PGP has a backdoor in for the government?

Discussion in 'privacy technology' started by notageek, Nov 19, 2003.

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  1. notageek

    notageek Registered Member

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    LOL Silly isn't it? Well according to a show on Techtv called Spy School it does. I didn't see the show but this evening Leo Laport (sp?) touched on it a little when people was writing asking about. Leo said that PGP don't have a backdoor for the government. I searched the Techtv web site and found nothing on this. I don't think this is true at all I tought I would just post this here to see what others think. So please post what you think about this subject.
     
  2. notageek

    notageek Registered Member

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    This link right here might shed some light on why they reported that PGP had or has a backdoor in it. http://lists.insecure.org/lists/politech/2001/Jan/0063.html
    It's a rather old sroty and I'm sure everyone here read this or heard about it.
     
  3. Khaine

    Khaine Registered Member

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    Well the source code for the 6.x version is freely available so any backdoor could be easily spotted :)
     
  4. gunnarj

    gunnarj Registered Member

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    ORE BAD NEWS FOR PRIVACY: PGP GONE BAD

    NAI, makers of McAfee Virus software, bought Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) for $35 mil in 1997. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) then bought NAI. Both George H. W. Bush and Bobby Inman, the Naval admiral and former NSA chief involved with the Iran-Contra affair and other dark side government affairs, are former directors of SAIC. So is Clinton Secretary of Defense William Perry. SAIC has so many links to the Pentagon that, like Dyncorp, it is considered by many to be a government shill. With so many dealings with government the buyout of PGP by SAIC should be viewed as extremely suspicious. Bobby Inman was a big promoter of the concept that Government must control all encryption. PGP was the only private holdout for years and is good enough to cause government spooks much lost sleep. Phil Zimmerman, the anti-government creator of PGP says that copies of its encryption software which were sold before Fall 2001, when he left NAI, are solid, but future versions may be tainted. So beware. If you have existing copies of PGP obtained prior to fall of last year, do not upgrade to any new versions.
     
  5. notageek

    notageek Registered Member

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    Good find. Nice reading.
     
  6. gunnarj

    gunnarj Registered Member

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    Philip Zimmermann
    Creator of PGP

    Background

    Philip R. Zimmermann is the creator of Pretty Good Privacy. For that, he was the target of a three-year criminal investigation, because the government held that US export restrictions for cryptographic software were violated when PGP spread all around the world following its 1991 publication as freeware. Despite the lack of funding, the lack of any paid staff, the lack of a company to stand behind it, and despite government persecution, PGP nonetheless became the most widely used email encryption software in the world. After the government dropped its case in early 1996, Zimmermann founded PGP Inc. That company was acquired by Network Associates Inc (NAI) in December 1997, where he stayed on for three years as Senior Fellow. In August 2002 PGP was acquired from NAI by a new company called PGP Corporation, where Zimmermann now serves as special advisor and consultant. Zimmermann currently is consulting for a number of companies and industry organizations on matters cryptographic, and is also a Fellow at the Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society.

    http://www.mit.edu/~prz/index.shtml

    http://www.pgp.com/?l=prz
     
  7. notageek

    notageek Registered Member

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    Thanks for the good reading and links gunnarj
     
  8. eburger68

    eburger68 Privacy Expert

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    gunnarj:

    You wrote:

    I want to clarify a few things here.

    First, Zimmerman left NAI after version 7.0.3. NAI stopped doing full source code releases with version 7.0. Zimmerman said he could vouch for every version from 7.0 through 7.0.3 because he had access to the source code. So, it's simply not the case that every version prior to "fall of last year" is OK, unless "fall of last year" means Fall of 2001. The last version that NAI released was PGP Corp. Desktop 7.1.1.

    Second, Zimmerman never said "future versions may be tainted"; he said he couldn't vouch for any versions past 7.0.3. That may seem like splitting hairs, but there is a difference.

    Third, as the short bio of PRZ that you posted notes, the newly created PGP Corp. -- which includes both PRZ and Bruce Schneier on its board -- acquired PGP from NAI in August of 2002. Since PGP Corp. acquired PGP from NAI, it has been doing full source code releases for the new PGP 8.0.x versions.

