Japanese Researchers Crack Supposedly Hack-Proof Cryptography
June 19, 2012 3:54 PM
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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
, 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. (
, and Japan’s
National Institute of Information and Communications Technology
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,
. achieved the feat in a mere 148.2 days -- less than half a year -- running on a 21-computer cluster with 252 cores.
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.
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
[abstract] results indicating
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.
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Not so fast
6/20/2012 2:20:20 PM
"Cat and Mouse -- No System is Unbreakable"
That depends on your definition of unbreakable. It is remotely possible to guess the correct key on the first try, no matter how many bits. It is always possible to find the key by trying every possible combination. But generally, "unbreakable" means that there is not possible to devise an attack that is any faster than a brute force attack. The one-time pad cipher is the only cipher that has been mathematically proven to be unbreakable by that definition, but it is indeed deemed to be "unbreakable".
"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation
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