# Tag Archives: NSA

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2024/04/declassified-nsa-newsletters.html

Through a 2010 FOIA request (yes, it took that long), we have copies of the NSA’s KRYPTOS Society Newsletter, “Tales of the Krypt,” from 1994 to 2003.

There are many interesting things in the 800 pages of newsletter. There are many redactions. And a 1994 review of Applied Cryptography by redacted:

Applied Cryptography, for those who don’t read the internet news, is a book written by Bruce Schneier last year. According to the jacket, Schneier is a data security expert with a master’s degree in computer science. According to his followers, he is a hero who has finally brought together the loose threads of cryptography for the general public to understand. Schneier has gathered academic research, internet gossip, and everything he could find on cryptography into one 600-page jumble.

The book is destined for commercial success because it is the only volume in which everything linked to cryptography is mentioned. It has sections on such-diverse topics as number theory, zero knowledge proofs, complexity, protocols, DES, patent law, and the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. Cryptography is a hot topic just now, and Schneier stands alone in having written a book on it which can be browsed: it is not too dry.

Schneier gives prominence to applications with large sections.on protocols and source code. Code is given for IDEA, FEAL, triple-DES, and other algorithms. At first glance, the book has the look of an encyclopedia of cryptography. Unlike an encyclopedia, however, it can’t be trusted for accuracy.

Playing loose with the facts is a serious problem with Schneier. For example in discussing a small-exponent attack on RSA, he says “an attack by Michael Wiener will recover e when e is up to one quarter the size of n.” Actually, Wiener’s attack recovers the secret exponent d when e has less than one quarter as many bits as n, which is a quite different statement. Or: “The quadratic sieve is the fastest known algorithm for factoring numbers less than 150 digits…. The number field sieve is the fastest known factoring algorithm, although the quadratric sieve is still faster for smaller numbers (the break even point is between 110 and 135 digits).” Throughout the book, Schneier leaves the impression of sloppiness, of a quick and dirty exposition. The reader is subjected to the grunge of equations, only to be confused or misled. The large number of errors compounds the problem. A recent version of the errata (Schneier publishes updates on the internet) is fifteen pages and growing, including errors in diagrams, errors in the code, and errors in the bibliography.

Many readers won’t notice that the details are askew. The importance of the book is that it is the first stab at.putting the whole subject in one spot. Schneier aimed to provide a “comprehensive reference work for modern cryptography.” Comprehensive it is. A trusted reference it is not.

Ouch. But I will not argue that some of my math was sloppy, especially in the first edition (with the blue cover, not the red cover).

A few other highlights:

• 1995 Kryptos Kristmas Kwiz, pages 299–306
• 1996 Kryptos Kristmas Kwiz, pages 414–420
• 1998 Kryptos Kristmas Kwiz, pages 659–665
• 1999 Kryptos Kristmas Kwiz, pages 734–738
• Dundee Society Introductory Placement Test (from questions posed by Lambros Callimahos in his famous class), pages 771–773
• R. Dale Shipp’s Principles of Cryptanalytic Diagnosis, pages 776–779
• Obit of Jacqueline Jenkins-Nye (Bill Nye the Science Guy’s mother), pages 755–756
• A praise of Pi, pages 694–696
• A rant about Acronyms, pages 614–615
• A speech on women in cryptology, pages 593–599

# Documents about the NSA’s Banning of Furby Toys in the 1990s

Via a FOIA request, we have documents from the NSA about their banning of Furby toys. 404 Media has the story.

EDITED TO ADD: The documents are now on Archive.org.

# Secret White House Warrantless Surveillance Program

There seems to be no end to warrantless surveillance:

According to the letter, a surveillance program now known as Data Analytical Services (DAS) has for more than a decade allowed federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to mine the details of Americans’ calls, analyzing the phone records of countless people who are not suspected of any crime, including victims. Using a technique known as chain analysis, the program targets not only those in direct phone contact with a criminal suspect but anyone with whom those individuals have been in contact as well.