    Here's a short breakdown of how this works out:

    PGP.1.x - PGP 6.5.8: full source code release

    PGP 7.0 - PGP 7.0.3: partial source code release; PRZ vouches for these versions.

    PGP 7.0.4 - PGP 7.1.1: partial source code release; PRZ does not vouch for these versions.

    PGP 8.0.0 - PGP 8.0.3: full source code release

    Best,

    Eric L. Howes
     
  9. notageek

    notageek Registered Member

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    Thanks for the the info Eburger.
     
  10. Eric,

    full source code availability means there's no need to distrust the product?

    Not that I'm going to believe backdoor claims based on Gunnar J's posts, which are a combination of coincidences and tenous links aimed at conspiracy theorists, and would be thrown out in a court of law as extremely bad evidence before you could say J. Edgar Hoover.
     
  11. Dan Perez

    Dan Perez Retired Moderator

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    Not necessarily, but IMO given how long this (6.5.:cool: version has been in circulation, and how immensely popular it is, and how much scrutiny it has been under by crypto-analysts - this really does offer a lot of assurance that there is no backdoor.

    Still, one can never reeeeeally be sure ;)
     
  12. eburger68

    eburger68 Privacy Expert

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    J. Edgar Hoover:

    Full source code availability does not mean a 100% guarantee against a backdoor. But it does significantly decrease the liklihood, esp. since the PGP source code is being examined by many people.

    Theoretically it might be possible for PGP Corp. to release source code for review but use a slightly tweaked version of that code when compiling binaries. In fact, just this possibility was discussed recently on the PGP List. From what I could tell, no two compilers would ever compile exactly identical binaries from the same code, so you can't compile a binaries from the source code released for review and expect an exact match with the binaries released by PGP Corp. That makes the job of using the released source code to evaluate the company's offering less than straightforward.

    Nonetheless, a full source code release goes a long ways toward building trust, and that's about the best most ordinary users can expect. Ideally, you would review the source code yourself line by line, then compile your own binaries from that code. That's obviously not practical for the majority of users, so we have to rely on others to do the job for us. And that means constantly assessing just how diligently and openly the source code is being reviewed.

    PGP stands out in this regard. PGP is one of the more scrutinized crypto apps around. And that should make it more trustworthy.

    Best,

    Eric L. Howes
     
  13. gunnarj

    gunnarj Registered Member

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    Bottom Line:

    One can not be *certain* that there is not a back door to PGP as was postulated in the opening post to this thread.

    I did not realize that posting here required evidence that could stand up "in a court of law".

    If you count on PGP to protect your privacy, the odds are good that it will protect you from most threats, and most prying eyes,
    but I would not count on it protecting you from *everyone*, esp. those in the intelligence field. I consider it a damn good bet that it has been compromised by NSA among others.

    Sorry if that sounds like 'conspiracy theory'. I take it that those who hold such a dim view of conspiracy theory believe in the concept of 'coincidence theory' which IMHO is a more naive approach to life than the former.

    regards,

    gj


    Sorry to step on any sacred cows here :p
     
  14. eburger68

    eburger68 Privacy Expert

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    gunnarj:

    You wrote:

    No, one can't be 100% certain that there isn't a backdoor in PGP, but when it has been demonstrated that there are plenty of checks in the place to ensure that there aren't, the burden of proof becomes still heavier on those who would insist that there probably is. So far, all we ever seem to hear is unverifiable rumor and innuendo, which is not convincing.

    What we have been asking for is something beyond unsupported speculation and rumor-mongering. The bottom line is this: if you want to maintain that it is "a damn good bet that it has been compromised by NSA among others," then you'd better be prepared to offer up good reasons and solid evidence. So far, I haven't seen them.

    Reasons? Evidence? Why kind of compromise are you talking about? Please explain how you think this compromise works. And please explain how you think this back door has escaped the notice of top civilian cryptographers who have examined PGP and even contributed to it.

    And which coincidences would you be talking about? Coincidences are funny things, esp. when they're being selected out from a wide range of events. When "coincidences" become the only necessary (or minimal) standard of proof, logic flies out the window.

    Oh, please. What you've said here isn't any different than what dozens, if not hundreds, of folks say on Usenet everyday. Give us reasons and evidence for thinking that there's a backdoor in PGP and then you might be saying something dangerous.

