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February 18 2014

16:20

January 08 2014

05:51

Quantum Computing, The N.S.A. And The Future Of Cryptography

The NSA can already crack most cryptography; now it’s working on a quantum computer to bust the rest. Is it the end of for-your-eyes-only?

A June 6, 2013, file photo, is an aerial view of the cooling units at the NSA's Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah. Electrical failures are complicating the opening of the National Security Agency’s largest data storage center. (AP)

A June 6, 2013, file photo, is an aerial view of the cooling units at the NSA’s Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah. Electrical failures are complicating the opening of the National Security Agency’s largest data storage center. (AP)

Guests

Steven Rich, database editor for the investigative at The Washington Post. (@dataeditor)

Seth Lloyd, professor of quantum mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Matthew Green, cryptographer and research professor at Johns Hopkins University. Author of the blog, “A Few Thoughts On Cryptographic Engineering.” (@Matthew_D_Green)

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: NSA seeks to build quantum computer that could crack most types of encryption — “The development of a quantum computer has long been a goal of many in the scientific community, with revolutionary implications for fields such as medicine as well as for the NSA’s code-breaking mission. With such technology, all current forms of public key encryption would be broken, including those used on many secure Web sites as well as the type used to protect state secrets.”

Wired: The quest to make encryption accessible to the masses — “Kobeissi’s challenge, to make encrypted online messaging user-friendly, has long been a bugbear of the crypto community. A paper, written in 1999, demonstrated that the encryption program PGP completely baffled most users in a series of tests. The study, now fourteen years old, is still frequently cited today as a long-unanswered call to arms.”

A Few Thoughts On Cryptographic Engineering: How does the NSA break SSL? — “You see, the NSA BULLRUN briefing sheet mentions that NSA has been breaking quite a few encryption technologies, some of which are more interesting than others. One of those technologies is particularly surprising to me, since I just can’t figure how NSA might be doing it. In this extremely long post I’m going to try to dig a bit deeper into the most important question facing the Internet today. Specifically: how the hell is NSA breaking SSL?”

August 03 2012

23:01

Cory Doctorow: The Coming Century of War Against Your Computer - The Long Now

Who governs digital trust? Doctorow framed the question this way: "Computers are everywhere. They are now something we put our whole bodies into---airplanes, cars---and something we put into our bodies---pacemakers, cochlear implants. They HAVE to be trustworthy." Sometimes humans are not so trustworthy, and programs may override you: "I can’t let you do that, Dave." (Reference to the self-protective insane computer Hal in Kubrick’s film "2001." That time the human was more trustworthy than the computer.) Who decides who can override whom? The core issues for Doctorow come down to Human Rights versus Property Rights, Lockdown versus Certainty, and Owners versus mere Users. Apple computers such as the iPhone are locked down---it lets you run only what Apple trusts. Android phones let you run only what you trust. Doctorow has changed his mind in favor of a foundational computer device called the "Trusted Platform Module" (TPM) which provides secure crypto, remote attestation, and sealed storage. He sees it as a crucial "nub of secure certainty" in your machine. If it’s your machine, you rule it. It‘s a Human Right: your computer should not be overridable. And a Property Right: "you own what you buy, even if it what you do with it pisses off the vendor." That’s clear when the Owner and the User are the same person. What about when they’re not? There are systems where we really want the authorities to rule---airplanes, nuclear reactors, probably self-driving cars ("as a species we are terrible drivers.") The firmware in those machines should be inviolable by users and outside attackers. But the power of Owners over Users can be deeply troubling, such as in matters of surveillance. There are powers that want full data on what Users are up to---governments, companies, schools, parents. Behind your company computer is the IT department and the people they report to. They want to know all about your email and your web activities, and there is reason for that. But we need to contemplate the "total and terrifying power of Owners over Users." Recognizing that we are necessarily transitory Users of many systems, such as everything involving Cloud computing or storage, Doctorow favors keeping your own box with its own processors and storage. He strongly favors the democratization and wide distribution of expertise. As a Fellow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (who co-sponsored the talk) he supports public defense of freedom in every sort of digital rights issue. "The potential for abuse in the computer world is large," Doctorow concluded. "It will keep getting larger." http://longnow.org/seminars/02012/jul/31/coming-century-war-against-your-computer/

January 18 2011

23:38

In Our Time: Ada Lovelace

Melvyn Bragg explores the life and achievements of Ada Lovelace, daughter of Byron and prophet of the computer age. With him to discuss the "enchantress of numbers" are Patricia Fara, Fellow of Clare College and an Affiliated Lecturer in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University; Doron Swade, Visiting Professor in the History of Computing at Portsmouth University and John Fuegi, Research Fellow in Media and Gender Studies at the Universities of Stanford and Maryland.
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