CRYPTO: Crypto can’t be trusted

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Date: Fri, 05 Nov 2010 17:47:43 -0700

From: Gene Wirchenko <genew@ocis.net>

Subject: Getting Crypto Wrong

Neal Ungerleider, How Haystack Risked Exposing Iranian Dissidents,

FastCompany.com, 20 Sep 2010

http://www.fastcompany.com/1690075/haystack-austin-heap-iran-fail

In 2009, Iran was in turmoil, and the Islamic Republic was blocking and monitoring sites used by opposition groups — until a team led by American IT specialist Austin Heap built a program, Haystack, and touted it as a secure and anonymous Web portal for Iranians. *The Guardian* lauded it, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally praised Heap. The U.S. government even gave him rare permission to export his cryptological software to Iran. Among an elite group of beta testers — and many more unauthorized users — Haystack was a godsend.

Then in Sept. 2010, security experts discovered a problem: Iranian authorities, the very ones Haystack was supposed to circumvent and shield against, were exploiting massive holes in the encryption scheme to snoop on dissidents.

[Beware of anonymity-bearing gifts. As we have noted here before, ALWAYS look a gift (trojan) horse in the mouth. PGN]

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It all comes back to how do you know the stuff works?

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