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Zimmermann Enters Debate on Microsoft Encryption

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the or-lack-of-it dept.

Encryption 381

Golygydd Max writes "I didn't see much coverage of the RC4 flaw in Microsoft Office that was uncovered recently by a researcher, Hongjun Wu. Now, PGP creator Phil Zimmermann, dissatisfied with Microsoft's response, has joined in the debate. In an interview with Techworld he castigates Microsoft for their inadequate response: 'The lay user ought to be entitled to assume that the encryption produced by Microsoft is adequate. ... If Microsoft wants to earn the respect of the cryptographic community and the public it must rise to the occasion by producing competent security.' The cynic might ask, 'what respect', but should Microsoft have taken a flaw in some of its most popular programs more seriously?"

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i fail it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491682)

yes, and frist post

Re:i fail it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491696)

I don't think 'frist post' counts

Re:i fail it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491718)

It's spelled various ways. Sort of like saying "You are teh ghey".

Re:i fail it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491726)

you must be teh new here.

Re:i fail it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491930)

Yup. I once posted "SP/Second Post" as First Post.

Re:i fail it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11492075)

would you prefer frosty piss

or do you like it warmed up

Re:i fail it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491898)

A master watched as an ambitious user reconstructed his Linux.

"I shall make every bit encrypted," the user said. "I shall use 2048 bit keys, three different algorithms, and make multiple passes."

The master replied: "I think it is unwise."

"Why?" asked the user. "Will my encryption harm the mighty Tao, which gives Linux life and creates the balance between kernel and processes? The mighty Tao, which is the thread that binds the modules and links them with the core? The mighty Tao, which safely guides the TCP/IP packets to and from the network card?"

"No," said the master, "It will hog too much cpu."

First rule of Microsoft encryption (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491690)

Do not use Microsoft encryption.

Re:First rule of Microsoft encryption (1, Funny)

thenegus (853454) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491740)

They can't very well have secure encryption in their products, can they? That would contravene whetever secret agreements they have with the NSA.

Re:First rule of Microsoft encryption (5, Interesting)

JeffWhitledge (675345) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491980)

Consider NSA's track record:

  • In the seventies they recommended changes to DES, which in the early ninties were discovered to have made it more secure.
  • They have developed and are freely distributing the source for an improved-security version of Linux.

An agreement with Microsoft to ensure insecure encryption would be very out of character for them.

That is, unless they're just a bunch of Linux freaks.

Re:First rule of Microsoft encryption (1)

paranode (671698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492039)

Consider NSA's track record:

* In the seventies they recommended changes to DES, which in the early ninties were discovered to have made it more secure.
* They have developed and are freely distributing the source for an improved-security version of Linux.

Well also consider things like the idea of a federally-controlled encryption scheme where the government held a key escrow so they could decrypt any traffic for national security purposes. Ultimately nobody wanted to buy into it but they did push it as a great idea.

That is, unless they're just a bunch of Linux freaks.

Well they did create SELinux after all.

Re:First rule of Microsoft encryption (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491929)

I use ROT13.

It is open source and has never been broken so far.

Re:First rule of Microsoft encryption (2, Funny)

killmenow (184444) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491964)

Me too. But, just to be safe, I do it twice.

Re:First rule of Microsoft encryption (1)

DickBreath (207180) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491966)

At least the poster said "if Microsoft wants to earn the respect of the cryptographic community....", rather than saying "...keep the respect...".

Couldn't you extend the rule from simply "Microsoft encryption" to the more general "Microsoft Security"?

copyright (4, Insightful)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491694)

How else are we supposed to get access to all these works in 150 years time (or 50 in some countries) when the copyright expires on them.

Re:copyright (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491708)

By just brute-forcing it.
In 150 years time I assume we'll have a LOT more processing power at our hands.

Re:copyright (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491908)

Haha. 128 bit symmetric encryption is unbreakable by brute force, no matter how much computing power you have. In 150 years all the computing capability of the planet won't be able to search even 1% of the key space.

That's of course assuming nobody finds a faster way than brute force.

