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Re: Graphic encryption

Steve O. writes:
> I am currently working for a company that has a graphic encryption 
> product called PrivaSoft. 
> Also if any of ya'll are famillar with graphic encryption, I am looking 
> for opinions as to its strengths / weaknesses.

Funny you should ask. A week or so ago someone mentioned PrivaSoft's fax
encryption software here. The promotional material we saw mentions two points
about the product which I believe were seen as bad omens by many of us on the 
cypherpunks list. To wit:

(1) PrivaSoft uses a proprietary encryption algorithm

Cryptanalysis is a challenging task. Comparatively little is known about how
to prove, in some formal sense, that any given cryptographic algorithm is
strong. Most people in the field have reached the conclusion that the test of
time is the best true measure of the cryptographic strength of an algorithm.
Until plenty of people have pounded on the algorithm, you can't really have
much confidence about it.

Moe concretely: If you believe your algorithm is strong, then you have no
reason to fear an expert review, and should in fact welcome it. On the other
hand, if you won't reveal your algorithm, we have little basis for trusting
our confidential data to it. 

(2) PrivaSoft has been approved for export by the U.S. Govt.

As you probably know, the U.S. Government restricts the export of strong
cryptography (using the ITARs), with some notable exceptions for bankers
and authentication-only deployments. PrivaSoft isn't selling strictly to
banks, and attempts to protect confidentiality. Ergo, the government doesn't
think you're using strong cryptography. 

Case in point: the separate U.S. and international versions of Netscape 
Navigator. The exportable version uses the RC4 algorithm (as part of the SSL
protocol) with an effective key length of 40 bits, while the domestic version
uses 128 bits. Some people here made the news a short while ago with a 
concrete demonstration of the inadequacy of the shorter key length. That was
proof-of-concept for an idea already fairly well-accepted in cryptographic

PrivaSoft looks worse than the int'l. version of Navigator. At
least with the browser, Netscape had levelled with everyone up front and
used a reasonably well-known published algorithm. Thus we had good reason to
believe it provides a non-trivial level of security. The C'punks Key
Cracking Ring showed just what it takes to cross that line. But we have
absolutely _no_ evidence that PrivaSoft does anything hard to break at all.

Bottom line: you have to release the specs. of your algorithm, to a panel
of experts under NDAs or (preferably) to the public, to convince us that 
PrivaSoft offers us real security.

[I highly recommend Schneier's _Applied Cryptography_, 2nd edition due RSN
from Wiley & Sons, as a comprehensive reference guide if you're thinking
seriously about these issues. ISBN 0-471-59756-2]

-Futplex <[email protected]>