The DAS program, formerly known as Hemisphere, is run in coordination with the telecom giant AT&T, which captures and conducts analysis of US call records for law enforcement agencies, from local police and sheriffs’ departments to US customs offices and postal inspectors across the country, according to a White House memo reviewed by WIRED. Records show that the White House has, for the past decade, provided more than \$6 million to the program, which allows the targeting of the records of any calls that use AT&T’s infrastructure—­a maze of routers and switches that crisscross the United States.

# New NSA Information from (and About) Snowden

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/10/new-nsa-information-from-and-about-snowden.html

MacAskill, who shared the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras for their journalistic work on the Snowden files, retired from The Guardian in 2018. He told Computer Weekly that:

• As far as he knows, a copy of the documents is still locked in the New York Times office. Although the files are in the New York Times office, The Guardian retains responsibility for them.
• As to why the New York Times has not published them in a decade, MacAskill maintains “this is a complicated issue.” “There is, at the very least, a case to be made for keeping them for future generations of historians,” he said.
• Why was only 1% of the Snowden archive published by the journalists who had full access to it? Ewen MacAskill replied: “The main reason for only a small percentage—though, given the mass of documents, 1% is still a lot—was diminishing interest.”

[…]

The Guardian’s journalist did not recall seeing the three revelations published by Computer Weekly, summarized below:

• The NSA listed Cavium, an American semiconductor company marketing Central Processing Units (CPUs)—the main processor in a computer which runs the operating system and applications—as a successful example of a “SIGINT-enabled” CPU supplier. Cavium, now owned by Marvell, said it does not implement back doors for any government.
• The NSA compromised lawful Russian interception infrastructure, SORM. The NSA archive contains slides showing two Russian officers wearing jackets with a slogan written in Cyrillic: “You talk, we listen.” The NSA and/or GCHQ has also compromised key lawful interception systems.
• Among example targets of its mass-surveillance programme, PRISM, the NSA listed the Tibetan government in exile.

Those three pieces of info come from Jake Appelbaum’s Ph.D. thesis.

# NSA AI Security Center

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/10/nsa-ai-security-center.html

The NSA is starting a new artificial intelligence security center:

The AI security center’s establishment follows an NSA study that identified securing AI models from theft and sabotage as a major national security challenge, especially as generative AI technologies emerge with immense transformative potential for both good and evil.

Nakasone said it would become “NSA’s focal point for leveraging foreign intelligence insights, contributing to the development of best practices guidelines, principles, evaluation, methodology and risk frameworks” for both AI security and the goal of promoting the secure development and adoption of AI within “our national security systems and our defense industrial base.”

He said it would work closely with U.S. industry, national labs, academia and the Department of Defense as well as international partners.

# New Revelations from the Snowden Documents

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/09/new-revelations-from-the-snowden-documents.html

Jake Appelbaum’s PhD thesis contains several new revelations from the classified NSA documents provided to journalists by Edward Snowden. Nothing major, but a few more tidbits.

Kind of amazing that that all happened ten years ago. At this point, those documents are more historical than anything else.

And it’s unclear who has those archives anymore. According to Appelbaum, The Intercept destroyed their copy.

I recently published an essay about my experiences ten years ago.

# The US Is Spying on the UN Secretary General

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/06/the-us-is-spying-on-the-un-secretary-general.html

The Washington Post is reporting that the US is spying on the UN Secretary General.

The reports on Guterres appear to contain the secretary general’s personal conversations with aides regarding diplomatic encounters. They indicate that the United States relied on spying powers granted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to gather the intercepts.

Lots of details about different conversations in the article, which are based on classified documents leaked on Discord by Jack Teixeira.

There will probably a lot of faux outrage at this, but spying on foreign leaders is a perfectly legitimate use of the NSA’s capabilities and authorities. (If the NSA didn’t spy on the UN Secretary General, we should fire it and replace it with a more competent NSA.) It’s the bulk surveillance of whole populations that should outrage us.

