regime in office. I started looking at all of this madness & lunacy and just was utterly disgusted. Most folks, are. This is insane. Truly insane. Why does this concern me and it should you all as well? I was told decades ago by a history professor of mine in collegiate academia this: "Totalitarian regimes start with 'little laws' they pass, getting an inch, & reaching for a mile: Before you know it, you are Nazi Germany/Soviet Russia USA: DO NOT THINK IT CANNOT HAPPEN HERE" & even former President Carter feels the same http://now.msn.com/jimmy-carter-says-the-nsa-has-eliminated-a-functioning-democracy [msn.com] I used to think HISTORY was a waste of my time then. That was until I figured out that the "powers that be" use it as a guidebook for scamming the populace. Polishing up the mistakes those that set the pattern for what they're doing messed up on, & just trying it again, often a generation or two later. These guys have to be reined in. No questions asked. Why? "Absolute Power Corrupting Absolutely". Sooner or later, that kind of power goes to ANYONE's head and they will abuse it. Heck, they lied to Congress, nothing was done. The head of the IRS didn't lose her job either. I suspect that Clapper, Alexander, & the IRS head told Obama "Pal, you fire me? I will let the dogs out on the FACT you gave ME THE 'GO-AHEAD' to do these things and I will take you down with me. Try it!". That's how "politicians" operate. Thuggery, bribery, etc. and the USA isn't happy either http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/23/19644154-nbcwsj-poll-faith-in-dc-hits-a-low-83-percent-disapprove-of-congress?lite [nbcnews.com] and I certainly didn't see their machinations stop the Boston Bomber either. The trade off/cost-benefit ratio of effectiveness vs. actual crmiinals with their bogus programs is far outweighed by the potentials for misuse. As far as misuse of powers? See just SOME of the examples above that make folks have that all-time low faith in government. What they're doing is dangerous to us all, no questions asked, & fits the pattern described to me by my former history Prof. (smart man, he left a real impression on me back in 1985 with that statement quoted above in fact. I never forgot it, but felt then as a young man it was bullshit... funny how his words are coming to pass now, nearly 30 yrs. later).

APK

P.S.=> Quotes from that article: Conyers said the lobbying "was heavy. They were very worried about it." But, he added, "the fact that they won this narrowly means they still are worried -- because this thing isn't over yet. This is just the beginning." ... They ought to be worried: We are THEIR EMPLOYERS, they are civil servants, nothing more. Secret Courts? Give me a break - you spend OUR TAX MONEY that way, to screw with us?? These people are seriously losing it, and that IS how totalitarian regimes tend to start up also!

... apk

Unencrypt this (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44379899)

Fuck the NSA.

Re:Unencrypt this (3, Funny)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 9 months ago | (#44380337)

You forgot to encrypt it. Okay, it's:
lsdfoj240934ojfwnl;sdaglnkvasd08fvq2ut82js-9dvu8-9WJ34T'PWUD[-G9JWP4YUJ23049JT
And the decryption key is "fuck the NSA" lol.

An interesting quote FTA (4, Insightful)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 9 months ago | (#44379913)

"The government's view is that anything we can think of, we can compel you to do."

Seems pretty spot-on. Unless people challenge these illegal activities, they'll just keep on and on.
After all, they have pretty-much unlimited resources compared to most private entities, and no real pressure to justify their usage.
Your tax dollars at work.

Re:An interesting quote FTA (1)

Bigby (659157) | about 9 months ago | (#44380333)

To make it legal, all they have to do is give a penalty of $1,000,000,000,000 for every company that refuses to turn over their private key. If we learned anything about Federal authority, they can't do anything directly, but they sure can impose a "tax" to do all kinds of Unconstitutional things...

Re:An interesting quote FTA (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 9 months ago | (#44381111)

Unless people challenge these illegal activities, they'll just keep on and on.

At some point, people who are paying careful enough attention will realize that even if they challenge these illegal activities, they'll just keep on and on.

And then they will be faced with the option of either supporting or abolishing that institution which abuses them.

Game chats (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44379921)

I am aware even ingame chats are monitored.

That includes WoW, Steam etc.

those poor bastards (3, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | about 9 months ago | (#44380649)

you've managed to make me feel sorry for the poor saps that have to spy all day on us

Most likely to hide PRISM (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44379927)

If they can get the keys, then they don't need to use PRISM, they can grab the data upstream.

