[Cryptography] Now it's personal -- Belgian cryptographer MITM'd by GCHQ/NSA

ianG iang at iang.org
Sun Feb 2 05:38:59 EST 2014

On 2/02/14 04:33 AM, Phillip Hallam-Baker wrote:
> Why assume that its the NSA/GCHQ?

Because the Belgians are saying it is, and because the Snowden
revelations pointed at a persistent attack of the indicated parties.

We can play the game of "you don't know that for a fact" forever, but at
the end of the day, they will never enter court and let the court
declare it a fact, so that easy excuse is their game, their rules, their

Old military truism:  the battle is won by the general that imposes his
plan over the other.

> When I got stopped three times by UK customs on one trip during the crypto
> wars it was pretty obvious what was going on. But this incident could have
> been due to Iran, Israel, Russia, China (in no particular order) and there
> might well be more countries getting in on the pervasive intercept party.

I've got no doubt that others are attempting to hack into the telcos and

> This is not about stopping the NSA.

I think there are several considerations here.

1.  We need models of all players.  We need statistics and likelihoods.

2.  We have an attitude that keeps tripping us up on polite diversions
such as "you don't know that for a fact" or "these are the nice guys,
they wouldn't do it to you" or "the other guys are doing this, give us

We need some way of avoiding our own biases, and that starts from
knowing ourselves.

3.  We need a model that describes the control that these folks have.
Is it no control?  Or is there some way to limit it?  Right now the
evidence suggests that there are no controls that haven't been trashed
by one means or another.

Facts claimed recently:  they routinely lie to congress and court.  The
secret non-court never analysed mass surveillance before Snowden.  They
collect and target citizens.  They hack allies, they spy on sovereigns,
they spy for industry.

4.  And, as a minor consideration for some citizens of some countries
that have a no arbitrary search or seizure clause, we need the facts to
see if they have self-declared themselves the subject of criminal

5.  Ditto for alliances.

6.  You can't stop the Chinese unless you've first stopped the NSA.
Ditto for 5-eyes.  Unless you have principles, you cannot decide when
and how to face up to your external threats, you cannot even
differentiate external from internal.

7.  GCHQ, ASD, the others, they more or less follow the NSA.

If you put it all together, at a first order of approximation, maybe it
is that: about stopping the NSA.

> The NSA wanabees are far more numerous
> and likely just as well resourced. They won't have as much cash but they
> will use what they have at least ten times more effectively.

Idk.  I think the others are well-outclassed at this stage.  Back in the
cold war, the Russians did a pretty good job in humint.  They still
couldn't match the satellite & sigint assets tho.  The Chinese, now?  I
have no idea, I have yet to see any real unbiased data (by that I mean
data that has been released for the direct purpose of convincing
congress to fund cyberwar).

What's their budget this year?

I agree on one point -- the Chinese seem to be more focussed on economic
theft than trying to mass surveille the world of angry birds.  I really
would be asking for my money back if I was congress.

> We do have a model for protecting Web sites that works pretty well called
> PCI. That is the scheme that the credit card companies developed to protect
> their assets when they are exposed online. PCI is supported by numerous
> tools and services that provide compliance checking. It isn't perfect but
> it is a known starting point.
> What we need is PCI for social media sites and for email providers. It does
> not have to be perfect and it won't be. But it will be a start.

Well.  PCI models against hacks and insider attacks.

Then there is mass surveillance.  The model against mass surveillance
has been known for 2 decades:  mass crypto.  Yet, we've never been able
to get that idea through to the NISTs, the IETF, the committees, the
toolmakers, etc.

It would be a mighty fine idea if NIST were to come out and start
pushing opportunistic encryption, but they do not serve the users, they
serve the toolmakers, who use cryptography as a discriminator.  You
can't have a national standard without a national industry to sell tools.

Then there is phishing.  The model against phishing -- which was used in
the belgacom attack -- has been known for 2 decades as well, it was
built into secure web browsing.  But it never worked, and the tool
makers like it that way.

> And unlike
> the credit card companies we have a lot more ability to change our
> credentials.

Exactly -- change!  Maybe we need those people who build PCI and FIPS
and whathaveyou to start recognising that the models they built have to
actually work.  Else they should fall on their swords, because they are
incapable of changing.

Pigs might fly.  PCI like all such more likely exists to serve PCI
people.  We definitely don't want such a millstone around the social
network folks.  We want them to change, to face their threats as they


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