Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: security (Page 1 of 4)

Teen Privacy

In It’s Complicated, Emily Nussbaum states “Kids today…have no sense of shame. They have no sense of privacy” (boyd 55). She continues with a series of eloquent terms that describe how the “kids” publicly defame themselves with indecent pictures, and how they are “little loons who post…their stupid poetry” and thoughts “online” (boyd 55).

 

In today’s complicated world of electronics, it is reasonable to see how many Internet users might not know how exactly the security on their computer functions. For example, users might feel safe uploading private information to the worldwide web because they believe their social media accounts to simply be protected by a mere password, unaware of the versatility of hackers to penetrate such protection. This sense of privacy within a security system may be the result of the user’s lack of knowledge, and subsequently may be a reason to why so many “kids” are prone to upload personal data online undeterred.

 

In the sense of social privacy, however, we see “kids” who are ignorant or apathetic to disclosing personal data to the public. This lack of responsibility in maintaining one’s privacy is what Emily believes to be troublesome. Yet, when posting pictures and videos of themselves, kids do carry around “a sense of shame” in selecting only photos they deem worthy to be presented to the public. While this may indicate a separate problem with their self-image, it is a counterargument for Emily’s aforementioned statement—kids do carry a sense of shame, just not the one adults typically have in mind. This leads to boyd’s point that there are teens that genuinely care about a different sense of privacy, one that involves escaping the surveillance of “paternalistic adults” (boyd 56).

Victory At All Costs

The Zimmerman telegram could be described as the key leading to an allied victory and the end of the war. However, after being deciphered, Admiral William Hall decided to keep America in the dark, withholding the contents of the telegram from President Wilson. Despite the immediate danger this posed to the United States, I believe Admiral Hall made the correct decision. Disclosing the contents of the telegram would have alerted the Germans to the vulnerabilities in their encryption, leading them to create more secure ciphers and eventually cutting off British access to German information.

Essentially, this boils down to whether or not "the end justifies the means". Although this paved the way to an allied victory, keeping the telegram a secret endangered countless american lives. One could argue Admiral Hall's decision was extremely unethical, as it unnecessary risked peoples' lives. Needless deaths must be avoided, even if it leads to a faster victory. The means are simply too cruel to justify the end. However, keeping the telegram a secret potentially changed the course of the war. Although American involvement was believed to ensure an allied victory, it was not guaranteed. The British access to German intelligence proved to be invaluable to their war effort, and saving more lives was not as important as keeping these intelligence lines open. With this intelligence, the British forces could always stay one step ahead of the German offensive. This aided greatly in preventing the Germans from dominating the war, and essentially allowed the allied forces to emerge victory. Thus, safekeeping this crucial line of intel proved much more important than saving more american lives. In addition, Admiral Hall's plans to intercept the German's telegram in Mexico would lead to President Wilson learning of the contents of the Zimmerman telegram. Although he would learn of its contents late, the effect of the telegram still stirred America to action. Thus, immediately sending the Zimmerman telegram to America was not even completely necessary. Overall, victory was the main objective, and thus the end did justify the means.

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The Uncomfortable Truth

Time always progresses, despite any actions you might take. Quinn Norton points out a startling and uncomfortable reality: even after undergoing extensive security precautions or making every possible effort to remain secrecy, any information you provide on the internet will one day become public. As long as time progresses, your data is never truly secret. Time will always prevail.

In "Hello Future Pastebin Readers", Norton effectively addresses the fact that all her private conversations and information will soon be public. This fact becomes more and more relevant every day, as we continue to rely more and more on our technology. Many of us plan out our entire daily routine on our phones, utilizing various calendar apps and social networking platforms to plan out events and communicate with others. We've been driven to accept that our "private" information will remain private, hidden from the prying eyes of others. Yet we struggle to realize the vulnerabilities of our security. Eventually, our information will become public, open to the scrutiny of others. As Norton notes, it doesn't matter if you're rich and famous or relatively unknown, this private personal data is the same for all. All people, from the average human being to the biggest celebrities, must realize that it is only a matter of time until it is all released.

What Matters More- Privacy or Protection?

Finding the appropriate balance between privacy and surveillance is a pressing issue that afflicts 21st century society. The arguments for and against data mining are both very valid. In Michael Morris’s article, “Mining Student Data Could Save Lives,” student shootings evidence the demand for widespread student data mining to protect the campus community. Morris says that if universities were to mine and analyze student data, they could screen the analyses to identify suspicious behavior and potential problems. I intend to respond to this essay because as a current college student, the topic of the article is extremely applicable to my life.

I believe that personal experiences shape one’s opinions, and if I had been a victim of the Virginia Tech shooting, then I would be in favor of student data mining. However, I do support personal privacy in this age of continually increased surveillance, so the best solution would be to find a balance that does not compromise total privacy, yet still enhances security.

