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Venafi is a Very Cool INFOSEC Company So Check Them Out
Posted by boss on Thursday, 08 November 2012 @ 20:35:45 CET (2886 reads)
Topic Cryptography

cdupuis writes "

We’re scouring the globe for INFOSEC companies you may have never heard of or you have but weren’t quit sure who they are and what they do.  When it comes to very cool INFOSEC companies, Venafi is a fit.  Here’s why:  as you know we strongly believe that the more encryption you use, the better.  As you might recall from Dave Porcello’s last month article about Data Exfiltration – whereby “loose lips sink ships” – we can clearly see that encryption of mission critical data is as important as system hardening.

While there are numerous types of X.509 certificates (e.g., SSL certificates), used throughout typical IT infrastructures as the de-facto credential to authenticate devices to the network and to other devices and help initiate encrypted conversations and transactions, the management of these certificates has become a key requirement for both IT Security Best Practices and in Regulatory Compliance.

Today, due to increased data protection requirements (government and industry regulations) and security best practices, there has been a surge in certificate inventories, which require regular maintenance. Failure to properly maintain these encryption assets can result in crippling system downtime, data breaches, and non-compliance, costing organizations millions of dollars.

Venafi is the inventor of and market leader in Enterprise Key and Certificate Management (EKCM) solutions. Venafi delivered the first enterprise–class solution to automate the provisioning, discovery, monitoring and management of digital certificates and encryption keys—from the datacenter to the cloud and beyond—built specifically for encryption management interoperability across heterogeneous environments.

Venafi products reduce the unquantified and unmanaged risks associated with encryption deployments that result in data breaches, security audit failures and unplanned system outages. Venafi also publishes best practices for effective key and certificate management at http://www.venafi.com/best-practices.

Certificates and private keys play a critical role in securing data and systems across all types of organizations.

When dealing with the most important part of your Encryption technology – your certificates and private keys, according to Venafi, the following table shows some of the challenges that can arise:

Challenges                   Causes

Downtime and System Outages

Downtime and System Outages


Certificates that are not renewed and replaced before they expire can cause serious downtime and outages.

Private Key Compromise

Private Key Compromise


Private keys used with certificates must be kept secure or unauthorized individuals can intercept confidential communications or gain unauthorized access to critical systems.


Compliance Violations

Compliance Violations

Regulations and requirements (like PCI-DSS) are requiring much more stringent security and management of cryptographic keys and auditors are increasingly reviewing the management controls and processes in use.

High Administrative Costs

High Administrative Costs



The average certificate and private key require four hours per year to manage, taking administrators away from more important tasks and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for many organizations.

Large Scale Compromises

Large Scale Compromises


If a certificate authority is compromised or an encryption algorithm is broken, organizations must be prepared to replace all of their certificates and keys in a matter of hours.


Unable to Scale Encryption

Unable to Scale Encryption

The rollout of new projects and business applications are hindered because of the inability to deploy and manage encryption to support the security requirements of those projects.

Depending on the environment where keys and certificates are being deployed, some or all of these risks may apply. When considering implementing EKCM best practices, it helps to have an understanding of which of these risks apply to your organization. By prioritizing them and clearly communicating the importance of addressing in your organization, you can accelerate the implementation and adoption of best practices since all stakeholders will understand the tangible value to your organization.

As cybercriminals have become more skilled and sophisticated, the effectiveness of traditional perimeter-based security controls have become eroded.   This is why encryption has become a strategic cornerstone for security and risk management.

As we learn more about Enterprise Key and Certificate Management (EKCM) solutions, we have to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Why should valuable data be encrypted to remove the hacker’s threat?
  • Why is key management the most important component of your enterprise encryption strategy?
  • How do the world’s leading, Fortune-ranked organizations address key management?
  • What are best practices and standards for managing encryption keys across your infrastructure (data center, cloud, mobile)?
  • What should your next steps be for security and compliance risk reduction?

To answer these questions, we at Cyber Defense Magazine believe you should take advantage of a valuable on-demand webinar, provided at no charge to you by Venafi.  Take the time to view this valuable webinar and learn how to protect your data from cybercriminals and your organization from the risk of failed security audits.

As an added bonus, when you follow the link (below) and signup for the on-demand webinar, you’ll also receive access to a new Forrester research report from
John Kindervag, Principle Security and Risk Analyst, “Kill Your Data to Protect it From Cybercriminals”, a $300 value, at no charge to you. 

To view this ON-DEMAND webinar, please click here.  

