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John Gilmore Analyzes NSA Obstruction of Crypto In IPSEC

timothy posted about a year ago | from the many-fingers-many-pots dept.

Communications 362

New submitter anwyn writes "In a recent article posted on the cryptography mailing list, long time civil libertarian and free software entrepreneur John Gilmore has analyzed possible NSA obstruction of cryptography in IPSEC. He suggests that packet processing in the Linux kernel had been obstructed by one kernel developer. Gilmore suggests that the NSA has been plotting against strong cryptography on mobile phones."

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Colour me not surprised (1)

BeerCat (685972) | about a year ago | (#44785039)

Given the recent hoo-ha with the NSA listening in, and then also admitting that (along with GCHQ) they have "broken" most commonly used encryption, it looks as though the "don't use anything that we can't either backdoor or crack" is, if not NSA itself, certainly from one of their supporters.

Re:Colour me not surprised (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785089)

"one kernel developer"

Names please? And was it really only one - or one do the actual blocking and the rest kept silent as they were instructed? Seriously we need more whistlblowers, it is an urgent social obligation at this point. People stepping forward with this kind of analysis and stories - have *you* been pressured or blocked when trying to imrpove security? Otherwise how are we the engineers ever "going to take back" the Internet?

Re:Colour me not surprised (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785123)

If you call yourself an engineer and can't figure out who _could_ be you should think about burger flipping.

Re:Colour me not surprised (3, Interesting)

Artifakt (700173) | about a year ago | (#44785327)

Given the NSA budget, and how much additional they could be getting through Black Box projects we don't even know about, they can afford to recruit some really top notch people. Like, say, an Air Force Chief Warrant officer with an existing Top Secret clearance, a bunch of tech skills and a flawless 12 year history (we could go 20, but lets keep our hypothetical spy young enough to blend in with mid-level tech managment), pay for a couple of years full time training on just the things they want, pay them a salary competitive with a small corp CEOs, and put 10 existing people on falsifying a tremendous amount of background info for the few weeks hat would take. I'm not saying they did that here, but they have the resources if it's that high a priority to them.
            Seriously, the way to get a real life James Bond is to find somebody who looks fairly close in the Navy Seals or MI6, a Blackwater style contractor or whatever, somebody who seems highly motivated by the cause you want to employ them at, do additional background checks before you even approach the candidate, and if he or she checks out, then throw lots of money at retooling them into an Uber-agent. If you don't need combat skills, some of the best agents for business infiltration are prosecuting attorneys or accountants who have made a go at starting or running some business of their own. You can figure from this what sort would be attractive to the NSA for infiltrating a software business.
            The A.C. you responded to is admittedly not coming off as the sort of person who could spot even a basic mole (hint: there's never a bunch of other people instructed to keep silent, or even a few. At most, one person well above the spy in the civilian organization knows that it was strongly hinted he should hire this person and not ask too many questions.).
            If you mean that anybody competent to do software engineering should be able to put together a proper list of who has the physical access needed to put back doors in properly secured development code, then you may be correct. It's a reach, though, to think an engineering degree or even years of good work in the field qualifies a person to narrow that list down.
             

Re:Colour me not surprised (5, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44785139)

Well with this guy all but naming nanes, perhaps it's time to name names.

There was a call recently for those who put back doors in critical code, to come forward and speak up.
While some may put themselves at seriously legal risk for doing so you wouldn't expect to see such risk in open source projects.

We could then review their work very carefully.

Should we look more closely at SELinux? Are we prepared to find which of our heros have been in the NSA's pocket?

Re:Colour me not surprised (4, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year ago | (#44785373)

Hans Reiser. ;-)

Re:Colour me not surprised (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44785559)

Hans across the water (water)
Heads across the sky...

Re:Colour me not surprised (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44785601)

Hans Reiser. ;-)

Hey, he was asking for name naming, not for name calling. ;-)

WE HAVE MET THE NME AND THEY ARE NSA (4, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year ago | (#44785367)

WE can cause them to completely fail. How? Make this like SETI, or the RC4 competition, in reverse!

They find needles in haystacks. Our job is MORE, BIGGER HAYSTACKS!

Create more crypto-garbage for them to sift. Expensive to crack and useless, when decrypted. Start by upgrading to Tor 2.4, and running a non-exit-node relay.

Add your own ideas. We can chaff the net with more problems than they can manage, even with their stadiums full of Xeons!

USA! USA! USA! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785049)

Thank you for holding the world back.

Re:USA! USA! USA! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785127)

the usa is not the only country with a surveillance program. The NSA is supposed to spy on foreign countries. Just about every modern country has their equivalents which I'm sure monitor the USA too. The controversy is that NSA was spying on americans too, which it's not supposed to do.

Re:USA! USA! USA! (2, Interesting)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#44785151)

Either the other countries don't (then the NSA is the big bully), or the other countries are much better at not getting caught (then the NSA is the idiot).

Your choice: big bully or idiot.

Re:USA! USA! USA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785329)

+1 for idiots

Babbage's engines and Colossus were British.

AES was developed in Belgium.

So, the other guys are likely just more subtle.

Re:USA! USA! USA! (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about a year ago | (#44785349)

Either the other countries don't (then the NSA is the big bully), or the other countries are much better at not getting caught (then the NSA is the idiot).