An interesting aspect of the article is that it does not elaborate on other methods besides data mining in order to identity suspicious behavior and prevent problems. There are ways to recognize early warning signs without sacrificing one’s privacy. Behavioral cues, such as isolating oneself from his or her friends or always being in an angry mood, should hint that something is wrong. If friends, resident advisors, or professors could recognize these clues and get the individual the help that he or she needs, then this could also prevent problems from occurring.

There are many reasons for and against data mining, and I plan to explore these ideas in my essay while determining my opinions on what should be done to solve this controversial problem.

The Security of Email and the Privacy

Now I just collect some information and have not started my paper yet, so I find that I will take a huge amount of effort to deal with this paper.  In this paper, I want to talk about the security of the emails during the international communications (like the legal access of the government, the physical location of the service and so on) and the strength of the passwords of emails accounts. There are two most challenging parts of this paper. The first part is to get the way how government access the email because I am not familiar with the internet. I need to search more information and spend more time to understand the process. The second part is to understand the way the hackers use to break the emails accounts and the method the emails use to keep the passwords of the accounts safe. These need I spend a lot of time on mathematics and I might also need to explain them clearly in my paper. The  more enjoyable part in this paper is to think about the method to improve the strength of the passwords of the email accounts and to keep people's email accounts safe. This part is very useful and interesting. To improve my paper, I still need to search more resources and organize the arguments clearly.

The Debate: Security vs. Privacy

During class last week, we held a debate on the following proposition:

The US government should be given wide latitude to use electronic surveillance in the interests of national security, even if that means citizens' privacy is not always respected.

We've discussed this proposition several times during the course, notably on the first day of class, when we discussed Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA, and then a few weeks ago, during our class sessions on Cory Doctorow's novel Little Brother. Last week, we read Simon Singh's treatment of the issue in his book, The Code Book, and so it was time for a proper debate.

Before class, students were asked to make arguments for or against the statement in blog posts. You can read all of those blog posts here.

During class, six students volunteered to debate. Three were randomly assigned to the "PRO" side (security), three to the "CON" side (privacy). Each side had ten minutes to prepare opening arguments, then five minutes each to present opening arguments. Then the jury, consisting of three other students, evaluated the strength of the arguments made and gave each team of debaters feedback. That lead into round two, during which each side responded to the arguments made by the other side during the first round.

How did the debate play out? See this Google Doc capturing the main points of the debate, with notes taken by two of our three notetakers. The third notetaker live-tweeted the debate using the course Twitter account, @practicalcrypto. Below, you'll find a collection of those tweets, which were more entertaining than expected.

As I said at the end of the debate, if we had a bit more class time, we could have brainstormed some compromise solutions that responded to concerns of both sides. We might still come back to that, depending on how the last few weeks of the class go.

 

 

Protect our Privacy

In my opinion, the U.S. government should not be given a large ability to use electronic surveillance for national security. Surveillance might catch criminals, but it also catches a lot of innocent people in its path. Citizens have a right to their privacy, a right that the government should not intrude upon without good cause. Giving the government a wide latitude to use electronic surveillance seems to me like it would give them the opportunity to surveil people even if they weren’t suspicious, doubtlessly intruding on countless private messages that a completely innocent person is sending. Our government is by no means flawless; some of their actions in the past regarding surveillance have definitely fallen into a moral grey zone. For instance, the U.S. government used unjustified wiretaps on Martin Luther King Jr. for several years, gathering not only information that would help them in debates concerning civil rights but “bawdy stories” and “embarrassing details about King’s life” (Singh, p. 307). Clearly, they have used wiretapping unduly before; allowing them a breadth of access to electronic surveillance would undoubtedly result in them pressing their advantage too far in some cases.

Photo Credit: "Security" by Dave Bleasdale via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: "Security" by Dave Bleasdale via Flickr CC

 

In addition, citizen privacy during transactions is extremely important to the economy of the United States as well as the economy of the globe. Without secure encryption, messages sent using the internet and purchases on the web would be far less trustworthy. Furthermore, as purchases on the internet have increased, there is greater incentive for criminals to try to decode these purchases and reach credit card information (Singh, p.308). Imagine all of the purchases that occur over the internet in this day and age; it would be incredibly destructive if someone could break into the encryption scheme we use to protect them. Millions of people could lose their credit card information, and a break in to this effect would undoubtedly dissuade some people from purchasing much on the internet anymore. Allowing the U.S. government a larger reach in electronic security would surely mean that the encryption we were using for online transactions would have to go down; the U.S. government has been trying to decrease the private citizen’s level of encryption for years in order to allow easier access to the government to their information. They might try to switch us to the American Escrowed Encryption Standard, which would allow them a databank of all private keys, or even try to limit the length that a private key can be (Singh, p.310). Both would decrease the power of our encryption methods, hardly keeping us safe from criminals who might be searching for a way to steal credit card information. Overall, allowing great government power for electronic surveillance hardly seems like a good idea; not only would the security of our internet transactions decrease with a decrease in encryption, the government could invade our privacy much easier.