It lets them hide the PRISM surveillance, Google/Yahoo/Facebook/DropBox etc. no longer gets to see the volume of requests, it is hidden. US companies can claim, with some degree of truthiness, that they no longer deliver data to PRISM requests, as if the program has been ended, because they no longer see the requests or get to challenge them. In fact surveillance had been expanded to all https traffic.

They gain 'plausible deniability', and NSA gains 100% surveillance of their https traffic and the ability to man-in-the-middle at will, by simply using their connection upstream. NSA also removes the problem of companies challenging the intercepts.

The fix is to avoid US based services, either their servers are compromised by the NSA, or their keys.

More difficult is if NSA has signing rights from the US certificate authorities. Most of these are built into your browser. I tried deleting them from Firefox but it was not possible. With those compromised NSA can sign *foreign* traffic and man-in-the-middle intercept it even though both ends of the conversation are outside NSA control.

The fix there is to avoid traffic being routed across NSA controlled territories (USA/Canada/UK/NZ/AUS). So if it crosses the UK they record everything and the private keys will let them record all https traffic too. A lot of backbone crosses the US, and a lot of European traffic crosses the UK, so France to Germany might cross the UK, and Germany to Japan might cross the US.

Re:Most likely to hide PRISM (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 9 months ago | (#44380289)

Having the keys helps prism get more data. PRISM doesn't magically have access to encrypted data.

The fix is to avoid US based services, either their servers are compromised by the NSA, or their keys.

Right, because you KNOW of a country that you KNOW isn't doing it as well ...

Let me give you a hint: The only countries not doing it ... are only not doing it because they have a grand total of 3 computers in the entire country with Internet connections. You aren't hiding from this behavior by running to another country.

Re:Most likely to hide PRISM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380743)

So you are saying that North Korea is the only country not doing it?

captcha: doubts

Re:Most likely to hide PRISM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380875)

"PRISM doesn't magically have access to encrypted data"

Yes it does, they already have the upstream link, the PRISM document advises them to use it where possible. So if they had the keys they'd have the data because they already have the encrypted data via the upstream link.

"Right, because you KNOW of a country that you KNOW isn't doing it as well ..."
They might *want* to, but the cloud services are US based and the budget and huge data centers are US bases. Likewise only the 5-eyes countries have thrown away the privacy right completely. China might be able to muster the budget and the political spy-on-the-peasants attitude, but it doesn't control the cloud services. Russia couldn't even manage the budget. China has no cert authority trusted by Firefox and can't even begin to mount a fake cert attack.
In terms of topology, traffic crosses US/Canada most often and so they had the physical location needed to intercept.

Re:Most likely to hide PRISM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380815)

What other services would I use considering other nations have had surveillance programs like this for quite a long time? It's not like if I use a French provider that it's not being watched and most likely cooperate with the NSA (Especially since they have their own version of Prism). The only thing this has spurred is better encryption on all communication.

I don't buy it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44379963)

Seems like a PR stunt:

1) NSA gets caught spying on everyone
2) NSA makes a big public show of asking for encryption keys from telecoms, emplying they haven't been able to read as much traffic as previously thought.
3) Telecoms of course refuse after rallying together.
4) NSA is foiled! We all believe we have security again because the NSA can't read our encrypted e-mails!
5) NSA goes back under the radar.

Bullshit. If the US government wants to break standard encryption, they have the resources to do so. At best, the telecoms crumbling under this demand would only reduce the required resources to spy on us.

Re:I don't buy it (1)

1s44c (552956) | about 9 months ago | (#44380149)

But they can't practically break GPG on millions of emails a day, not even if they owned every computer in the world.

GPG is your friend. More people should use it.

Re:I don't buy it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380233)

They would only need to break it every time you generate a new key. Or they could just use a Microsoft provided hole to grab your key.

Re:I don't buy it (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 9 months ago | (#44380329)

PGP is not my friend. Its just RSA without the privilege of having an 'trusted' third party to verify. You already have fully functional encryption built into EVERY EMAIL CLIENT THAT MATTERS to do encryption of this level that doesn't require using a bunch of shitty hacks to get it to work with the client.

SMIME with self signed/friend-signed certs is still far far better than PGP.

GPG is just a horrible implementation (from a usability perspective) of PGP for freetards who don't actually know what they are talking about.

$50 says there aren't a million GPG encrypted or signed emails total, ever, let alone in a single day.