# Snowden Ten Years Later

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/06/snowden-ten-years-later.html

In 2013 and 2014, I wrote extensively about new revelations regarding NSA surveillance based on the documents provided by Edward Snowden. But I had a more personal involvement as well.

I wrote the essay below in September 2013. The New Yorker agreed to publish it, but the Guardian asked me not to. It was scared of UK law enforcement, and worried that this essay would reflect badly on it. And given that the UK police would raid its offices in July 2014, it had legitimate cause to be worried.

Now, ten years later, I offer this as a time capsule of what those early months of Snowden were like.

It’s a surreal experience, paging through hundreds of top-secret NSA documents. You’re peering into a forbidden world: strange, confusing, and fascinating all at the same time.

I had flown down to Rio de Janeiro in late August at the request of Glenn Greenwald. He had been working on the Edward Snowden archive for a couple of months, and had a pile of more technical documents that he wanted help interpreting. According to Greenwald, Snowden also thought that bringing me down was a good idea.

It made sense. I didn’t know either of them, but I have been writing about cryptography, security, and privacy for decades. I could decipher some of the technical language that Greenwald had difficulty with, and understand the context and importance of various document. And I have long been publicly critical of the NSA’s eavesdropping capabilities. My knowledge and expertise could help figure out which stories needed to be reported.

I thought about it a lot before agreeing. This was before David Miranda, Greenwald’s partner, was detained at Heathrow airport by the UK authorities; but even without that, I knew there was a risk. I fly a lot—a quarter of a million miles per year—and being put on a TSA list, or being detained at the US border and having my electronics confiscated, would be a major problem. So would the FBI breaking into my home and seizing my personal electronics. But in the end, that made me more determined to do it.

I did spend some time on the phone with the attorneys recommended to me by the ACLU and the EFF. And I talked about it with my partner, especially when Miranda was detained three days before my departure. Both Greenwald and his employer, the Guardian, are careful about whom they show the documents to. They publish only those portions essential to getting the story out. It was important to them that I be a co-author, not a source. I didn’t follow the legal reasoning, but the point is that the Guardian doesn’t want to leak the documents to random people. It will, however, write stories in the public interest, and I would be allowed to review the documents as part of that process. So after a Skype conversation with someone at the Guardian, I signed a letter of engagement.

And then I flew to Brazil.

I saw only a tiny slice of the documents, and most of what I saw was surprisingly banal. The concerns of the top-secret world are largely tactical: system upgrades, operational problems owing to weather, delays because of work backlogs, and so on. I paged through weekly reports, presentation slides from status meetings, and general briefings to educate visitors. Management is management, even inside the NSA Reading the documents, I felt as though I were sitting through some of those endless meetings.

The meeting presenters try to spice things up. Presentations regularly include intelligence success stories. There were details—what had been found, and how, and where it helped—and sometimes there were attaboys from “customers” who used the intelligence. I’m sure these are intended to remind NSA employees that they’re doing good. It definitely had an effect on me. Those were all things I want the NSA to be doing.

There were so many code names. Everything has one: every program, every piece of equipment, every piece of software. Sometimes code names had their own code names. The biggest secrets seem to be the underlying real-world information: which particular company MONEYROCKET is; what software vulnerability EGOTISTICALGIRAFFE—really, I am not making that one up—is; how TURBINE works. Those secrets collectively have a code name—ECI, for exceptionally compartmented information—and almost never appear in the documents. Chatting with Snowden on an encrypted IM connection, I joked that the NSA cafeteria menu probably has code names for menu items. His response: “Trust me when I say you have no idea.”

Those code names all come with logos, most of them amateurish and a lot of them dumb. Note to the NSA: take some of that more than ten-billion-dollar annual budget and hire yourself a design firm. Really; it’ll pay off in morale.