Re:copyright (2, Insightful)

Riddlefox (798679) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492090)

By definition, brute force means that you try every single possible key. This guarantees you that sooner or later, you'll find the correct key (if one exists). Eventually, you will break the encryption using brute force.

What you were trying to sya that it's improbable, not impossible, that you'll be able to break 128-bit encryption anytime soon. You just have to try long enough, but who wants to wait a century to brute-force a single key?

Of course, the attacker could be lucky, and the very first key he tries is the right one.

Quantum computing does stand to make 128-bit encryption useless, though. Some of the very first algorithms written for quantum computers are directly applicable to cracking commonly used ciphers (for instance, factoring huge numbers, or very, very quickly searching through a list).

-5 profound retardation (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491948)

Under Clinton, poor souls like you would have place in a good home, with lots of nice meds to make you feel better.

Re:copyright (4, Funny)

ceeam (39911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491758)

Fear not, Disney is working on it.

Re:copyright (1)

blcamp (211756) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491794)

How else are we supposed to get access to all these works in 150 years time (or 50 in some countries) when the copyright expires on them.

Uhhh... Public... Domain?

Re:copyright (3, Insightful)

mlush (620447) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491829)

>>How else are we supposed to get access to all these works in 150
>>years time (or 50 in some countries) when the copyright expires on them.
>Uhhh... Public... Domain?

If the encryption were unbreakable and the keys lost, it would not be a lot of use

Re:copyright (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491975)

Is unbreakable encryption even theoretically possible? Someone who is a mathematician must be reading this. Possible? Why or why not?

Re:copyright (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492016)

Is unbreakable encryption even theoretically possible?
Sure. Encode it with a one-time pad, and throw the pad away. All you're left with is completely random data.

Re:copyright (4, Insightful)

j0nb0y (107699) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491838)

Copyright expiration? Copyrights don't expire. Congress extends them again every 20 years. And they'll keep doing so, forever, since the Supreme Court ruled that it was perfectly okay!

Re:copyright (2, Insightful)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492060)

They'll keep doing it until a richer special interest group comes along that trumps them.

I bet there was a time when there was a powerful horse breeders lobby.

Re:copyright (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491974)

How is this insightful? The article is about encryption, not copyright. This is not about digital restrictions management, but rather companies protecting important documents (e.g. trade secrets in Word documents).

First Microsoft Sucks Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491706)

Nuff said.

Employ Mr. Zimmerman (5, Interesting)

antivoid (751399) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491707)

Perhaps Microsoft should employ Mr. Zimmerman of PGP to fix M$'s broken code.

The fact that so many documents written (especially now) are using Microsoft formats, makes this problem very dangerous.

Its worth mentioning that any docuemtns that are actually worth protecting should by default not rely on Micrsofts (lack of) security, as it is a known trend that Microsoft fails time and time again to provide adaquate security.

People think "wow! encryption, and NOT a lame password". By as per normal, scratch a little deeper and you can see how flawed microsoft code actually is...

Re:Employ Mr. Zimmerman (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11492128)


Its worth mentioning that any docuemtns that are actually worth protecting should by default not rely on Micrsofts (lack of) security, as it is a known trend that Microsoft fails time and time again to provide adaquate security.

I think that this is a key point. Before faulting Microsoft for using "weak" encryption one has to ask "What was the intent for providing encryption capabilities in Office?" Was the intent to keep the casual user from viewing encrypted documents? Or was it to be of sufficient strength to prevent the NSA from breaking it? From what I've read about this flaw the encryption appears adequete to protect the documents from all but a determined hacker. If Microsoft's intent was to keep the casual person from viewing an encrypted document then this really isn't a flaw.

Have to say it.... (5, Funny)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491712)

Zimmermann makes some Pretty Good Points in the interview.

Re:Have to say it.... (3, Funny)

halivar (535827) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491910)

Zimmermann makes some Pretty Good Points in the interview.

"Hanging is too good for a punster. He should be drawn and quoted."