(Sources: CCURE.org, Cyber Defense Magazine and Venafi)


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Crypt0 (Packets Don't Lie, Bob Loves Alice)
Posted by boss on Tuesday, 02 October 2012 @ 09:11:47 CEST (1990 reads)
Topic Cryptography

cdupuis writes "

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure to announce the premier of the latest Gung Ho! original music video:

Crypt0 (Packets Don't Lie, Bob Loves Alice)

This much anticipated release has been called "The most relevant music video of the Cyber Age"*


Please remember Net Etiquette (you know the drill, pass this one to as many people as possible and good luck will befall you, or if you prefer, click like if you love your mother, kids, dog, country, bla bla bla)


Larry Greenblatt

(*By the band members themselves, but that is besides the point. Bottom line, many great things are being said. Really I am hearing only great things about this).


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DARPA set to develop super-secure "cognitive fingerprint"
Posted by boss on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 @ 09:26:03 CET (2695 reads)
Topic Cryptography

cdupuis writes "


Developers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency want to build information technology security [1] that goes beyond simply recognizing complex passwords but rather gets in your head to confirm your identity before you get access or continue to have access to important information.

Specifically, the agency's Active Authentication program looks to develop what DARPA calls "novel ways of validating the identity of the person at the console that focus on the unique aspects of the individual through the use of software-based biometrics."

More security news: From Anonymous to Hackerazzi: The year in security mischief-making [2]

Biometrics is defined as the characteristics used to uniquely recognize humans based upon one or more intrinsic physical or behavioral traits. Active Authorization focuses on the computational behavioral traits that can be observed through how we interact with the world. Just as when you touch something with your finger you leave behind a fingerprint, when you interact with technology you do so in a pattern based on how your mind processes information, leaving behind a "cognitive fingerprint," DARPA said in officially announcing the contracting process for the program.

DARPA had talked about Active Authentication [3] at its Colloquium on Future Directions in Cyber Security meeting last October.   "Active Authentication program to tie identity to level of access within system. You're the key to your system.  Want to make machine aware of its operator and are working towards systems managing authentication invisibly in the background," Such new systems might look at the unique words a user types or examine length of sentences and use of punctuation to determine user authenticity, said DARPA program manager Richard Guidorizzi at the meeting. 

In its current announcement [4] DARPA stated: "The current standard method for validating a user's identity for authentication on an information system requires humans to do something that is inherently difficult: create, remember, and manage long, complex passwords. Moreover, as long as the session remains active, typical systems incorporate no mechanisms to verify that the user originally authenticated is the user still in control of the keyboard. Thus, unauthorized individuals may improperly obtain extended access to information system resources if a password is compromised or if a user does not exercise adequate vigilance after initially authenticating at the console."

More news: 25 tech touchstones of the past 25 years [5]

DARPA said the current Broad Agency Announcement will address the first phase of what it says will be a three phase development program.  In the first phase, the focus will be on researching biometrics that does not require the installation of additional hardware sensors. Rather, DARPA will look for research on biometrics that can be captured through the technology already in use in a standard DoD office environment, looking for aspects of the "cognitive fingerprint." A heavy emphasis will be placed on validating any potential new biometrics with tests to ensure they would be effective in large scale deployments.

Some examples of the computational behavior metrics of the cognitive fingerprint include:

  • - keystrokes
  • - eye scans
  • - how the user searches for information (verbs and predicates used)
  • - how the user selects information (verbs and predicates used)
  • - how the user reads the material selected
  • - eye tracking on the page
  • - speed with which the individual reads the content
  • - methods and structure of communication (exchange of email)

The later planned phases of the program will focus on developing a system that integrates any available biometrics using a new authentication platform suitable for deployment on a standard desktop or laptop. The authentication platform is planned to be developed with open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to allow the integration of other software or hardware biometrics available in the future from any source, DARPA stated. 

The Active Authentication program is just one of DARPA's many plans to improve system security. At its Colloquium meeting the agency reminded everyone that it had a big hand in creating the Internet and now its wants to get serious about protecting it.  DARPA Director Regina Dugan said that since 2009, the agency has steadily increased its cyber research efforts and its budget submission for fiscal year 2012 increased cyber research funding by $88 million, from $120 million to $208 million. In addition, over the next five years, the agency plans to grow its top-line budget investment in cyber research from 8% to 12%.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8 [6]  and on Facebook [7]

