QnJ1Y2U β€’ July 19, 2013 5:53 PM

I can see why Bruce doesn’t hang out on Twitter. It really is a time sink, and a bit annoying, as this thread shows: . It’s an argument about how tough it would be to break into Snowden’s ‘insurance’ files without some sort of access to the key.

It’s relevant here for a couple of reasons.

1) The guy failing to get the point about cryptographic capabilities is former NSA, a professor and a national security expert.

2) Using Bruce’s name and <a href=””″>linking to one of his posts did not end the discussion (in the storify link, scroll down to the HAHAHA part). It’s like the internet is broken or something.

rdm β€’ July 20, 2013 4:11 AM

I think I’d prefer to treat squids as a metaphor (a rich and deep set of metaphors, actually).

squids, for example, are transparent. (thinking of the ocean going type here, instead of the proxy server implementation).

rdm β€’ July 20, 2013 6:38 AM

Q: why am i posting really obvious things?

A: define “security”

Let’s take

We gotta learn to love us some parasites, but before we can do that we have to figure out why this is what we have been doing all along. And, to do that we are going to have to find some good examples, that we can appreciate. And, to do that we have to recognize that we knew this all along.

So, really obvious stuff here:

Q: parasites: why do we host them?

A: because that’s how we stay healthy

(wrong answer)

Try this one:

A: because that is a part of how we stay healthy.

(that one is closer to accurate)

I’m going to pull a spammer stunt here, and ask people to go follow @edyong209 – fun stuff. β€’ July 20, 2013 8:13 AM

The guy failing to get the point about cryptographic capabilities is former NSA, a professor and a national security expert.

I take it you mean the guy saying you don’t know if the NSA can break it or not, regardless of what encryption he uses.

I see he worked in counterintelligence there.

I think they take a “you do not know what you do not know” stance. The history of counterintelligence is full of people making assumptions that they were not compromised when they were. You can go crazy off the deep end, as the old CIA CI director did, or you can just keep to the facts that you know — and try and outline what you do not know very well.

When you are dealing with a nation state as an adversary that “what you do not know” factor is much more plausible then when dealing with a single individual.

You also take an attitude that it does not matter if all the world and all the experts and all the media is saying otherwise, because they all may be wrong. Because you have seen that before, time and time again.

I think this is where John is likely coming from.

He is not leaking. He does not know the NSA can break it. He does not even know that the NSA can break encryption that is considered unbreakable. In either case, I do not think he would be stating his opinion of caution, whether he was using his real name or an anonymous name, if he knew this for a fact. Because that would be an extremely confidential secret to expose, and people would be all over him — not just from the US, but from other nations.

I get it you think he is stupid, not that he is unintentionally leaking data, and not that he is putting on a posture of incredibility for purposes of deception?

I would not assume the man is stupid. β€’ July 20, 2013 8:25 AM

^^ That said, I have my own, private opinion that US Intelligence is compromised left and right, and they assume it is not. You can find some cynicism in those folks, but not beyond what they can comprehend, which is not much.

It is not very difficult to create false backgrounds and have people “there” with plausible life stories in their past to act as totally surprised and authentic witnesses when investigators come to ask about this guy they are thinking of hiring.

To really know who anyone is you are hiring, you would have to assume that people they dig up from their past could also be as fake as they could be.

You can put a godzilla in a room with people, and if they can’t believe such a thing is possible, they will just blank it out. β€’ July 20, 2013 8:42 AM

For a “not mentioned this week” security story:


The Register:

There are a lot of traffic cameras in place across the country designed to catch people running stop lights. But there are also a lot without that functionality, though they are often on stoplights.

I suppose one of the lies they tell themselves there is, “what we do is ugly and bad, and the public does not want to know about it, but it keeps them safe and prosperous”.

In another absurd article:

“Former CIA and NSA head says Huawei spies for China
Only chap to head both spook agencies rates company ‘unambiguous national security threat'”

Because, you know, Verizon and US companies are totally not the same thing.