Or other countries do, but not to the extent that the NSA does, so nobody's been as motivated as Edward Snowden to leak the information or look for ways in which those other countries' equivalents might have affected things (which amounts to "NSA is the big bully, some other countries have their own bullies but they're not as big as the NSA").

One person claims that the A5 encryption algorithm for GSM wasn't as strong as the Germans thought it should be [google.com] ; if true, it doesn't explicitly indicate which countries objected to the stronger encryption (it speaks of it being a French algorithm, but that doesn't ipso facto mean that the French spearheaded that).

Re:USA! USA! USA! (2)

Guy Harris (3803) | about a year ago | (#44785365)

Or other countries do

E.g. the UK (GCHQ). Not as big a bully as the NSA, but....

Re:USA! USA! USA! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785531)

Maybe we in the USA are the only ones conscious of these egregious violations of the American ideal and tradition of open and accountable government?

For many other nations this may be "government as usual", so no big deal.

Not to be "holier than thou", but to be concerned by our failure to adhere to our own standard.

Re:USA! USA! USA! (4, Interesting)

Guy Harris (3803) | about a year ago | (#44785613)

Maybe we in the USA are the only ones conscious of these egregious violations of the American ideal and tradition of open and accountable government?

Or maybe we're not. [spiegel.de] (Perhaps, in that case, more like the German ideal of open and accountable government, due to somewhat recent memories of other traditions.)

Re:USA! USA! USA! (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785461)

I know it's difficult sometimes, but if you had read the comment before you tried to justify the USA's wrongdoing by pointing out other nations' potential wrongdoing, you would have recognized that my indignation wasn't so much about the spying but about the fucking sabotage. We're without a practical ubiquitous network encryption solution because the NSA would have had to work harder, so they made sure it wasn't created. The USA intentionally and actively made the internet less safe to make their spying easier. If you can come up with information that other countries have actively sabotaged standards committees to make the job easier for their spying operations, do come forward, but it's still not right for the USA to have done this.

Re:USA! USA! USA! (-1, Flamebait)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44785585)

...it's still not right for the USA to have done this.

Within the context of war and empire, I'm afraid it is the right thing to do. If you don't stay on the offensive, you will perish in this environment. Thems is jus' simple facts.

Re:USA! USA! USA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785783)

Are you saying circumstances and other nations make the US do bad things? That's exactly the same as when I tell my wife "Don't make me hit you.".

Re:USA! USA! USA! (0)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about a year ago | (#44785787)

You're a fucking moron. Please mod this guy off /.

After reading TFA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785055)

Because the kernel maintainer didn't use his code, the NSA must have been out to get him and destroy strong crypto.

Re:After reading TFA... (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#44785351)

BS. In line with ACs having nothing worthwhile to say...

strong cryptography on mobile phones (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44785067)

Shit, the FBI and NSA, et al put the kibosh on that before the damn things hit the streets. Instead they made a law that prohibits the sale of full spectrum scanners to the public, like was supposed to make them secure...

Re:strong cryptography on mobile phones (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785103)

Instead they made a law that prohibits the sale of full spectrum scanners to the public

Is that to outlaw bug sweepers and counterintelligence in general?

Re:strong cryptography on mobile phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785743)

Usually because of good intentioned anti-eavesdropping laws that as a side-effect restrict the ethical uses of the same technology.

Re: strong cryptography on mobile phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785369)

They are keeping us safe by keeping all the data insecure? If the pentagon couldn't keep their top-secret database of military secrets safe from Chinese hackers, what makes the NSA think that they can keep a database theoretically connected to every digital device in the world safe? Nazi America is SO screwed. Third-world by 2016.

Re: strong cryptography on mobile phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785767)

Nazi America is SO screwed. Third-world by 2016.

The U.S. is, by definition, a first-world [wikipedia.org] nation.

Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurately (5, Interesting)

EnergyScholar (801915) | about a year ago | (#44785115)

It seems pretty clear that John Gilmore has clearly identified what's going on. He spotted many instances of NSA-directed sabotage,and has called it out.

Of the multiple examples John calls out, the most poignant is probably the needlessly complicated IPSEC standards. Overly complicated standards lead to bugs and flaws. He and Bruce Schneier describe a process that certainly sounds like NSA sabotage of security standards.

What should be the upshot of this? Perhaps people involved in security research should recognize that [b]anyone affiliated with NSA is a likely saboteur[/b]? Is such sabotage, which deliberately cripples the security of USA electronic infrastructure, a form of treason? Since this sort of deliberate sabotage of technology is the sort of thing terrorists might do, perhaps the NSA, and every person associated with that organization, should be placed on a Terrorist Watch List?

In all seriousness, how should the technical and geek community deal with this sort of sabotage? Is it sufficient to respond,or is proactive behavior called for? What would Sun Tzu have to say about this situation?

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (0, Troll)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44785145)

So, let us know when Mr. Gilmore drives off a cliff some night.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785209)

The current tactic is turning your car into an inferno [startpage.com] - less evidence that way, makes the cliff optional.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785153)

Unfortunately Sun Tzu would've said something in Japanese and I don't speak Japanese, so that wouldn't help at all.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785171)

Unfortunately Sun Tzu would've said something in Japanese and I don't speak Japanese, so that wouldn't help at all.

What about Chinese, you speak that?

