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These all suffer from the same flaw.
They are trying to be clever. And in a contest of clever, professional info-war specialists IE; The NSA are going to win. Key managment is not the problem. The problem is that the NSA has a much bigger budget for paying mathematicians than anyone else - The only safe assumption is that any encryption scheme which can be broken might as well be plain text.

So do not rely on codes. Rely on physics and proofs. One time pads, air gaps, faraday cages.

If you want secure communications, brute force is the only solution.

Step the first: Keep no secrets that are not strictly necessary. Open information structures are not vulnerable to covert monitoring because they are public.

Step the second:
For those things which secrecy is judged necessary, do not get cute. Use the techniques which are provably secure, and no hard or software with any proprietary bits at all. - assume all secrets of design are zero-level exploits designed to send all your secrets to your worst enemy.

Keep your terminals in faraday cages in rooms with no windows. Encode your transmissions with one time pads.

by Thomas on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 05:27:16 AM EST
Well, it depends on expense, doesn't it? If everyone was doing proper encrypted comms then the NSA's "job" would be prohibitively expensive: they'd have to pick their targets.

But yeah, if you really need security, build your own kit, airgap, one-time pads (stenography is to hide the fact of the encryption) and faraday cages. And worry more about informants, because now you're a target!

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 05:36:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, no. The point is it's not too difficult to make one-to-one communication invisible, to the point where if you're a spook you have to try to decrypt all traffic and web content on the Internet, without knowing if it's been encrypted, or how.

Not even nation states have that kind of budget. Nowhere close.

Public email and cloud storage are very low hanging fruit in security terms. So far the NSA has been relying on hope and wishful thinking to get its sigint.

But my point is that once you start sending messages through non-standard channels, it doesn't take much effort to become invisible.

And once that happens, your only hope as a spook is to scan and decrypt the entire Internet - because nothing else will do the job.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 10:05:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not if statistical analysis of passing images or video - you just need a sample - throws up that stenography is used. You then get to be a person of interest.

If everyone is using encrypted channels you get lost in the noise. Otherwise you just risk attracting attention.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 10:24:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That depends how it's done. The companies offering statistical analysis assume you're using an off-the-shelf app. All they do is buy an app, run some tests, and create a profile.

But all that says is that most commercial steganography apps aren't all that good.

In the limit, good steganography is indistinguishable from compression artefacts and random noise. And if the bit rate is low enough and somewhat randomised, it becomes even harder to be confident about getting a clean positive.

There are also things like this.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Aug 17th, 2013 at 10:46:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to mention the expense and difficulty of key distribution with one-time pads and the need to get info in and out of your lockbox. Expensive pain in the ass to implement, especially if you don't want opponents to know that you're doing it.

How do you get the one-time pads to your correspondents? Couriers? In an age of surveillance? Oh dear.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 05:53:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One time pads can be made ridonkulously large with modern storage media. So for something like a company network or embassies.. Carry it there yourself when you build the secure room. Weld it in place. Assuming you do not use your secure net for daily video conferencing, you should never have to replace the pad.
by Thomas on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 06:19:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is great if you're a corporate and you and they know you're a potential target. If you're a dissident, the problem is harder.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 07:00:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're a dissident, you should assume that your electronic communications are being monitored. Depending on what sort of dissident you are, you may also have to assume that your garbage is being monitored. And your mail opened. And your home searched while you're out. (If you're at the point where your home is being searched while you're in it, then it's normally too late to worry about information warfare.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 07:33:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yes, I am mostly thinking about this in terms of corporate security. The NSA is not spending billions on reading dissidents mail, because dissidents can be shouted down just fine by the noise machine manufacturing consent 24/7/365
NSA is about stealing intellectual property. The KGB spent an absurd amount of effort on industrial espionage.

 I estimate that the odds that the other declining empire is into that game up to it's eyeballs at nigh-unity.

Which also explains why there is so much money flowing into US politics, and why the economy is so crappy.  - The market economy isn't - the game is being rigged in the favor of whoever is paying the biggest bribes.

The best solution to this would be radical openness. Tear up the intellectual property treaties, close the patent offices, void the IPs on everything, and run corporate governance with open books and open board meetings. This seems a bit unlikely to be implemented, so as a second best solution, it might be worth while to prevent the NSA from just giving boeing the blueprints for anything they want. Not that they seem to be profiting much from what they are stealing...

by Thomas on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 08:37:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, that's not the rule of good security.

The rule of good security is that the amount of effort that the attacker has to spend to penetrate your security, less the amount of effort you have to spend to maintain your security has to be greater than the higher of the value to you of not having your security penetrated or the value to the attacker of the attacker penetrating your security.

In practice, there are four groups of people that a private individual does not want to share his mail with, in roughly descending order of capabilities:

  • Major governments and corporations.
  • His boss.
  • Gangsters.
  • Non-work relations (relatives, friends, lovers, grudges, etc.).

For the last two, ordinary levels of caution are perfectly sufficient: Family members are unlikely to defeat even simple precautions, and you don't need to have better infowar capabilities than the scammers, you just need to have better infowar capabilities than the random sucker two blocks down the road.

To prevent your boss from reading your mail, it will probably suffice to assume that he monitors all traffic that touches hardware he actually owns. So maintain strict segregation between work hardware and networks and personal hardware and networks, and never use the former for anything you don't want your boss to read along with. Assume that your boss installs keyloggers on anything he lends you.

Assume that all major governments and most major corporations will read anything you commit to electronic signal in any form.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 07:19:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your rule complements Thomas' rule.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 09:56:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The first step is a commercially available computer system that does not have built-in security gaps.  WinTel machines are not secure and cannot be made secure.  Apple is the same.  Unix is hopeless.  Linux is better but can still be penetrated.  As part of this, any digital device should have factory installed first level security.  The most common password for mobile devices is "passwd."  Even a random 8 byte password is better than that.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Aug 15th, 2013 at 11:23:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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