    Eric L. Howes
     
  15. JayK

    JayK Poster

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    LOL, I don't think it's fair to call people paranoid because they believe pgp has being cracked.

    After all we are talking of a community of people who on average run half a dozen firewalls,antiviruses, and routers all on one computer! :)
     
  16. eburger68

    eburger68 Privacy Expert

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    JayK:

    You wrote:

    I never called the poster "paranoid." Indeed, I never characterized the poster at all. The problem I have with those posts is not "paranoia," but rather the lack of any good reasons or evidence for thinking that "pgp is cracked" (your words). Standards of fairness do not require me or anyone else to ignore the lack of good reasons and solid evidence for claims that it is a "damn good bet that it has been compromised by NSA among others."

    Eric L. Howes
     
  17. JayK

    JayK Poster

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    Lacking good reasons for suspecting something bad, sure sounds like paranoia to me :) What would you call it?
     
  18. eburger68

    eburger68 Privacy Expert

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    JayK:

    You asked:

    I choose not to call it anything beyond a position that lacks good reasons and evidence to support it. That's sufficient. I'm all for netizens and citizens being skeptical; that skepticism should encompass all manner of claims, though.

    Best,

    Eric L. Howes
     
  19. gunnarj

    gunnarj Registered Member

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    "The Technocratic Age is slowly designing an every day more controlled society. The society will be dominated by an elite of persons free from traditional values (!) who will have no doubt in fulfilling their objectives by means of purged techniques with which they will influence the behavior of people and will control and watch the society in all details". "... it will become possible to exert a practically permanent watch on each citizen of the world"

    - Zbigniew Brzezinski -

    .............

    Truth is a powerful solvent. Stone walls melt before its relentless might. The Internet is one of the most powerful agents of freedom. It exposes truth to those who wish to see and hear it. It is no wonder that some governments and organizations fear the Internet and its ability to make the truth known. The phrase "freedom of speech" is often used to characterize a key element of democratic societies : open communication and especially open government. But freedom of speech is less than half of the equation. It is also vital that citizens have the freedom to hear and see. It is the latter area in which many governments have intervened in an attempt to prevent citizens from gaining access to information that their governments wish to withhold from them.

    ..........

    "The Internet under Surveillance - Obstacles to the free flow of information online"

    http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=7280

    http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/doc-2236.pdf

    http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=378

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Spooks on the net

    http://www.heureka.clara.net/sunrise/spooks.htm

    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    Data Miners and the State

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/elkins/elkins68.html

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

    COINTELPRO in Cyberspace

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/elkins/elkins67.html

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    COINTELPRO: The Untold American Story

    http://www.derechos.net/paulwolf/cointelpropapers/coinwcar3.htm

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    DOJ Net Surveillance Under Fire

    http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,59150,00.html

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    International co-operation in internet surveillance

    http://www.heise.de/tp/english/special/enfo/4306/1.html

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Your friendly community spies

    http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/2002/spy.html

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Homeland Security and the transformation of America

    http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/2003/homeland.htm
     
  20. gunnarj

    gunnarj Registered Member

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    USA MILITARY: assuming major new domestic policing and surveillance
    roles
    Tue Nov 25


    Mission Creep Hits Home
    By William M. Arkin
    Los Angeles Times
    Sunday 23 November 2003

    American armed forces are assuming major new domestic policing and
    surveillance roles.
    http://www.truthout.org/docs_03/printer_112503A.shtml

    Preoccupied with the war in Iraq and still traumatized by Sept. 11,
    2001, the American public has paid little attention to some of what
    is being done inside the United States in the name of anti-terrorism.
    Under the banner of "homeland security," the military and
    intelligence communities are implementing far-reaching changes that
    blur the lines between terrorism and other kinds of crises and will
    break down long-established barriers to military action and
    surveillance within the U.S.

    "We must start thinking differently," says Air Force Gen. Ralph
    E. "Ed" Eberhart, the newly installed commander of Northern Command,
    the military's homeland security arm. Before 9/11, he says, the
    military and intelligence systems were focused on "the away game" and
    not properly focused on "the home game." "Home," of course, is the
    United States.

