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Open Source Encryption Must Get Smarter
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Matt_Little
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Matt_Little,
User Rank: Author
12/18/2014 | 8:33:02 AM
Re: Good points - but what about the next generation?

I've followed the Snowden leaks closely. He's certainly done wonders for those outside of the InfoSec community when it comes to general knowledge about the necessity for encryption. As for how Snowden relates to not trusting proprietary encryption code, are you referring to the intentional weakening of RSA's DUAL EC? Something else? I ask because most of the other leaks detail exploiting vulnerabilities surrounding implementation, not actually breaking crypto. Have I missed something?

I do agree that "you have no idea who has been putting trapdoors into your software" but that applies to open source as well. How deeply must we inspect the code? What about the language used? The libraries that shipped with your OS? What about the compilers? The firmware? Hardware?

The rigor required to write good security software is more often found within established companies. They have processes in place that make the variables mentioned above as consistent as possible.  There's also more control over the team and the talent. A high degree of certainty in all of these areas are critical when it comes to building security applications.

At the end of the day, this game is about trust. We're all making decisions about which products to trust. Just because you can look at the code yourself doesn't mean you're capable of understanding it and just because a "security" expert said the code is fine, doesn't mean it is.

The Ada point is relevant. I don't think it's the solution but if anyone is intereted in more information about some of the security shortcomings of popular native languages and how Ada addresses them there's a free e-book you can grab from AdaCore: http://www.adacore.com/uploads_gems/Ada_Safe_and_Secure_Booklet.pdf

 

 

fustbariclation
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fustbariclation,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/15/2014 | 4:15:12 AM
Good points - but what about the next generation?
These are good and important points to bear in mind.

Importantly, though, we now know, through Snowden, that proprietary code, particularly encryption code, can never be trusted - you have no idea who has been putting trapdoors in and it's highly unlikely the very best people you can hire will be able to find them.

It is sad that open source cryptography has been neglected. What you should demand of your encryption software is:

 

- It is open source

- It is easy to understand (if not, you'll find it difficult to spot trapdoors)

- The cryptographic method hasn't been approved by a dubious authority

- It doesn't have any strange, aribtrary blocks of numbers in it

- It is reliabe

 

Naturally, if you're using a proprietary system, like Microsoft Windows, then there's no point in bothering - you are compromised.

The open source community should be providing security software that satisfies these requirements.

To satisfy them all, it should be written in Ada.
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Moderator
12/8/2014 | 3:38:55 PM
Great Points!
Some real great advice here, especially since I've seen some of the downsides to having folks in-house work with both out of box and open source software.  As stated here, one of the biggest things is to be honest with your security requirements.  If you don't have the in-house expertise to properly vet an application, getting an outside resource is going to be critical.  Just because open source comes with a nice price tag attached, it doesn't mean you don't have to do due diligence.  You need to make sure that you are aware of any limitations both in functionality AND in security and be honest about it.


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