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (5, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#44785157)

"In all seriousness, how should the technical and geek community deal with this sort of sabotage?"

Identify who is doing the sabotaging and shun them. Professionally shun them. Expel such people from committees.

--
BMO

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (4, Insightful)

EnergyScholar (801915) | about a year ago | (#44785173)

This! Yes! I was hoping someone would say this. Yes, this is [part of] what needs to happen.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (0)

EnergyScholar (801915) | about a year ago | (#44785187)

NSA sockpuppets just modded this comment chain DOWN. I watched it go up, then back down. Actually, I'm only guessing the down-modders were NSA sockpuppets, but can you think of anyone else who would do so?

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (5, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#44785213)

The great thing about this is that you wind up kicking out the incompetents simultaneously.

Someone who is shit at maintaining a security module? NSA hack or incompetent, doesn't matter. Find someone else to do it.

--
BMO

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785251)

"In all seriousness, how should the technical and geek community deal with this sort of sabotage?"

Identify who is doing the sabotaging and shun them. Professionally shun them. Expel such people from committees.

--
BMO

Seems like another witch hunt to me. Good ol' McCarthy would have been proud.
Instead of searching for culprits, get the community to examine the compromised code and improve it.
If you think the whole community is in the hands of the NSA then we've already lost.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (4, Insightful)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | about a year ago | (#44785449)

Seems like another witch hunt to me. Good ol' McCarthy would have been proud.
Instead of searching for culprits, get the community to examine the compromised code and improve it.
If you think the whole community is in the hands of the NSA then we've already lost.

You/we need to do both. Fixing the compromised code without finding and removing the culprit(s) is a short term solution at best. The unknown culprit would be free to compromise other code repeatedly, unless they are outed to the community at large.

For a permanent solution, the mole MUST be found.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785341)

Beware the eyes and minds of OSS! Set loose the Penguins! And be Devilish quick about it!

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785161)

Stop the US from accessing those repositories.

What would Sun Tzu say about this situation (4, Insightful)

MRe_nl (306212) | about a year ago | (#44785167)

Read all (4 pages) of chapter 13 basically, but in this case perhaps specifically;

"Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain intuitive sagacity. Before using spies we must assure ourselves as to their integrity of character and the extent of their experience and skill."

"Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make certain of the truth of their reports."

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (2)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about a year ago | (#44785169)

I do not know how we the geek community should respond, but NSA is defiantly is using the following Sun Tzu tactic to destroy any coherent and effective security standard - worldwide (which is the amazing part - how do all the non US security professionals and their respective countries sign themselves up to a NSA destroyed security standard?):

"Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate."

Sun Tzu

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785869)

(which is the amazing part - how do all the non US security professionals and their respective countries sign themselves up to a NSA destroyed security standard?):

Because (a part of) the standards comittee meetings are kept in the USA. And even EU citizens need a de-facto visa (issued under the highly irocnically named "visa vaiver" programme) to enter the USA. If you read recent NSA statements about whom they may and may not spy on, a "foreinger" has a bit less rights than a "human". Add this all up, and traveling in and out of USA might not be the nicest experience after you vocally accuse some delegates of being agent saboteurs.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44785231)

Or, is John Gilmore actually doing exactly what the NSA wants? Are there a bunch of other "contributors" whose code was rejected, who actually work for the NSA and are trying to slip their own backdoor updates into the codebase?

I can easily see the NSA playing both sides of this. In fact, I can't NOT see them playing both sides of this.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (2)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#44785823)

You might want to click the wikipedia link in the fine summary.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785265)

NSA-directed sabotage ... the needlessly complicated IPSEC standards.

First of all, this is a substantial claim that requires substantial evidence. You may think standards are "needlessly complicated", but each of those complexities had a use-case behind it and was discussed among experts who concluded it's a good idea to do it that way. I don't deny NSA can subtly influence the standardization process, but surely it can't be all a grand conspiracy to make standards useless, I much rather believe the issue they are dealing with is very complex and lacking sufficient geniuses the standardization group created a complex solution, with or without NSA's assistance.

Secondly, this sounds too much of an 80's cipherpunk wet dream, "if only everything was encrypted... but the government won't let us". Practical encryption is a very hard problem. Key distribution is hard. Interoperable, secure and non-patented implementations are hard. It's not simply about flipping a switch, changing a standard and everything is all of a sudden encrypted with 1 gazillion bit encryption; secure communication requires significant changes up and including the user's level who must change his behavior. And IPSEC with all it's complexity does very little to address those far reaching problems.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (3, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#44785385)

Indeed. IPsec is a terrible, terrible mess. I always wondered how the IETF could mess up so badly when doing reasonable work otherwise. Now I know, intentional sabotage of critical infrastructure by the NSA is to blame.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44785411)

I think most useful to the public would be a list of what security standards and methods are presently believed to be most secure and those known to be insecure and/or backdoored.

Re:Sounds like John Gilmore has called it accurate (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785735)

Honestly, after having dealt with these standards committees. I wouldn't say these acts of "sabotage" are the NSA trying to weaken security.

Null algorithms help alot with validating security protocols and should be disabled in actual use. TLS supports NULL crypto, but it should never be allowed in production systems.

Weaker algorithms have been used in committees for many reasons. Usually it is either a vendor has low end equipment and they want to claim support of a protocol, or to encourage adoption of a protocol or use case earlier.

