Feeds

Vint Cerf wanted to make internet secure from the start, but secrecy prevented it

Tells Google Hangout buds that tech was 'classified' at the time...

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The NSA acted as a barrier to the rollout of encryption as standard from the very inception of the internet back in the mid 1970s.

Youtube Video

Engineers had wanted to add a network encryption layer as part of the original specifications for TCP/IP. Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman had published a paper on public key cryptography systems, so the kernel of a technology to make the internet secure was already there. However the algorithms that would have made the idea a practical reality had to wait until Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman published the RSA algorithm in 1977.

Intel agencies including the NSA and GCHQ had already invented public key cryptography systems, but this work remained top secret.

Meanwhile, Vint Cerf, the pioneering internet security engineer, was working on components of a classified NSA at Stanford in the mid 1970s to build a secure, classified internet.

Cerf explained during a Google Hangout session:

I worked with the National Security Agency on the design of a secured version of the internet but we used classified security technology at the time and I couldn't share that with my colleagues. If I could start over again I would have introduced a lot more strong authentication and cryptography into the system.

Video from the key segment of the session can be found here (via YouTube).

Not sharing a fundamental leap forward in privacy communications security technology at the height of the Cold War is understandable if regrettable from the perspective of the current lamentable state of internet security.

Cert's historical footnote does, however, add an extra element to the current debate over the NSA's attempts to weaken encryption schemes and push weak algorithms through schemes like Project Bullrun and the now infamous Dual_EC_DRBG "backdoor".

Former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker, a lawyer rather than a cryptographer, argues that suggestions that his former employer is undermining net security are wide of the mark last weekend. Baker's blog post provoked a feisty exchange with regular sparing partner Jacob Appelbaum, a Tor Project developer, on Twitter. Appelbaum argued the NSA was sabotaging US companies, crypto standards and the US Constitution.

Baker responded that Edward Snowden is "under the thumb" of the Russians and that his revelations about NSA spying tactics are assisting authoritarian government, including the government of Syria.

The exchange can be reviewed here. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
Apple grapple: Congress kills FBI's Cupertino crypto kybosh plan
Encryption would lead us all into a 'dark place', claim G-Men
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.