Once in a while, though, I would see something that made me stop, stand up, and pace around in circles. It wasn’t that what I read was particularly exciting, or important. It was just that it was startling. It changed—ever so slightly—how I thought about the world.

Greenwald said that that reaction was normal when people started reading through the documents.

Intelligence professionals talk about how disorienting it is living on the inside. You read so much classified information about the world’s geopolitical events that you start seeing the world differently. You become convinced that only the insiders know what’s really going on, because the news media is so often wrong. Your family is ignorant. Your friends are ignorant. The world is ignorant. The only thing keeping you from ignorance is that constant stream of classified knowledge. It’s hard not to feel superior, not to say things like “If you only knew what we know” all the time. I can understand how General Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, comes across as so supercilious; I only saw a minute fraction of that secret world, and I started feeling it.

It turned out to be a terrible week to visit Greenwald, as he was still dealing with the fallout from Miranda’s detention. Two other journalists, one from the Nation and the other from the Hindu, were also in town working with him. A lot of my week involved Greenwald rushing into my hotel room, giving me a thumb drive of new stuff to look through, and rushing out again.

A technician from the Guardian got a search capability working while I was there, and I spent some time with it. Question: when you’re given the capability to search through a database of NSA secrets, what’s the first thing you look for? Answer: your name.

It wasn’t there. Neither were any of the algorithm names I knew, not even algorithms I knew that the US government used.

I tried to talk to Greenwald about his own operational security. It had been incredibly stupid for Miranda to be traveling with NSA documents on the thumb drive. Transferring files electronically is what encryption is for. I told Greenwald that he and Laura Poitras should be sending large encrypted files of dummy documents back and forth every day.

Once, at Greenwald’s home, I walked into the backyard and looked for TEMPEST receivers hiding in the trees. I didn’t find any, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. Greenwald has a lot of dogs, but I don’t think that would hinder professionals. I’m sure that a bunch of major governments have a complete copy of everything Greenwald has. Maybe the black bag teams bumped into each other in those early weeks.

I started doubting my own security procedures. Reading about the NSA’s hacking abilities will do that to you. Can it break the encryption on my hard drive? Probably not. Has the company that makes my encryption software deliberately weakened the implementation for it? Probably. Are NSA agents listening in on my calls back to the US? Very probably. Could agents take control of my computer over the Internet if they wanted to? Definitely. In the end, I decided to do my best and stop worrying about it. It was the agency’s documents, after all. And what I was working on would become public in a few weeks.

I wasn’t sleeping well, either. A lot of it was the sheer magnitude of what I saw. It’s not that any of it was a real surprise. Those of us in the information security community had long assumed that the NSA was doing things like this. But we never really sat down and figured out the details, and to have the details confirmed made a big difference. Maybe I can make it clearer with an analogy. Everyone knows that death is inevitable; there’s absolutely no surprise about that. Yet it arrives as a surprise, because we spend most of our lives refusing to think about it. The NSA documents were a bit like that. Knowing that it is surely true that the NSA is eavesdropping on the world, and doing it in such a methodical and robust manner, is very different from coming face-to-face with the reality that it is and the details of how it is doing it.

I also found it incredibly difficult to keep the secrets. The Guardian’s process is slow and methodical. I move much faster. I drafted stories based on what I found. Then I wrote essays about those stories, and essays about the essays. Writing was therapy; I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning, and write an essay. But that put me at least three levels beyond what was published.

Now that my involvement is out, and my first essays are out, I feel a lot better. I’m sure it will get worse again when I find another monumental revelation; there are still more documents to go through.

I’ve heard it said that Snowden wants to damage America. I can say with certainty that he does not. So far, everyone involved in this incident has been incredibly careful about what is released to the public. There are many documents that could be immensely harmful to the US, and no one has any intention of releasing them. The documents the reporters release are carefully redacted. Greenwald and I repeatedly debated with Guardian editors the newsworthiness of story ideas, stressing that we would not expose government secrets simply because they’re interesting.