I've seen big name companies not related with the NSA do more to damage security or add complexity to problems more than an official from any government agency(US or foreign). I had a protocol I was working on explode in complexity because Microsoft, IBM and Cisco wanted to minimize the differences between their home brewed implementations and the standard I was working on creating. This made the protocol go from something reasonable to something that took me months to develop a reference implementation since there were soo many edge cases now.

Reference: I worked with the IETF for years.

Here's a constructive idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785119)

Encryption is one thing, but I suppose one of the principal spying techniques at the diverse intelligence agencies' disposal is the SSL MITM. We must assume the private signing keys of the CAs are also held by government authorities so they can spoof any website.

Here's the idea: have the web browser display the flag of the CA's jurisdiction. So if you can see, say, the Chinese flag next to the URL, you can be reasonably certain the NSA isn't listening in (although the Chinese authorities might).

Re: Here's a constructive idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785269)

Better yet, make the browser yell when the ca changed for the site within the expiry period. Or make it yell even then (how many sites changes ca when issuing a new cert anyway).

Re: Here's a constructive idea (2)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | about a year ago | (#44785509)

(how many sites changes ca when issuing a new cert anyway).

Google's done it. Pretty sure there are plenty of Diginotar and Comodo customers who've done it, too.

Re: Here's a constructive idea (5, Interesting)

fast turtle (1118037) | about a year ago | (#44785629)

Even better is to change the behaviour to a "No Trust" model as I have and add exceptions for those sites you actually need. Remember the Diginotar mess? Since then, I've changed the trust of all Certificates by marking all of the Root CA's as untrusted. Sometimes it does create a bit of an issue since Firefox tends to be resistent to adding the needed exceptions but considering that I only have a couple of dozen exceptions out of how many certificates? I don't feel it's as big of an problem as folks think to add them. The main advantage is, none of the god damn advertisers or other idiots forcing https connections can infect my system by default as I get a warning about an invalid certificate chain as soon as the connection is made and yes, I've seen that in regards to some of the advertisers and other folks that I don't need to connect to.

Re:Here's a constructive idea (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44785773)

well if the signing authority is from usa then they most certainly have them.. all they need is to ask the kangaroo court to give them a paper saying that the company must either give them or die. this wasn't news though.

OpenVPN (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785129)

because openvpn !

Re:OpenVPN (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785505)

The problem is, that openVPN is also backdoored.

Re:OpenVPN (3, Insightful)

Alain Williams (2972) | about a year ago | (#44785849)

The problem is, that openVPN is also backdoored.

Please supply us with some evidence or a link to something to support your assertion.

Re:OpenVPN (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#44785513)

Yeah, I was wondering about this. It's SSL-based, which might be an issue if the NSA can actually break the encryption; but it is in line with Schneier's advice to use standard, interoperable protocols. And the source code is available, so one would assume any attempts to back door the actual code base would get caught.

OpenVPN available cross platform - there's even a free iOS app (which works well if you have the know-how to configure .ovpn packages). And setting up a server is straightforward.

From Yesterday. (5, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#44785143)

This post needs repeating.

+=+begin paste+=+

The destruction of trust (Score:5, Insightful)
by Arrogant-Bastard (141720) on 7:08 Friday 06 September 2013 (#44773249)

The worst part of the damage done by this isn't technical. It's human.

The reporting on this latest disclosure reveals that the NSA has systematically inserted itself into the standard-crafting process, in order to deliberately weaken those standards. It also reveals that the NSA has bypassed the management of communications providers and recruited technical staff directly. In both cases it's reasonable to assume that the people involved have been through a security clearance process and are thus barred for life from disclosing what they know.

I must now ask myself how many people I've worked with weren't doing so in good faith. When they argued that such-and-such a fine point of a network protocol standard didn't need improvement or that it should be changed in a certain way, were they doing so because it was their principled engineering opinion, or because it served some other purpose? Or when they were recommending that one of the many operations I've run move its colocation point or change its router hardware, was that good customer service, or was it to facilitate easier traffic capture?

Will anyone be asking themselves the same questions about me? (They probably should.)

The Internet was built on, and runs on, trust. Every postmaster, every network engineer, every webmaster, every system admin, every hostmaster, everyone crafting standards, everyone writing code, trusts that everyone else -- no matter how vehemently they disagree on a technical point -- is acting in good faith. The NSA, in its enormous arrogance, has single-handedly destroyed much of that trust overnight.

+=+end paste+=+

--
BMO

Re:From Yesterday. (1)

theNAM666 (179776) | about a year ago | (#44785207)

Mod parent up. Please link to original if possible. Thanks.

Re:From Yesterday. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785291)

The NSA, in its enormous arrogance, has single-handedly destroyed much of that trust overnight.

Actually, it's Edward Snowden who is responsible for the "single-handedly" and "overnight" aspects of destroying that trust. The NSA is only responsible for "enormous arrogance". There were a large number of hands involved over decades.

It's a bloody shame that it took so long for even a single person to leak what was cooking here for so long. SS and Gestapo could not rely on a remotely comparable quota of people willing to drive the constitution into the ground.

That gives a rather bland perspective for the hope to curb the Fourth Reich by democratic means and put a stop to the stellar rise of U.S. fascism. Neither congress nor president seem to have what it takes to bring the CIA, FBI and NSA back under democratic control.