MS Encryption is a joke (4, Informative)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491714)

I especially dislike their Encrypted File System (EFS). One of its highlights is that the first administrator account set up in a domain is designated an "Encrypted Data Recovery Agent". What does this mean? If you use your domain login at work to encrypt your data, the administrator has immediate ability to decrypt it anytime they want.

How is this done? Every file that is written to an encrypted folder by User A has a private encryption key generated for it. That private encryption key is then encrypted with User A's public key and every designed Encrypted Data Recovery Agent's public key. Then either User A or any such recovery agent's private key can then decrypt the file.

Of course, MS just lets lay users assume their "encrypted" files are private.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491749)

DO NOT RUN EFS on a System volume, it fecks up.

Just run a Sector encryptor on the HDs like compusec or PGP WholeDisk when its out, Compusec is FREE and works great. Use PGP Disk for mountable volumes.

Anybody that uses EFS is buck stupid and should be fired. Its useless.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (4, Insightful)

gUmbi (95629) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491759)

One of its highlights is that the first administrator account set up in a domain is designated an "Encrypted Data Recovery Agent". What does this mean?

For corporations (the target market for EFS), it means that if someone is fired, quits, dies, etc. then their data is not lost foreever.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (1, Insightful)

Petronius (515525) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491784)

Until 'someone' *is* the administrator... :D

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (0)

essreenim (647659) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491977)

For corporations (the target market for EFS), it means that if someone is fired, quits, dies, etc. then their data is not lost foreever.

..And also that MS privacy IS a joke. I'm sorry, but if I'm on my death bed and I am not senile, then there is a reason why I have not decrypted my files - because I don't want them opened. I mean, wtf, it should be illegal to call this "Encrypted Data Recovery Agent". I therefore rename this acronym:

E_ncrypted D_ata R_elay A_gent

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (2, Insightful)

JeffWhitledge (675345) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492035)

I'm sorry, but if I'm on my death bed and I am not senile, then there is a reason why I have not decrypted my files - because I don't want them opened.

If you're puting personal encrypted material on your employer's computer, then you are already senile.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (3, Insightful)

rikkards (98006) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492089)

Maybe at home but corporate computers are corporate property. There is not expected level of privacy on said property. If you don't want someone at work from looking at your private stuff then don't keep it on business machines.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (1)

sucker_muts (776572) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492048)

After installing Windows XP again, some of my friends found out the hard way their encrypted data would be lost forever.

What a pity...

I ask myself, why do you want to encrypt something on a desktop anyway? Keeping the rest of the family away of stuff not for their eyes perhaps?

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (4, Insightful)

danheskett (178529) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491779)

MS encryption should be better, but what you describe is not a flaw.

In a corporate setting it should not be permissible for an employee to conceal data from the owner of the data and machines. The owner of machine - aka the corporation - should have final say over what is encrypted or not.

Imagine what could be done if there was no way for a high-level sysadmin to decrypt user files. Imagine the damage that could be done.

AI spiteful (ex)-employee could easily encrypt and forever destroy sensitive data that is irreplaceable.

Not only that, but it is entirely possible that the user could accidentally render the data unencryptable. That'd be bad.

EFS is not for a typical user to permanently encrypt data that can never be revealed. It is primarily designed so that sensitive data on corporate laptops can be stored in a way that if it is stolen it cannot be decrypted. This purpose is well served by EFS.

There are many excellent critiques of MS's security and data protection capabilities. There is no need to overreach and bash things that do actually work as intended.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (1)

karmatic (776420) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491937)

...or the user could just delete the file in the first place.

Or move it to removable storage.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (1)

rikkards (98006) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492131)

...or the user could just delete the file in the first place.

You obviously don't deal with typical users. They are the biggest pack rats. This is why disk quotas were created to force them to offload data elsewhere.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (2)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491942)

Glad to see you are back with us.

A spiteful (ex)-employee could easily encrypt and forever destroy sensitive data that is irreplaceable.

Or they could just overwrite it and delete it.

typical user to permanently encrypt data that can never be revealed

Not sure why you'd want to "permanently encrypt data"... You might as well overwrite and delete it.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491953)

"Imagine the damage that could be done."

Such as, exactly?

