Posts tagged with 'Crypt'

CryptoParty and Trust as a Tool

  • Posted on October 28, 2012 at 11:00 am

You have probably heard of the CryptoParty events spreading all over the world. The idea is to meet, have experts explain cryptography and tools using it to beginners, and to have some fun in the process. For someone using PGP (and now GPG) since its early days 20 years ago this is not very ground-breaking news. It’s long overdue and should have happened much earlier. Cryptography has been around for thousands of years, long before the Caesar cipher. Secrets are even older. The rise of PGP got cryptography going on „ordinary“ computers in 1991. The Cypherpunks would have been happy to have CryptoParty events, too.

Getting to grips with cryptography happens in stages. Your starting point depends on your interests and background. Some start at the mathematics, others start with the tools first. It really doesn’t matter, and there is no One True Way™ (a fact often lost to fanatics). Once you understand the basics, you can go on. There’s no requirement to do so, but when it comes to cryptography and its tools my recommendation is to dig a little deeper after mastering the threshold. The best opportunity is asking questions about levels of trust and the importance of keys. At this point you will realise that cryptography alone will get you anywhere if there is no solid level of trust between the communicating parties and if others have access (think copies) of the keys securing the communication. This is also the point where it gets complicated and uncomfortable.

Cryptography is hard to understand. Understanding trust, how to establish it and how to maintain it is even harder. True, there are a lot of tools that can help you to encrypt and decrypt stuff on your cell phones (the smart ones probably). Unless you are the only one having access to your cell phone, you will never be able to trust this device. The same is true for devices that aren’t properly secured and managed by third parties such as hardware/software vendors or application stores (or for the younger generation „app stores“).
You can think of your apartment as an example. You’ve got your keys, but if someone else has a copy of these keys or has build a second door to your apartment with separate keys, then your apartment cannot be trusted any more.

So if you dive into the Wonderful World of Cryptography™, please take time and patience to have a look behind the scenes. It’s not meant as an recipe to acquire paranoia, it really helps to understand trust. Your local CryptoParty experts will help you. Ask them.

Heat Waves

  • Posted on July 3, 2012 at 12:55 am

Writing tweets is more suitable for the hellish Summer temperatures that have turned Vienna into some North African Hell (no offence, just describing my hate for the heat). Focusing thoughts for more than 140 characters is next to impossible with a fried brain. A thunderstorm would be nice. A bit of snow and ice, too. Wishful thinking. So let’s write down some rants to bump up the blog’s July counter.

It would really be nice to know about a place where one can flee until the temperature drops below 25°C (for the uninitiated, Summer starts at 20°C and ends at 25°C; Spring is between 19°C and 7°C; Winter starts below -5°C; there really is no compelling reason to ever have temperatures above 25°C unless preparing coffee). Why is it that hospitality in the form of a cool place, not too bright, protected from the sun hasn’t discovered by entrepreneurs? Combine this wonderful refuge with an ample supply of power, Internet and coffee. People (like me) would really pay for it. It would be a welcome change to the abysmal coffee shops with open windows, scorching heat from outside and inside, and noisy people all around (yes, you can bring your child only if it knows how to shut up; and no, your kid is not special, no exemptions).

If graveyards had coffee and power supplies, we’d be halfway there.

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„VMAC not found”

  • Posted on December 8, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Well, the new Linux kernel 2.6.32 has a new crypto module called VMAC. It is a 64 bit hash that can be computed on 64 bit platforms – and this very fast. So I decided to look up what VMAC really does. I ended up in the CryptoLounge wiki. And there I clicked on a link to Wikipedia. And then I noticed that the article pointing to the VMAC algorithm had been deleted.

The lost page of VMAC in the English Wikipedia.

The lost page of VMAC in the English Wikipedia.

Note the Thanks, Wikipedia. sign on top of the missing item. Really, thanks a lot. In the meantime I’ll have a look at the C source code in my new kernel. Fortunately my filesystem doesn’t delete items on its own (maybe because I got the admin rights).

Cryptographically celebrating Samhain

  • Posted on October 30, 2009 at 9:45 pm

What better way is there to celebrate Samhain than to create a new Certificate Authority? The old CA has passed away, harvested by the flow of time. The new CA is ready and a computer is currently generating new RSA keys. This calls for a celebration. Let there be longer keys!

Dive Safari – Day #3

  • Posted on September 24, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Welcome to our second day at sea (the first was 0)!

We visited the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm, a British freighter sunk by two German He111 bombers on 6 October 1941. I’ve been here before, but it’s always very special. You can still explore the two layers of cargo holds containing Morris jeeps, trucks, Lee Enfield MK III rifles, boots, crates, cables and boxes. The wreck is a relic of the Second World War. Sadly many divers forget that. Even worse, thieves raid the wreck and take souvenirs with them. The site is a grave and should be treated with respect.

Shutdown now. Diving down almost 30 metres and negotiating currents fosters tiredness.

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