    Eberhart's Colorado-based command is charged with enhancing homeland
    security in two ways: by improving the military's capability to
    defend the country's borders, coasts and airspace — unquestionably
    within the military's long-established mission — and by
    providing "military assistance to civil authorities" when authorized
    by the secretary of Defense or the president.

    That too may sound unexceptionable: The military has long had
    mechanisms to respond to a request for help from state governors. New
    after 9/11 are more aggressive preparations and the presumption that
    local government will not be able to carry the new homeland security
    load. Being the military, moreover, contingency planners approach
    preparing by assuming the worst. All of this is a major — and
    potentially dangerous — departure from past policy.

    The U.S. military operates under the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which
    prohibits the direct use of federal troops "to execute the laws" of
    the United States. The courts have interpreted this to mean that the
    military is prohibited from any active role in direct civilian law
    enforcement, such as search, seizure or arrest of civilians.

    "There are abundant reasons for rejecting the further expansion of
    the military's domestic role," says Mackubin T. Owens, a professor of
    strategy and force planning at the Naval War College. Looking at the
    issue historically, Owens wrote in an August 2002 essay in the
    National Review's online edition that "the use of soldiers as a posse
    [places] them in the uncomfortable position of taking orders from
    local authorities who had an interest in the disputes that provoked
    the unrest in the first place." Moreover, Owens said, becoming more
    involved in domestic policing can be "subtle and subversive … like a
    lymphoma or termite infestation." Though we are far from
    having "tanks rumbling through the streets," he said, the potential
    long-term effect of an increasing military role in police and law
    enforcement activities is "a military contemptuous of American
    society and unresponsive to civilian authorities."

    Eberhart says his Northern Command operates scrupulously within the
    bounds of the law. "We believe the [Posse Comitatus] Act, as amended,
    provides the authority we need to do our job, and no modification is
    needed at this time," he told the House Armed Services Committee in
    March.

    Of course, what he knows is that amendments approved by Congress in
    1996 for that earlier civilian war, the war on drugs, have already
    expanded the military's domestic powers so that Washington can act
    unilaterally in dispatching the military without waiting for a
    state's request for help. Long before 9/11, Congress authorized the
    military to assist local law enforcement officials in domestic "drug
    interdiction" and during terrorist incidents involving weapons of
    mass destruction. Furthermore, the president, after proclaiming a
    state of emergency, can authorize additional actions.

    Indeed, the military is presently operating under just such an
    emergency declaration. Eberhart's command has defined three levels of
    operations, each of which triggers a larger set of authorized
    activities. The levels are "extraordinary," "emergency"
    and "temporary." At the "temporary" level, which covers such things
    as the Olympic Games or the Super Bowl, limited assistance can be
    provided to law enforcement agencies when a governor requests it,
    primarily in such areas as logistics, transportation and
    communications. During "emergencies," the military can provide
    similar support, mostly in response to specific events such as the
    attacks on the World Trade Center.

    It is only in the case of "extraordinary" domestic operations that
    the unique capabilities of the Defense Department are deployed. These
    include not just such things as air patrols to shoot down hijacked
    planes or the defusing of bombs and other explosives, , but also
    bringing in intelligence collectors, special operators and even full
    combat troops.

    Given the absence of terrorist attacks inside the United States since
    9/11, it may seem surprising that Northern Command is already working
    under the far-reaching authority that goes with "extraordinary
    operations." But it is.

    "We are not going to be out there spying on people," Eberhart told
    PBS' NewsHour in September. But, he said, "We get information from
    people who do." Some of that information increasingly comes not from
    the FBI or those charged with civilian law enforcement but from a
    Pentagon organization established last year, the Counterintelligence
    Field Activity (CIFA). The seemingly innocuous CIFA was originally
    given the mission of protecting the Defense Department and its
    personnel, as well as "critical infrastructure," against espionage
    conducted by terrorists and foreign intelligence services.

    But in August, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld expanded CIFA's
    mission, charging it with maintaining "a domestic law enforcement
    database that includes information related to potential terrorist
    threats directed against the Department of Defense." The group's
    Assessments and Technology Directorate, which shares offices with the
    Justice Department's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, has
    already identified 200 foreign terrorist suspects in the U.S.,
    according to a Defense Department report to Congress.