[1] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/who-really-sets-global-cybersecurity-standard
[2] http://www.networkworld.com/slideshows/2011/120111-security-layer8.html?ap1=rcb
[3] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/darpa-detail-program-radically-alters-securit
[4] https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=093ec9cdad8d8dc49e08855eae680084&tab=core&_cview=1
[5] http://www.networkworld.com/slideshows/2011/050911-anniversary-timeline.html?ap1=rcb
[6] http://twitter.com/NWWlayer8
[7] http://www.facebook.com/pages/Layer-8-By-Michael-Cooney/133875286655670
[8] http://www.networkworld.com/slideshow/25895
[9] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/nasa's-alternative-space-station-rocks-your-smartphone
[10] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/x-prize-offers-10m-competiton-build-star-trek-medical-tricorder
[11] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/who-are-go-cybersecurity-help-groups
[12] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/quick-look-creation-computer-language-translation-efforts-58-years-ago-month
[13] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/nasa-set-mars-bound-spacecrafts-biggest-thruster-blast
[14] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/epa-wants-your-environment-pictures-issues-public-photo-challenge
[15] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/thick-martian-dust-makes-nasa-pick-sunnier-locale-mars-rover
[16] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/dept-energy-developing-project-reinforce-grid-cybersecurity
[17] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/nasa-2012-its-really-not-end-world-we-know-it
[18] http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/murder-it-security-and-other-mysteries-stories-layer-8-2011


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Sniffing an SSL Handshake using Wireshark -- Crypto Song
Posted by boss on Sunday, 15 January 2012 @ 12:00:23 CET (4598 reads)
Topic Cryptography

cdupuis writes "

My good friend Larry Greenblatt an instructor extraordinaire and a men of many talents has created a great song about SSL sniffing using Wireshark.  Listen to it on UTube.  See his note below:

I created a music video about Crypto using Wireshark to sniff a SSL handshake with Google.  I got some good comments from some Sharkfest presenters and it looks like I am going to present this at Sharkfest 2012 in June!



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Only five candidates left in the SHA-3 contest final
Posted by boss on Monday, 13 December 2010 @ 22:59:17 CET (2824 reads)
Topic Cryptography

cdupuis writes "

As seen on the great SecurityH web site:

10 December 2010, 18:04

NIST's search for the super hash – just five candidates left in SHA-3 final

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)'s SHA-3[1] competition is entering its final round with five candidates – BLAKE, Grøstl, JH, Keccak and Skein – remaining. Europe's performance in the US agency's selection process has been conspicuously good.

The competition is aimed at finding a new standard hashing algorithm[2] (SHA) for generating the next generation of secure cryptographic hashes. A hash is a kind of digital fingerprint for data and is essential for online authentication procedures and for digital signatures. Two years ago, with SHA-1[3] no longer considered secure (see: Hash cracked: The consequences of the successful attacks on SHA-1[4]) and the successor algorithm SHA-2[5] also under a cloud due to its strong similarity to SHA-1, the standardisation organisation launched a competition to design[6] SHA-3. Of the remaining candidates, only BLAKE and Skein are heavily indebted to SHA-2 – the others all differ fundamentally from the current algorithm.

As well as security, a key criterion for selection is performance. Cryptologist Ron 'The R in RSA' Rivest withdrew[7] his MD6 process – it was highly-rated but conspicuously sluggish. However the committee has not simply selected the fastest algorithms. It's clearly important that the algorithm has a clear round structure, which achieves a balance between performance and security over the number of iterations.

It's interesting that three of the five finalists have their roots in Europe. BLAKE[8] originates in Switzerland, Grøstl[9] is the product of a collaboration between Graz University of Technology and the Technical University of Denmark, and one of the key personnel in the Keccak[10] team is the Belgian Joan Daemen. Hongjun Wu, the man behind JH[11], is from Singapore. Cryptography guru[12] Bruce Schneier is a key player in Skein[13], which is the only US algorithm left in the competition.

It's also notable that four of the five finalists have tweaked their designs at least once since the start of the competition. All finalists now have the opportunity to carry out further tweaks – the competition rules stipulate that all entrants have until 16th January to submit proposals for changes to prepare their algorithms for the forthcoming onslaught from the international cryptographic community. The new super hash is not scheduled to be crowned until 2012.

URL of this Article:

Links in this Article:
  [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SHA-3
  [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secure_Hash_Algorithm
  [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SHA-1
  [4] http://www.h-online.com/security/features/Hash-cracked-747181.html
  [5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SHA-2
  [6] http://www.h-online.com/news/item/New-hashes-wanted-737945.html
  [7] http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/07/md6.html
  [8] http://131002.net/blake/
  [9] http://www.groestl.info/
  [10] http://keccak.noekeon.org/
  [11] http://icsd.i2r.a-star.edu.sg/staff/hongjun/jh/
  [12] http://www.schneierfacts.com/
  [13] http://www.schneier.com/skein.html


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Hackers blind quantum cryptographers
Posted by boss on Sunday, 29 August 2010 @ 21:45:08 CEST (2373 reads)
Topic Cryptography

cdupuis writes "

As seen on the NatureNews web site at:


Hackers blind quantum cryptographers

Lasers crack commercial encryption systems, leaving no trace.

A way to intercept photons of light to create a security leak has been discovered.

Quantum hackers have performed the first 'invisible' attack on two commercial quantum cryptographic systems. By using lasers on the systems — which use quantum states of light to encrypt information for transmission — they have fully cracked their encryption keys, yet left no trace of the hack.

