I certainly agree with Fernando Pereira that there appear to be irresponsible officials involved in this incident, but I beg to differ with him about just who and where they are. If the published accounts are accurate, then the systems being "cracked" are many of the same ones that have been "cracked" in the past, and the security loopholes that are being exercised are the self-same ones that have been used in past episodes. The irresponsible officials are not at the University of Utrecht, as Fernando Pereira would have us believe; rather, they are the bureaucrats managing the systems who haven't closed the well-understood loopholes. The risk? The continued belief that "security through obscurity" can work, that by prohibiting access (and making the open flow of unclassified data a crime) we can somehow eliminate the need to secure our systems. This is *not* a matter of blaming the victim, when the victim is suffering from his (or her) own negligence. Mr. Pereira is correct: "Should a site whose officials show this kind of disregard for the common good of the network-using community be allowed to stay on the Internet?" Of course not, but it is NOT a problem in Utrecht, it is a problem in the systems that were compromised through their own lack of diligence in implementing known fixes for known security problems. Tom Dr. Thomas P. Blinn, Digital Equipment Corporation, Digital Drive, Merrimack, New Hampshire 03054 ...!decwrl!dr.enet.dec.com!blinn (603) 884-4865
I think before we can seriously worry about intruders using countries outside the United States (and other countries with computer crime laws) as places to hide, we need to take a close look at ourselves first. I, along with a number of other organizations, have been working in the field of intrusion detection. I remember how excited I was when I detected my first honest to goodness intrusion. Several months later, and several HUNDRED intrusions later, I now feel like a guest on the hackers' networks. Why should I worry about hackers from other countries when we have thousands of them here at home? Todd
The recent discussions of proposed regulations on cryptographic equipment have approached a deep issue that I think has been inadequately discussed and thought through. People continue to discuss the specific issue of cryptography entirely through the traditional approaches of the First and Fifth amendments and ideas about personal privacy. There's a risk in doing this: The risk of missing new risks caused by application of ideas in new and different circumstances. Societies have always claimed the right to control various objects and substances that thet consider dangerous. Drugs, plants that produce drugs, explosives, guns, various kinds of precursors for dangerous things that are not in themselves dangerous, have all been regulated for many years. We are in the midst of an ongoing debate in the United States about the degree to which we should control access to guns - but in fact we've had some controls on them (machine guns and sawed-off shotguns are illegal) for a long time. Many people have argued that we are in transition to an "information-based" society, that in the future the source of wealth and power will be, not material goods, but information itself. If this is the case, I posit that we will inevitably find that, just as we have found it necessary in the industrial age to control access to certain substances and devices, in an information age we will find it necessary to control access to and dissemination of certain classes of information. In fact, we already do this. No one I know argues that you should have the right to distribute other people's charge account numbers; no one seems upset when credit card thieves are prosecuted for selling such numbers. (We may call the charges brought against them different things, but in practice what we are trying to prevent is trafficing in a certain class of information). We're concerned about companies that sell data - information - about us without our consent. The companies might argue that they are just exercising their rights of free speech, but somehow that argument doesn't seem enough. The government has a massive establishment for classifying information and keeping classified information secret. Generally, if you come upon classified information from a non-classified source, you are free to do with it what you wish. It's little-known that there are two exceptions to this in the law: Certain information regarding nuclear weapons and cryptography is "born classified" - you are bound by restrictions even if you discover the information yourself. (There have been few attempts to enforce these laws; I don't think any attempt has been fought out to a Supreme Court decision on the obvious constitutional questions that arise.) You cannot export programs that implement cryptographic algorithms from the United States - you may think they are "information", but the government essentially classifies them as munitions. (And, no, "public domain" or "free" distributions are treated no differently from for-profit distributions.) When NASA was created, it was required to make all its plans and designs available to anyone who asked. These days, there's increasing concern that a Libya or an Iraq can easily obtain full engineering drawings, specifications, manufacturing techniques, even lists of suppliers, for tested missiles with intercontinental range. Duplicating that work from scratch would be a formidable, if not impossible, undertaking for most countries in the world. (Actually building the missiles is still difficult, but it's much, much easier to build from complete plans.) As information, in and of itself, becomes more and more central to our economies, our military, and every aspect of our lives, the clash between free speech and safety and privacy will inevitably increase. I believe it's naive to think that we can ignore this clash, or continue to claim that "openness" is ALWAYS the best policy. (In fact, I know of few people who really believe that, even if they say it: If you claim you believe openness is always the best approach, ask yourself whether you believe the store you rent VCR tapes from should have the right to make public information about what you view. It all comes down to whose ox is gored, doesn't it?) (BTW, your VCR data IS private, by law. This little special-case law was, as I recall, passed in response to outrage about newpaper reports on Robert Bork's viewing habits while his Supreme Court nomination was being considered.) The general issue of control of information has actually been discussed in science fiction for years. Larry Niven's novels have various references to agencies with the job of controlling the dissemination of information - that's one of ARM's jobs, for example. The earliest, and still one of the best, discussions is in a story written by Isaac Asimov in the late fifties or early sixties. The title is something like "The Dead Past"; it appears in a collection titled "Earth Is Room Enough". I highly recommend it to anyone who thinks that these problems have trivial solutions. — Jerry
