[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Crypto-Grams #1-#4, from Americans for Tax Reform

[From Jim Lucier and Americans for Tax Reform. These have been faxed to the
Hill all week, a different one each day. --Declan]


Attention, House Commerce Committee: Send this email
to a friend in France, and you both could go to jail

print pack"C*",split/\D+/,`echo"16iII*o\[email protected]{$/=$z;[(pop,pop,unpack"H*",<>

The above two lines of code in the perl computer
language implement the world-standard RSA encryption
algorithm.  They can handle an arbitrarily long
key-length and encrypt a file of any size. Therefore,
these 147 keystrokes constitute an ITAR-controlled
munitions item for export purposes. A popular T-shirt
at computer conventions has a similar version of RSA
in machine readable bar-code form.  The T-shirt is a
munition too.

Sending this code in an email to a friend in France
constitutes a go-to-jail federal offense for
"exporting" a munitions item. Your friend in France
may run afoul of local laws that ban cryptography
except as approved by the French government.
Fortunately, you are perfectly legal if you just write
the code on a postcard.

The fact is, it requires no great programming skill to
write tiny programs that produce very powerful
encryption.  There^"s one web site we know of that has
about a dozen^oand an ongoing contest to see who can
write the smallest one.  Over the next few days,
Americans for Tax Reform will share with you some
interesting encryption facts.  On Friday, we will tell
you where to find the "tiny encryption" contest.

If you took math at the middle school level and had
access to a published algorithm, you could possibly
write your own encryption program.  The math is little
more exotic than multiplication, prime numbers,
factoring, and a little modular arithmetic, all of
which were SAT questions.  The basic principle is that
multiplying two large prime numbers together is easy,
whereas factoring their product to find the original
input is hard.  This is the one-way function that
makes public key cryptography possible.

For a more complicated explanation with real
mathematical notation, see the account published by
Peter Wayner in the September 6 New York Times Cyber
Times.  Or you can get a textbook such as Bruce
Schneier^"s Applied Cryptography, which is on the
shelf at Border^"s Bookstore in downtown Washington,
DC. The bottom line is that public key encryption is
no secret and has not been for quite some time.
Trying to ban or control it serves no purpose.  You
might as well ban arithmetic.

The House should pass H.R. 695, the Security and
Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Act, as approved by
the Judiciary and International Relations Committees.
The other bills need a reality check. Their
mathematics simply does not add up. For more
information on cryptography, see Wayner^"s very
accessible column in the New York Times Cyber Times at
his July 29 New York Times op-ed about how the Framers
of our Nation used cryptography, and his excellent
reporting generally. ###


Attention, House Commerce Committee--Crypto-Gram #2:

Bit length is irrelevant for export control purposes?
the real test is prevailing market standards

Yesterday we disclosed that strong cryptography
requires about the same level of skill from a computer
programmer that building a hot rod requires from an
auto mechanic-which is to say that any bright and
industrious 19-year-old with cheap tools and a greasy
set of Chilton's manuals can do it. What the final
product lacks in finesse and aesthetic judgment, it
more than makes up for in brute power.

Another thing we pointed out is that bit-length used
in any cryptographic system is independent of the
underlying algorithm.  The code fragment we presented
yesterday works equally well with 40, 128, 1024, 2048,
and even 4096-bit keys.  The only practical limit is
where key lengths get too cumbersome to handle

This is not to put the strength of 1024-bit crypto,
which is very secure, on the same level as 40-bit
crypto, which is clearly not secure.  Indeed, these
days 40-bit crypto could theoretically be defeated by
a well-planned high school science project
incorporating a handful of $20 Field Programmable Gate
Array (FPGA) chips.  (Parents of boy and girl scouts
seeking electronics merit badges, take note.)

The point is that anyone who can write 40-bit crypto
into an application can just as easily write in 80 or
128-bit crypto.  Either key length can work with
exactly the same code. Thus by limiting key-lengths
for export to 40 or even 56 bits, we do not prevent
foreigners from learning the "secrets" of programming
for longer key lengths.  If foreigners can program any
crypto at all, they can already program any key length
they want.

So what limits key length for export purposes?  Market
choice.  The computer world is already standardizing
itself around 128-bit key lengths for several reasons.
 First, in binary terms, 128 bits is a round number.
Second, given current technology, experts feel that 70
to 90 bits is about the range necessary to guarantee
security without become unwieldy.  Finally, looking
toward the future the market discounts current
standards to account for rapid technological growth
and possible surprises. Therefore 128 bits is what
buyers want and suppliers offer.

The Trusted Information Systems Website (www.tis.com)
lists 1,393 sources of cryptography worldwide and many
of the most popular are 128-bit. Siemens-Nixdorf,
Brokat, and Expresso are all examples of popular
European technology that computers with American
products.  The Europeans are perfectly capable of
selling and creating 128, 256, and 512-bit
cryptography on their own if buyers want it.  If this
is where the market is going, Americans should supply
the products first.