Yes, China is a godless, totalitarian state. Because, you know, the US is totally not.

Where’s Odin to fight these ice giants when you need him? Geewiz.

QnJ1Y2U β€’ July 20, 2013 10:40 AM


I don’t think that John S. is stupid. I think he is simply misunderstanding a basic point, and then failing to listen to any explanations.

This all started back when the NY Times published some claims that the Chinese had “drained” Snowden’s laptops. (These claims were later described as speculation)

I tried to note then that our discussion (and speculation) should focus more on how Snowden had protected the keys, and not the encrypted files themselves. After all, Snowden probably reads web sites like this one, and would know about things like volume encryption tools, live CDs, useful key lengths, etc. Chances are that someone that has his encrypted containers and nothing
else wouldn’t be able to get to the plaintext documents.

As you can see, we never got around to talking about keys. We never even ended up using the same terminology. It looks like his high-level understanding (NSA and others can break lots of stuff) kept him from seeing what was likely in this specific situation (they can’t break everything).

It’s possible that he’s just trying to deceive folks on NSA capabilities, but it would’ve been a lot easier to just ignore me, or nod along. And as you noted, it’s even less likely that he’s unintentionally leaking some break in AES or its kin, in part because someone would have shut him down when @jaysonblair7 tried to get him to admit it a couple discussions back.

Anyway, the moral(s) of the story:

  • NSA folks are human
  • Twitter is a terrible place to try to make subtle points
  • Twitter is an easy place to sound rude
  • Lots of people think you can still brute
    force anything β€’ July 20, 2013 12:26 PM

Another very interesting story (sorry, not to suck up the air on this thread):

“A Dutch newspaper has a digital version of the letter Mr. Opstelten, Secretary of Justice and Security, sent to Dutch Parliament (PDF in Dutch), in which he quietly admits to 56,825 phone taps (a 3% rise in one year) and to 16,676 internet taps in 2012, a 400% rise, or a fivefold increase, in one year. An older report already exposed the Netherlands as one of the biggest wiretappers in the western world. Slate also knew, back in 2006, that Europeans actually love wiretapping and internet tapping. In the Netherlands, a country with a population of only 16 million, the practice has risen to the level of a staggering 1 in 1,000 phones being tapped.”

W.T.F.? β€’ July 20, 2013 12:48 PM


Anyway, the moral(s) of the story:
NSA folks are human
Twitter is a terrible place to try to make subtle points
Twitter is an easy place to sound rude

Well, I have skepticism on the only ex-NSA people I have observed, as to their being human:

Charlie Miller, Dave Aitel, Jamie Butler… and while Peter Zatko is not NSA, but BBN/or whatever…

NSA, in general, I have skepticism on their humanity in general, but in a totally opposite way. πŸ˜› [The bad way.]

But, I get what you are saying. πŸ™‚ β€’ July 20, 2013 12:58 PM


That article is crazy, I wonder what the full story is. It sounds like their NSA created a secret “cell” (sleeper “cell”, undercover “cell”)? Maybe “small team” is what “cell” means in english-english? In American-english “cell” is usually used in that as “terrorist cell”, “spy cell”, “sleeper cell” of any of the above.

Maybe they hired China to do that work, because they wanted to watch and see what China was interested in?

I know if China hired a Verizon team to do that, they would naturally assume they were all NSA/CIA/FBI, “some kind of agents”.

wumpus β€’ July 20, 2013 1:23 PM

Between the widespread idea that you only have to flash a NSA/FBI/TSA badge and help yourself to any data that would previously be considered secret, and the complete lack of any need to know (please tell me why Snowden and Manning needed to know everything on wikileaks), it is blindingly clear that the NSA really doesn’t care what it leaks to China. They aren’t the enemy, the US citizen is.

The Chinese had everything in that database/network long before Snowden and Manning got their hands on it. Probably the minute it went live.