After reading many posts about Senate bill 266, I have decided that this issue is worth writing to my senators about. I have drafted the enclosed letter, and I urge everyone to send a copy of it to their senators as well. Regardless of the immediate impact of this bill, the long term effects of the statement in question can only be to compromise both personal freedom and national security in the United States. Dear Senator [Your senators name], Recently, Senator Biden introduced a counter terrorism bill containing a very distressing provision. In Senate 266, section 2201 titled "Cooperation of telecommunications providers with law enforcement", that proposition is put forth that "It is the sense of Congress that providers of electronic communications service equipment shall ensure that communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text contents of voice, data, and other communications when authorized by law." I do not believe that requiring communications 'gear' (whether it be transmission equipment or communications software) to allow anyone 'authorized by law' to read data transmitted by such means will serve your constituents or our national interest. I understand that the proposition is not specifically requiring manufacturers to do anything at this time. What it does is give the secret bureaucracies of the executive branch of our government free reign to create any such regulations that they see fit to write. The only outcome of such power can be the enactment of one or more regulations diminishing the ability to transmit secure data via electronic means of communication. No other form of communication has attached to it the universal ability to read any communication that it is used to transmit. I can send an encrypted letter through the mail, and the only way anyone other than the intended recipient can read that letter is by asking one of the two participants what it says. Why should electronic means of communication be any different? Consider the following scenario: The Department of Defense makes heavy use of electronic communication both on and off the battlefield. If all communication systems were to have a method whereby an individual other than the intended recipient could read the message, an unfriendly organization will gain access to the contents of some (or all) of our military communication. This is a very serious breach of national security as well an affront to the personal privacy of millions of United States citizens. By adopting that statement, the Congress will be adopting a stance that will inevitably result in the widespread use of communications systems highly susceptible to compromise not only by authorized government agencies, but by outlaws and antagonistic foriegn nationals as well. You should ensure that the section in question is rewritten to read "It is the sense of Congress that communications via electronic means shall be protected from being read by any but the intended recipient by all reasonable means available to the transmitting device or authority." If you feel that it is important that the government have access to the data passed between individuals, then you may want to introduce a bill stating "The government may, with the permission of a judge, subpoena the contents of electronically transmitted messages. Anyone willfully destroying subpoenaed electronic information is subject to (some term of imprisonment and/or some fine)." By all means let's protect ourselves from terrorism, but let's not give up any of our fundamental liberties in doing so. Sincerely, [your name]
I am not a lawyer, and off-hand would have agreed with Bob's analysis. However, at the recent Computers, Privacy, and Freedom Conference, I had lunch with several lawyers (defense and prosecution). I brought up this very problem, and they delved into the reasoning a judge would use when confronted with law enforcement agents trying to pry a key out of someone. It was their solid conclusion--on Constitutional grounds--that a person could not be force to disclose a crypto key, because the *resultant* decrypted data would be the "product" (in some legal sense) of the key and the encrypted data, and would thus invoke the self-incrimination protection of the Constitution. I guess you can be forced to turn over physical items, and even safe combinations, but not crypto keys which act directly upon information to make it useable, and possibly incriminating. For all the reasurance, I am not eager to be a test case! H. Keith Henson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
> Although US citizens have a right against self incrimination, it is unlikely > that this right extends to withholding cryptographic keys encoding potentially >... > Establish a well documented, and publicized, policy of encoding numerous > "dummmy files" (perhaps using man pages as source text) using your standard > encryption algorithm, with random keys which are not recorded. This will > produce a *DOCUMENTED SITUATION* in which you are not able to product > decryption keys for the majority of your files, even if you wanted to. Or how about this. Design a cipher system that allows n files along with some white noise to be jointly encrypted into a single file using several different keys. Use data compression and white noise to hide how many files and how much data is actually there. Then, when asked to decrypt, one can give any key or keys one pleases so as to decrypt to one of many documents, innocent or otherwise. Or hide your data: 1) In large executable files. 2) In the grammar of large computer programs. 3) Using data compression techniques in other (non-compressed) data. The possibilities for hiding data are endless. One way to police this sort of thing might be to demand that a ciphertext decrypt to a document, which when compressed, is about the same length as the ciphertext. Ross Williams. email@example.com
For those wanting secure encryption, a true one-time pad (with the key as long as the text), really used only once, remains as unbreakable as it ever was. It's tedious as hell to use, because you have to courier enough keys to your recipients in advance to cover all the messages you ever expect to send, but it is, if applied with absolute diligence, really safe. That is, it reduces spying back to the good old low-tech methods of sex, blackmail, burglary, corruption and personal violence.
That story reminded me of something that happened nearly 30 years ago, but the the government is often accused of using data processing technology that is 30 years behind the times. The truck division of one of the automakers had a regional parts warehouse. Dealers ordered parts from the warehouse by filling out a form on a machine that made punched paper tape. The tape was then transmitted to the warehouse with a telephone and modem setup. There was no checking, parity or anything else. One night the transmission made a single-bit error, changing ASCII zero to one. This turned an order for 17 dipsticks into an order for 1017 dipsticks. The warehouse computer processed the order, even generating a letter to the dealer to the effect that there were only 234 dipsticks in stock, and they were sending those and would order the rest from the factory and send them when they came in. The mistake was discovered when the guy packing the order for shipment wondered why that small-town dealer needed so many dipsticks and brought it to the attention of his boss. Perhaps by now packaging and shipping technology has improved to the point that the 234 dipsticks could be shipped without anyone having a chance to notice.
In Risks 11:49, David Lamb alludes to a science-fiction story which he misattributes to Cyril Kornbluth. "Primary Education of the Camiroi" was written by R. A. Lafferty and published 25 years ago in _Galaxy._ The story does indeed mention a child who reads too fast: "Only the other day there was a child in the third grade who persisted in rapid reading," Philoxenus said. "He was given an object lesson. He was given a book of medium difficulty, and he read it rapidly. Then he had to put the book away and repeat what he had read. Do you know that in the first thirty pages he missed four words? ..." As a mere Earthling, Mr. Lamb may be forgiven his error; but Philoxenus later mentions that at Camiroi schools slow learners are executed. Usenet is more humane — slow learners are merely ex-communicated! Col. G. L. Sicherman firstname.lastname@example.org.COM
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