    This year, the Pentagon inspector general authorized assigning
    military special agents to 56 FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force
    operations at FBI field offices. These military agents will pursue
    leads in local communities of potential threats to the military.
    Eberhart also plans to have his own cadre of agents working with
    local law enforcement. Next year, he plans to transform Joint Task
    Force Six, a drug interdiction unit of 160 military personnel at Ft.
    Bliss, Texas, into Joint Interagency Task Force North. The new task
    force will be given nationwide responsibility for working with law
    enforcement agencies.

    CIFA, moreover, has been given a domestic "data mining" mission:
    figuring out a way to process massive sets of public records,
    intercepted communications, credit card accounts, etc., to
    find "actionable intelligence." "Homeland defense relies on the
    sharing of actionable intelligence among the appropriate federal,
    state, and local agencies," says Lt. Gen. Edward G. Anderson III,
    Eberhart's deputy.

    Another ambitious domestic project is being undertaken by the
    National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which is
    gathering "geospatial information" about 133 cities, the borders and
    seaports. This "urban data inventory" combines unclassified and
    classified data (including such things as the location of emergency
    services, communications, transportation and food supplies) with a
    high-resolution satellite map of the United States. When the mapping
    efforts are completed, a national "spatial data infrastructure" will
    be created down to the house level. Intelligence analysts speak of
    one day being able to identify individual occupants, as well as their
    national background and political affiliations. Though the military
    is just getting its systems in place, there can be no other
    conclusion: Domestic surveillance is back.

    It's not that we're heading toward martial law. We're not. But
    outside the view of most of the public, the government is daily
    expanding military operations into areas of local government and law
    enforcement that historically have been off-limits. And it doesn't
    seem far-fetched to imagine that those charged with
    assembling "actionable intelligence" will slowly start combining
    databases of known terrorists with seemingly innocuous lists of
    contributors to charities or causes, that membership lists for
    activist organizations will be folded in, that names and personal
    data of anti-globalization protesters will be run through the "data
    mine." After all, the mission of Northern Command and other Pentagon
    agencies is to identify groups and individuals who could potentially
    pose threats to Defense Department and civilian installations.

    Given all this, it might be a good time for state and local
    governments to ask themselves whether the federal government, through
    the military, is slowly eroding their power to manage what — for very
    good reasons — have always been considered local responsibilities.

    William M. Arkin is a military affairs analyst who writes regularly
    for The Los Angeles Times Opinion.

    ========================================
    Mission Creep Hits Home
    Los Angeles Times (subscription), CA - Nov 23, 2003

    ... Force Gen. Ralph E. "Ed" Eberhart, the newly installed commander
    of Northern Command, the military's homeland security arm
    http://makeashorterlink.com/?E439455A6


    The Northern Command will unify a range of domestic security duties
    now spread over several military units and services.
    http://why-war.com/news/2002/07/17/widermil.html

    General Eberhart, who will also remain leader of Norad, will be
    responsible in his new job for coordinating the military's response
    to natural disasters like floods, hurricanes and forest fires,
    officials said.

    The new command would also oversee a unit known as the Joint Task
    Force Civil Support, which is trained to respond to attacks that
    involve chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

    While the command will have specific defensive responsibilities, like
    flying combat patrols over American cities, General Eberhart's
    mission will also involve the delicate task of backing up civilian
    agencies in time of need.

    "We will respond in support of a lead federal agency, such as the
    F.B.I. or FEMA," he said. "There will be certain things you can do
    with federal troops and certain things you cannot. There are some
    situations where there's no other alternatives, and federal forces
    have to be used to secure the safety and security of our people."

    Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint
    Chiefs of Staff, have said that in a catastrophe, the military might
    help quarantine disaster victims and deal with the water and
    sanitation needs of thousands of people.
    "If a city had no ability to respond and no ability to command and
    control, there's a situation where the president says: `This is an
    emergency. Northern Command, you have the lead,' " General Eberhart
    said. "God forbid, we'd be prepared to do that."

