Re: [ISN] Infowar, More Hype Than Reality?

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Wed Jun 10 1998 - 00:13:42 PDT

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    Reply From: Vin McLellan <vinat_private>
    Anthony J. Bettini <tonyat_private> wrote:
    >	Information warfare is very real. Whitfield Diffie, a strong
    >opponent of key escrow specifically mentioned the reality and harms of the
    >future of information warfare when he spoke at MIT in April regarding his
    >published book, Privacy on the Line: the Politics of Wiretapping and
    	Actually, what Diffie actually said was that it was not the
    mega-threat of catacylsmic infowar that roused him, but rather the
    realization that a cyber attack could be addressed at a specific company.
    It was when he considered the potential threat to his employer, Sun Micro,
    that he began to reconsider the potential of cyber-attacks, on-line and off.
    	I have no doubt that some corporate entities and some
    network-connected critical infrastructures could be damaged with on-line
    attacks. In one of the early Macintosh viruses, we're already seen a virus
    targetted at specific department in a specific company, EDI.
    	What I think we have to remember is that many of these
    vulnerabilities exist today only because the US and other governments -- in
    their desire to maintain surveillance on "foreign" and domestic targets:
    individual, corporate, and governmental -- have, for 20-odds years,
    systematically stimied any attempt to integrate strong cryptography into
    operating systems, business and communication applications, and system
    management tools.
    	The obvious solution to many real vulnerabilities in today's system
    and network infrastructures has been crypto -- but so long as government
    remain enchanted with establishing a universal surveillance option on any
    electronic communications, governments will try to promote punitive law
    enforcement and military options and ignore crypto.  Clinton new policy on
    Critical Infrastructure Protection is a case in point.
    	The tension between "national security" interests in maintaining
    eavesdropping capabilities (increasingly, for domestic as well as "foreign"
    surveillance) and "commercial" interest in a trusted network platform for
    electronic commmerce will probably be with us for years.  CDT has just
    published another superb report on "Key Recovery, Key Escrow, and Trusted
    Third Party Encryption" that addresses many aspects of this conflict. See:
    	To my mind, this CDT report is the best, most accessible, and most
    insightful analysis of the inherent weaknesses in the GAKed or
    crippled-crypto model yet published.  The co-authors include Diffie;
    Rivest; Ross Anderson; Steve Bellovin and Matt Blaize of AT&T; Josh Benaloh
    of Microsoft; Jeff Schiller of MIT co-director of the IETF Security
    Section; John Gilmore, cofounder of the EFF; Bruce Schniener, author of
    Applied Cryptography; and Hal Abelson of MIT.
    >	Along the same lines, when Bruce Scheinder spoke at Beyond Hope
    >about cryptography he warned of cyber-terrorists using jurisdiction
    >shopping as a means towards warfare.
    >> "Mandatory key escrow" means that citizens protecting their
    >> electronic business with encrypted computer code would have to
    >> provide government regulators with keys to that code.
    >	Granted I am not a supported of key escrow by any means mind you
    >however, when FBI Agent Smith (if I recall correctly Director of Digital
    >Telephony Division) spoke at the same MIT special aired on CSPAN in support
    >of key escrow, he stated that it was not the so called "government regulators"
    >that would hold the "keys to that code" but a neutral trusted third party
    >such as a bank.
    	The point is that someone, and eventually some automatic system, is
    expected to give government agents or regulators rapid access to an
    individual's or a corporation's secret crypto key surreptitously -- that
    is, without telling or alerting the target. Which gives a purely Orwellian
    twist to the phrase "trusted third party" -- and the concept of "escrow,"
    for that matter.  The crux of the concept is not in the mechanics but in
    the goal, a universal surveillance option.
    	The CDT paper above is really helpful in carefully tracking the US
    government's expressed goals and contrasting them against various partial
    solutions (like self-escrow, or unescrowed but somehow accessible key) that
    the feds have been willing to accept as a temporary measures.  The
    government doesn't just want to access someones private crypto key. Access
    alone, what a company might need for its internal backup of data, is not
    enough. The spooks want (a) surreptitious access (ie., access thru a third
    party holding the keys, so the target of their surveillance remains dumb,)
    (b) immediate "real-time" access to content, and they want this
    surveillance option to be (c) ubiquitous, built into all cryptographic
    products sold or used, by individuals as well as corporate entities.
    	The CDT's Ad Hoc team of cryptographers and systems experts
    effectively demolish -- in terms of what is technically feasible -- the
    idea that these goals can be met with a secure and trusted key-escrow or
    key-recovery mechanism that can gird the nation (let alone the globe.)
    They don't bother getting into the political or economic issues; they just
    gut the naive technical assumptions that underlie many of the demands by
    the spooks and the cops, in the US and elsewhere. The report is also a
    great piece of technical writing.
    	 Matthew Patton <pattonat_private> is right when he points out
    that bankers and individual banks have often been wimps when it comes to
    safeguarding the privacy of individual depositors, but collectively they
    have been potent in defending the integrity of their own internal systems.
    It was, for example, the American banks which were the first important
    source of resistance to the NSA's attempts to displace DES with
    CCEP/Clipper/Capstone chips with backdoors for government access.
    	The banks, in the US and Europe, were also the first to adopt
    cryptography (DES and RSAPKC) to secure their internal communiations. Their
    response to the NSA in many ways cracked the myth of the super-spooks.  The
    American Bankers' Association literally laughed the NSA reps who presented
    CCEP as a replacement for DES out of one of their conventions in the mid
    80s. (CCEP offered backdoored chips to replace DES, but it was initally
    presented as available only for US-owned or controlled banks.  At the time,
    maybe 15 percent of US banks were foreign owned.) Their response set the
    stage for the widespread scorn that today, in business circles, greet the
    idea that corporations should surrender control over their internal data
    and communications security to government agents.
    	Don't knock the guys with the vaults. For their own reasons -- and
    as users, corporate citizens, rather than as vendors  -- the bankers have
    collectively shown more balls than any other sector of industry or commerce
    in resisting ubiquitous government surveillance of their internal business
    operations. Without them, strong un-GAKed cryptography might have been
    outlawed years ago.
    "Cryptography is like literacy in the Dark Ages. Infinitely potent, for
    good and ill... yet basically an intellectual construct, an idea, which by
    its nature will resist efforts to restrict it to bureaucrats and others who
    deem only themselves worthy of such Privilege."
    _ A thinking man's Creed for Crypto/ vbm.
     *     Vin McLellan + The Privacy Guild + <vinat_private>    *
      53 Nichols St., Chelsea, MA 02150 USA <617> 884-5548
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