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Researchers who developed standard claimed it would take "thousands of years to crack", but it took only 148 days

We're living in either a dark, dysmal time for cryptographers or a golden, glorious age for hackers depending on how you look at it.  Casual hackers are making short work of supposedly modestly-secure older hashing standards like MD5, and even supposedly-super-secure "strong" encryption techniques are falling to novel attacks.

I. Pair-Based Cryptography Continues to Fall in Security 

The latest victim in the march of progress is pairing-based cryptography, an approach that was thought to hold the key to super-secure future communications.  Japanese electronics giant Fujitsu Ltd. (TYO:6702), Kyushu University, and Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) cracked a 278-digit (923-bit) cryptogram, easily besting the previous world record of 204 digits (676 bits).

Researchers who worked with pair-based cryptography have in the past expressed confidence that 900+ bit cryptograms would take hundreds of thousands of years to crack.  But Fujitsu, et al. achieved the feat in a mere 148.2 days -- less than half a year -- running on a 21-computer cluster with 252 cores.

Fujitsu cracking
Fujitsu has cracked an encryption that was previously estimated to take "hundreds of thousands of years" to break. [Image Source: Fujitsu]

By employing parallel programming methods and other novel techniques to the attack, the research team was able to cut the time that would have been required by a less state-of-the-art brute force attack with previous methods.

II. Cat and Mouse -- No System is Unbreakable

Fujitsu warns that the shocking success should serve as a warning to security firms that what seems like reliable standards may be crackable sooner than they think, and unsafe not too long after that.  Writes the company:

As cryptanalytic techniques and computers become more advanced, cryptanalytic speed accelerates, and conversely, cryptographic security decreases.  Therefore, it is important to evaluate how long the cryptographic technology can be securely used.

We were able to overcome this problem by making good use of various new technologies, that is, a technique optimising parameter setting that uses computer algebra, a two dimensional search algorithm extended from the linear search, and by using our efficient programing techniques to calculate a solution of an equation from a huge number of data, as well as the parallel programming technology that maximises computer power.

Cryptography today is facing a two-side assault.  On the one side are the crackers, looking to employ novel methodology to reverse advance encryption.  On the other side are the exploiters, looking to identify and leverage fundamental flaws in the implementation, flaws which sabotage the reliability of the underlying methods.

Hacker proof
Unbreakable security is a fantasy. [Office Hackery]

Some public keys encrypted by the RSA standard were recently found to have "no security at all".  The culprit, said Swiss researchers who published their findings in February, was improper generation.  Likewise in 2010 Norwegian researchers published [abstract] results indicating quantum cryptography could be cracked via attacking the photon detectors that implemented the encryption via quantum mechanical effect.  Here, the quantum cryptography itself was likely strong enought to stand up to any direct assault, but the glaring weak spot was the encoders/decoders in the system, which could be hijacked with traditional attacks.

Of course security researchers will surely scramble on to new and safer protection schemes.  But it's more clear than ever that uncrackable encryption is anything but.

Source: Fujitsu

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By Shadowmaster625 on 6/20/2012 10:52:57 AM , Rating: 1
It cannot be broken if it is not even known. Millions of photos could be uploaded to facebook, each one with slightly altered data, altered according to an algorithm to encode any message anyone wants. And unless you have the original, unmodified image file, you simply have absolutely no way of knowing whether or not an image contained a message, much less be able to break it. Encryption methods like this simply can not be broken, mainly because you have no way of knowing if someone uploaded a doctored image, due to the fact that there is so much random noise in a high res photo. "Certain entities" are literally light years ahead of the mainstream when it comes to modern cryptography. If someone wants to communicate on the internet today and not be spied upon, rest assured they can do it.

By JPForums on 6/21/2012 3:52:18 PM , Rating: 2
OK, I'll bite. If you want to detect the presence of hidden data in a picture, it is possible. A simple method (and thus only applicable to simple cases) would be to run a noise removal algorithm of you choice on the photo and store it as photo'. Then run a difference between photo' and photo and store the result as noisemap. Run FFTs on noisemap. Then you can compare its frequency response White Gaussian Noise. You'll find that the response is less uniform across frequencies than noise if there is a hidden message.

Keep in mind this is a simple example that makes assumptions as to the type of noise you would expect to see as well as simplifying the process of obtaining the noisemap. Also specialized wavelets may work better for obtaining the frequency response than FFTs. That said, the frequency responses of many sources of noise are known entities and there are multiple methods that can be used to obtain a noisemap.

Once a picture is known to have a hidden message we are basically back to standard cryptanalysis where the picture could be considered the salt. Just like with standard algorithms, the more messages encrypted with the same key (especially if they also use the same salt), the more information that is available to try to crack it.
Easy? No.
Impossible? Also No.

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