traffic analysis of phone calls?

Vin McLellan vin at
Sat Jul 12 12:30:00 EDT 2003

(Use it if you'd like, but keep me out of it.)

Steve Bellovin wrote:

>Slightly off-topic, but a reminder of the sort of thing that ordinary
>crypto doesn't hide.
>IT Myths: Colombian drugs gang's mainframe-assisted assassinations?

Reminds me of a Supercomputer system admin I ran across in California in 
the mid-1980s -- a part time Deputy Sheriff -- who (at the request of a 
California state LEA, and with the approval of his boss) was banging away 
at the DES-encrypted records of a guy, alleged to be a bookkeeper or 
financial analyst for a Columbia drug cartel, who had been arrested in 

The story he told me was that the Deputy had been asked to try to 
brute-force the encryption on the file after the NSA and DEA had refused to 
attempt it.

Using free cycles on his corporate machine, he was into the project for a 
couple of months when a guy from the NSA showed up and convinced his boss 
that his effort was counterproductive to national security -- apparently 
because it threatened the reputation of DES.

At the time, I was more impressed that the Columbian was using a PC crypto 
package that apparently did not have an operational weaknesses that was 
then common in almost all commercial encryption packages for PCs.

Hope all is well for you and yours.


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