Your world perspective is ridiculously skewed.

Re:I don't buy it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380669)

Shill much?

No trusted third party is exactly why I like PGP. I pack my own parachute, set trust levels, assign whom I think is worth trusting and who isn't, and if I'm convinced enough that someone's key belongs to their that I am willing to swear to it in a court of law, I sign the key.

CAs are trading security for ease of use. A compromised CA can compromise millions of signees. With a web of trust, a compromised key would make little effect, and can be detected (especially if people sign keys they trust.)

With SSL, I'm forced to do one of two things: Create my own root CA certs and explain to people why they should completely trust it (there is either complete acceptance or complete rejection, no shades of gray.) Or, just allow all these CAs that are in my Web browser and such, even CAs from countries hostile to where I am, be the gatekeepers of security.

I guess things like the DigiNotar incident are not to be believed... trust the CAs, they are 100% secure... drink the Kool-Aid...

Flying to key signing party? Junk gets touched. (1)

tepples (727027) | about 9 months ago | (#44380373)

GPG is your friend. More people should use it.

But then you'd have to get your key signed. And to extend your web of trust outside your hometown, you'd have to fly to a key signing party elsewhere, get your junk touched, and still worry about what information airlines share with the spooks.

Re:I don't buy it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380395)

Exactly.

They already had the private keys. Otherwise they could not intercept so much of the international communications just by snooping on the links.

Re:I don't buy it (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 9 months ago | (#44380981)

Bullshit. If the US government wants to break standard encryption, they have the resources to do so. At best, the telecoms crumbling under this demand would only reduce the required resources to spy on us.

There is no evidence NSA or anyone else posses any such technology to defeat high security cipher suites in SSL.

In many cases crypto is not the weakest link of the system and the other weaker links in the chain will be explioted first because they are easier to break.

People are sloppy, commonly used software libraries, operating systems, random number generators may contain subtle flaws. We have seen Internet wide SSL surveys with evidence of key collisions way more than what would be expected given the birthday paradox.

Please Also Note (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380001)

Every telecommunication company that operates within the United States is required by law to provide law enforcement access to communication streams on demand. It's called CALEA [wikipedia.org] and all telecommunications companies are required by law to follow it.

CALEA also requires that encrypted communications be decrypted. This includes services like Skype(specifically). CALEA requires that Microsoft provide law enforcement access to the UNENCRYPTED streams of Skype communications, on demand. This is not new and, in light of the House vote yesterday, is not likely to change.

Re:Please Also Note (1)

PPH (736903) | about 9 months ago | (#44380779)

This only works when the service provider manages the keys on my behalf. If I generated my own key pairs, the NSA would have to come to me to get my decryption key.

In the case of a criminal investigation where law enforcement is looking to apprehend me, a warrant would be sufficient. Just hold me on a judges order until I couch it up. But for political or economic espionage, that would tip off your competitor. The point here is to monitor them while they carry on business as usual.

Re:Please Also Note (2)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 9 months ago | (#44381159)

Every telecommunication company that operates within the United States is required by law to provide law enforcement access to communication streams on demand. It's called CALEA and all telecommunications companies are required by law to follow it.

CALEA applies to ISPs not content. Content was explicitly EXCLUDED from CALEA using the "information services" language.

CALEA also requires that encrypted communications be decrypted. This includes

It does no such thing. It requires ISP to hand over encryption keys it possesses to decrypt but there is no obligation if the ISP does not possess the key. Further CALEA applies to Access not Content. The FBI and others have been pushing to change that but such legislation is currently dead.

services like Skype(specifically). CALEA requires that Microsoft provide law enforcement access to the UNENCRYPTED streams of Skype communications, on demand.

Skype != website. A web site operator is providing an "information service" which is exempt from CALEA.

This is not new and, in light of the House vote yesterday, is not likely to change.

Except what the NSA is doing is blatently illegal even under the goddamn patriot act and government is currently being sued for it.

Collecting everyones information everywhere cannot possibly be relevant to an "authorized investigation". That would be like the police having reson to search everyones home without cause simply because based on only on global crime statistics statistically there is some probability the owner may in possession of illegal or stolen goods.

Self signed certs (2)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 9 months ago | (#44380009)

Seem like the better option now. At least you know what the CA has done with the master key.