The NSA got incredibly lucky; this could have ended with a massive public dump like Chelsea Manning’s State Department cables. I suppose it still could. Despite that, I can imagine how this feels to the NSA. It’s used to keeping this stuff behind multiple levels of security: gates with alarms, armed guards, safe doors, and military-grade cryptography. It’s not supposed to be on a bunch of thumb drives in Brazil, Germany, the UK, the US, and who knows where else, protected largely by some random people’s opinions about what should or should not remain secret. This is easily the greatest intelligence failure in the history of ever. It’s amazing that one person could have had so much access with so little accountability, and could sneak all of this data out without raising any alarms. The odds are close to zero that Snowden is the first person to do this; he’s just the first person to make public that he did. It’s a testament to General Alexander’s power that he hasn’t been forced to resign.

It’s not that we weren’t being careful about security, it’s that our standards of care are so different. From the NSA’s point of view, we’re all major security risks, myself included. I was taking notes about classified material, crumpling them up, and throwing them into the wastebasket. I was printing documents marked “TOP SECRET/COMINT/NOFORN” in a hotel lobby. And once, I took the wrong thumb drive with me to dinner, accidentally leaving the unencrypted one filled with top-secret documents in my hotel room. It was an honest mistake; they were both blue.

If I were an NSA employee, the policy would be to fire me for that alone.

Many have written about how being under constant surveillance changes a person. When you know you’re being watched, you censor yourself. You become less open, less spontaneous. You look at what you write on your computer and dwell on what you’ve said on the telephone, wonder how it would sound taken out of context, from the perspective of a hypothetical observer. You’re more likely to conform. You suppress your individuality. Even though I have worked in privacy for decades, and already knew a lot about the NSA and what it does, the change was palpable. That feeling hasn’t faded. I am now more careful about what I say and write. I am less trusting of communications technology. I am less trusting of the computer industry.

After much discussion, Greenwald and I agreed to write three stories together to start. All of those are still in progress. In addition, I wrote two commentaries on the Snowden documents that were recently made public. There’s a lot more to come; even Greenwald hasn’t looked through everything.

Since my trip to Brazil [one month before], I’ve flown back to the US once and domestically seven times—all without incident. I’m not on any list yet. At least, none that I know about.

As it happened, I didn’t write much more with Greenwald or the Guardian. Those two had a falling out, and by the time everything settled and both began writing about the documents independently—Greenwald at the newly formed website the Intercept—I got cut out of the process somehow. I remember hearing that Greenwald was annoyed with me, but I never learned the reason. We haven’t spoken since.

Still, I was happy with the one story I was part of: how the NSA hacks Tor. I consider it a personal success that I pushed the Guardian to publish NSA documents detailing QUANTUM. I don’t think that would have gotten out any other way. And I still use those pages today when I teach cybersecurity to policymakers at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Other people wrote about the Snowden files, and wrote a lot. It was a slow trickle at first, and then a more consistent flow. Between Greenwald, Bart Gellman, and the Guardian reporters, there ended up being steady stream of news. (Bart brought in Ashkan Soltani to help him with the technical aspects, which was a great move on his part, even if it cost Ashkan a government job later.) More stories were covered by other publications.

It started getting weird. Both Greenwald and Gellman held documents back so they could publish them in their books. Jake Appelbaum, who had not yet been accused of sexual assault by multiple women, was working with Laura Poitras. He partnered with Spiegel to release an implant catalog from the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations group. To this day, I am convinced that that document was not in the Snowden archives: that Jake got it somehow, and it was released with the implication that it was from Edward Snowden. I thought it was important enough that I started writing about each item in that document in my blog: “NSA Exploit of the Week.” That got my website blocked by the DoD: I keep a framed print of the censor’s message on my wall.

Perhaps the most surreal document disclosures were when artists started writing fiction based on the documents. This was in 2016, when Poitras built a secure room in New York to house the documents. By then, the documents were years out of date. And now they’re over a decade out of date. (They were leaked in 2013, but most of them were from 2012 or before.)