Attention, Members of Congress from Ohio-Crypto-gram
#3: You need the SAFE Act to Protect Your Phone

Cell phone communications are not secure. Any idiot
would-be felon with a few hundred bucks and a modified
Radio Shack police band scanner can intercept your
calls and tape them for the New York Times-or the
London tabloids, as both England's Prince Charles and
Princess Diana learned to their sorrow.

Another big problem with cell phones is the cloning of
numbers-when again modified police band scanners
intercept non-encrypted analog cell phone numbers and
steal the electronic identity (plus billing
information) of the unwary caller.  The thousands of
telephone numbers stolen daily in this way give
criminals an unlimited supply of cell phone numbers
which they can use for free and switch rapidly to
avoid detection.  This is perhaps the biggest criminal
telecommunications problem there is.  There are three
solutions.  First, pass more federal laws against it,
which is ineffective. Second, put anti-cloning chips
in cell phone handsets, which works until someone rips
out the chips and solders over them.  Or third, switch
to digital cell phones with encrypted signals. This
stops the problem cold.

Major U.S. manufacturers and designers make dandy
digital cell phones, but they can't export their best
products to fast-growing markets like Hong Kong
because selling U.S.-made phones equivalent to the
most popular cell phones already in use in Hong Kong
would violate U.S. export controls.  So the U.S.
manufacturers, including one also in the email
business, largely have to stay home and watch the
competition make money.

But wait, there is more:  even your best U.S. digital
cell phone has a hole in it because the dumbed-down
encryption mandated by the U.S. government happens to
be flawed. You are probably okay with the cell phone
of your choice, but you can't be sure.

Your political speech is literally on line with the
encryption debate-plus your personal business, your
financial records, and your medical information. It's
impossible to build a mandatory backdoor into all
communications with a sign on it that says "Uncle Sam
with a search arrant only."  If criminals know the
backdoor is there, they will certainly discover where
it is, what it looks like, and how to kick it down.

Other countries, such as France, with a stronger
tradition of wiretapping than that of the U.S., are
given to full-blown political scandals when
collaboration between state-owned telephone companies
and national intelligence services puts transcripts of
sensitive conversations in papers like Le Monde. Just
ask Charles Pasqua, who is not now President of France
or a holder of high office due to precisely such an
instance.  Published reports have suggested that the
Charles and Diana tapes resulted from security
services checking up on the Royals.

Mr. Oxley from Ohio defends his dubious amendments to
the Security and Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Act
on the basis that he simply wishes to defend the type
of wiretaps he performed in his previous line of
business.  The problem is, Mr. Oxley does not
represent the FBI in Congress;  he represents the
people of Ohio, digital and analog cell phone users
alike. They may have different views.


On the 210th Anniversary of the U.S.
Constitution--Crypto-gram #4: Celebrate the
Constitution's Birthday:  Pass SAFE

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison,
and the Founding Fathers routinely wrote letters in
code.  This is because in Colonial times letters were
often intercepted, just as emails and cellular
telephone calls are today.  Jefferson actually des
igned his own encryption machine, using a method
considered ingenious and effective even today. With
company like this, it is no wonder that top
libertarian and conservative opinion leaders are
speaking out on encryption:

"? We have a First and Fourth Amendment Right to speak
in a manner of our own choosing and to be secure from
government searches.  Just as we have the right to
speak in Spanish and Greek as well as in English on
our computers, we have a right to speak in code on our
computer or on our cell phone so that our messages
will be private."  Phyllis Schlafly, Washington Times
August 12 1997.

"Congress should pass the SAFE Act sponsored by Rep.
Bob Goodlatte and a host of Democrats and other
Republicans.  This bill is critical to protecting
privacy on the Internet and to thwarting theft and
industrial espionage?  But Washington is gumming up t
he works.  The Feds fear effective encryption because
it might hobble their finding ways to tax on-line
commerce."  Steve Forbes, "Fact and Comment," Forbes
Magazine, April 21, 1997.

"Now the Clinton Administration and supporters of S.
909 are doing their best to require that U.S. users of
strong encryption give law enforcement officers access
to their keys via a "key recovery" system. They might
just as well demand that every family give the federal
government a copy of the house keys, just in case the
government ever needs them." Solveig Bernstein, Cato
Institute, Washington Times, July 19, 1997.

"Nothing could be more perverse than to turn the power
of the digital era to empower individuals into a more
invasive means of government surveillance and control.
 I believe that the Administration's positions will
not withstand Constitutional challenge. The question
to ask is why ?we should waste our time and money
pursuing something that, in a Jeffersonian sense, is
so patently un-American and which, in the practical
sense of Moore's Law, is simply wrong."   George A.
Keyworth, II, former Science Advi ser to President
Reagan, Progress and Freedom Foundation, Commerce
Committee Testimony, September 4, 1997.

The SAFE Act simply affirms traditional American
Constitutional principles that Americans should be
free 'in their persons and possessions from
unreasonable searches and seizures,' and they should
be allowed to conduct their legal business with a
minimum of interference from the state.  These are
indeed truths which we should hold self-evident."
Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform, Judiciary
Committee Testimony, March 20, 1997.   ###

Declan McCullagh
Time Inc.
The Netly News Network
Washington Correspondent