Figureitout β€’ July 20, 2013 1:27 PM

I can see why Bruce doesn’t hang out on Twitter
–That conversation was very annoying, the only good purpose it serves in my mind is quick access to breaking news/empowering citizen journalists and filling NSA’s massive databases w/ noise and crap. Parsing the @ldlsix@blahblah@imstupid is very annoying and you limit your conversations to 140 chars so let’s limit your mind while we’re at it. Not to mention bot nets making false trends/news.

Snowden’s got problems, I don’t know how his inner circle is working (which is a good thing) and if they’re new or old acquaintances, hopefully old. My primary concern wouldn’t be the encryption, but cracking his network of close associates as I have first hand knowledge of just how far one’s network can be broken into and it’s why I can hardly have any friends anymore; no trust. But I at least like to go outside for a breath of fresh air.

The guy said what the reality of having “foolproof” security is, you work around it ingeniously but simply. Once it happens you generally don’t comprehend it. I have my methods, everyone should have their own unique methods so surveillance is a major pain and secrets can still exist for individuals not binded by being a public entity, even in the clear staring them in the face.

wumpus β€’ July 20, 2013 2:17 PM


I to would claim that Snowden has little to fear of the NSA breaking his code. As a dead man’s switch, he can apply as many ciphers as he wants to it and assume that the NSA hasn’t broken all of them. Personally, If I wanted to keep something specifically from the NSA I would first alternate plaintext with purely random numbers (good luck finding a good random number source while holed up in a Russian airport, and nobody says you can’t have a lot more noise than signal). I’d then run it through every cryptographic system I had any faith in. I would be fairly certain that at least one of them couldn’t be broken by anyone with less than a half blocks’ worth of known plaintext. I’m pretty sure it has been mentioned enough on this blog to be a cliche: encrypting data securely is easy (assuming you stick to known strong basics. It didn’t use to be so easy). Encrypting data securely and efficiently is something else altogether. Building a secure cryptosystem as well is also much more difficult than cutting and pasting some AES code.

On the other hand, I have zero confidence in my ability to maintain any sort of operational security against a direct effort by a strong security agency. Snowden is something of a professional, so he would have an advantage if he wasn’t the absolutely highest profile target on the planet, and operating at the disadvantage of being holed up in a Russian airport with obviously insufficient planing (if he didn’t plan out a means for asylum, why do you think he planned for operation security).

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons β€’ July 20, 2013 4:15 PM


Seems not much has been said about the authority under 215 and 702 extends to the physical realm. The way the language was drafted, the authority to fly drones equipped with infrared cameras is provided for. The keyword in the legislation is “technical means.” There seems to be no ambiguity about this. I also notice that during the house Judicary hearing about NSA surveillance that no one mentioned that the way the authorities are defined for the FICA and the FICAR is deliberatly structured to be secret. I am sure this is where Darth Vadef had influnce in its drafting. He learned a lot from the Nixon tape debacle. There is also a very troubling DoD policy document, I noticed that there was no authority section. Not even a mention of authority. Almost all legal statues state where authority is derived to do what ever it is they claim they have the authority. I will dig deeper and get back to ya’ll. β€’ July 20, 2013 6:31 PM


They are passionate, but lacking knowledge, I would say.

And yes that does mean their pretensions to having charitable concerns are false. And, their building of a police state, I would agree, does well prove that.

Figureitout β€’ July 20, 2013 8:51 PM

If I wanted to keep something specifically from the NSA
–I would go extremely old school w/ minimal emissions, power requirements, absolutely no internet connection, and hidden away in my bunker w/ multiple traps indicating compromise. I would also assume compromise and further encode my workings in my mind (though sometimes I have some suspicions…), rendering it worthless to everyone but me. Who else do you know that’s willing to do all that and not be completely insane?

