|By Zafar Khan||
|June 29, 2013 07:00 AM EDT||
There has been quite a buzz around the power of the alleged NSA eavesdropping considering the insights that the NSA Whistleblower, Edward Snowden, presented to the American public.
The NSA Whistleblower exposed how our digital identities are being captured, stored, analyzed, and categorized, allegedly by NSA, as well as companies that publicly state that they store and analyze your data (Facebook, Linkedin, Google email, etc.). The power of the NSA system, according to Snowden, is that they aggregate your digital communications across telephone, internet, web, mobile app, and email data.
With regards to email, email encryption works, to keep your email message content private. As The Guardian reported on Monday, June 17, the NSA Whistleblower said:
"Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on."
But, encryption is a broad term. Not all email encryption and methods of use are the same, in terms of privacy. Not all are "strong crypto systems".
What type of "encryption" works, for whom, what, and when?
"Caesar Cipher" and "Pig Latin" are Forms of Encryption
Suppose Alice wants to send a secret message to her friend Bob but worries that her snoopy Big Brother may intercept it. Alice needs a way to scramble her message so that only Bob can read it. A simple way to do this would be for Alice to replace each letter in her message with the next highest letter; shifting it by one (think "Caesar Cipher" or "Pig Latin").
But, of course, that is too simple. If Big Brother intercepts the message he'll be able to easily decipher it by looking for hidden patterns in the letters it contains. All it will take to crack the code is a little mathematics and a little trial and error.
And, of course, if Big Brother uses a computer he'll be able to crack the code even faster. So just shifting the first letter to the end and adding "ay" as a suffix (turning "HELLO" into "ELLOHAY" for example) isn't a very strong cipher. What can Alice do?
Well, she can try to think up a more complicated mathematical formula to scramble the letters and numbers. And maybe she could use a computer herself to apply the formula. This will help, but the problem is still that if Big Brother hires clever mathematicians, or if he just has a big enough computer, he will be able to crack the code eventually. So it looks like it's going to be an arms race with Big Brother to see who can come up with the biggest computers and the most complicated formula. But because Big Brother is big, it is a race Alice and Bob are bound to lose.
What is Considered "Strong Crypto"?
Then, what did the NSA Whistleblower mean by "strong crypto systems" when he said, according to The Guardian, "Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on."
We have established that more complex patterns used to encrypt are harder to read by Big Brother but capable of being read if Big Brother has a powerful computer to figure out the pattern; yet easy for Bob to read with knowledge of the pattern (the decryption key). Most technicians understand that more complex algorithms are harder to "crack", or said another way, take more computing power to crack.
How does Computing Power Impact the Time to Crack the Encryption?
Let's consider the example of using computing power to try to guess a 10 digit seemingly random alpha numeric password, such as: tjo9i0982d using a "Brute Force" attack (i.e. trial and error). This would be similar to trying to find a pattern in a universe of combinations of 36 digits (26 possible letters and 10 possible numbers). According to Gibson Research Corporation, in this example, there are 3700 trillion combinations, and the time to guess and test the right combination using trial and error in an online environment is one thousand centuries (assuming one thousand guesses per second). However, in what Gibson Research calls a "Massive Cracking Array Scenario" with one hundred trillion guesses per second offline, this password can be guessed in just 38 seconds.
Computing power does matter. But, not many, if any (today), can implement a "Massive Cracking Array Scenario".
Is Today's Commercial Encryption Readable by the NSA with its Computing Power?
This is a question that clearly some people know the answer to. I do not. Most commercial encryption uses algorithms that the NSA has "approved" for "civilian, unclassified, non-national security systems". These algorithms are what encrypt your email or financial transactions when using email encryption or secure HTTP web based connections with commercially available systems. Some of these NSA approved (unclassified) algorithms include DES, Triple DES, AES, DSA and SHA.
Note: it is not only use of encryption that is important, but as Snowden added, "properly implemented strong crypto systems". Those who encrypt email should be sure to use "properly implemented strong crypto systems".
So, let's explore this notion of "properly implemented strong crypto systems".
Security by Obscurity
Bringing this back to Bob and Alice, or you and me, would our use of commercial (NSA approved for unclassified use) encryption be strong enough for our general commercial purposes? I suppose you could consider it so, as long as those who you think may be trying to read your information do not have the computing power, financial resources, and incentive to try to crack the method of encryption you use in your correspondence. To get a sense of the scale in terms of NSA computing power, NPR reported that the NSA is putting the finishing touches on its biggest data farm yet, a $1.2 billion complex in Utah with 1.5 million square feet of top secret space including high-performance NSA computers alone filling up 100,000 square feet.
So, unless (or until, since the NSA Whistleblower says your messages are saved just in case they later need to be read) you elevate yourself the importance of your electronic correspondence to the level that makes your information interesting to the people with this power, your commercially encrypted email should remain private enough...
But if private enough is not good enough, if you are encrypting FOR personal privacy, you should use "properly implemented strong crypto systems" that also consider endpoint security.
As The Guardian reported, the NSA Whistleblower added, "Encryption works... Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it." What does Snowden mean by this? A properly implemented strong crypto system should take into account the endpoints, as well as the transmission.
Google Has an Easier Way to Read Your Email
So, for example, if you take great care to type your email in a Gmail compose page, encrypt the transmission, and then send, you are forgetting that Google may be recording, storing, analyzing, and cross referencing the content of the message you type before you encrypt it (as well as perhaps other personal information on your computer or mobile device).
