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Unformatted text preview: y Matt Blaze
One of the most dangerous aspects of cryptology (and, by extension, of this book), is that you can almost measure it. Knowledge of key lengths, factoring methods, and cryptanalytic techniques makes it possible to estimate (in the absence of a real theory of cipher design) the “work factor” required to break a particular cipher. It’s all too tempting to misuse these estimates as if they were overall security metrics for the systems in which they are used. The real world offers the attacker a richer menu of options than mere cryptanalysis. Often more worrisome are protocol attacks, Trojan horses, viruses, electromagnetic monitoring, physical compromise, blackmail and intimidation of key holders, operating system bugs, application program bugs, hardware bugs, user errors, physical eavesdropping, social engineering, and dumpster diving, to name just a few. High-quality ciphers and protocols are important tools, but by themselves make poor substitutes for realistic, critical thinking about what is actually being protected and how various defenses might fail (attackers, after all, rarely restrict themselves to the clean, well-defined threat models of the academic world). Ross Anderson gives examples of cryptographically strong systems (in the banking industry) that fail when exposed to the threats of the real world [43, 44]. Even when the attacker has access only to ciphertext, seemingly minor breaches in other parts of the system can leak enough information to render good cryptosystems useless. The Allies in World War II broke the German Enigma traffic largely by carefully exploiting operator errors . An NSA-employed acquaintance, when asked whether the government can crack DES traffic, quipped that real systems are so insecure that they never need to bother. Unfortunately, there are no easy recipes for making a system secure, no substitute for careful design and critical, ongoing scrutiny. Good cryptosystems have the nice property of making life much harder for the attacker than for the legitimate user; this is not the case for almost every other aspect of computer and communication security. Consider the following (quite incomplete) “Top Ten Threats to Security in Real Systems” list; all are easier to exploit than to prevent. 1. The sorry state of software. Everyone knows that nobody knows how to write software. Modern systems are complex, with hundreds of thousands of lines of code; any one of them has the chance to compromise...
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- Fall '10