March 15, 2011

by Bruce Schneier
Chief Security Technology Officer, BT

A free monthly newsletter providing summaries, analyses, insights, and commentaries on security: computer and otherwise.

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In this issue:

Anonymous vs. HBGary

One of the effects of writing a book is that I don't have the time to devote to other writing. So while I've been wanting to write about Anonymous vs. HBGary, I don't think I will have time. Here's an excellent series of posts on the topic from ArsTechnica.

In cyberspace, the balance of power is on the side of the attacker. Attacking a network is *much* easier than defending a network. That may change eventually -- there might someday be the cyberspace equivalent of trench warfare, where the defender has the natural advantage -- but not anytime soon.

This is a really good piece by Paul Roberts on Anonymous vs. HBGary: not the tactics or the politics, but what HBGary demonstrates about the IT security industry.

Stephen Colbert on HBGary:

Another article:


Interesting article from Wired: "How a Remote Town in Romania Has Become Cybercrime Central."

Recently declassified: "Historical Study: The National Security Agency Scientific Advisory Board 1952-1963."

A physical biometric wallet: $825.
I don't think I understand the threat model. If your wallet is stolen, you're going to replace all your ID cards and credit cards and you're not going to get your cash back -- whether it's a normal wallet or this wallet. I suppose this wallet makes it less likely that someone will use your stolen credit cards quickly, before you cancel them. But you're not going to be liable for costs incurred during that delay in any case.

Interesting story about a con man who conned the U.S. government, and how the government is trying to hide its dealings with him.

Susan Landau's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on government eavesdropping.

The testimony of Valerie Caproni, General Counsel of the FBI, on the same topic.
Good article about the terrorist non-threat from Reason:

"Reliably Erasing Data From Flash-Based Solid State Drives," by Michael Wei, Laura M. Grupp, Frederick E. Spada, and Steven Swanson.
News article:
Video of talk:

NIST has finally published its rationale for selecting the five SHA-3 finalists.
Pickpocketing as a trade is dying out in America, because there's no one to train newer pickpockets in the craft.

Interesting research in using animals to detect substances. Basically, sniffer dogs respond to unconscious cues from their handlers, and generate false alarms because of them. It makes sense, as dogs are so attuned to humans. I'll bet bomb-sniffing bees don't make the same mistakes.
Full paper:
Bomb-sniffing bees:

"American Cryptography During the Cold War 1945-1989; Book IV: Cryptologic Rebirth 1981-1989." Document was first declassified in 2009. Here are some newly declassified pages.

Criminals are stealing cars by calling tow trucks. It's a clever hack, but an old problem: the authentication in these sorts of normal operations isn't good enough to prevent abuse.

A programmer installed malware into the Whack-a-Mole arcade game as a form of job security. It didn't work. has a good three-part story on full-body scanners.

Another attempt to sort out scanner claims:

Using language patterns to identify anonymous email. It only works when there's a limited number of potential authors.

Schneier News

I'm speaking at Black Hat Europe in Barcelona on March 17.

I'm speaking at the Oracle Chief Security Officer Summit in New York City on March 30.

This three-part video interview with me was conducted at the RSA Conference last month.
I was interviewed on

NIST Defines New Versions of SHA-512

NIST has just defined two new versions of SHA-512. They're SHA-512/224 and SHA-512/256: 224- and 256-bit truncations of SHA-512 with a new IV. They've done this because SHA-512 is faster than SHA-256 on 64-bit CPUs, so these new SHA variants will be faster.

This is a good thing, and exactly what we did in the design of Skein. We defined different outputs for the same state size, because it makes sense to decouple the internal workings of the hash function from the output size.

Since 1998, CRYPTO-GRAM has been a free monthly newsletter providing summaries, analyses, insights, and commentaries on security: computer and otherwise. You can subscribe, unsubscribe, or change your address on the Web at <>. Back issues are also available at that URL.

Please feel free to forward CRYPTO-GRAM, in whole or in part, to colleagues and friends who will find it valuable. Permission is also granted to reprint CRYPTO-GRAM, as long as it is reprinted in its entirety.

CRYPTO-GRAM is written by Bruce Schneier. Schneier is the author of the best sellers "Schneier on Security," "Beyond Fear," "Secrets and Lies," and "Applied Cryptography," and an inventor of the Blowfish, Twofish, Threefish, Helix, Phelix, and Skein algorithms. He is the Chief Security Technology Officer of BT BCSG, and is on the Board of Directors of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). He is a frequent writer and lecturer on security topics. See <>.

Crypto-Gram is a personal newsletter. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of BT.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Bruce Schneier.

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.