I ended up being something of a public ambassador for the documents. When I got back from Rio, I gave talks at a private conference in Woods Hole, the Berkman Center at Harvard, something called the Congress and Privacy and Surveillance in Geneva, events at both CATO and New America in DC, an event at the University of Pennsylvania, an event at EPIC and a “Stop Watching Us” rally in DC, the RISCS conference in London, the ISF in Paris, and…then…at the IETF meeting in Vancouver in November 2013. (I remember little of this; I am reconstructing it all from my calendar.)

What struck me at the IETF was the indignation in the room, and the calls to action. And there was action, across many fronts. We technologists did a lot to help secure the Internet, for example.

The government didn’t do its part, though. Despite the public outcry, investigations by Congress, pronouncements by President Obama, and federal court rulings, I don’t think much has changed. The NSA canceled a program here and a program there, and it is now more public about defense. But I don’t think it is any less aggressive about either bulk or targeted surveillance. Certainly its government authorities haven’t been restricted in any way. And surveillance capitalism is still the business model of the Internet.

And Edward Snowden? We were in contact for a while on Signal. I visited him once in Moscow, in 2016. And I had him do an guest lecture to my class at Harvard for a few years, remotely by Jitsi. Afterwards, I would hold a session where I promised to answer every question he would evade or not answer, explain every response he did give, and be candid in a way that someone with an outstanding arrest warrant simply cannot. Sometimes I thought I could channel Snowden better than he could.

But now it’s been a decade. Everything he knows is old and out of date. Everything we know is old and out of date. The NSA suffered an even worse leak of its secrets by the Russians, under the guise of the Shadow Brokers, in 2016 and 2017. The NSA has rebuilt. It again has capabilities we can only surmise.

This essay previously appeared in an IETF publication, as part of an Edward Snowden ten-year retrospective.

EDITED TO ADD (6/7): Conversation between Snowden, Greenwald, and Poitras.

# The FBI Identified a Tor User

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/01/the-fbi-identified-a-tor-user.html

No details, though:

According to the complaint against him, Al-Azhari allegedly visited a dark web site that hosts “unofficial propaganda and photographs related to ISIS” multiple times on May 14, 2019. In virtue of being a dark web site—­that is, one hosted on the Tor anonymity network—­it should have been difficult for the site owner’s or a third party to determine the real IP address of any of the site’s visitors.

Yet, that’s exactly what the FBI did. It found Al-Azhari allegedly visited the site from an IP address associated with Al-Azhari’s grandmother’s house in Riverside, California. The FBI also found what specific pages Al-Azhari visited, including a section on donating Bitcoin; another focused on military operations conducted by ISIS fighters in Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria; and another page that provided links to material from ISIS’s media arm. Without the FBI deploying some form of surveillance technique, or Al-Azhari using another method to visit the site which exposed their IP address, this should not have been possible.

There are lots of ways to de-anonymize Tor users. Someone at the NSA gave a presentation on this ten years ago. (I wrote about it for the Guardian in 2013, an essay that reads so dated in light of what we’ve learned since then.) It’s unlikely that the FBI uses the same sorts of broad surveillance techniques that the NSA does, but it’s certainly possible that the NSA did the surveillance and passed the information to the FBI.

# NSA Over-surveillance

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/11/nsa-over-surveillance.html

Here in 2022, we have a newly declassified 2016 Inspector General report—”Misuse of Sigint Systems”—about a 2013 NSA program that resulted in the unauthorized (that is, illegal) targeting of Americans.

Given all we learned from Edward Snowden, this feels like a minor coda. There’s nothing really interesting in the IG document, which is heavily redacted.

News story.