Re:Self signed certs (2, Insightful)

1s44c (552956) | about 9 months ago | (#44380171)

The whole SSL CA setup was broken from the start. The trusted people at the top never were even remotely trustworthy.

Self signed certs are a pain, what we need is something peer2peer based.

Re:Self signed certs (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 9 months ago | (#44380433)

No matter how you spin it, the person at the top is still more trust worth than nothing at all. REAL people (i.e. not geeks who have nothing better to do with their time) are not dicking around asking their friends to build up a 'web of trust' only to have one of the certs lost ... and then having to start all over again.

Its also rather stupid to trust random other people to validate your identity.

As typical when some moron shouts 'p2p!', peer to peer is entirely impractical here.

Your p2p encryption and signing system already exists, and its entirely unused outside of a tiny circle of geeks who like to pretend they are better than the rest. Its called PGP, and its been the 'p2p' encryption system for 20 years.

You know why you don't know this? Because its such a pain in the ass to use that no one other than some dorks trying to look like ultra-geeks and raving tinfoil-hat butters.

99.999% of the people in the world just DON'T GIVE A SHIT. They certainly aren't going to put effort into some kludgy half ass system that adds no actual security due to its completely impractical implementation.

And for all those people using it ... when I want your data ... I'l just start beating the ever living fuck out of you with a pipe wrench rather than trying to decrypt it. I promise you that you'll turn your keys over fairly quickly.

Re:Self signed certs (2)

PPH (736903) | about 9 months ago | (#44380675)

And for all those people using it ... when I want your data ... I'l just start beating the ever living fuck out of you with a pipe wrench rather than trying to decrypt it. I promise you that you'll turn your keys over fairly quickly.

But that interferes with the NSA's desire to conduct covert surveillance. When I've been beaten for my keys, I'll know something's up.

The NSA isn't interested in catching terrorists or criminals. In this case, obtain a warrant (or beat them for their keys) while you hold them on suspicion. Decrypt the stored message traffic and you've got your evidence. When you are conducting ongoing political or economic espionage, you need your target to continue business as usual after breaking their secure communications.

Re:Self signed certs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380883)

Wow, second rant against PGP/gpg. As stated by another AC, there is doing security right, and doing security cheap/easy.

A web of trust (which CAs can easily fit into) that doesn't just blanket trust/distrust a signer is a lot more secure than the SSL system we have now. All it takes is one of the hundreds of keys that get shoved in our browsers' root certs store, and virtually any site on the Net can be spoofed.

Yep, rubber hose decryption... but you didn't link to the XKCD comic, so partial credit. Yes, rubber hoses work, but it is a lot more expensive to kidnap and administrator a systematic LART-ing than to passively hack one CA and own hundreds of thousands of sites.

I'm not sure what your beef is against PGP, but PGP is a lot more secure. It is just people rather have a point/drool lock icon than actually checking to see how valid other people consider a key would be.

Re:Self signed certs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44381689)

What's wrong with you, man? Just trolling around or uncontrollable anger issues?

You don't even know what you're talking about...

Re:Self signed certs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44381797)

Don't bring a wrench to a gun fight, idiot.

Re:Self signed certs (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 9 months ago | (#44380367)

Uhm, self-signed certs are absolutely no help at all.

The signing happens on the PUBLIC key, not the private. They can still give their private key to the NSA, who can use it regardless of who signed the public key.

They have the private key, so your self-signed cert will still validate it as legit. It IS the key they claimed they had ... they just also gave it to some else.

Re:Self signed certs (1)

jonathanjespersen (1162397) | about 9 months ago | (#44381425)

The signing happens on the PUBLIC key, not the private. They can still give their private key to the NSA, who can use it regardless of who signed the public key.

The public key of the certificate is signed by the private key of the CA. In a self-signed scenario, I own the private key of the CA and I own the private key of the certificate. I'd have to give one of those up to make your scenario work.

Re:Self signed certs (3, Informative)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about 9 months ago | (#44381047)

Common misconception - certificate authorities do not have private keys. Your private key never leaves your own computers. That's why the NSA would have to force companies to cough them up (or steal them).

Also, for normal SSL having the private key lets you passively eavesdrop and decrypt. For souped up SSL with forward secrecy it doesn't, it only lets you MITM the connections, which results in the server and client having a different view of things - that's detectable, whereas a leaked SSL key isn't.