I’m pretty sure it has been mentioned enough on this blog to be a cliche:
–Yeah, actually a lot of what is said now has been already said on the blog and it just repeats. I’m not even through 2005 in the archives but I’m going to post info a certain poster keeps saying he talked about earlier; but I’m concerned at the amount of links the post will contain. I say good, b/c then the community dies, keep it alive, keep Bruce alive.

I have zero confidence in my ability to maintain any sort of operational security against a direct effort
–It’s pretty much impossible considering needs that need to be taken care of by going outside. Every waking second is a possible threat, it’s a living nightmare. Sometimes I wonder if I have a form of PTSD b/c of all the surveillance; and I can guarantee it’s been a massive waste of otherwise intelligent people’s time b/c they will never figure out my secret and when I think it will stop it still continues. I’m not a threat goddamit, I want truly representative gov’t, not this fraudulent insincere shit and more or less secure computing for all.

aboniks β€’ July 20, 2013 11:01 PM

Has anyone else considered the implications of the oft-used term “US persons” in the docs that Snowden released?

Call me a cynic, but it seems like a tidy little bit of legalese designed to let data collectors off the hook when they do things that would violate the rights of US citizens…if they design the conversation in such a way that they can plausibly deny knowledge that any given target is a citizen, then the baseline privacy protections are much lower.

“US Persons” have no constitutionally protected rights, now do they?

Figureitout β€’ July 20, 2013 11:31 PM

“US Persons” have no constitutionally protected rights, now do they?
–No, not if certain people are targeting you. Rural areas are the last places of refuge for freedom but maybe you can share my rage when I saw a f*cking chinook fly just over the tree-tops of my “isolated place” b/c of a nearby military base. Plus I’ve said in the past I’ve seen a military drone close up in a suburban neighborhood (just above power lines), especially after I gave it the double bird.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons β€’ July 21, 2013 5:19 AM

DoDI 3025.21 27 Feb 2013
Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies
Comments on the following section
“1. Guiding Statutory Requirements and Supporting Policies)” begins with a false assertion

“The President is authorized by the Constitution…to employ the Armed Forces of the United States to suppress insurrections, rebellion, and domestic violence under various conditions and circumstances.”

Three points to cover here; first, the Constitution does not grant any authority for the purposes stated in the above clause to the Executive; second, the authority to “suppress insurrections, rebellions” is reserved to the Congress under Article 1 Section 8; and lastly, the addition of the “and domestic violence under various conditions and circumstances” appears nowhere in the constitution and thus the Bill of Rights, tenth amendment applies.[1]
Section 1, part 6: Other Permissible Assistance

(b) It would have been illegal for those civilian law enforcement officials to have obtained the information or employ the procedures, means, or devices used by the DoD Component to obtain the information.

I am left speechless by the permissiveness of this section…does anyone review these laws/statutes/insanity?

[1] The framers were deliberate in constraining the executive and the congress by forcing major changes to law by way of an amendment process–somehow the congress has interpreted its powers to be in excess of explicit constitutional authority. And with no one to hold them accountable (the Supreme Court is useless) and the citizenry is befuddled (or clueless).

Nick P β€’ July 21, 2013 9:25 AM

@ nobnop

“Skynet rising”

Long story short: you should never read that site again. The article was so full of inaccuracies, exaggeration, speculation and pure fantasy that I’m sure reading too much from the author might rot a person’s brain. Wikipedia actually has more accurate articles on these subjects than sites like that.

The author even cited the movie Eagle Eye to back up his claims. Seriously… It wouldn’t surprise me if he thought hackers stole billions from banks using worms developed in 3D environments on systems with seven monitors. β€’ July 21, 2013 11:13 AM


I guess, thinking about it: on one hand, they would be hard pressed to say they care and even show it. They think they do. They are doing “all this” for “security”, “against evil”.

But all it really is: power. It is all about power and seeking it. All the talk about “against terrorists”, “against” X, is really, for them just a lie. That kind of power is about exalting yourself at the expense of others. That is destructive power, not beneficial power.