After Edgar Hoover established the FBI as the ultimate power of the U.S.A. by collecting files on everybody who could possibly endanger its autocratic rule over the U.S.A., congress decided that no FBI director might reign for longer than 10 years in future to avoid amassing that amount of power again.

Incumbent Robert Mueller is Führer of the FBI for 12 years already. Looks like everybody was so infatuated with his efficiency that nobody wanted to be the one to tell him his terms were over and bear his disappointment.

And nobody will want to tell the NSA that their funding will be restricted to constitutional activities and bear their disappointment.

Re:From Yesterday. (5, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#44785561)

Actually, it's Edward Snowden who is responsible for the "single-handedly" and "overnight" aspects of destroying that trust.

In the same sense that a person who gives evidence to a woman that her husband is a philandering axe murderer has destroyed that woman's trust in her husband.

Snowden merely provided thorough documentation that the trust was erroneously given - the other party was completely untrustworthy.

Re: From Yesterday. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785715)

How apt, that a 'kill the messenger' comment rears its head about Snowden.

Your beating a dead horse! Snowden was just one man who exposed betrayal by the US gov't against its own citizens. How many people are still working for the NSA who were doing exactly what Snowden was doing while at the NSA? You DO understand there are still American citizens betraying you at this very minute, don't you?

I figure not, since you're still stuck on blaming the latest messenger. Snowden dug his hole, and he'll suffer his own fate, but I sure as hell am more concerned with what the NSA is doing right now, and just how much further they will go, than a former US citizen stuck in Russia.

By all means though, continue your damnation of Snowden. You're surely to be in good company here with that sentiment.

Re:From Yesterday. (5, Interesting)

Tom (822) | about a year ago | (#44785313)

The Internet was built on, and runs on, trust.

And that's a fundamental flaw and a stupid mistake, as we learn again and again and again. Whether it's spam, the dominance and abuse of certain large players, the commercial takeover, or now the surveilance state.

Never built a relationship with parties you don't know personally on trust.

Never.

Ever.

Humans are inherently cooperative with peers, and competitive with everyone else. Your trust will be abused.

Bruce is right, but he misses the scope of the problem. If we want to take back the Internet, not just from the NSA, but also from Google, Facebook, the spammers, the scammers, the media industry and the corporate interest, we need to completely re-engineer it on a different fundamental concept.

One of self-interest.
One based on the assumption that the other side to a data exchange is hostile.
One assuming that intermediates can not be trusted.

90% of this Internets problems would be wiped out if we were to re-design it with an assumption of hostility.

That's hard to swallow for us geeks. Most of us have grown up in a hostile world we barely understand. With people bullying you at school, then exploiting you in the workplace, meanwhile egomanic idiots who are good at fooling people and nothing else take all the credit. So we have a deep desire for a more friendly world. Building that ourselves was a dream. It was incredibly cool while it lasted. Now it's time to wake up.

Re:From Yesterday. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785599)

Your trust will be abused.

That's solely the karmic problem of the abusers.

Re:From Yesterday. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785799)

90% of this Internets problems would be wiped out if we were to re-design it with an assumption of hostility.

To do that we would need to use a Nash style "fuck you buddy" game theory. And to tell you the truth i dont think anything would actually get built if we did it that way. We would just end up with a lot of cellular walled gardens. That is not really an internet, in fact i believe they want us to wall ourselves up. Much easier to be controlled by the state. We really want it to be as open and trusting and chaotic as possible. Despite the risks of opening yourself to abuse, it can always be corrected, when abuse is detected. Wikipedia articles are a fine example of this. Bad eggs can be easier smelt in the open.

Re:From Yesterday. (5, Insightful)

geogob (569250) | about a year ago | (#44785415)

Its worse than worse.... The NSA was, from what I understand, widely active in the crypto and data security scene. They have their hand on every committee. Their research in every development.

Up to now, I, and probably most of us, assumed good faith. That they were actively playing their role to reinforce security in data protocols an communications with critical application in mind (banking, national security, medical equipment, utilities, etc). Why else play such an active and visible role?

Now it seems there was an ugly monster hidden under this veil. That they used this assumed role to incorporate weaknesses and back doors at every imaginable level of data security. Not only is it an impressive breach of thrust, it is also in increadibly dangerous behaviour. They are basically giving their enemies the perfect tools to infiltrate the systems and protocols every one thought they were protecting.

If you ask me who's the traitor, Snowden is not the first that comes in mind...

Re:From Yesterday. (4, Interesting)

cpghost (719344) | about a year ago | (#44785539)

Now it seems there was an ugly monster hidden under this veil.

I'd rather say that the NSA is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They need strong codes for crucial US companies (and government agencies) to be widely adopted... and that's their good role. But they need to tap into the codes of the adversary, and that's their bad role. Due to the dual nature of their mission (to protect own codes, to crack foreign codes), and due to the fact that we've become a global village using the same codes, the NSA has developed some kind of dual-personality disorder, where it fights itself.

Re:From Yesterday. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785437)

This irony oozing from comment "The Internet was built on, and runs on, trust" being made in a discussion about cryptography is delicious.

Re:From Yesterday. (1)

Luyseyal (3154) | about a year ago | (#44785889)

The Internet *was* built on trust. It also happens to be the case that not all people on the Internet are to be trusted and thus cryptography is necessary.

