You may have heard speculation that the NSA has secretly broken the strong cryptographic systems used to keep data secret -- after all, why collect all that scrambled data if they can't unscramble it? But Bruce Schneier argues (convincingly) that this is so impossible as to be fanciful. So why have they done this? My guess is that they're counting on flaws being revealed in the cryptographic implementations in the field (or maybe they've discovered such flaws and are keeping them secret). Or they're hoping for a big breakthrough in the future (quantum computing, anyone?).
Right now the upper practical limit on brute force is somewhere under 80 bits. However, using that as a guide gives us some indication as to how good an attack has to be to break any of the modern algorithms. These days, encryption algorithms have, at a minimum, 128-bit keys. That means any NSA cryptoanalytic breakthrough has to reduce the effective key length by at least 48 bits in order to be practical.
There’s more, though. That DES attack requires an impractical 70 terabytes of known plaintext encrypted with the key we’re trying to break. Other mathematical attacks require similar amounts of data. In order to be effective in decrypting actual operational traffic, the NSA needs an attack that can be executed with the known plaintext in a common MS-Word header: much, much less.
So while the NSA certainly has symmetric cryptanalysis capabilities that we in the academic world do not, converting that into practical attacks on the sorts of data it is likely to encounter seems so impossible as to be fanciful.
How Advanced Is the NSA’s Cryptanalysis — And Can We Resist It?
(Image: A Stick Figure Guide to the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) )
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has just filed a lawsuit that challenges the Constitutionality of Section 1201 of the DMCA, the “Digital Rights Management” provision of the law, a notoriously overbroad law that bans activities that bypass or weaken copyright access-control systems, including reconfiguring software-enabled devices (making sure your IoT light-socket will accept third-party lightbulbs; tapping […]
Exiled NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and legendary hardware hacker Andrew bunnie” Huang have published a paper detailing their new “introspection engine” for the Iphone, an external hardware case that clips over the phone and probes its internal components with a miniature oscilloscope that reads all the radio traffic in and out of the device to […]
The baseband firmware in your phone is the outermost layer of software, the “bare metal” code that has to be implicitly trusted by the phone’s operating system and apps to work; a flaw in that firmware means that attackers can do scary things to your hone that the phone itself can’t detect or defend against.
Much of what goes into creating an amazing photo happens in the digital darkroom. Here’s your chance to master all things photo editing: the Ultimate Adobe Photo Editing Bundle, now available in the Boing Boing Store for just $29.99.Across 8 courses and over 41 hours of intensive instruction, you’ll learn the fundamentals of Adobe’s suite of photo […]
3D printers are hot, but they’re also pricey. While the prospect of cranking out everything we can dream up is enticing, cost is often one factor that keeps us from jumping onto the 3D printing train.Now, thanks to M3D, that doesn’t have to be the case. You can now get its flagship 3D printer–plus four reels of filaments–for just […]
It’s no secret that technology is changing the way we all work—but it’s also transforming the way we play. The games of today look nothing like those of 10 or even 20 years ago: these days it’s all about mobile and 3D. And now you can learn to design 3D mobile games with the Intro to Unity 3D Game […]