It is not the power to feed people or make them happy. It is the power to kill people and control them like robots for the most petty of selfish desires. We have seen this whole thing before, time and time again, in history. We really do not need yet another rerun of old Rome.

aboniks β€’ July 21, 2013 11:49 AM

Here’s your Skynet:

“The Academy center for unmanned aircraft systems research seeks to find research solutions to heterogeneous,autonomous unmanned systems. The overall research topics of interest are real-time technologies associated with lightweight cooperative unmanned aircraft systems used in an increasing number of military and civilian applications.

Currently, the center is looking for a research team who can develop comprehensive solution methods that can (1) incorporate aperiodic sensor data obtained from multiple heterogeneous sensors to geo-locate mobile targets and (2) predict the position and orientation of targets in future time based on accumulated sensor data and physical and environmental constraints.

The USAFA is not requesting full applications at this time. Refer to the USAFA-BAA-2009-1 Amendment 2 full announcement white paper submittal process to apply. “

Clive Robinson β€’ July 21, 2013 2:28 PM

OFF Topic :

An article from CSO OnLine about a SANS report that says your frontline helpdesk staff are probably the favourate attack vector because they try to meet their work metrics,

Perhaps not new news to the “old lags” on this blog, but behind it is the simple fact that senior managment could not give a tinkers cuss when it’s a choice between assumed productivity and real security.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons β€’ July 21, 2013 10:36 PM

Some of the problem with FISA and FISC.

Operators of communications services, down to small ISP’s (reported on Slashdot are compelled by a lawful order to turn over “business” records (you can argue all you want about “lawful”, it’s unconstitutional and therefore unlawful–acting outside the scope of contract if you will.

We all know the plethora of sources available and used by the gob-nit. This is were I get confused, if the gob-nit orders a company to provide “business” records–and they are compensated for it–isn’t that an undisclosed taking? Many of the contracts, service agreements, and credit card companies and banks stipulate that they will not sell your data. They at least what the appearance of doing the right thing…but when the gob-nit pays the “business” records source–isn’t that profiting from your engagement with the company and a breach of contract. Is there a potential class action lawsuit from “We, the People”?

Now when I say “business” records, that’s the data that the gobnit puts in its key-stir for safe keeping. (I believe that’s a haiku. Here the courts need to revisit this issue (third party doctrine is bull when all you have to do to collect the data is download it…before you had to go to county court house, city hall, records, the police department, etc. to retrieve information that might rise to the level of interesting…what happens when it’s all a click away?

GregW β€’ July 22, 2013 5:38 AM

Why was sysadmin Snowden given access to such a large pool of information on removable media? He had to load it on a Sharepoint (!) server:

Sharepoint? That’s almost as scandalous as the rest of the story.

Just kidding.

I also wonder how tight you have to make a two-man rule to really protect against a rogue sysadmin, General Alexander’s proposed fix. It’s one thing to split a backup key, but there are a lot of other sysadmin tasks and operations to guard against and you really only need to miss one. How deep will that threat model go, I wonder?

Dirk Praet β€’ July 22, 2013 8:01 PM

@ nobnop

“Skynet rising”

I’m with Nick P. on this. Practical quantum computing is still very much in its infancy. D-Wave’s 512-Qubit Vesuvius chip yields some excellent computational results, but its current approach is focused tightly on problems that map nicely onto an Ising model, which doesn’t make it particularly useful for most general purpose applications. I suggest you read up a bit on the subject matter before taking this to the pub on Friday night.

Clive Robinson β€’ July 23, 2013 6:24 PM

OFF Topic :

I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned this transcript of an interview with former NSA & CIA director Michael Hayden,

I came across it while looking at the “Spaf blog” and as he says it’s worth a read.

Intersetingly he indicates that Ed Snowden is probably not a traitor (in the legal sense), but he does think he has done a lot of damage in that he revealed “methods” rather than “sources” (thus he thinks Snowden is worse than Ames and Hanson….)