Quantum cryptography is often touted as being perfectly secure. It is based on the principle that you cannot make measurements of a quantum system without disturbing it. So, in theory, it is impossible for an eavesdropper to intercept a quantum encryption key without disrupting it in a noticeable way, triggering alarm bells.

Vadim Makarov at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and his colleagues have now cracked it. "Our hack gave 100% knowledge of the key, with zero disturbance to the system," he says.

In standard quantum cryptographic techniques, the sender — called 'Alice' for convenience — generates a secret key by encoding classical bit values of 0 and 1 using two different quantum states of photons, or particles of light. The receiver, 'Bob', reads off these bit values using a detector that measures the quantum state of incoming photons. In theory, an eavesdropper, 'Eve', will disturb the properties of these photons before they reach Bob, so that if Alice and Bob compare parts of their key, they will notice a mismatch.

In Makarov and colleagues' hack, Eve gets round this constraint by 'blinding' Bob's detector — shining a continuous, 1-milliwatt laser at it. While Bob's detector is thus disabled, Eve can then intercept Alice's signal. The research is published online in Nature Phototonics today1.

Breaking the rules

The cunning part is that while blinded, Bob's detector cannot function as a 'quantum detector' that distinguishes between different quantum states of incoming light. However, it does still work as a 'classical detector' — recording a bit value of 1 if it is hit by an additional bright light pulse, regardless of the quantum properties of that pulse.

That means that every time Eve intercepts a bit value of 1 from Alice, she can send a bright pulse to Bob, so that he also receives the correct signal, and is entirely unaware that his detector has been sabotaged. There is no mismatch between Eve and Bob's readings because Eve sends Bob a classical signal, not a quantum one. As quantum cryptographic rules no longer apply, no alarm bells are triggered, says Makarov.

"We have exploited a purely technological loophole that turns a quantum cryptographic system into a classical system, without anyone noticing," says Makarov.

Makarov and his team have demonstrated that the hack works on two commercially available systems: one sold by ID Quantique (IDQ), based in Geneva, Switzerland, and one by MagiQ Technologies, based in Boston, Massachusetts. "Once I had the systems in the lab, it took only about two months to develop a working hack," says Makarov.

This is the latest in a line of quantum hacks. Earlier this year, a group led by Hoi-Kwong Lo at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, also showed that an IDQ commercial system could be fully hacked. However, in that case, the eavesdropper did introduce some noticeable errors in the quantum key2.

Grégoire Ribordy, chief executive of IDQ, says that the hack of Makarov and his group is "far more practical to implement and goes further than anything that has gone before".

Both IDQ and MagiQ welcome the hack for exposing potential vulnerabilities in their systems. Makorov informed both companies of the details of the hack before publishing, so that patches could made, avoiding any possible security risk.

"We provide open systems for researchers to play with and we are glad they are doing it," says Anton Zavriyev, director of research and development at MagiQ.

Ribordy and Zavriyev stress that the open versions of their systems that are sold to university researchers are not the same as those sold for security purposes, which contain extra layers of protection. For instance, the fully commercial versions of IDQ's system also use classical cryptographic techniques as a safety net, says Ribordy.

Makarov agrees that the hack should not make people lose confidence in quantum cryptography. "Our work will ultimately make these systems stronger," he says. "If you want state-of-the-art security, quantum cryptography is still the best place to go." 


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Kobil SmartCard Reader hacked
Posted by boss on Monday, 07 June 2010 @ 07:58:47 CEST (4512 reads)
Topic Cryptography

cdupuis writes "

No broken seals:  A Windows tool allows unsigned firmware to be installed.

A vulnerability in smartcard readers made by vendor Kobil[1] allows intruders to install specially crafted firmware without opening the sealed housing. Attackers could exploit this to read PINs such as those used for digital document signatures or to display forged data on-screen. To prevent such intrusions from happening, smartcard readers are usually subjected to a special security check before they are approved. Several leading institutions had tested the Kobil readers and confirmed that they complied with the strict German Signature Law (SigG) including the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). The German Central Credit Committee (Zentraler Kreditausschuss, ZKA) also approved the [email protected] device for use with the "Geldkarte" application, and Secoder, the successor of HBCI, for home banking.

In its report on the affected Kobil devices, EMV-TriCAP Reader, SecOVID Reader III and KAAN [email protected], the BSI found[2] (German language link): "A firmware signature verification which uses the asymmetric ECDSA algorithm and a bit length of 192 guarantees firmware integrity and authenticity when loading new firmware into the chip card reader." This means it should be impossible to install firmware that does not have a vendor signature.