Forward secret SSL is new, and not that easy to do. At the end of 2011 Google employees did the necessary upgrades to OpenSSL [blogspot.ch], but most other sites haven't deployed it (yet). Enabling forward secret SSL is the best and easiest step forward to beat the NSA/GCHQ right now, because if they HAVE obtained your private key, it forces them to start actively intercepting connections which is expensive and detectable.

Re:Self signed certs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44381443)

Why trust third parties with security anyway? Why couldn't we just build it into the servers and clients?

e.g. a web browser and web server each generate their own private and public keys. When a web browser wants to talk to a web server, they simply exchange public keys.

Obligatory XKCD quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380099)

https://xkcd.com/538/

nuke those fuckers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380141)

god dammit, i pray to heaven that terrorists or anyone will nuke those sorry fuckers.

Best available advice? (1)

philipmather (864521) | about 9 months ago | (#44380165)

I imagine this has crossed (or should have) the minds of a few people here, is there any "credible" advice about the theoretical process and the best/least-worst practical actions to take if you're approached by your friendly local domestic intelligence agency and told to pony up your company's private keys (for example) along with the explicit instructions not to inform anyone else, ever? For the record I'd like to declare that I've never been in that or any similar position.

Re:Best available advice? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 9 months ago | (#44380453)

Tell them to fuck off.

If everyone does it, we win.

Word of advice: Not everyone will have the courage to do it, and thats why we'll lose.

Re:Best available advice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380933)

Without a court order, no part of the government has the authority to tell you that you're not allowed to inform anyone. If they tell you not to, and then you disobey them, and then they attack you in the courts, you will eventually win in court. (There are the usual problems with people not being able to afford to fight, but that's a bug in the court system, not specifically relevant to this situation.)

If we assume they're using legit gag orders, then you can fight that with canaries, but you need to have your canary set up before you know there is a problem, so that everyone knows to watch it.

Re:Best available advice? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 9 months ago | (#44381311)

I would imagine:
https://startpage.com/eng/press/pr-pfs.html [startpage.com] seems to be a hint.
..."a different "per-session" key for each data transfer"
Get creative with the tech your site offers more often and keep up with ideas about how "historical traffic" can be used later.
Keep users pw safe from easy social engineering, or outdated weak security that even the tech press can hack in weeks on pro/consumer hardware.
When the court order comes, be ready with a legal team.
In theory you might just see a new server for a few years and get to make notes about how to run it/who to call if the lights change :)
Keep your staff away from that, never talk about it and your fine.
No US defence lawyer will ever have US court standing to ask about 'methods' again so its all fine.

Clipper and TIA, echoes of the past (4, Interesting)

bsandersen (835481) | about 9 months ago | (#44380185)

It seems bad ideas never die; they just get recycled. The US Government fighting encryption in the 1990's offered "key escrow" (where the Government had a backdoor into the encryption "just in case") as a way to allow citizens and business to protect their data and secure their privacy while allowing law enforcement a chance to use these transactions should it become necessary. It was wildly unpopular and eventually the idea was shelved. Now the government just comes and demands your keys.

Total Information Awareness, championed by Admiral John Poindexter, former United States National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan, a one time felon over Iran-Contra (overturned on appeal), wanted to do much of what the NSA is doing today. When the details of TIA became public there was an outrage and the plans for it had to be scrapped. Or were they?

The point is this: the public (voters) say "no" to these things... and they just sneak around our backs and do it anyway. Saying "no" once is not sufficient. If, as a citizen, voter, and patriot you believe that these ideas are bad you need to say "no" repeatedly, early, and often. Once whole bureaucracies are constructed to serve a bad aim it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to stop them.

As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." With all due respect to Justice Brandeis, if some of these bad ideas do survive, though, it might be more because of public exhaustion than of public acceptance. Or, more simply, perhaps once a secret bureaucracy gets big enough in the darkness there is no way to kill it once it comes into the light. Even sunlight has its limits.

Re:Clipper and TIA, echoes of the past (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380821)

If, as a citizen, voter, and patriot you believe that these ideas are bad you need to say "no" repeatedly, early, and often.

Eventually you have to stop simply saying "no" and do something about it.

I am NOT advocating taking up arms, but there comes a threshold where your government is crapping all over your citizenry that you are left with few other choices.

If the terrorists goal was to screw up our way of life and make us constantly look over our shoulders, they've certainly accomplished that and more.

