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Tim Wilson
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Researchers: RSA Adopted Second Tool That Might Have Helped NSA Surveillance

RSA adopted a technology extension for secure websites that may have allowed faster cracking of RSA's flawed Dual Elliptic Curve.

A group of university researchers has discovered that the RSA security company adopted a second tool that may have made it easier for the National Security Agency to spy on users.

According to an exclusive news report published Monday by Reuters, a group of professors from Johns Hopkins, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Illinois is planning to publish a report which states that RSA adopted a technology called the “Extended Random” extension for secure websites, which may have allowed faster cracking of RSA’s flawed Dual Elliptic Curve technology.

RSA has been under fire since December, when Reuters reported that the security company had accepted $10 million to use the security-flawed Dual Elliptic Curve encryption technology, which allegedly provided a "back door" that enabled the NSA to tap encrypted electronic communications.

According to a preview of the university research that was provided to Reuters, the Extended Random extension could help crack a version of RSA’s Dual Elliptic Curve software tens of thousand times faster.

In response to the research, RSA told Reuters that it had not intentionally weakened the security of any product and that Extended Random had been removed from RSA’s software within the last six months because it was not popular.

"We could have been more skeptical of NSA's intentions," RSA Chief Technologist Sam Curry told Reuters. "We trusted them because they are charged with security for the US government and US critical infrastructure."

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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Randy Naramore
Randy Naramore,
User Rank: Ninja
4/1/2014 | 3:33:36 PM
Re: Trust but don't verify
Whether you are RSA or a major retailer (Target), this type of "bad press" will make CIOs or CISOs think long and hard about deploying apps or in this case extensions that can reflect badly on your organization. Before pushing out an app like this, much security testing should have been performed and it may have been but apparently it was not enough. Target apparently was warned about the potentially vulnerable POS devices but refused to act appropriately. I think maybe they are second guessing that decision now.
User Rank: Ninja
4/1/2014 | 3:11:53 PM
Re: Trust but don't verify
In Italy we say that two clues are a test. The situation is really embarrassing, a real disaster for the American cyber security industry.
The distrust of the U.S. government and major companies who collaborate with it could have serious repercussions on a global scale in the coming months.
Sara Peters
Sara Peters,
User Rank: Author
4/1/2014 | 10:10:24 AM
Trust but don't verify
I'm a forgiving gal, so I want to give RSA the benefit of the doubt... but I don't know if I can. I hope that they've taken some lesson from this, and that they'll start getting the technologists more involved in the business decisions that contributed to this debacle. I also hope that the engineers have incorporated some new process to check for this kind of nonsense in the future.
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