Oh and as expected he does not have much nice to say about the Chinese and especially their two major telco equipment manufactures.

Clive Robinson β€’ July 24, 2013 9:38 AM

OFF Topic :

I was having a look through GrokLaw as I do on occasion when I spotted Bruce’s name pop up in relation to being an Amici in support of Andrew “weev” Auernheimer,

    A group of illustrious computer scientists, computer science professors, software developers, privacy researchers professional and freelance computer security researchers, and academics have filed an amicus brief [PDF] in support of Andrew “weev” Auernheimer. They include Mozilla Foundation, Ed Felten, Matt Blaze, David L. Dill, Bruce Schneier, and Dan Kaminsky. Biographies are included in the filing for any who don’t immediately recognize their names

The article makes interesting (if long) reading,

Clive Robinson β€’ July 25, 2013 1:26 PM

OFF Topic :

It would apear that US TLA’s are going to try and force access to company SSL “master keys” via the Feds serving probably illegal paperwork on companies…

The likes of MS, Google, Facebook etc are denying they have been approached, however as we know from past issues that they would be required to lie about any such FBI issued paperwork as part of the process…

Clive Robinson β€’ July 25, 2013 1:58 PM

OFF Topic :

An article in “The Washington Free Beacon” is claiming that Edward Snowden has applied to join a Russian Vetran’s association for their retired spooks&spys.

Apparently it’s an Online Request from an IP address in the US (North Carolina) …

Personaly I’m sceptical because when you ask yourself “What’s in it for Snowden -v- What’s in it for others” there is at best very little in it for Snowden, and more likely considerable harm. However when you ask what’s in it for the US or Russia at worst not a lot, and more likely considerable political millage and the discrediting of Snowden, plus it allows different more severe charges to be brought…

Figureitout β€’ July 25, 2013 9:40 PM

Hmm new roles new photo πŸ™‚
Clive Robinson
–Hope it never becomes this one.

Re: The New Club Snowden Joined Via The ‘Net
–Shouldn’t this make people further think of the nightmares when the gov’t can spoof and fraudulently make transactions in your name. Child porn, murder, you name it. Then provide the “proof” of the wrongdoing based on services and DB’s they can destroy if they can’t backdoor.

This has happened in the past, it will happen again.

Clive Robinson β€’ July 26, 2013 6:14 AM

@ Figureitout,

Re, the drum photo, I liked the hat in that πŸ™‚

With regards “disinformation campaigns” they have been going on for ever, because in general most human beings think emotionaly not logicaly and thus judge the message bearer by there supposed faillings, and thus fail to consider the message.

You see our legal bretherin exploiting this all the time with the old “Do you still beat your wife” ploy and the use of image consultants. Even if a judge says the jury is to disregard some statment made by a counsel, the counsel knows that a seed has been sown in the minds of atleast some of the jury members and thus their viewpoint has moved.

You might have noticed that politicos don’t give speaches and take questions the way they used to do, even in the US where journalists in general are pre-selected and thus the most compliant and fawning of the lot. These days it’s all “sound bite” and “spin” with the managment speak “double talk”. All of which was predicted back during WWII by a part time journalist at the BBC, who’s main occupation we now regard as an author of significant merrit. The most well known in this respect of Geroge Orwell’s books is 1984, and Animal Farm, though his other works are very much on the money as well and well worth the time to read them and mull them over.

Figureitout β€’ July 26, 2013 11:02 AM

Clive Robinson
–Yeah, the falseness of the exchanges between journos and politicos really turned me off in public affairs; and the 3-word campaign slogans (Drill, baby Drill; or Yes We Can) reminded me of 1984, which is one of my favorite novels. Basically the state was able to subvert the very core of the nonbeliever, make him sacrifice his lover before himself; very dark. Most of my reading these days is circuitry/programming/radio; but I’ll try to read Animal Farm and some other big novels if I can.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.