As you may know, many core pieces of the Internet are moving from the trust-all model to more secure models. Routing protocols, DNS, email, you name it. It used to be the case that when you plugged in your ethernet cable, you had a reasonable expectation that your computer would be safe.

That's not the case anymore and our infrastructure will evolve accordingly.

-l

I don't feel insane anymore (5, Informative)

X.25 (255792) | about a year ago | (#44785163)

For many years, I just felt that something was wrong, and would do "silly things" (I was an admin, whoops) like setup VPN tunnel, then require everyone to use SSL and client certs to access a service. So people would laugh at usage of VPN + SSL (and then certs on top of it) and ridicule it.

Spent more than a decade trying to explain to *technical* people why self-signed certs are much more secure than 'commercial' certs, and I could never understand why people couldn't understand what I am saying. Well now I know, they simply couldn't beleive any government would do things we're seeing done.

Been laughed at quite few times, but I can tell you that noone is laughing right now.

And now I finally know that I am not a fucking lunatic.

Thank you Edward Snowden.

Re:I don't feel insane anymore (2)

jeti (105266) | about a year ago | (#44785271)

Just that they're out to get you doesn't mean your not paranoid.

Re:I don't feel insane anymore (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785307)

This has been going for years as ECHELON, you dunce. Hang around #cdc on efnet every once in a while, you'd know this.

#CLOT - Cabal of Logged Out Trolls

Re:I don't feel insane anymore (4, Informative)

ledow (319597) | about a year ago | (#44785749)

I always just assumed such things were good sense.

For years people fretted over WEP and then WPA being cracked. At no time was I affected. Sure, I bumped up my wireless to use the new systems, but all the time I was using OpenVPN and other software over the link anyway.

That thing broadcasts through the air - no way I'm trusting a single protocol, and once WEP was dead (and so badly), I certainly never trusted WPA that much either. When that was weakened, WPA2 looked shaky too. But I always had a second layer, and my usage of systems was never affected - there is basically zero overhead on a modern machine of having something like OpenVPN connect automatically over your wireless, even for gaming.

My servers run SSH2, sure, but the same again. I don't expose the ports and only certain things get access anyway. When you can get to an SSH port, you're looking at key-based authentication with passphrases (not made on the target machine). Bam, saved myself from a ton of port spam, plus all the Debian weak-key shite, plus the problem of my remote server being compromised someone and compromising keys that were generated on it.

It's a little paranoid, I have to admit, but when that slight paranoia - borne mainly of a desire to understand how these things work and then, when you have a working system, carrying it on throughout your use of that system - was justified, it becomes a reinforced habit.

And when you have things like VPN daemons running at lower privilege and the only escalation to root being through SSH2 keys over that VPN (and not any other way), then you have a double-protection against things.

Compromise of any one only gets you so far - a limited user account which can only SSH which a key you don't have, or authentication access to something which you can't VPN to anyway. It's not invincibility, but I assumed most of the Slashdot crowd would be doing similar things, just out of the same basic principle - experimentation, self-teaching, applying the same principles that we should to our work, and distrust (not of people like the NSA, but just that a protocol would eventually have a flaw discovered in it, and getting yourself twice the lifetime out of such systems).

It's also the reason I've never touched PPTP or IPSEC. Nothing to do with the NSA or GCHQ. I just never trusted their messes as one is now completely compromised and the other was always balancing on a knife-edge anyway.

Do people honestly NOT have this sort of double-layer protection? I mean, it won't stop GCHQ taking an interest in me, or asking my server host to butt in, but it stops things like simple compromises from ANY source walking straight into systems that they detect are running vulnerable software.

Remember the allegations of OpenBSD IPsec stack... (5, Interesting)

X.25 (255792) | about a year ago | (#44785189)

..."backdoor":

bsd.slashdot.org/story/10/12/15/004235/fbi-alleged-to-have-backdoored-openbsds-ipsec-stack

Many people laughed at this at the time.

Guess they're not laughing now.

Re: Remember the allegations of OpenBSD IPsec stac (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785293)

They went over the code with a very fine comb and found nothing. So that one seams to have been a false alarm.

Re:Remember the allegations of OpenBSD IPsec stack (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785379)

Remember/Find those who laughed and odds are high they are fbi/nsa/national security related agents doing their mastery at counter-intelligence to hide their foot prints.

Re:Remember the allegations of OpenBSD IPsec stack (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785487)

this guy seems to be intelligent and he made a couple good observations

https://yorkporc.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/premenos-and-cryptome/ [wordpress.com]

any other smart cookies here on slashdot care to chime in? bonus points if you are a crypto researcher

History of DES (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785193)

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2004/10/the_legacy_of_d.html

When IBM submitted DES as a standard, no one outside the National Security Agency had any expertise to analyze it. The NSA made two changes to DES: It tweaked the algorithm, and it cut the key size by more than half.

The NSA's changes caused outcry among the few who paid attention, both regarding the "invisible hand" of the NSA--the tweaks were not made public, and no rationale was given for the final design--and the short key length.

It took the academic community two decades to figure out that the NSA "tweaks" actually improved the security of DES.

Re:History of DES (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785221)

It took the academic community two decades to figure out that the NSA "tweaks" actually improved the security of DES.

From whose point of view?