"AI spiteful (ex)-employee could easily encrypt and forever destroy sensitive data that is irreplaceable."

Or they could just del *.*. Or format c:. Or burn down the building.

This whole 'spiteful employee' argument is nonsense. The only reasons to have a 'key recovery agent' are to recover password for clueless employees and to spy on slightly more clued employees.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (1)

Trigun (685027) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492119)

but a spiteful employee would encrypt the files, so that everyone thought they had good backups. del *.* generally shows up pretty quickly on networked drives. Compare restoring one backup to the process of resoring countless backups in the attempt to find an unencrypted file.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491800)

You're using a company computer on a company network. If you want to have private files, use your own computer on your own network.

The reason it's implmented like this is that this is how companies want it to work. No one would want an encryption system which would leave potentially important company documents encrypted without any way of getting at them should the person be unavailable (holiday, sickness, died etc.)

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (1)

terminal.dk (102718) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491947)

Microsoft will get way more complaints if file were safe and could not be recovered.

For Microsoft false security sells, and true security doesn't. So of course they shell out products with "backdoors".

Now, the RC4 implementation is not one of those, but just a plain bug.

Re:MS Encryption is a joke (1)

SilentChris (452960) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492068)

You're joking, right? When you use a corporate tool (whether it be a computer, telephone, etc.) you should always assume that your information isn't completely "private", because it isn't. It's the company's. That's what they pay you for.

As an administrator, if I have an employee leave disgruntled, and the boss asks me to find out why, am I to tell him/her "he encrypted his files, therefore he has full privacy". No, he doesn't. It's our machine. If he wants full privacy, he should encrypt files on his own machine.

Don't Worry (5, Funny)

Dipster (830908) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491722)

It'll be fixed in the next installment. Just give them more of your money...

Why fix it in a free patch, when they can charge money for a new version that you have a reason to buy?

Re:Don't Worry (1)

greechneb (574646) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491761)

Because they are starting to worry. Lately they have been taking more of hit, and they are starting to fear people actually doing something about it. You don't get to the top of your market without being somewhat paranoid. They'll release a stop-gap to fix it, and then in their next release tout some new feature.

Do they care? (-1, Troll)

cmad_x (723313) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491729)

And since when does Microsoft *really* care about security issues? Surely they could release a patch to fix that (or just wait for the next MS-Office version), but that doesn't mean they care. Nor does the fact that they released an anti-spyware app means that they care. Feel free to prove me wrong, Microsoft can't be that bad :)

Huh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491752)

Is castigate like castrate?

Re:Huh? (1)

the_leander (759904) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491823)

It was an interesting article that I thought, given some of the anti M$ venom thats running around at times, was very polite and well thought out.

Don't get me wrong, I think Microsoft generally deserve the crap thats thrown at them, I just think it sticks better when its well written :-D

Article mirror (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491768)

Crypto expert: Microsoft flaw is serious

Microsoft should sort flaw and abandon RC4 in favour of better ciphers, says PGP creator.

By John E. Dunn, Techworld

Cryptography expert Phil Zimmermann has said he believes the flaw discovered in Microsoft's Word and Excel encryption is serious and warrants immediate attention.

"I think this is a serious flaw - it is highly exploitable. It is not a theoretical attack," said Zimmermann, referring to a flaw in Microsoft's use of RC4 document encryption unearthed recently by a researcher in Singapore.

"The lay user ought to be entitled to assume that the encryption produced by Microsoft is adequate. [...] If Microsoft wants to earn the respect of the cryptographic community and the public it must rise to the occasion by producing competent security."

Microsoft has been dismissive of the seriousness of the flaw, which relates to the way it has implemented the RC4 encryption stream cipher. As explained by Hungjun Wu of the Institute of Infocomm Research, it would allow anyone able to gain access to two or more versions of the same password and encrypted document to reverse engineer the scheme used to make it secure.

"Stream ciphers have to be used most carefully. Any failure to do this will result in a disastrous loss of security," Zimmermann said. "Even with a properly chosen initialisation vector, you have to run it for a while before the quality of the stream cipher is good enough to use." Contrary to Microsoft's claims that the issue was a "very low threat", he countered that gaining access to a document would not present problems for a determined hacker. "There are tools one can use to cryptanalyse messages in this way."