So, for those encrypting for privacy, endpoint security should be evaluated. Note, you can somewhat control your endpoint security by choices you make, but what about the encrypted email recipient's endpoint security?
What to Do to Keep Your Email Private
So, where does this leave us in the new light of the NSA Whistleblower (and Google privacy disclosures)?
The endpoint security is the most likely source of data exposure; meaning, it may be far less computer intensive to access the metadata stored on your computer hard drive every time you type, or access the messages stored in your mailbox on your desktop, mobile device, email server, or internet mail service provider host before encryption when composing, or after decryption, after reading.
If you use commercial encryption for email, you should consider strong crypto systems that take into account providing endpoint security, in particular at the recipient's end, which is out of your control.
There are generally three types of systems to commercially encrypt email today.
1. Public Key Exchange - Secure but Complex for Many. Exchanging public encryption keys among your contacts (PKI Digital Certificates) and using Microsoft Outlook on your desktop computer is a "strong crypto system", but has proven to be too cumbersome for most to purchase and install these certificates, manage the expiration, ensure your recipients have a copy of your public key and you theirs, and all are using a compatible email program such as Microsoft Outlook desktop software.
2. Secure Store and Forward - "Man in the Middle" Problems. Systems that store your message content in the middle, and send a link to the recipients to download the content, are often used, but are not considered "strong crypto systems", as your most sensitive information is now stored on a third party server with unknown data security and message purge practices (which may differ from their stated policies). Further, there is no protection from unknown recipient endpoint security or lack thereof. Note, systems that wrap your email in an encrypted HTML file and send, often purport themselves to be "direct delivery" but leave out the important point that the process of decrypting, is often sending the data back to the server in the middle, and that server storing the decrypted message and displaying it in a web browser (with the same Man in the Middle storage purge concerns). Further, there is no protection from unknown recipient endpoint security or lack thereof. This is better than simple Secure Store and Forward but still has Man in the Middle issues, and for these reasons, these are also not considered "strong crypto systems".
3. True Direct Delivery - Best Method. Systems that wrap the message in an encrypted PDF file are "strong crypto systems" as (a) the message content is not stored in the middle, (b) content is truly delivered to the recipients' desktops encrypted, AND (c) the content remains encrypted at the recipient endpoint to prevent potential disclosure regardless of the recipient endpoint security. Systems that make this method easy to use and implement for both sender and recipient become the true best method "strong crypto systems" for email encryption (for both compliance and personal privacy).
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain.
Apr. 23, 2017 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,131
@DevOpsSummit has been named the ‘Top DevOps Influencer' by iTrend. iTred processes millions of conversations, tweets, interactions, news articles, press releases, blog posts - and extract meaning form them and analyzes mobile and desktop software platforms used to communicate, various metadata (such as geo location), and automation tools. In overall placement, @DevOpsSummit ranked as the number one ‘DevOps Influencer' followed by @CloudExpo at third, and @MicroservicesE at 24th.
Apr. 23, 2017 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,340
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
Apr. 23, 2017 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 513
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Apr. 23, 2017 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 404
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
Apr. 23, 2017 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,776
Did you know that you can develop for mainframes in Java? Or that the testing and deployment can be automated across mobile to mainframe? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Vaughn Marshall, Sr. Principal Product Owner at CA Technologies, will discuss and demo how increasingly teams are developing with agile methodologies using modern development environments and automating testing and deployments, mobile to mainframe.
Apr. 23, 2017 09:15 AM EDT Reads: 779
SYS-CON Events announced today that Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), an industry leader in automated, scalable and secure networks, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Juniper Networks challenges the status quo with products, solutions and services that transform the economics of networking. The company co-innovates with customers and partners to deliver automated, scalable and secure network...
Apr. 23, 2017 09:15 AM EDT Reads: 4,635
As pervasive as cloud technology is -- and as persuasive as the arguments are for using it -- the cloud has its limits. Some companies will always have security concerns about storing data in the cloud and certain high-transaction applications will always be better suited for on-premises storage. Those statements were among the bottom-line takeaways delivered at Cloud Expo this week, a three day, bi-annual event focused on cloud technologies, adoption and associated challenges.
Apr. 23, 2017 08:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,637
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
Apr. 23, 2017 07:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,784
Quickly find the root cause of complex database problems slowing down your applications. Up to 88% of all application performance issues are related to the database. DPA’s unique response time analysis shows you exactly what needs fixing - in four clicks or less. Optimize performance anywhere. Database Performance Analyzer monitors on-premises, on VMware®, and in the Cloud, including Amazon® AWS and Azure™ virtual machines.
Apr. 23, 2017 07:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,438
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
Apr. 23, 2017 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,483
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Apr. 23, 2017 04:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,743
Translating agile methodology into real-world best practices within the modern software factory has driven widespread DevOps adoption, yet much work remains to expand workflows and tooling across the enterprise. As models evolve from pockets of experimentation into wholescale organizational reinvention, practitioners find themselves challenged to incorporate the culture and architecture necessary to support DevOps at scale. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Anand Akela, Senior...
Apr. 23, 2017 04:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,368
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...
Apr. 23, 2017 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,676
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
Apr. 23, 2017 03:45 AM EDT Reads: 4,545