Feeds

Crypto-guru slams 'NSA-proof' tech, says today's crypto is strong enough

Reminder: The maths is good, it's the implementation that sucks

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

AusCERT History is filled with companies shamed by their shoddy cryptography implementations – even though the underlying maths is bang on.

In a presentation titled "Crypto Won't Save You" at the AusCERT conference on Australia's Gold Coast, respected cryptographer Peter Gutmann of the University of Auckland took security bods through a decade of software hacks and network breaches featuring a laundry list of the world's biggest brands.

Gutmann's point was to highlight how the weakest link in cryptography is typically in the implementation rather than the mathematics involved. He demonstrated that consumer devices from the Amazon Kindle to the Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox consoles were hacked not because of weak cryptography, but due to poor deployment of security mechanisms, which were bypassed by attackers.

Many more systems have been broken due to poor implementations. The crypto used by lower-end ransomware to encrypt victims' files can be broken by security pros, allowing the documents to be rescued without having to pay the ransom.

"No matter how strong the crypto was, the attackers walked around it," the Cryptlib developer told delegates.

"Crypto is not any good to you when it can be so easily bypassed. The lesson is you need to secure every part of the system and not just throw crypto at one bit and assume that you'll be safe."

Peter Gutmann

Prof Peter Gutmann at AusCERT

Gutmann highlighted further crypto bypass gore by pointing to the use of weak keys in DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) by thousands of organisations including of Google, Paypal and Twitter.

While the US Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) warned companies in October 2012 to upgrade to stronger keys to avoid being popped, Gutmann said attackers took the easier route and bypassed the implementations.

"There were so many other ways to render DKIM ineffective that no one bothered attacking the crypto," he said.

The prevalence of bypasses was a boon for the likes of the US National Security Agency, according to the Kiwi boffin. He rehashed the NSA's Bullrun program, which attempts to insert backdoors into hardware and software. It's believed the agency was responsible for backdooring the Dual EC DRBG algorithm used in various security products, for instance.

Gutmann said the spy agency and its allies could be warded off with properly implemented cryptography, and that new "NSA-proof" protocols were not needed.

"We don’t need any new NSA-proof protocols. Any well-designed, appropriately-deployed protocol is NSA-proof," he said.

View Gutmann's 95-page slide deck here [PDF]. ®

Full disclosure: Darren Pauli travelled to the Gold Coast as a guest of Dell

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
Reddit wipes clean leaked celeb nudie pics, tells users to zip it
Now we've had all THAT TRAFFIC, we 'deplore' this theft
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.