Even if the flaw was fixed, in his view a more fundamental problem was Microsoft's use of RC4, licensed from RSA Security.

"Why does Microsoft continue to use RC4 in this day and age? It has other security flaws that have been published in other papers," adding that "RC4 is a proprietary cipher and has not stood up well to peer review. They should just stop using RC4. It would be better to switch to a block cipher."

When contacted Microsoft, was unable to commit to a timescale for correcting the flaw but issued the following statement by way of a spokesperson: "Microsoft is still investigating this report of a possible vulnerability in Microsoft Office. When that investigation is complete, we will take the appropriate actions to protect customers. This may include providing a security update through our monthly release process."

Zimmermann, meanwhile, emphasised the need for responsible disclosure of such problems. "The best way is to quietly disclose the problem to the vendor and then allow the vendor 30 days to fix the problem. Then go public," he said.

Phil Zimmermann is best-known as the creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), a desktop encryption program that was powerful enough that the US authorities attempted to have its distribution stopped and Zimmermann imprisoned for writing it. The case was abandoned 1996. PGP was bought out by Network Associates, though an independent company, PGP Corporation, has since been spun out to develop its core technology.

Re:Article mirror (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492072)

"Why does Microsoft continue to use RC4 in this day and age?"

The same reason they're still using the tired old method of 3 letter file extension to mark file types - backwards compatability. BC is what made windows and MSs bank balance what it is , for good AND bad.

GPG/PGP (4, Insightful)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491782)

You could always just dump their encryption and use PGP/GPG in its place.

Cheaper alternative... (1)

PornMaster (749461) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491946)

Or they could just stop licensing RC4 and use an unencumbered and respected standard, AES.

Bah.... (2, Funny)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491791)

Bah.... What does Bob Dylan know about encryption anyway. :)

Re:Bah.... (2, Funny)

mbone (558574) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491935)

Obviously, a lot - ever try and decipher one of his songs ?

Re:Bah.... (0)

imikem (767509) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491990)

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind...

Re:Bah.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11492041)

What does Bob Dylan know about encryption anyway.

Have you heard him speak recently? Instant encryption.

Maybe Deliberate? (1)

jolyonr (560227) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491798)

Call me paranoid, but it's kind of convenient to security services that there is a flaw in Microsoft encryption systems. Surely if you were desigining a back-door for security services you'd do it in a way that looked like a bug rather than a feature.

Jolyon

Re:Maybe Deliberate? (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491981)

Three letter orginizations wouldn't have too tough a time decrypting a 128bit RC4 document. Especially when most people are going to use 4 or 5 letter passwords that are their last name.

I wonder when... (5, Interesting)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491803)

I wonder when someone writes a script to google for Word documents, get the protected ones out and decrypt them. Ought to be a fun project.

Good enough (2, Informative)

Ec|ipse (52) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491850)

Well, seeing as how the majority of the world is using their software, they probably think it's obviously good enough, otherwise it wouldn't be used.

Total bull, but that's why they haven't change anything in IE for so many years.

Why it is "low priority" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491856)

MS considers it a low priority because there is no tool that currently is known to be available that can leverage the theoretical issues brought up in the paper. I agree with them. An issue is "high priority" when there is a tool that can be used by an end user now as an exploit. That is how you prioritize things in real life.

Re:Why it is "low priority" (4, Insightful)

quigonn (80360) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491962)

That is how you prioritize things in real life.

This "there is no program to exploit it, so this security issue is not important"-type of attitude is extremely dangerous. The slogan is to act, not to react, especially with security issues. And Microsoft actually should have learned from their part of history...

Chip... chip... chip... (0, Redundant)

blcamp (211756) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491870)


That chipping sound is the slow but steady decline of market share, trust, user loyalty, revenues... ...the wall around Redmond is getting chipped away.

It will eventually come down if they don't take issues of security, stability, usability, and bloat more seriously.

