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NSA entered into a $10 million contract with RSA to place a flawed formula within encryption software

Security industry leader RSA was caught working with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), and now it's seeing some backlash from former allies. 
 
According to a new report from CNET, some leaders in the computer security world who were scheduled to speak at the RSA Conference next month have backed out due to recent discoveries about the RSA's connections with the NSA.
 
The report said Mikko Hypponen, chief technology officer of F-Secure; Josh Thomas, the Chief Breaking Officer at security firm Atredis, and Jeffrey Carr, another security industry veteran who analyzes espionage and cyber warfare methods, have all canceled their presentations at the RSA Conference.
 
Carr and Hypponen have taken it a step further by boycotting the conference. Hypponen said "nationality" was the reason for his cancellation while Carr said the RSA had violated its customers' trust. 
 
"I don't want to send mixed messages, so I have canceled all my appearances at RSA 2014," said Hypponen.
 
Once Carr announced his boycott, others followed, including Marcia Hoffman, privacy attorney and former Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer; Alex Fowler, Mozilla privacy and public policy expert; Christopher Soghoian, American Civil Liberties Union advocate and privacy expert; Adam Langley, Google security expert, and Chris Palmer, Google Chrome security engineer. 
 
The RSA Conference is scheduled for next month in San Francisco.


Jeffrey Carr [SOURCE: jeffreycarr.blogspot.com]

According to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA entered into a $10 million contract with RSA to place a flawed formula within encryption software (which is widely used in personal computers and other products) to obtain "back door" access to data. The RSA software that contained the flawed formula was called Bsafe, which was meant to increase security in computers. The formula was an algorithm called Dual Elliptic Curve, and it was created within the NSA. RSA started using it in 2004 even before the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) approved it. 
 
RSA said it had no idea that the algorithm was flawed, or that it gave the NSA back door access to countless computers and devices. The NSA reportedly sold the algorithm as an enhancement to security without letting the RSA in on its real intentions. 
 
"Recent press coverage has asserted that RSA entered into a 'secret contract' with the NSA to incorporate a known flawed random number generator into its BSAFE encryption libraries.  We categorically deny this allegation," said RSA in a blog post.
 
Many in the security community were surprised at RSA's entanglement with the NSA, but the latest news of a $10 million contract as well has really shocked the industry.
 
RSA is known as a pioneer in the realm of computer security, and has notoriously fought off the NSA in previous attempts at breaking encryption in the 1990s. 
 
"I can't imagine a worse action, short of a company's CEO getting involved in child porn," said Carr. "I don't know what worse action a security company could take than to sell a product to a customer with a backdoor in it.”

Source: CNET



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RE: Real Believable
By MozeeToby on 1/10/2014 10:15:16 AM , Rating: 3
It's not quite that simple. The backdoor the NSA introduced was in the form of very carefully selected non-random numbers in place of numbers that should have been selected randomly. The algorithm itself is basically sound, though there have been problems uncovered with it, it's the standardizing on these particular non-random seed values that open the door completely. If you don't know what to look for it's exceedingly difficult to discover the relationship between them. Someone outside the NSA discovered the same vulnerability and went back and tested the numbers provided and lo and behold, against astronomical odds, the NSA provided numbers just happen to provide a backdoor.

Now, on the other hand. Researchers had already uncovered the more minor flaws in the algorithm before RSA made the selection. That's one red flag right there. A much, much larger problem is that the NSA didn't describe how they chose their random numbers. They should have provided steps, including the use of an actual bona fide random number source, that RSA could follow to choose their own number. Instead they said "just use this" and RSA went along with it.


RE: Real Believable
By Spuke on 1/10/2014 1:03:46 PM , Rating: 2
Great info thanks!


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