The reader's boot loader is responsible for checking the signature. A hacker using the name Colibri has managed to bypass the signature check by replacing the reader's boot loader with a specially crafted boot loader. The hacker introduced individual flash memory blocks in the wrong order, so that the memory contained some parts of the crafted boot loader and some parts of Kobil's signed boot loader – which was eventually accepted by the device. However, the crafted boot loader's signature check function was disabled, which allowed the hacker to flash arbitrary firmware onto the reader via USB. Colibri informed Kobil about the problem and released a fascinating and detailed report[3] (German language link) about the hack, as well as a Windows tool and firmware updates for reproducing the issue. Using this information, The H's associates at heise Security successfully managed to inject specially crafted firmware into a "Kaan [email protected]" smartcard reader (version 79.22).

At the end of April, Kobil released[4] security update 79.23 for the Kaan [email protected] to close the hole(s). According to Kobil's Head of Product Management and Development, Markus Tak, the update is also designed to prevent attackers from randomly updating memory blocks in the future.

The firmware can be replaced in just a few steps using a Windows tool. Although the hole was disclosed several weeks ago, publicly available information about this problem still remains sparse. While the German Federal Network Agency, being the responsible authority under section 3 of the German Signature Law (SigG), has issued a warning[5] (German language link) about the security hole on its web pages, the information so far doesn't seem to have reached the general user base.

When asked, the ZKA said that the vulnerability was not publicised because the issue affected a "limited group of customers" who were apparently informed directly by the vendor. Furthermore, the ZKA said that the applications for Geldkarte, HBCI and Secoder are not affected by the hole. However, the ZKA's press spokesperson was unable to explain why this should be the case.

Some savings banks have at least pointed out the problem on their web pages and recommend[6] (German language link) that users send their devices to Kobil, for an update. Potential residual risks reportedly make it advisable that users don't update the firmware themselves. In any case, the new firmware hasn't yet been certified. Kobil has not provided any updates for its EMV-TriCAP Reader and SecOVID Reader products, which are also affected.

Talking to heise Security, Colibri gave his hack an intermediate difficulty rating. The hacker said he has analysed devices as a hobby for years and considers other projects such as his analysis of the PowerVU encryption used in military transmissions much more difficult. Colibri said the most involved aspect of the hack was having to write a disassembler for the Toshiba processor used in Kobil's devices.

The vulnerabiltiy casts further bad light on security certifications for systems and software. Prof. Dr. Rainer W. Gerling, the Data Protection and IT Security Officer at the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science said in an interview with heise Security: "This hack shows that the quality of a certification depends on the creativity and imagination of the tester. This is a fundamental problem of certifications." It seems that the BSI testers were not the only ones who lacked imagination, because T-Systems also found[7] (German language link) in an independent test that the devices comply with the safe PIN entry requirements described in the German Signature Law and Signature Regulation.

URL of this Article:

Links in this Article:
  [1] http://www.kobil.com/
  [2] https://www.bsi-fuer-buerger.de/cae/servlet/contentblob/485368/publicationFile/29542/02096_pdf.pdf
  [3] http://colibri.net63.net/Smartcard-Reader-Hack.htm
  [4] http://www.kobil.com/index.php?id=1364&L=0
  [5] http://www.bundesnetzagentur.de/cln_1932/DE/Sachgebiete/QES/QES_node.html
  [6] https://www.sparkasse-kraichgau.de/privatkunden/konten_karten/online_mit_hbci/kaan/index.php
  [7] http://www.t-systems-zert.de/pdf/ein_02_sig_pro/zf_02219_d.pdf


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Researchers demonstrate brilliant quantum hack
Posted by boss on Monday, 04 January 2010 @ 08:47:44 CET (2342 reads)
Topic Cryptography

Anonymous writes "

Two researchers have shown how they can eavesdrop unnoticed on a provably secure quantum key distribution. To do so, Qin Liu and Sebastien Sauge did not of course change the laws of quantum physics. Instead, in archetypal hacker fashion, they successfully attacked the weakest point of a real world, and thus imperfect, implementation of a quantum key distribution system.

Quantum key distribution (QKD) is aimed at permitting absolute security in exchanging secret keys. Simplifying somewhat, it is based on sending two quantum mechanically entangled photons, which can be measured as having a value of 0 or 1, to Alice and Bob. Until either Alice or Bob actually determines the state of one of the photon, that state remains indeterminate. The only certainty is that if Alice at some point measures a 1, Bob will also subsequently measure a 1. If a malicious Eve intercepts the photons, she can read the value, but having done so is unable, according to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, to generate another photon with the same properties, thus allowing Bob to discover the subterfuge.

