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Cryptographers crack system for verifying digital images

Have you seen my signing key?

Cryptographers have cracked software used to verify that images taken with Canon cameras haven't been altered.

Russian password-cracking company ElcomSoft said on Tuesday that it's able to extract the original signing key from the Canon Original Data Security Kit and use it to validate fake photos. Canon has billed the service as a way to verify the originality of an image and to confirm that global positioning coordinates, data, time, and other metadata hasn't been changed.

“The entire image verification system is proved useless,” ElcomSoft CEO Vladimir Katalov said in a statement. “If one company was able to produce fake images indistinguishable from originals, how do we know that others haven't been doing this for years?”

The Russian company mocked the system by posting doctored photos authenticated by the system purporting to show Russian cosmonauts landing on the moon ahead of US astronauts and Joseph Stalin brandishing an iPhone.

According to ElcomSoft, the verification kit embeds cryptographic data into every image taken with a compatible Canon camera that's supposed to verify the picture's authenticity and originality. The kit's demise joins a long list of other cracks by ElcomSoft that extract everything from iPhone 4 passwords to Wi-Fi encryption keys.

A PDF of the announcement is here. ®

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