And they need to take thier g@##@&% copyright enforcement crap and stab it up... they need to can it, already. They need to decide who thier clients are... John Q. Public, or Hollywood?

Re:Chip... chip... chip... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11491893)

Is that why their revenue (and profits) increased over 14% for the last quarter (last three months)? Is that why their revenue has increased year-after-year for the last fifteen years? The facts do not bear out your fantasy. However, I am sure you will get your +5 Insightful.

Why use MS? (1)

Dougie Cool (848942) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491885)

Why not just encrypt the files outside of Office, using something renowned, tried, tested and passed? And why would the layperson want such high security on their documents? Surely the layperson and the security-conscious are different sets? I suppose that's the most naive thing I've ever come up with, right?

Holography (3, Funny)

kdark1701 (791894) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491887)

Am I the only one who saw "Zimmerman" and thought of the inventer of the Emergency Medical Hologram?

Next Microsoft Crypto Method? (1, Funny)

saddino (183491) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491891)

Zvpebfbsg vf pbzzvggrq gb ranoyvat rirel phfgbzre gb jbex, pbzzhavpngr, naq genafnpg ohfvarff zber frpheryl. Oruvaq gur tybony frphevgl zbovyvmngvba naabhaprq va Bpgbore 2003, jr jvyy pbagvahr gbjneq gung tbny ol jbexvat pybfryl jvgu phfgbzref, cnegaref, naq gur vaqhfgel. Jr zrnfher bhe rssbegf hfvat gur FQ?+P senzrjbex.

Re:Next Microsoft Crypto Method? (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492047)

Ab bar pna penpx ebg13.

Re:Next Microsoft Crypto Method? (2, Informative)

Laurentiu (830504) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492078)

*grin* [decode.org]

Who uses word to protect anything? (3, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491895)

While Microsoft should probbably fess up and fix the problem, is this really such a big deal? Who uses Microsoft word encryption, and for what? It still sounds like you'd require multiple versions of the same document. That means either access to the data store itself where the document was being edited, or the user has passed around multiple versions to others.

I guess what it comes down to is expectations of security. It should be obvious to not use word to protect national secrets. Secret love letters to your mistress are still probbably safe from your wife though (unless she happens to be a crypto-expert). In that case it's probbably easier to just use a keylogger, or install a trojan horse.

Microsoft realy wants strong encryption? (1)

cesarbremer (701201) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491897)

I think Microsoft have the competence to implement strong encryption in its products. But the problem is, have Microsoft interest that a Word document encrypted with a strong password can't be broken? Or implement an encrypted disk that can't be broken if the attacker doesn't have the key? I think that's the reason, could be the US government behind this decision?

Cashcow (1)

Marcus Erroneous (11660) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491907)

While it is understandable that one wants to be careful with the cashcow, you should at least immunize it.

Encryption easily broken (4, Interesting)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491909)

I've toyed around with MS's "encryption" and all I can say is the following:-

1) That password you give your administrator account on your system can be hacked off in under 5 minutes with the Emergency Boot CD EBCD [pcministry.com] . So much for encryption.

2) Files encrypted in Windows 2000 (the OS I tested then on) were still visible in their directories, despite their contents being encrypted. To me, this wasn't good enough. I wanted the whole filesystem to be encrypted, with plausible deniability that the files that certain files (or even file systems) never even existed.
To add injury to insult, I could easily become administrator with the EBCD and get the encryption key easily to break the encryption anyway.

3) Built in Windows encryption isn't good enough, forcing you to get third party products to do the job right. This means that you pay through the nose if you haven't got the technical skill to set up a Linux or BSD box running free encryption modules and samba.

But come on. If MS made a perfect operating system, they wouldn't have a business model selling updates. Instead of dropping support for old products, I'm almost expecting their next OS to have a use-by date embedded in their EULA and OS to FORCE you off their old system after so many years.... or else!

Re:Encryption easily broken (4, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491994)


1) That password you give your administrator account on your system can be hacked off in under 5 minutes with the Emergency Boot CD EBCD . So much for encryption.