And this is where many real – and in some cases already commercially available – QKD systems fall down. Their detectors for measuring individual photons are in fact macroscopic systems. Liu and Sauge gave a live demonstration in Berlin, in which they blinded the detector from a typical QKD system using a bright light source so that it no longer responded to individual photons. The researchers could, though, still trigger the detector using intense targeted pulses. Instead of acting as a quantum mechanical measuring device, they turned Bob's detector into a kind of macroscopic switch, which they operated manually to spoof Bob photons with a specific (polarization) value.

The team was able to use this technique to eavesdrop on a real world QKD system which distributed keys over distances of 290 metres via fibre optic cables. Eve was able to successfully insert herself into the optical fibre and eavesdrop the full secret key without either Alice or Bob becoming aware of her subterfuge.

URL of this Article:

Links in this Article:
  [1] http://events.ccc.de/congress/2009/Fahrplan/events/3576.en.html

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Practical AES attacks get closer
Posted by boss on Monday, 03 August 2009 @ 16:15:27 CEST (2832 reads)
Topic Cryptography

cdupuis writes "

NOTE FROM CLEMENT: Another great article by The H Security website at: http://www.h-online.com/

Practical AES attacks get closer

Cryptologists have now developed even more sophisticated attacks on AES encryption systems. According to crypto expert Bruce Schneier, a team consisting of Alex Biryukov, Orr Dunkelman, Nathan Keller, Dmitry Khovratovich and Adi Shamir have managed to crack reduced versions of AES-256 in practical length of time. Attacking nine-round AES-256 required 239 time, which is even feasible with an ordinary PC, while ten-round would require 245. The time required for eleven rounds, however, is just above practicality at 270. The attack exploits a vulnerability in the key schedule, a function AES-256 uses to derive sub-keys from the main key.

While the new attacks represent major progress in the cryptanalysis of AES, they are still irrelevant for attacks against real-world AES implementations and this is not only because of the reduced number of rounds (by default, AES-256 uses 14 rounds). Also, the attack is a related-key attack, which means that the attacker must have access to the plaintext of several units of ciphertext encrypted with keys that are related in a specific way. Such scenarios can theoretically only be found, for example, in hard disk encryption and network protocols, where the individual block keys are generated in such a weak way.

That the new methods are completely ineffective, or nearly so, when attacking AES-128, which has the shortest keys, seems at first glance, contradictory. The reason: Long keys provide a bigger target, that is more bits, for the cryptologists to establish mathematical relationships. To maintain the integrity of AES encryption Schneier suggests increasing the number of rounds before the first practical attacks reach reach the number of rounds used by standard AES: from ten to 16 for AES-128, from twelve to 20 for AES-192, and from 14 to 28 for AES-256. However, this considerably slows down the encryption process.

See also:


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Encryption with elliptical curves scratched
Posted by boss on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 @ 10:44:07 CEST (2332 reads)
Topic Cryptography

cdupuis writes "

Source: lacal.epfl.ch


The PlayStation 3 cluster at the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne has cracked another cryptographic method: 112-bit elliptical curves

PlayStation 3 cluster

Researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland, have succeeded in cracking 112-bit encryption based on elliptical curves (ECCp-112). They calculated the secret key associated with a public key by solving the Discrete Logarithm Problem (DLP) for elliptical curves, which displays a complexity of 260 for the numbers involved. The cracked ECC system is a set of parameters defined by the secp112r1PDF standard. That puts it at the lower end of the specifications for ECC encryption systems.

The computation required around half a year on the EPFL cluster, consisting of some 200 PlayStation 3s that had already served to calculate the MD5 collision for creating a fake SSL issuer certificate from RapidSSL. The ECC code designed for the cell processor of the PlayStation 3 was optimised several times during the computation period, and the researchers say that, if the optimised code had been running from the start, the computation would only have taken three and a half months. The previous record was set in 2002, when a distributed cluster consisting of around 10,000 PCs cracked an ECC key within 549 days. At that time, researchers at Notre Dame University cracked an ECCp-109 key, three bits shorter than the new record.

Dr. Arjen Lenstra, who took part in the EPFL project, told heise Security that this result isn't actually a threat to the EC encryption systems used in practice. He said the weakest encryption encountered is based on 160-bit ECC and future developments in encryption standards would in any case have to be based on at least 224-bit ECC. According to the NIST transition proposalPDF, ECCp-160, whose encryption strength is comparable with RSA-1024, must be replaced with a stronger variant after 2010 in order to obtain FIPS certification.

See original article on the fabulous H Security website at:



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Laser cracks 'unbreakable' quantum communications
Posted by boss on Friday, 03 October 2008 @ 14:58:31 CEST (2534 reads)
Topic Cryptography

03 October 20   NewScientist.com news service    David Robson

Quantum cryptography is supposed to be unbreakable. But a flaw in a common type of equipment used makes it possible to intercept messages without detection.

Quantum cryptography has been used by some banks to protect data, and even to hide election results in Switzerland last year. But it has been discovered that shining bright light into the sensitive equipment needed makes it possible to hijack communications without a trace.

