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At 11:01 PM 10/12/95 -0400, you wrote:
>Can I ask a question....are you guys into cryptology for the interesting
>facts and knowledge or fer cracking unix codes and raising havoc?
Cryptography can cause far more interesting kinds of havoc than scaring
a few marketroids about crackers cracking their market shares,
or scaring a few spooks that they might not be able to eavesdrop on
the American public. Cryptography is a way of changing the balance of
power about who owns your personal information. Computers are very good
at centralizing and combining information - once something's in a major
it's easy for the people who own databases to compare them with other databases,
so your Social Security Number and Driver's License Number and credit cards
and phone numbers and TRW credit report all pretty much tell people what
you're doing, what kind of lifestyle you lead, where you're travelling,
what magazines you read, where to find you if they want, where your money is,
what kind of junk mail to send you, whether your house is worth burglarizing,
whether you'd be a good target for the draft or a tax audit, etc.
Not much you can do about it except not give people information,
and that's getting tougher to do, especially if you like conveniences of
modern American life like employee-style jobs and renting or buying houses
or having a driver's license when the cops stop your car for no good reason.
But with cryptography, you can structure transactions so that people get all
the information they need to do business with you (if you want them to),
and none of the information they don't need. Imagine if your credit smart-card
didn't have your name on it (because only you have the PIN), and gave out a
different number every time you used it (but Visa doesn't mind, because
they know who you are.) Imagine if, instead of having one master SSN that you
write on every bloody form you fill out in your life, you have a list of
tax id numbers, and can get more if you need them, so everybody who needs
to send the IRS a chunk of your money can do so, but the numbers aren't tied
except back at the tax office, where nobody's going to care until you retire.
(That doesn't even take cryptography, though it helps.) Imagine if people
started thinking that your own private information was your own, and didn't
_need_ to see three kinds of picture ID to let you rent a mailbox or a car,
because you could use crypto methods to give them the information they need
to charge you for the car if you rip it off, without all the other baggage.
And imagine if all you need to do business is that barcode tattooed on your arm,
which you can wave by the machines anywhere you go, for everything you do.
Crypto's the alternative.
Now, as far as the things you first asked about go, the theoretical stuff
_is_ pretty neat, and has finally given me an excuse to go study up on
number theory, and scaring the public about weaknesses of the computer
products they use is something the mass media and legislators like better
than many of us do (though having your friends get their pictures in
Wired and the New York Times is kind of fun...) - it'd be nice if the
people who make popular software would take security seriously,
instead of putting out some of the thoughtlessly weak stuff that they do.
Sometimes it takes a 2x4 to do the job; sometimes the press just overreacts.
I do occasionally hang out with people who have the police watch them
because their politics aren't correct (whether to the left, right, or deep
or because they like recreational chemicals that are safer than tobacco
and alcohol, or just because they're weird. That's wrong, and people
have a right to their privacy. (Hasn't stopped me from offering the
Philadelphia Police Red Squad coffee when they were watching a convention
I was at (they'd brought their own :-) - but those guys really still are
# Thanks; Bill
# Bill Stewart, Freelance Information Architect, [email protected]
# Phone +1-510-247-0664 Pager/Voicemail 1-408-787-1281