That doesn't have anything to do with encryption. Anytime you have physical access to a computer all bets are off as far as security. You can do the exact same thing in linux, and most of the time you don't even need a CD. Just add a 1 to the kernel boot options and boot into single user mode. No password required, immediate root access. Sure, you can put a password on changing those bootloader options, but just slap in a linux emergency boot CD, and suddenly you have root access to all files.

Linux encrypted filesystems I know almost nothing about, but I've also never seen a distribution that supports it out of the box. There's probbably one out their, but it's not a mainstream linux feature.

wrong (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492031)

you can do this if the machines' encrypted files were encrypted by a local user. this is aimed at corporate work though, where they're domain users. the EBCD and all the other password crackers work on LOCAL accounts, not DOMAIN accounts. if joe blow encrypts his files on his work laptop with his usual domain account, you can't get at them.

Nothing to see here.... (1)

elecngnr (843285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491914)

In the interview referenced in the article, there is a paragraph that states

When contacted Microsoft, was unable to commit to a timescale for correcting the flaw but issued the following statement by way of a spokesperson: "Microsoft is still investigating this report of a possible vulnerability in Microsoft Office. When that investigation is complete, we will take the appropriate actions to protect customers. This may include providing a security update through our monthly release process."

Using my handy M$ anti-spin ray on the response from M$, I found that the response actually said, "Nothing to see here, move along please."

exploit available? (1)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491916)

Is there a handy piece of software which lets me read my PHB's documents?

Indeed: what respect? (4, Insightful)

FridayBob (619244) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491920)

Their programmers might care, but M$ itself isn't interested in respect from the cryptographic community, because it's something that doesn't matter to their stockholders; it's too obscure for them to care about. M$ only responds to this kind of thing once the news gets out and the public begins to perceive it as a problem. Security through obscurity, remember? Basically, M$ are only in it for the money; a statement that explains their entire track record.

Missed the purpose... (1)

Maljin Jolt (746064) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491923)

Reason behind the weak Windows encryption is not to provide easy out of the box encryption for the masses. The real purpose is to provide out of the box mass decryption for government agencies. Surely Microsoft has been asked to do that by quite a number of them.

So, cryptopgraphic community perfectionism this time crosses interests of real power and will be ignored.

Ha, ha! (4, Funny)

200_success (623160) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491952)

Dear security researchers,

You can try to crack our encryption all you want. Microsoft Office(TM) documents are still the most secure format in the world, since you still won't be able to render them properly even if you manage to decrypt them.

Sincerely,

The Microsoft Corporation

Gents, Ill Remind everyone (1)

KingBahamut (615285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491959)

That this is M$ we are talking about. Perhaps they are interested in actually developing a secure and stable product. I feel this is a gross exaggeration though. We wouldnt have had disasters like Code Red with IIS, and the constant eb of IE vulners that occur if Gates and Ballmer were really concerned with security. Gates is all wrapped up in his idea that Windows needs to be a media system than a secure system. IF , and thats a big huge IF, they actually spent time developing a secure stable OS, I might actually back them up a little. But as long as I can boot my LOAF and change acct info , its not happening.

Users don't want strong MS Office encryption (4, Insightful)

gfecyk (117430) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491992)

Least of all your US government. The NSA makes a bulletproof distribution of Linux, and other US government offices shun it in favour of Windows.

Sun Microsystems released Star Office, and a bunch of open source wonks built OpenOffice, with better track records. Yet US government offices shun them in favour of Microsoft Office.

I'm not sure why they do, especially an omniscent body like the US government who knows these things exist. It must be because they don't want to use them.

And every day users? Well, users could have taken e-mail content security into their own hands over a decade ago when PGP was out, or eight years ago when PGP for the Exchange client came out. But NO, they didn't want to use it. They could have used S/MIME which was slightly easier to use, but NO, they didn't want to use it.

Users don't care enough to demand strong encryption in their applications. And Microsoft is in business to make money. They aren't going to waste time making a product that no one will buy. And YOU, slashdotters, aren't going to convince users to buy an alternative through fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Re:Users don't want strong MS Office encryption (1)

KingBahamut (615285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492062)

As difficult as it might sound though, gfecyk, we cannot possibly expect large portions of end users to unchain themselves from win32 machines to , what most of them assess as "learning something new". There is a security in the stupidity of a windows box. Microsoft fosters the stupidity of its users with statements of granduer that mean nothing.