# NSA on Supply Chain Security

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/11/nsa-on-supply-chain-security.html

The NSA (together with CISA) has published a long report on supply-chain security: “Securing the Software Supply Chain: Recommended Practices Guide for Suppliers.“:

Prevention is often seen as the responsibility of the software developer, as they are required to securely develop and deliver code, verify third party components, and harden the build environment. But the supplier also holds a critical responsibility in ensuring the security and integrity of our software. After all, the software vendor is responsible for liaising between the customer and software developer. It is through this relationship that additional security features can be applied via contractual agreements, software releases and updates, notifications and mitigations of vulnerabilities.

Software suppliers will find guidance from NSA and our partners on preparing organizations by defining software security checks, protecting software, producing well-secured software, and responding to vulnerabilities on a continuous basis. Until all stakeholders seek to mitigate concerns specific to their area of responsibility, the software supply chain cycle will be vulnerable and at risk for potential compromise.

They previously published “Securing the Software Supply Chain: Recommended Practices Guide for Developers.” And they plan on publishing one focused on customers.

# NSA Employee Charged with Espionage

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/10/nsa-employee-charged-with-espionage.html

An ex-NSA employee has been charged with trying to sell classified data to the Russians (but instead actually talking to an undercover FBI agent).

It’s a weird story, and the FBI affidavit raises more questions than it answers. The employee only worked for the NSA for three weeks—which is weird in itself. I can’t figure out how he linked up with the undercover FBI agent. It’s not clear how much of this was the employee’s idea, and whether he was goaded by the FBI agent. Still, hooray for not leaking NSA secrets to the Russians. (And, almost ten years after Snowden, do we still have this much trouble vetting people before giving them security clearances?)

Mr. Dalke, who had already left the N.S.A. but told the agent that he still worked there on a temporary assignment, then revealed that had taken “highly sensitive information” related to foreign targeting of U.S. systems and information on cyber operations, the prosecutors said. He offered the information in exchange for cryptocurrency and said he was in “financial need.” Court records show he had nearly \$84,000 in debt between student loans and credit cards.

EDITED TO ADD (10/5): Marcy Wheeler notes that the FBI seems to be sitting on some common recruitment point, and collecting potential Russian spies.

# Levels of Assurance for DoD Microelectronics

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/08/levels-of-assurance-for-dod-microelectronics.html

The NSA has has published criteria for evaluating levels of assurance required for DoD microelectronics.

The introductory report in a DoD microelectronics series outlines the process for determining levels of hardware assurance for systems and custom microelectronic components, which include application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and other devices containing reprogrammable digital logic.

The levels of hardware assurance are determined by the national impact caused by failure or subversion of the top-level system and the criticality of the component to that top-level system. The guidance helps programs acquire a better understanding of their system and components so that they can effectively mitigate against threats.

The report was published last month, but I only just noticed it.

# Ecuador’s Attempt to Resettle Edward Snowden

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/06/ecuadors-attempt-to-resettle-edward-snowden.html

Someone hacked the Ecuadorian embassy in Moscow and found a document related to Ecuador’s 2013 efforts to bring Edward Snowden there. If you remember, Snowden was traveling from Hong Kong to somewhere when the US revoked his passport, stranding him in Russia. In the document, Ecuador asks Russia to provide Snowden with safe passage to come to Ecuador.

It’s hard to believe this all happened almost ten years ago.

# On the Subversion of NIST by the NSA

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/06/on-the-subversion-of-nist-by-the-nsa.html

Nadiya Kostyuk and Susan Landau wrote an interesting paper: “Dueling Over DUAL_EC_DRBG: The Consequences of Corrupting a Cryptographic Standardization Process“:

Abstract: In recent decades, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which develops cryptographic standards for non-national security agencies of the U.S. government, has emerged as the de facto international source for cryptographic standards. But in 2013, Edward Snowden disclosed that the National Security Agency had subverted the integrity of a NIST cryptographic standard­the Dual_EC_DRBG­enabling easy decryption of supposedly secured communications. This discovery reinforced the desire of some public and private entities to develop their own cryptographic standards instead of relying on a U.S. government process. Yet, a decade later, no credible alternative to NIST has emerged. NIST remains the only viable candidate for effectively developing internationally trusted cryptography standards.