Necessity of Government Surveillance

As the world is currently in an information age and more information is being sent via the world wide web, it is necessary for the U.S. government to be given wide latitude to use electronic surveillance, even if that means citizen's privacy isn't always respected. The potential benefits of the government using electronic surveillance and the possible consequences of the government not utilizing electronic surveillance outweigh the potential loss of privacy of its citizens.

With increases in strength of encryption mechanisms, it is pivotal that the government and law enforcement agencies have wide latitude to use electronic surveillance so that they can stay one step ahead of the "bad guys". In Singh chapter 7, it is noted that "organized crime members are some of the most advanced users of computer systems and strong encryption." Also, there was a group labeled the "four horsemen of the infocalypse", being drug dealers, organized crime, terrorists and pedophiles. According to Singh, these are the four groups which benefit the most from strong encryption. All of these groups are constantly becoming more of a problem in our world today, and without the utilization of electronic surveillance, it can be nearly impossible to gather enough information to deal with these criminals in the best manner. If the government has wide latitude to use electronic surveillance, it would have the ability to catch some of these criminals and even prevent crimes and acts of terror from happening. However, without the use of electronic surveillance there would be many individuals and groups who would get away with criminal acts when they wouldn't otherwise. As seen in Singh chapter 7, the FBI still claims that "court ordered wiretapping is the single most effective investigative technique used by law enforcement to combat illegal drugs, terrorism, violent crime, espionage and organized crime."

It does need to be noted that when the U.S. government has wide latitude to use electronic surveillance, there is a potential invasion of the privacy of individuals. While I believe that the safety of U.S. citizens is more important than their privacy, there are those who disagree with this viewpoint. Even if we give the U.S. government wide latitude to use electronic surveillance, they should still do what they can to protect the privacy of individuals as much as they can at the same time. There are many ways to go about this, from an escrow system, to tighter regulations on the usage of information gained via surveillance. While the privacy of individuals is important, it is their obligation to allow their privacy to potentially be breached if it is for a more secure nation and society.

Camera-IMG_1961

Photo Credit: "Camera-IMG 1961" by Rama via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

9/11 Changed Everything

At the time Singh wrote the novel, there was no blatant reason for the government to use surveillance for the interest of national security. Then September 11, 2001 happened. This day completely changed the interests of both the American citizens and the government. After this terrorist attack, people were willing to give up their privacy in order to achieve more security. I am not saying that the government should have complete control over all communications all the time. What I am saying is that the government should have substantial surveillance over communications in order to prevent other significant threats to the citizens of the United States.

In times of fear, people are willing to give up some of their privacy in order to feel safer. The thing is, cryptography should not disappear. Cryptography will only keep improving, and there is little to nothing that the government can do to slow it down. What the government, mainly the NSA, can do is keep its cryptanalysis above and better than the cryptography present at the time. Then the government can use its cryptanalysis in order to analyze and read encrypted messages. The government used wiretapping in the 1920s, but its new weapon is code breaking. Of course, citizens will always want their information to be private, but with the new information age, the government can use data mining and break through encryptions in order to evaluate certain suspects without any normal computer user ever noticing. The government can give people the illusion of privacy while also providing them with the reality of security.

It’s not so much whether the government can have wide latitude but what it can do with its wide latitude. For all we as normal citizens of the nation know, the government can read any and all of our messages. The government has the technology to break into almost any kind of encryption with its super computers, so as long as the government stays within its boundaries of security and does not blatantly invade its citizens’ privacy, it can continue to successfully use its array of electronic surveillance.

Photo Credit: "tower1-2"  by Damlan Korman via flickr CC.

Photo Credit: "tower1-2" by Damlan Korman via flickr CC.

 

Surveillance protects our children

 

 

All American citizens are entitled to their privacy. It must be remembered, however, that any electronic privacy granted to citizens is also granted to who Singh calls the "Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse - drug dealers, organized crime, terrorists, and pedophiles". Because of this, all citizens should be more than willing to give up a little privacy to protect their families, neighbors, friends, and all citizens.

CC image courtesy of Lunar New Year on Flickr

CC image courtesy of Lunar New Year on Flickr

Imagine you have a child. Imagine they were being targeted by an online pedophile. This pedophile is making disgusting comments to your child and trying to persuade them to meet.If you are like most people, you would probably contact the police or do something similar in an attempt to catch this person that is targeting your child. Now imagine that the police tell you that there is nothing they can do about it at the moment because they are required to protect the electronic privacy of citizens.

Many proponents of electronic privacy are worried about what the government is reading of theirs. This is just evidence of the geocentricism of Americans. As scandalous of a life you think you lead, the government really doesn't care unless you are plotting something that endangers the country. By insisting on your privacy to keep your gossip or your secret online relationship hidden, you're stopping the government from potentially preventing mass shootings or terrorist attacks or even child abductions. 

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