Forward Secrecy (4, Informative)

Agent ME (1411269) | about 9 months ago | (#44380195)

The good news is that if the web servers use forward secrecy in the SSL encryption ( https://community.qualys.com/blogs/securitylabs/2013/06/25/ssl-labs-deploying-forward-secrecy [qualys.com] ), then an attacker who has the private key is not able to decrypt a connection he has passively eavesdropped on. An active man-in-the-middle attack is required in order to listen in on the connection.

Re:Forward Secrecy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380271)

The problem is that this is not the default setting for web servers.

Re:Forward Secrecy (1)

Agent ME (1411269) | about 9 months ago | (#44380487)

nginx seems to default to this at least on my servers. No idea about Apache. Most of the documentation I've seen barely ever mentions forward secrecy. This needs some work.

Re:Forward Secrecy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44381229)

apache 2.2 with mod_ssl has DHE ciphers. 2.4 also has ECDHE ciphers. They should be on by default. I understand that for nginx the situation is similar.

But by default the order of the ciphers in the client decides which cipher is being used, and of the top browsers only those using NSS (firefox, chrome) have ciphers at the start of the list that have have PFS.

If you are concerned about other browsers, you should explicitly order the ciphers in your web server, and tell it to use that order.

1 user, 1 key (1)

woboyle (1044168) | about 9 months ago | (#44380203)

This is why such services that let users store data in their "cloud" should enable user-specific encryption keys - the user's public key encrypts the data, and ONLY the user's private key can decrypt it. Then if "authorities" want access to the data, they would have to ask each and every user for their key. Sure, as in I'm convinced I would do that!

Re:1 user, 1 key (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#44380993)

This is why such services that let users store data in their "cloud" should enable user-specific encryption keys

Or simply not get used.

This has always been a very real risk with "the cloud", your data is not under your control.

I can imagine that a lot of companies are looking at their usage of cloud computing and re-evaluating the risks. If the entities involved can be forced by the NSA to hand over your data, those companies aren't trustworthy, because they aren't the ones you need to worry about trusting.

1983 (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 9 months ago | (#44380243)

Is there any external mathematical difference between "we need to spy on terrorists" and "we are going to spy on political opponents"? How could we tell?

- "Trust us" is used in both situations.
- "We have processes in place" is claimed in both cases.
- Alarms don't go off if an agent listens in on a call without a warrant. See first two points?

I suppose we should rely on historical experience of how governments operate. Oh oh.

What I wish, and what is reality. (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#44380259)

What I wish....
FED, "Give us your encryption keys"
CORP: "EAD, DIAF!"

Reality....
FED: "Give us your encryption keys"
CORP: "Why?"
FED: "To fight terrorisim, you are not harboring terrorists are you?"
CORP:" Here's the keys, would you also like the keys to the bathrooms and the filing cabinets?"

Re:What I wish, and what is reality. (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 9 months ago | (#44381213)

What I wish....
FED, "Give us your encryption keys"
CORP: "EAD, DIAF!"

I have a dream...
CORP:(A)EAD, ECDH!

Master key == FAIL (3, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | about 9 months ago | (#44380263)

If you are relying on a service with a master key for security, you have no security. This is true regardless of whether the government has access to those keys.

Re:Master key == FAIL (1)

Shados (741919) | about 9 months ago | (#44380365)

You do know that by "master key" they just mean the private secret for certificates right?

Re:Master key == FAIL (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 9 months ago | (#44380745)

If you are relying on a service with a master key for security, you have no security. This is true regardless of whether the government has access to those keys.

well it was known.. this is why you have signing authorities.. they're supposed to be companies you could trust to not give the keys around so you could trust that someone checked that the certificate is legit. unfortunately you'll have to redesign the whole chain of trust thinking now - the upside is that they were getting all the mail they wanted from these companies already, the downside is that now they no longer have to bother those companies with it. however - and here's a big however for the companies, the companies will no longer get to bill for those taps either so maybe they'll come up with some extra security layer.

Re:Master key == FAIL (1)

Noway2 (942022) | about 9 months ago | (#44380793)

This is why I run my own email server and I use my own CA and certificates instead of relying upon a "trusted" 3rd party. The problem I see is, to what extent do you trust your service provider? Do you trust them to not hand everything over to the NSA or any other agency that claims authority? Unfortunately, as companies like Hushmail have show, even their stated privacy policies aren't enough. Interestingly, it seems that the response and possibly the answer lie in going peer to peer, via applications like Tor (which is still based upon a set of master keys that must be trusted), YaCy for searching, online purchasing with bit coins, as well as foreign based VPN services that at least add a layer of obscurity between you and a potential eavesdropper.