Re: History of DES (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785305)

It was more secure against a type of attack that was not publically known at that time, think it was differiental attacks but I'm not sure.

Re:History of DES (3, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#44785335)

Just because the NSA toughened some standards in the 1970s doesn't mean they are good guys now. After all, many familiar with the inner workings of the agency have said that the mood there changed greatly after 9/11 to "privacy be damned", and the Snowden documents leaked the other day admit right now that the NSA has inserted backdoors into cryptosystems used by the general public.

Re:History of DES (2)

X.25 (255792) | about a year ago | (#44785635)

Just because the NSA toughened some standards in the 1970s doesn't mean they are good guys now. After all, many familiar with the inner workings of the agency have said that the mood there changed greatly after 9/11 to "privacy be damned", and the Snowden documents leaked the other day admit right now that the NSA has inserted backdoors into cryptosystems used by the general public.

They were "good guys"? People have short memories. NSA have been involved in this type of shit for a long time (in physical world).

http://cryptome.org/jya/nsa-sun.htm [cryptome.org]

Re:History of DES (5, Informative)

amorsen (7485) | about a year ago | (#44785841)

It took the academic community two decades to figure out that the NSA "tweaks" actually improved the security of DES.

The S-box tweak made DES resistant (well, more resistant) to differential attacks. The shortened key length did not improve security, it reduced security.

Who cares about IPSEC? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785199)

We live in an Open Source world now. So why don't the cryptographers who said IPSEC was too complicated not draft a simpler protocol that can be scrutinised by their peers? It won't matter if corporations don't rally round it, if you can get support from the open source community to implement it in things like the Linux kernel it will be adopted in preference to IPSEC anyway. Corporate users who have concerns about IPSEC might prefer it too.

After all, PGP didn't need a standards body behind it. The Blowfish encryption algorithm (developed by Bruce Schneier) is still more trusted than most variants of AES.

Re: Who cares about IPSEC? (1)

F.Ultra (1673484) | about a year ago | (#44785315)

OpenVPN?

Re: Who cares about IPSEC? (2)

jaredm1 (1620295) | about a year ago | (#44785553)

Hmm, so a quick browse over to http://openvpn.net/index.php/open-source/faq/community-software-general/295-are-there-any-known-security-vulnerabilities-with-openvpn.html [openvpn.net] and we see: "Are there any known security vulnerabilities with OpenVPN? Not to our knowledge (as of 2004.12.08)" Not to be paranoid, but is it too much to ask for them to update their knowledge by about a decade? Am a bit surprised that there doesn't seem to be much published analysis of the protocol.

Re: Who cares about IPSEC? (2)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year ago | (#44785705)

Hmm, so a quick browse over to http://openvpn.net/index.php/open-source/faq/community-software-general/295-are-there-any-known-security-vulnerabilities-with-openvpn.html [openvpn.net] and we see: "Are there any known security vulnerabilities with OpenVPN? Not to our knowledge (as of 2004.12.08)" Not to be paranoid, but is it too much to ask for them to update their knowledge by about a decade?

Perhaps the developers cannot make the same claim now and are unable to state that backdoors exist?

Can't security be implemented in an application? (2)

apcullen (2504324) | about a year ago | (#44785257)

PGP comes to mind. Cant an application developer just create a 1024-bit public key encrypted chat program?

Re:Can't security be implemented in an application (0)

hammyhew (2729501) | about a year ago | (#44785287)

Stop! Stop this immediately! Why do you want to hide your communications from the NSA? What do you have to fear? Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, I'd say! I'm not upset that the NSA is attacking these encryption methods. In fact, I'm glad they are! The NSA can do no wrong! If we didn't have the NSA doing this, we would be more vulnerable to terrorists than ever before! The terrorists! Think of the terrorists! The government can do no wrong! The terrorists!

-- cold fjord

Re:Can't security be implemented in an application (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785737)

Yeah, I'd use some obscure USSR crypto (GOST), crypted by some obscure India crypto (Trinetra), crypted by some obscure chinese crypto (you tell me).... That way they'd need the UN Security Council to approve the eavesdropping of my communication. Simple, really.

Re:Can't security be implemented in an application (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785805)

you mean like many if not most free software jabber clients out there?

International standards.. 'nutf said (1)

jaredm1 (1620295) | about a year ago | (#44785299)

When it comes to international standards I should remind everyone that the NSA doesn't need to do much to make those complicated and unwieldily. Look at SOAP or UML. For some reason when you gather an international consortium together to make a standard it is natural for it to be a huge WTF by the time it eventually becomes finalised. People feel the need to cater for every conceivable use case even if they're unlikely to be practical or real-world and often those pushing for things have very little grasp of the implications. Crypto related standards are different though, because you actually need people who know what they're doing. So apply the same approach to security and the resulting standard is bound to contain weaknesses. I would bet money that the NSA probably saved the IPSEC standards committee from making it overly weak (much like they enhanced DES when it was first created). Is there an open source alternative to IPSEC that has been scrutinised by cryptographers?