"It turns the equipment into a puppet-box that an eavesdropper can control," says Vadim Makarov from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, who uncovered the vulnerability.

Super secret

Quantum cryptography relies on both users sharing a secret key, each digit of which is encoded into the polarisation of an individual light photon.

"Alice", the sender transmits a stream of photons signalling either 1s or 0s. But for each one she randomly chooses from one of two ways to encode the digit.

Because the receiver, "Bob", doesn't know which system Alice has used he must be able to decode both types and has two pairs of photon detectors – one for each system.

A beam splitter randomly directs each photon received to one of the pairs. If a photon reaches the correct pair it is decoded correctly, if not Bob receives a false result.

Once the transmission is over, Alice uses an unencrypted channel to tell Bob which system she used for each photon. Digits decoded wrongly are discarded to reveal the final secret key used to secure later communications.

In practise, these steps are carried out automatically by a computer system.

An eavesdropper, "Eve", who intercepts the transmission, must emulate Bob's detection method and then pass the data on to him unaltered to fool him everything is normal.

But quantum mechanics makes that impossible. The message will have been changed by Eve's interception to contain errors that reveal her presence when Alice and Bob compare notes later.

Dead giveaway

Now, however, Makarov and colleagues from Sweden and Russia have shown that Eve could control Bob's equipment, so that they both decode exactly the same digits from Alice's transmission.

When Alice later tells Bob which photons he encoded wrong, Eve can learn the key by listening in on the unencrypted message, and there are no extra errors to give her away.

The method exploits the way a common type of photon counter can have its sensitivity reduced by a very bright flash of light. The attack begins when Eve fires a pulse of laser light to all four detectors in Bob's equipment.

After that, Eve can send a second pulse and target it to just one of the four detectors. The pulse is a burst of many single photons all encoded using the same of the two quantum systems, and all carrying the same digit.

Bob's beam splitter initially sends half the photons to each pair of detectors. Photons that reach the detector that is not designed for that encoding system are split again between the two detectors. But not enough power reaches them to exceed the newly raised sensitivity threshold.

The half of the initial pulse that reaches the pair designed for that encoding system are all directed to a single detector – this time with enough intensity to exceed its raised threshold, and it registers a digit.

So by sending on a sequence of encoded photons that are identical to the ones she receives from Alice, Eve can safely intercept a message without leaving the tell-tale quantum errors.

Flash in the pan?

Makarov and colleagues have now uncovered such vulnerabilities in two of the three types of quantum equipment commonly used. They are now investigating ways to solve the flaw without introducing more weaknesses.

Norbert Lütkenhaus from the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, Canada, acknowledges Makarov's team has discovered a flaw. But he points out that the stronger laser pulses used to prime the detector might be noticed by Bob, giving away the attack.

"I don't think it's a serious flaw," he says. Makarov counters that the initial bright flash would likely be mistaken for noise.

A paper on Makarov's work is available on the arXiv preprint server

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Quantum Key Cryptography Paper by At&T
Posted by boss on Thursday, 28 August 2008 @ 13:34:32 CEST (2568 reads)
Topic Cryptography

cdupuis writes "


Quantum cryptography and more specifically Quantum Key Cryptography or the Quantum Key Distribution Protocol is one of the new subjects covered within the CBK of ISC2.    Here is a nice white paper you can read on the subject.  It is detailed enough for the purpose of the exam.

Executive Summary

Quantum Cryptography is an emerging technology that may offer new forms of security protection. Relying on the laws of quantum mechanics, transmission is carried by a single particle that can only be measured one time, making encryption and decryption difficult to compromise.

Businesses are evaluating architectural solutions using Quantum Cryptography to understand its potential benefits. Future implementations of the technology may soon make it more available for enterprise business.

Click HERE to download Article [PDF, 412KB]


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Quantum Cryptography Cost are being reduced greatly
Posted by boss on Wednesday, 04 June 2008 @ 01:22:07 CEST (3847 reads)
Topic Cryptography

cdupuis writes "

Two for One: NIST Design Enables More Cost Effective Quantum Key Distribution

schematic drawing

A highly simplified schematic of a recipient's detectors in a quantum cryptography setup. Conventional cryptography setups (left) require at least two detectors, and the most common setup, known as BB84, requires four. By adding an optical component that delays the travel of photons to the detector, the number of required detectors is cut in half.

Credit: NIST

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated a simpler and potentially lower-cost method for distributing strings of digits, or “keys,” for use in quantum cryptography, the most secure method of transmitting data. The new “quantum key distribution” (QKD) method, outlined in an upcoming paper,* minimizes the required number of detectors, by far the most costly components in quantum cryptography. Although this minimum-detector arrangement cuts transmission rates by half, the NIST system still works at broadband speeds, allowing, for example, real-time quantum encryption and decryption of webcam-quality video streams over an experimental quantum network.