Time to replace the HTTP protocol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380841)

Instead of using HTTP for both authentication and key exchange, I suggest it be used ONLY for authentication. After authenticated, then a random PKI keys be generated by the client, and the public key for that be sent to the server.

When the session ends, both public and private keys be dropped by the client.

For the NSA it would make access to the private keys impossible.

Re:Time to replace the HTTP protocol (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 9 months ago | (#44381599)

Keys are expensive to generate. It would kill any server to have to create new one for each session.

Is this really escalation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380845)

These demands for master encryption keys, which have not been disclosed previously, represent a technological escalation...

Relative to the status quo many years ago, of course, I agree. Relative to the last couple months of news, no, it is not. Think of it as a "Man in the .. uh .. at the Endpoint attack." This isn't any different than NSA's demands of getting the decrypted plaintext from various services. Of course it's bad and there's no reason our government should be doing it, but: at least one of the two parties in the conversation knows about it. This is extremely different than the risks that come about when people speak plaintext on the Internet, where no party in a conversation knows what has been passively intercepted without leaving behind any evidence of their crime.

Apple, Yahoo, AOL, Verizon, AT&T, Opera Software's Fastmail.fm, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast declined to respond to queries about whether they would divulge encryption keys to government agencies.

That said, the above parties which are basically admitting guilt, should be prosecuted for fraud if their sites or proprietary services contain any sort of statement that it's "secure" due to the encryption, since they definitively know that by giving away their keys, the communications were not "secure" by any reasonable definition of that word. They knew for sure (without any doubts; it's not even a question of reasonably small risks) that the plaintext could be recovered by eavesdroppers. It would please me if the above organizations' equity were completely wiped out by punitive fines for their knowledgable participation in premeditated fraud.

Gotta love this part (1)

sasparillascott (1267058) | about 9 months ago | (#44380867)

""Strongly encrypted data are virtually unreadable," NSA director Keith Alexander told (PDF) the Senate earlier this year." Hmmnnn, should I trust what the Emperor of the NSA, who has directly lied under oath numerous times, is saying? I have no doubt that if the companies don't provide those master keys (seems many if not all of the big ones won't do this), this intelligence empire would just obtain them illegally via direct attacks and/or people on the inside of these organizations.

"Master" keys? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44380949)

Forgive my naivete, but how can there be a "master" encryption key that decrypts everything? If such a thing existed, there would be no point in encrypting anything.

I thought the whole point of hashing encryption algorithms was that there could be no such thing as a "master" key.

Re:"Master" keys? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 9 months ago | (#44381129)

The same master key would be used as the 1/2 of your visit to a site 'everytime'.
So with the key, your hidden urls would turn back to plain text months, years later via a stored server/logs.
The way around that seems some form of "per-session" key.
ie decrypting each separate search or use vs a key for all historical traffic via a court order for the key - even for an unrelated user :)

Brits: Any odds that GCHQ are doing this too? (1)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | about 9 months ago | (#44381083)

..no takers on THAT bet....too much like a sure thing.. BT (our biggest ISP and our biggest telecoms company) regularly spreads its legs for the government, so I would bet BT handed the keys over at the first hint.. So now anyone in gorvernment who doesn't like your face can make your bank accounts say whatever they want. We're all doomed.

The US government = the REAL terrorist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44381271)

All the other so-called terrorists are pretenders.

Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are heroes. I salute their
courage.

Did Snowden steal the keys? (1)

Error27 (100234) | about 9 months ago | (#44381331)

It would explain a lot.

Re:Did Snowden steal the keys? (1)

Error27 (100234) | about 9 months ago | (#44381363)

Also they are presumably using the keys to store passwords for later.

So probably Snowden has hundreds of SSL private keys and millions of passwords and account details.

Are CA's exempt? (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 9 months ago | (#44381559)

Can the FBI or a spooktacular TLA simply request a US based CA hand over private keys used to generate an intermediate signing key?

  If not why? Is the CA's "private key" not a "tangable thing" and I could imagine it would be quite helpful to a great number of "authorized investigations".

Planet scale trust anchors are an oxymoron anyway I suppose.

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