9 August 1997
Comments on two of the many BEYOND HOPE sessions today in New York City: those of L0pht and Bruce Schneier:
L0pht summarized their current campaign to test security on behalf of the consumer, having found that corporations refuse to publicize or correct holes L0pht reported in confidence.
L0pht cited, among others, the Mac security features and products coming to market, which they think have been too hastily readied for grafting onto other programs and and are vulnerable due to inadequate design, integration and testing. Like too many MS flood-the-market programs.
Bruce outlined the principal elements of the security challenge and the role of cryptography among those of people, hardware, facilities, law and policy. He warned of the weakness of relying on crypto in the overall security matrix and cautioned that crypto is not the main answer to the security problem, which is primarily one of human frailty and criminal behavior, and that it will take a combination of solutions involving:
Strong and efficient encryption -- key length is not critical
Tamper resistant hardware -- software can be protected by math
Trust management -- reliable authentication and certification; GAK is too complicated to ever work
Jurisdiction -- criminals must not be able to operate from the most obliging state
Law -- punishment for criminal acts
He emphasized that mathematics and software are not the problem of insecure systems, it is humans and the impossibility of predictable interface with machines. Every system is vulnerable to attack, not at its strongest but at its weakest. Brute force is not an attack worth worrying about, although it gets most of the publicity. What's worrisome is the out of the way fault in the fortress, the one nobody expects, the one the enemy ever seeks by hook, crook, bribe and trick. (HOPE's agenda?)
It was a provocative, informative, many-faceted presentation, and could become an article, maybe a book, surely an effective business lure.
He closed by citing "Those who think cryptography is the answer to security do not understand the problem and do not understand cryptography."
Bruce did not provide paper copy of the slides but said he will send it upon e-mail request to:
Most surprising about HOPE was that everyone, M/F, was dressed in brass-button blazers, oxford whites, rep ties and gray flannels; spit-shined caps, Shasti barbered, smelled of Camay; murmured "well said" to the eloquent speakers, softly sniffed for salient points, chatted at tea, "swell show, don't you think."
None of the ripe rank of cavities and pits,dreadlocks and skulls, vulgar tees and shreds, toilet squalor and slime, chest-caving music, vile hoots and whistles of "phreak Ma B, crack Mr. Softie," crazed eyeballs assaulting gameboxes, deformed bods struggling to get in against those escaping Bedlam, none of that at Beyond Hope, not at all, that was outside in the gutters of Manhattan, defiling a tux and gown wedding party upstairs at Puck.