    Wider Military Role in U.S. Is Urged
    HTTP://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/21/politics/21PENT.html

    ==================================

    Searched the web for Northern Command, the military's homeland
    security arm. Results 1 - 10 of about 974
    http://makeashorterlink.com/?H519525A6
     
  21. eburger68

    eburger68 Privacy Expert

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    gunnarj:

    Those are all very interesting articles, and I would urge folks to take a look at them -- esp. those who might not be informed about our government's increasing appetite for information about its citizens and the way that information can be abused.

    None of those articles, however, provides specific evidence or good reasons to believe that PGP has been compromised with a "back door" of some kind. Those articles do provide reasons to be skeptical and vigilant about the government's claim to need ever greater legal powers to protect its citizens, but that's it.

    General skepticism about the government's means and motives for acquiring and abusing information about its citizens does not translate into good reasons for believing that PGP has in fact been compromised.

    If you have more specific evidence, I'd welcome the opportunity to look at it.

    Eric L. Howes
     
  22. gunnarj

    gunnarj Registered Member

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    Posts:
    80
    Eric,

    While not specifically about PGP, the following is interesting re crypto and NSA. Thanks for your insights and if I find anything more specific as to PGP I'll pass it on.

    Regards,

    gunnarj

    ...........................


    It is interesting to me to experience which aspects of the NSA_KEY
    episode people actually remember after these years. It also provides a
    marvelous example of how well solid spin-control can in fact shape
    perhaps not the present, but certainly the future past.

    Yes, it is true that MSFT expressed that choosing the name NSA_KEY was a bad choice made by the programmer asked to add this key. And there can be little doubt that this variable name choice was indeed unfortunate, at least to Microsoft, given that it both alerted the public to the fact that there was a second security master key in Microsoft's operating system products in addition to the key Microsoft used themselves. There can be even less doubt that at least Microsoft considered the resultant publicity of this discovery, fueled by the name Microsoft itself had given to the key, to be very, very unfortunate.

    Microsoft asserts that "the name [NSA_KEY] reflects the fact that the
    key is present in the design to satisfy the NSA technical review per US
    cryptographic export regulations". See
    http://cryptome.org/nsakey-ms-dc.htm

    In light of the above, frequently heard assertions by third-parties that
    the inclusion of NSA_KEY in Windows was unrelated to NSA requirements carry a certain parallel universe quality.

    Since there is no dispute that NSA_KEY was included in Windows to "to
    satisfy the NSA technical review", the only disputes remaining relate to
    the precise purpose of NSA_KEY (and who holds copies of the
    corresponding secret key).

    The three most popular interpretations are:

    1) Microsoft included a second key to be able to continue signing CAPI
    modules should the first key be lost. This is MSFT's official
    explanation. I suspect that there are not many security experts that
    will be satisfied with this explanation. The canonical way of addressing
    the risk of a CA, rather than a user, key being lost is in backing up
    the CA key, potentially in secret-shared form.

    2) Microsoft included a second key to be able to sign CAPI modules
    outside the U.S., while still somehow adhering to U.S. export law. If
    CAPI modules were to be signed in multiple locations, using multiple CA
    keys is a reasonable approach. I have heard this theory advanced by
    respectable folks and it may well be true. The shortcomings of this
    theory are that no CAPI module distributed by MSFT has ever been found to be signed by NSA_KEY. If MSFT has installed the second key to sign CAPI modules in a production CA, why is the key not being used? The other shortcoming of this theory is that Microsoft itself denies that
    such a second CA is in operation.

    3) Microsoft's NSA_KEY enables the NSA and/or other intelligence
    agencies to sign their own CAPI modules without NSA being required to
    disclose those modules to MSFT. There may be perfectly benign
    explanations why NSA might wish to so such a thing. Examples include
    enabling CAPI modules for NSA-generated, in-house ciphers used in
    classified applications. Of course this capability would also enable NSA
    to sign modules that can be used to undermine the OS security of just
    about any Windows installation out there. The sole shortcoming with this explanation appears to be that Microsoft denies that the NSA has access to the NSA_KEY secret key.

    Given the above scenarios, and in light of Microsoft's public
    statements, the reader must form their own opinion of the likely purpose of NSA_KEY. It may or may not be a source of comfort to know that NSA_KEY has since been renamed to KEY2. Had NSA_KEY been known as KEY2 from the beginning, the world would have never known about NSA_KEY's existence.
    http://freedom.gmsociety.org/pipermail/remops/2003-May/012683.html
    ...........

