Essays Tagged "Wired"

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There's No Good Reason to Trust Blockchain Technology

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Wired
  • February 6, 2019

In his 2008 white paper that first proposed bitcoin, the anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto concluded with: “We have proposed a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust.” He was referring to blockchain, the system behind bitcoin cryptocurrency. The circumvention of trust is a great promise, but it’s just not true. Yes, bitcoin eliminates certain trusted intermediaries that are inherent in other payment systems like credit cards. But you still have to trust bitcoin—and everything about it.

Much has been written about blockchains and how they displace, reshape, or eliminate trust. But when you analyze both blockchain and trust, you quickly realize that there is much more hype than value. Blockchain solutions are often much worse than what they replace…

Surveillance Kills Freedom By Killing Experimentation

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Wired
  • November 16, 2018

Excerpted from the upcoming issue of McSweeney’s, “The End of Trust,” a collection featuring more than 30 writers investigating surveillance, technology, and privacy.

In my book Data and Goliath, I write about the value of privacy. I talk about how it is essential for political liberty and justice, and for commercial fairness and equality. I talk about how it increases personal freedom and individual autonomy, and how the lack of it makes us all less secure. But this is probably the most important argument as to why society as a whole must protect privacy: it allows society to progress…

China and Russia Almost Definitely Have the Snowden Docs

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Wired
  • June 16, 2015

Last weekend, the Sunday Times published a front-page story (full text here), citing anonymous British sources claiming that both China and Russia have copies of the Snowden documents. It’s a terrible article, filled with factual inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims about both Snowden’s actions and the damage caused by his disclosure, and others have thoroughly refuted the story. I want to focus on the actual question: Do countries like China and Russia have copies of the Snowden documents?

I believe the answer is certainly yes, but that it’s almost certainly not Snowden’s fault…

The Internet of Things Is Wildly Insecure—And Often Unpatchable

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Wired
  • January 6, 2014

Japanese translation

We’re at a crisis point now with regard to the security of embedded systems, where computing is embedded into the hardware itself—as with the Internet of Things. These embedded computers are riddled with vulnerabilities, and there’s no good way to patch them.

It’s not unlike what happened in the mid-1990s, when the insecurity of personal computers was reaching crisis levels. Software and operating systems were riddled with security vulnerabilities, and there was no good way to patch them. Companies were trying to keep vulnerabilities secret, and not releasing security updates quickly. And when updates were released, it was hard—if not impossible—to get users to install them. This has changed over the past twenty years, due to a combination of full disclosure—publishing vulnerabilities to force companies to issue patches quicker—and automatic updates: automating the process of installing updates on users’ computers. The results aren’t perfect, but they’re much better than ever before…

How to Design—And Defend Against—The Perfect Security Backdoor

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Wired
  • October 16, 2013

We already know the NSA wants to eavesdrop on the internet. It has secret agreements with telcos to get direct access to bulk internet traffic. It has massive systems like TUMULT, TURMOIL, and TURBULENCE to sift through it all. And it can identify ciphertext—encrypted information—and figure out which programs could have created it.

But what the NSA wants is to be able to read that encrypted information in as close to real-time as possible. It wants backdoors, just like the cybercriminals and less benevolent governments do.

And we have to figure out how to make it harder for them, or anyone else, to insert those backdoors…

Want to Evade NSA Spying? Don’t Connect to the Internet

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Wired
  • October 7, 2013

Since I started working with Snowden’s documents, I have been using a number of tools to try to stay secure from the NSA. The advice I shared included using Tor, preferring certain cryptography over others, and using public-domain encryption wherever possible.

I also recommended using an air gap, which physically isolates a computer or local network of computers from the internet. (The name comes from the literal gap of air between the computer and the internet; the word predates wireless networks.)

But this is more complicated than it sounds, and requires explanation…

If the New iPhone Has Fingerprint Authentication, Can It Be Hacked?

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Wired
  • September 9, 2013

When Apple bought AuthenTec for its biometrics technology—reported as one of its most expensive purchases—there was a lot of speculation about how the company would incorporate biometrics in its product line. Many speculate that the new Apple iPhone to be announced tomorrow will come with a fingerprint authentication system, and there are several ways it could work, such as swiping your finger over a slit-sized reader to have the phone recognize you.

Apple would be smart to add biometric technology to the iPhone. Fingerprint authentication is a good balance between convenience and security for a mobile device…

How Advanced Is the NSA's Cryptanalysis—And Can We Resist It?

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Wired
  • September 4, 2013

The latest Snowden document is the US intelligence ‘black budget.’ There’s a lot of information in the few pages the Washington Post decided to publish, including an introduction by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. In it, he drops a tantalizing hint: ‘Also, we are investing in groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit internet traffic.’

Honestly, I’m skeptical. Whatever the NSA has up its top-secret sleeves, the mathematics of cryptography will still be the most secure part of any encryption system. I worry a lot more about poorly designed cryptographic products, software bugs, bad passwords, companies that collaborate with the NSA to leak all or part of the keys, and insecure computers and networks. Those are where the real vulnerabilities are, and where the NSA spends the bulk of its efforts…

Our Security Models Will Never Work—No Matter What We Do

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Wired
  • March 14, 2013

A core, not side, effect of technology is its ability to magnify power and multiply force—for both attackers and defenders. One side creates ceramic handguns, laser-guided missiles, and new-identity theft techniques, while the other side creates anti-missile defense systems, fingerprint databases, and automatic facial recognition systems.

The problem is that it’s not balanced: Attackers generally benefit from new security technologies before defenders do. They have a first-mover advantage. They’re more nimble and adaptable than defensive institutions like police forces. They’re not limited by bureaucracy, laws, or ethics. They can evolve faster. And entropy is on their side—it’s easier to destroy something than it is to prevent, defend against, or recover from that destruction…

The Court of Public Opinion Is About Mob Justice and Reputation as Revenge

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Wired
  • February 26, 2013

Recently, Elon Musk and The New York Times took to Twitter and the internet to argue the data  — and their grievances — over a failed road test and car review. Meanwhile, an Applebee’s server is part of a Change.org petition to get her job back after posting a pastor’s no-tip receipt comment online. And when he wasn’t paid quickly enough, a local Fitness SF web developer rewrote the company’s webpage to air his complaint.

All of these ‘cases’ are seeking their judgments in the court of public opinion. The court of public opinion has a full docket; even brick-and-mortar establishments aren’t immune…

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.