You're asking too much of MS (3, Interesting)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 9 years ago | (#11491999)

Y'know, asking MS to fix an obscure bug in their encryption that took a dedicated researcher to find is pretty much pointless. Remember - these are the same guys that are having a hard time poking through their code and replacing all the strcpy() calls with strncpy().

Asking these guys to address this is like asking someone to turn off the faucet in a burning building.

ARRG (1, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492019)

yes, changing the IV will help, but it's not the solution.

USE A FUCKING MAC!!! [message authentication code]

cipher == privacy
mac == authentication

Stupid fucking reporting...

Tom

re (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11492020)

Any serious computer user that needs encryption/security isn't using MS Windoze anyway (export-laws, bug-ridden code, vulnerabilities etc). So its really a non-issue.

What's left to say? (3, Insightful)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492030)

I didn't see much coverage of the RC4 flaw in Microsoft Office that was uncovered recently...

Maybe everyone is just burned out and tired of the topic. We all know that the state of PCs in the world today is a vast, pathetic farce of biblical proportions thanks to MS. What's left to say about it? Windows is a shitpile, but people keep gobbling it up. Just like they gobble up all the other sludge in our culture. Nothing unusual to be seen here. Move along.

That was a good one! (1)

killmenow (184444) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492038)

...but should Microsoft have taken a flaw in some of its most popular programs more seriously?"
Pfft! Submitter owes me a new keyboard.

Could this have been ON PURPOSE? (3, Informative)

DickBreath (207180) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492049)

I see all the posts about how Microsoft encryption is a joke, etc.

Could it be that the poor encryption security was actually on purpose?

After all, they were using RC4. It should be secure right? (sarcasm) Isn't the problem simply that they re-used a key stream, or something like that? Something that is a basic design "blunder", but could really have been done on purpose. This might make it easy for certian parties to crack, but it might still seem secure. All of the code is properly implemented. The RC4 algorithm is properly implemented, gives correct outputs for known inputs, etc. The flaw is in how the algorithm is improperly used. Something that could be missed by anyone disassembling the code.

I'll leave it for someone else to reply here and speculate on the reasons that such a "blunder" might actually be deliberate. (I've got a malfunction in one of the antennas of my tin foil hat. I use the dual-antenna design of tin foil hats.)

Defintely Not? (1)

mbowles (320826) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492082)

"...but should Microsoft have taken a flaw in some of its most popular programs more seriously?"


If they start making exceptions now there will be no end to it and it might delay the Longhorn release. Hmmm...

All about shipping units... (1)

catdevnull (531283) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492100)

MSFT does not care about quality; it cares about quantity. It cares about profits to shareholders and to the the number of units it shipped. It cares about its dominance in the market. It cares about crushing anyone or anything that competes or threatens their position. MSFT's leadership cares about the company's bottom line and nothing more.

If they truly cared about quality, there would be much less malware and and far fewer security holes in their products. They would actually care about this encryption issue. Their lack of response, to them, does not validate the problem as a reality.

But don't worry, Longhorn is coming! (He said with wry sarcasm. )

Business as usual.. (1)

Andrewkov (140579) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492103)

Microsoft is doing what it always does: Focusing on what most of their customers are most concerned about. Most users don't care about stuff like how strong the encryption is, and most don't even use it. Most users think using the password feature in Winzip is good enough. Microsoft has never been focused on niche markets, or the concerns of small groups of users.

Zimmerman bashes RC4, not just Microsoft (2, Interesting)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492126)

In the article, Zimmerman bashes RC4, not just Microsoft. I think he's probably right. Why not use open-standard AES instead of RC4? (Or if you still have RSA on the brain, why not RC6, the RSA algorithm which was a runner-up in the Federal AES competition.)

When you own the playing field (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11492132)

Why care if the ball is leakign air?
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