Public Interest in Crypto; Why Email is Broken (3, Interesting)

SerenelyHotPest (2970223) | about a year ago | (#44785337)

Until recently, the public hasn't cared about cryptography's political/privacy ramifications, let alone about crypto itself. As a technical person, I concede that the learning curve is steep; to even make basic judgements on the safety of others' cryptosystems like, "well, does it use AES?" typically takes several months of training that don't always sink in. One of the better jinns to emerge from the NSA Spying Pandora's Box has been increased public interest in crypto/general information security. In my present personal opinion, a better project for the EFF et al. to engage in rather than continue to prop up the fairly vulnerable and incriminating Tor system (given the people intent on breaking it) is launch a policy to educate laymen on principles of encryption use (things like what a public-private cryptosystem is, what a digital signature is, general advice on what to use and what not to use--that sort of stuff).

Email was created around a time when it was used by a few thousand academicians and not expected to carry messages between business partners, political activists, and loved ones. Its lack of inherent security has driven the layering of security ameliorations on top of the basic protocol, most of which don't work terribly well (PGP [wikipedia.org] is fractured, hard to use, doesn't support rich email, and is generally hard to use, for example). The same goes for HTTP. I agree that it's probably time for a new spec, but I don't know where or how to begin the creation of one, let alone how to get the public on board to transition, though again, the spying fiasco may generate the the impetus needed.

It's still interesting to me that mail, which I'd generally consider far less inherently secure than secured electronic communications and as having a far lower "reasonable expectation of privacy," receives all kinds of legal protections that, say, even email exchanged purely through Gmail (which has all kinds of security precautions like DMARC [wikipedia.org] , SSL/TLS [wikipedia.org] , and STARTTLS [wikipedia.org] ) doesn't. I think this reflects a long-term interest in western policy-making to incrementally convert "free societies" into police states, as others have observed. It looks like the governments of the US, UK and collaborators are simply waiting for mail to become completely obsolete so all communications are fair game for eavesdropping. It brings to mind what Ray Bradbury said in Farenheit 451: the government didn't have to outlaw books until most people were so fed up with them that no one noticed when the crackdown began.

progress depends on the unreasonable man (5, Interesting)

epine (68316) | about a year ago | (#44785419)

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

            — George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)

What would the NSA do confronted with an individual so high-minded and abrasive as to be relatively immune to the bullying tactics of the second-largest bullhead in the room? They would plant and nurture the meme that Theo sucks as a human being and that one's choice of OS and security software deployed rests on social morality rather than logic.

Who's looking like the reasonable man in the room now?

It's almost tautological than anyone abrasive enough to successfully push back against covert and well-funded NSA assholerly is not going to be a poster child for harmonious cooperation.

I've followed this little soap opera avidly (but with a relatively small corner of my mind) since Bamford's Puzzle Palace in 1982. I was then enrolled in an undergraduate mathematics program at a university famous for its cryptographers and I heard a few stories directly. I suspect I've read twenty books on the origins of these agencies before, during, and after WWII, ranging from espionage to black budgets to the ITAR fiasco.

I'm surprised by exactly none of this. I just didn't know the specifics of how it was done. The peculiar part was that the NSA seemed to have a very low appetite for taking this fight to the courts in the Clipper chip era. Now we know that they had a giant Plan B, much more to their taste than entering into a public process where things get written down.

How to crack RSA (5, Interesting)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#44785653)

In response to the current situation, I've been researching random number generators - especially the builtin one in Intel processors.

It's impossible to tell in general whether there's a vulnerability in a random number generator. It's a "computationally infeasible" problem, the best we can do is check for known deviations from randomness. If you know how it deviates, it's easy to check but beyond that there's no way to tell.

If the NSA has modified devices to reduce the entropy of random keys, then eventually two keys will have the same factors. This is easy to determine: The GCD algorithm will very quickly tell you what factors two keys have in common. ...and this is exactly what is seen in practice [factorable.net] ! Some 0.3% of keys tested had common factors: statistically, a *huge* percentage.

With a very large number of keys, you don't need to try N*(N-1) pairs of keys: partition the keys into two sets, multiply all the keys in the first set together, multiply all the keys in the second set together, then calculate GCD(Set1,Set2). In one calculation, you've determined whether any single key in the first set has factors in common with the any key from the second set.

Bruce Schneier believes that the algorithms are robust, and that the NSA is using other methods to break the encryption. Here's one likely way that they are doing it - they weaken the random number generator on a class of devices, harvest all the encryption keys they can find, then look for common factors.

From this article [idquantique.com] talking about the study: "[Researchers from the linked paper found] “vulnerable devices from 27 manufacturers. These include enterprise-grade routers from Cisco; server management cards from Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM; VPN devices; building security systems; network attached storage devices; and several kinds of consumer routers and VoIP products [1]."

The upshot is this: even locally-generated RSA keys are not guaranteed to be safe, nor will they ever be. When you can't trust the hardware, all bets are off.

Typical IETF Complexity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785691)

At least in my experience, having been involved in several IETF WGs, both ones where security is necessary and ones where security was explicitly out of scope (to be handled at a lower layer), complexity has relatively little to do with security.

Everyone has their own pet use-case that the standard must address, and the majority of the use-cases people want solved are massive edge cases nobody apart from the person requesting it cares about.

Often nobody objects, and nobody worries about scope creep, so "rough consensus" is no issue; there are also often people who care about the specification succeeding (regardless of the state they think it is in) that they'll implement it, so "running code" is no issue.

That the NSA have abused such things should come as no surprise, but it seems equally unfair to put all blame for the complexity on them.

My sig (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about a year ago | (#44785797)

becomes more relevant with every passing day.
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