Cryptographic algorithms are essential to security yet are hard to understand and evaluate. These technologies provide crucial security for communications protocols. Yet the protocols transit international borders; they are used by countries that do not necessarily trust each other. In particular, these nations do not necessarily trust the developer of the cryptographic standard.

Seeking to understand how NIST, a U.S. government agency, was able to remain a purveyor of cryptographic algorithms despite the Dual_EC_DRBG problem, we examine the Dual_EC_DRBG situation, NIST’s response, and why a non-regulatory, non-national security U.S. agency remains a successful international supplier of strong cryptographic solutions.

# The NSA Says that There are No Known Flaws in NIST’s Quantum-Resistant Algorithms

Rob Joyce, the director of cybersecurity at the NSA, said so in an interview:

The NSA already has classified quantum-resistant algorithms of its own that it developed over many years, said Joyce. But it didn’t enter any of its own in the contest. The agency’s mathematicians, however, worked with NIST to support the process, trying to crack the algorithms in order to test their merit.

“Those candidate algorithms that NIST is running the competitions on all appear strong, secure, and what we need for quantum resistance,” Joyce said. “We’ve worked against all of them to make sure they are solid.”

The purpose of the open, public international scrutiny of the separate NIST algorithms is “to build trust and confidence,” he said.

I believe him. This is what the NSA did with NIST’s candidate algorithms for AES and then for SHA-3. NIST’s Post-Quantum Cryptography Standardization Process looks good.

I still worry about the long-term security of the submissions, though. In 2018, in an essay titled “Cryptography After the Aliens Land,” I wrote:

…there is always the possibility that those algorithms will fall to aliens with better quantum techniques. I am less worried about symmetric cryptography, where Grover’s algorithm is basically an upper limit on quantum improvements, than I am about public-key algorithms based on number theory, which feel more fragile. It’s possible that quantum computers will someday break all of them, even those that today are quantum resistant.

It took us a couple of decades to fully understand von Neumann computer architecture. I’m sure it will take years of working with a functional quantum computer to fully understand the limits of that architecture. And some things that we think of as computationally hard today will turn out not to be.

# Details of an NSA Hacking Operation

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/03/details-of-an-nsa-hacking-operation.html

Pangu Lab in China just published a report of a hacking operation by the Equation Group (aka the NSA). It noticed the hack in 2013, and was able to map it with Equation Group tools published by the Shadow Brokers (aka some Russian group).

…the scope of victims exceeded 287 targets in 45 countries, including Russia, Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy, etc. The attack lasted for over 10 years. Moreover, one victim in Japan is used as a jump server for further attack.

News article.

# Interview with the Head of the NSA’s Research Directorate

MIT Technology Review published an interview with Gil Herrera, the new head of the NSA’s Research Directorate. There’s a lot of talk about quantum computing, monitoring 5G networks, and the problems of big data:

The math department, often in conjunction with the computer science department, helps tackle one of NSA’s most interesting problems: big data. Despite public reckoning over mass surveillance, NSA famously faces the challenge of collecting such extreme quantities of data that, on top of legal and ethical problems, it can be nearly impossible to sift through all of it to find everything of value. NSA views the kind of “vast access and collection” that it talks about internally as both an achievement and its own set of problems. The field of data science aims to solve them.

“Everyone thinks their data is the messiest in the world, and mine maybe is because it’s taken from people who don’t want us to have it, frankly,” said Herrera’s immediate predecessor at the NSA, the computer scientist Deborah Frincke, during a 2017 talk at Stanford. “The adversary does not speak clearly in English with nice statements into a mic and, if we can’t understand it, send us a clearer statement.”

Making sense of vast stores of unclear, often stolen data in hundreds of languages and even more technical formats remains one of the directorate’s enduring tasks.