more snake oil? [WAS: New uncrackable(?) encryption technique]

bear bear at
Fri Oct 25 13:22:43 EDT 2002

On Fri, 25 Oct 2002, Nicko van Someren wrote:

>> [Moderator's note: so long as society continues to turn a blind eye to
>> the harvesting of serpents for lipids, the international trade in
>> snake oil will continue unabated. -- Perry]

>I appreciate that as cryptographers we should be rightly skeptical of
>anyone claiming to have a new, unbreakable encryption scheme.
>That said, given the tone of the message from Multiplex Photonics
>perhaps launching attacks on, or laughing at, those who are ill
>informed about cryptography is not the best use of our energies.  If
>this system is so eminently breakable then surely we should be applying
>our skills to solve what scientists in another field currently believe
>to be a hard problem, thereby advancing the sum of human knowledge,
>rather than just sitting around sniggering at them.
>	Nicko

The implication is that they have a "hard problem" in their
bioscience application, which they have recast as a cipher.

But in most cases, when someone - especially someone without a
crypto background - tries to transform a hard problem into
a cipher, the break on the cipher comes at some point in the
transformation, rather than on the hard problem itself.

I think it's not unlikely that the cipher can be broken and
not unlikely that the break will not help them at all with
their hard problem.

One thing that strikes me about it is that it doesn't seem to
be a practical cipher in any case.  It is too slow when implemented
in software to be competitive with known-good ciphers that we
have today, so it has little value as a cipher even if it does
turn out to be as unbreakable as the best we've got.  A good
cryptographer would spend time optimizing the snot out of it
and abstracting away operations that don't add security, in
order to make it fast enough to be competitive - after
which it might bear only a dim resemblance to the hard problem
that inspired it anyhow.

Offhand, I'd say that since it isn't a practical cipher to use
anyway, it's probably not a good use of time for professional
cryptographers to try to break.  On the gripping hand, if
there's a pro out there who wants to donate some specialized
mathematical expertise to biosciences, with or without compensation
from the benefactors at multiplex photonics, this may be a nice
way to do it.

On the gripping hand, since they've patented the method rather than
placing it in the public domain, you have to realize that it's a
donation to a single company rather than a donation to "human
knowledge" or biosciences in general.  There're plenty of worthwhile
things to work on that are truly public if you're feeling like
donating time and expertise on a charitable basis.


>On Friday, Oct 25, 2002, at 07:25 Europe/London, Udhay Shankar N wrote:
>> On Sun, 13 Oct 2002 15:45:58 +0100, in Multiplex
>> Photonics <info at> wrote:
>> >We have developed a new encryption technique that we believe to be
>> >uncrackable - we have patented the method and intend to issue it as
>> >freeware for non-commercial use.
>> >Basically, we are a biotechnology company who have developed this
>> system
>> >as an offshoot from our development of signal analysis systems.
>> >Until we are able to distribute this as a piece of software, we have
>> >produced technical documentation of the method and would be very keen
>> to
>> >see if anyone would like to examine the method and/or develop an
>> >implementation themselves.

> >We are not trying to sell anything to anyone - if someone were able to
>> >find a method of cracking this system, this would help us immeasurably
>> >in the development of our biotech product.
>> >The technical documentation is available for free download in the
>> >download section of our website at:
>> > - there is no advertising,
>> >registration or product that we are trying to sell you.
>> >Anyone interested can contact us by email at
>> info at
>> >
>> >We hope that this community will find this of interest
>> >may thanks
>> >Miles Kluth
>> >
>> >Multiplex Photonics Ltd.
>> >
>> >email: mailto:info at
>> --
>> ((Udhay Shankar N)) ((udhay @ ((
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