In quantum cryptography, a recipient (named Bob) needs to measure a sequence of photons, or particles of light that are transmitted by a sender (named Alice). These photons have information encoded in their polarization, or direction of their electric field. In the most common polarization-based protocol, known as BB84, Bob uses four single-photon detectors, costing approximately $5,000-$20,000 each. One pair of detectors records photons with horizontal and vertical polarization, which could indicate 0 and 1 respectively. The other pair detects photons with “diagonal”, or +/- 45 degree, polarization in which the “northeast” and “northwest” directions alternatively denote 0 and 1.

In the new method, the researchers, led by NIST’s Xiao Tang, designed an optical component to make the diagonally polarized photons rotate by a further 45 degrees and arrive at the same detector but later, and into a separate “time bin”, than the horizontal/vertical polarized ones. Therefore, one pair of detectors can be used to record information from both kinds of polarized photons in succession, reducing the required number of detectors from four to two. In another protocol, called B92, the researchers reduced the required number of detectors from two to one. And in work performed since their new paper, the researchers further developed their approach so that the popular BB84 method now only requires one detector instead of four.

Although in theory quantum cryptography can transmit absolutely secure keys guaranteed by fundamental physical principles (measuring them will disturb their values and make an eavesdropper instantly known), the imperfect properties of photon detectors may undermine system security in practice. For example, photon detectors have an intrinsic problem known as “dead time,” in which a detector is out of commission for a short time after it records a photon, causing it to miss the bit of data that immediately follows; this could result in non-random (and therefore more predictable) bit patterns in which 0s alternate with 1s. Furthermore, inevitable performance differences between detector pairs can also cause them to record less random sequences of digits. The new design avoids these issues and maintains the security of quantum-key-distribution systems in practical applications.

* L. Ma, T. Chang, A. Mink, O. Slattery, B. Hershman and X. Tang. Experimental demonstration of a detection-time-bin-shift polarization encoding quantum key distribution system. IEEE Communications Letters Vol. 12, No. 6, June 2008. In press.

Media Contact: Ben Stein, [email protected], (301) 975-3097



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Federal Government to deploy Full Disk Encryption on all government owned system
Posted by boss on Thursday, 28 December 2006 @ 20:23:21 CET (3816 reads)
Topic Cryptography

Anonymous writes "

By Saqib Ali

December 28,2006


To address the issue of data leaks from stolen or missing laptops, US Government is planning to use Full Disk Encryption (FDE) on all of the Government owned computers. On June 23, 2006 a Presidential Mandate was put in place requiring all agency laptops to fully encrypt data on the HDD. The US Government is currently conducting the largest single side-by-side comparison and competition for the selection of a Full Disk Encryption product. This implementation will end up being the largest single implementation ever, and all of the information regarding the competition is in the public domain. The selected product will be deployed on Millions of computers in the US federal government space. The evaluation will come to a end in 90 days.

The list of vendors partipicating in this contest, requirements, and other related documents are available at:

Some of the popular FDE vendors participating in the Contest include Seagate, Mobile Armor, Pointsec, SafeNet, and Credant

As with any other encryption product being used by Federal Government, the selected FDE product must have FIP 140-2 certification. Currently Pointsec and Utimaco hold this certification for the software based FDE solutions.

Full disk encryption (or whole disk encryption) is a kind of disk encryption (software or hardware) which encrypts every bit of data that goes on a disk. The term "full disk encryption" is often used to signify that everything on a disk including the operating system is encrypted. There are also programs capable of encrypting an entire disk fully but cannot directly encrypt the system partition or boot partition of the operating system (e.g. TrueCrypt, which can fully encrypt, for example, an entire secondary hard disk).

Full disk encryption has several benefits compared to regular file or folder encryption, or encrypted vaults. The following are some benefits of full disk encryption:

1. Everything including the swap space and the temporary files are encrypted. Encrypting these files is important, as they can reveal important confidential data.
2. With full disk encryption, the decision of which files to encrypt is not left up to users.
3. Support for pre-boot authentication.

In the light of recent laptops theft and data security breaches, large corporations and government institutions are looking at various Full Disc Encryption (FDE) solution to protect their confidential data on mobile devices. If you would like to discuss more about FDE deployment and FDE solution in general please join the FDE Mailing List

Original article at: http://www.full-disk-encryption.net/fde_govt.html

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Great Crypto Tutorials available online for free
Posted by boss on Wednesday, 07 June 2006 @ 15:11:07 CEST (4676 reads)
Topic Cryptography

University of Washington is offering free courses and resources online.

Find Presentations, videos (mp3, WMV), homework, quizzes etc.



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