    The other problem with this is that NSA could have done this with a
    custom version of Windows, which is presumably easily within their power to have. It seems most unlikely to me that they do out-of-the-box Windows installs, so I assume this would impose almost no burden on them.

    The more likely explanation is so that the NSA can feed CAPI modules
    with backdoors to selected members of the public, IMO. This probably
    explains why they haven't been found in the wild, too.

    .......

    NSA's Backdoor Key from Lotus-Notes
    http://cypherspace.org/adam/hacks/lotus-nsa-key.html


    NSA's keys
    http://cypherspace.org/adam/hacks/ms-nsa-key.html


    Only NSA can listen, so that's OK
    http://www.heise.de/tp/english/inhalt/te/2898/1.html


    Report: U.S. Uses Key Escrow To Steal Secrets
    http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB19990518S0004
     
  23. eburger68

    eburger68 Privacy Expert

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2002
    Posts:
    244
    gunnarj:

    Not to prolong this discussion, but I think our readers ought to hear from several respected figures in the world of computer security and cryptography who threw cold water on the NSA_KEY story several years ago:

    Bruce Schneier
    http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-9909.html#NSAKeyinMicrosoftCryptoAPI


    Schneier, by the way, is one of the most respected researchers in the field of cryptography.

    Russ Cooper
    http://ntbugtraq.ntadvice.com/default.asp?sid=1&pid=47&aid=52


    Russ Cooper edits NT BugTraq, the widely read and respected security digest.

    Kevin McAleavey
    http://www.nsclean.com/nsakey.html

    Kevin is the author of BOClean, NSClean, and several other widely respected anti-malware products.

    All three of these authors provide thorough analysis of the NSA_KEY story and explain why the fears that the NSA has planted a back door in Windows are simply unfounded.

    As all three authors explain, the researcher who stumbled over the NSA_KEY did make an important find inasmuch as he demonstrated an exploitable flaw in the design of Microsoft's CryptoAPI (CAPI). But that flaw is exploitable by anyone, not just the NSA.

    For those wanting a more readable background on this story, see the following:

    WIRED
    http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,21577,00.html


    If nothing else, this story demonstrates the dangers of leaping to quick conclusions in a field like crypto based on "coincidences."

    Best,

    Eric L. Howes
     
  24. gunnarj

    gunnarj Registered Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2002
    Posts:
    80
    Yes, there were and are numerous experts who quickly and vehemently jumped into the fray to disabuse any and all of the notion that there could be a relationship between the software (esp. microsoft) we use and the intelligence agencies. What a silly notion, after all. Just musings for quacks and conspiracy theorists.


    Methinks, they and thou protest too much.

    best,

    gj
     
  25. This says it all:

    "if I find anything more specific as to PGP I'll pass it on" --- in other words, you had nothing and still have nothing by way of specific proof. When your bluff was called, you resorted to 2 things:

    (1) by saying that an absence of proof that there wasn't a backdoor was presence of proof that there was one. PLEASE.......you need to sit for your philosophy 101 again.

    (2) introduce a mountain of "facts" and "evidence" that were germane to anything but proof of the precise allegation you were making; that's right,. obfuscate the issue, go right ahead......you need more practice preaching to the non-converted. That's a bigger challenge, by the way.

    Last of all, do the rolling eyes thing and practice some cheap skepticism, and engage in ad hominem attacks to deflect attention from the fact that you still haven't proven your original allegation. But it's okay to say that others who demand proof are "disbusing any and all of the notion" of any link between intelligence agencies and software. Aside from the obvious cheap shot of using absolute terms ("any" and "all") to tar everyone with the same brush (another favourite tactic of an unskilled argument), you end up with another cheap shot by playing the wounded animal ("woe is me, I must be silly to think so") and acting like a crybaby ("my detractors call me a quack, they're such bad people"), at the end of the day, you still have not proven your original allegation! ......but tried every dirty trick in the book to worm your way out of the burden of proof.

    But hey, this is the Internet, not a "court of law," as you pointed out, and you are entitled to your rumor mongering. Go right ahead......
     
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