back to article Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie, oi oi oi! Tech zillionaire Ray's backdoor crypto for the Feds is Clipper chip v2

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, particularly if forgetfulness promises profit. Ray Ozzie, former CTO of Microsoft and the designer of Lotus Notes, is old enough to recall the battle over the Clipper chip, an ill-fated NSA-backed effort from 1993 through 1996 to require a US-government-accessible …

  1. GnuTzu Silver badge
    FAIL

    Making Non-compliant Encryption Illegal

    I'm still not seeing the discussion about how they plan to keep people from using encryption that doesn't have back doors. Surely, they'll be illegal, but there are enforcement problems with that, and only criminals will have strong encryption. How much work is it going to be to force everyone to hand over keys; or rather, hunt down those who don't voluntarily hand them over?

    And, what will this do to students who want to write their own encryption algorithms, even weak ones (as if students and researchers matter)?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Making Non-compliant Encryption Illegal

      This isn't a problem with the LEA's. If you use a strong, unapproved encryption than obviously you are a criminal. A little porridge time for you then.

      And the BS argument that "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" is tossed out, the glorious government officials should be the first to go naked without encryption.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Making Non-compliant Encryption Illegal

      What is to keep committed privacy advocates, whether or not criminals, from implementing their own cryptography? A few, in order of increasing importance, are:

      1. Phones and other devices on which the manufacturer has made non-"store" difficult to install "for the customers' safety" of course.

      2. Designing a secure encryption algorithm (especially one that is provably secure) is hard; many, including skilled cryptographers, have tried and fallen short.

      3. Implementing a secure encryption scheme is hard and rarely done; many, including highly skilled and experienced programmers, have tried and fallen short.

      4. Guaranteeing that a vulnerability free implementation of a provably secure encryption algorithm in an environment so that it is not vulnerable to operating system defects, both when installed and after all future OS modifications is hard, and since the nature of future changes is unpredictable, unlikely to be attainable.

      5. Guaranteeing the entire system of (4) against all application software almost certainly will, over time, present opportunities to those intent on breaking in.

      I doubt that managers at NSA or any other major SigInt organization worry much about this problem.

      1. -tim

        Re: Making Non-compliant Encryption Illegal

        "2. Designing a secure encryption algorithm (especially one that is provably secure) is hard; many, including skilled cryptographers, have tried and fallen short."

        The scary part of that statement is designing secure encryption is the easy part of what governments want.

        Moden encryption uses new keys very often and generation, transfer and selection of those keys is a far more difficult problem than the simple block ciphers. The key escrow techniques used way back in the days Clipper wouldn't be considered anywhere outside of a high school programming class or congress.

      2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Making Non-compliant Encryption Illegal

        ...2. Designing a secure encryption algorithm (especially one that is provably secure) is hard; many, including skilled cryptographers, have tried and fallen short.

        3. Implementing a secure encryption scheme is hard and rarely done; many, including highly skilled and experienced programmers, have tried and fallen short.

        4. Guaranteeing that a vulnerability free implementation of a provably secure encryption algorithm in an environment so that it is not vulnerable to operating system defects, both when installed and after all future OS modifications is hard, and since the nature of future changes is unpredictable, unlikely to be attainable.

        ..........

        I doubt that managers at NSA or any other major SigInt organization worry much about this problem....

        Funny, that.

        Because they lost a lot of sleep over Phil Zimmermann and PGP.....

    3. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: Making Non-compliant Encryption Illegal

      Without constant access to the surrendered keys to try decrypt every message, by the time the government voyeurs arrive at your name on the list it will be too late to realise that you were non-confirming and past communications are out of reach. To mitigate this, keys cannot be held in some magic government assured escrow but must be on the network and constantly tested against every message.

    4. handleoclast

      Re: Making Non-compliant Encryption Illegal

      Here's where it gets interesting (for "they've just used 1984 as a handbook again" values of interesting).

      Everyone will have to use the official crypto. So the bad guys use their own crypto which is then superencrypted with the official crypto. Even with deep-packet inspection it all seems kosher (or al Halal).

      The only way the authorities could tell that anyone was using good crypto underneath the official crypto is to decrypt all official crypto. Just to see if any bad guys are using good crypto underneath it.

      So you can pretty much guarantee that this is what will happen. There might be legislation justifying it or, more likely, it will just be done illegally (like so much else in the war against terraist paedophiles). And once they're decrypting everyone's stuff, eventually they'll start checking for other activities (again, there might be legislation permitting this or they might do it illegally).

      Experience has shown that slippery slopes are the norm when the spooks are involved, and eventually some local council employee will be checking your messages to see if you've told somebody that last week you put a glass bottle in your non-recyclable waste.

      And so the bad guys will resort to codes. Not the telegraphic codes which are information dense and look like GLOPT AYZNV but the steganographic types that look like normal conversation.

      BTW, my next-door neighbour just got a new orange, male kitten. She calls him Biscuits because he has ginger nuts.

    5. David Shaw

      Weren't Lotus Notes backdoored with weak Crypto?

      I seem to recall that there was a mild kerfuffle when Sweden discovered that all their diplomatic-comms were rooted by Lotus, a 'feature' that they were seemingly unaware of.

      looking on yandex.RU, as Slurp sometimes 'forgets', I found a UK document mentioning that it wasn't weak but escrowed crypto. Ray seems to have form!

      Secret Swedish E-Mail Can Be Read by the U.S.A.

      Fredrik Laurin, Calle Froste, *Svenska Dagbladet*, 18 Nov 1997

      One of the world's most widely used e-mail programs, the American Lotus Notes, is not so secure as most of its 400,000 to 500,000 Swedish users believe. To be sure, it includes advanced cryptography in its e-mail function, but the codes that protect the encryption have been surrendered to American authorities. With them, the U.S. government can decode encrypted information. Among Swedish users are 349 parliament members, 15,000 tax agency employees, as well as employees in large businesses and the defense department. ``I didn't know that our Notes keys were deposited (with the U.S.). It was interesting to learn this,'' says Data Security Chief Jan Karlsson at the [Swedish] defense department. Gunnar Grenfors, Parliament director and daily e-mail user, says, ``I didn't know about this--here we handle sensitive information concerning Sweden's interests, and we should not leave the keys to this information to the U.S. government or anyone else. This must be a basic requirement.''

      but this *was* over twenty years ago, so I'm sure everything is reasonable now, cough CryptoAG, cough.

      1. David Shaw

        Re: Weren't Lotus Notes backdoored with weak Crypto?

        refreshing my mind further, it was weak crypto and it was escrowed crypto.

        IBM/Lotus said: We deliver 64 bit keys to all customers, but 24 bits of those in the version that we deliver outside of the United States are deposited with the American government. That's how it works today,'' says Eileen Rudden, vice president at Lotus. Those 24 bits are critical for security in the system. 40-bit encryption is broken by a fast computer in several seconds

        I can half remember Lotus steganographic key leakage too, but I haven't the time to hunt down that paranoid thought, so I might be mis-remembering.

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Making Non-compliant Encryption Illegal

      this is looking even more and more like the war against law abiding citizens owning/carrying guns. Or knives. Because, if such things are illegal, ONLY! THE! CRIMINALS! WILL! HAVE! THEM!!! (and unless "they" will have a qualified officer of the law following me everywhere, online or offline, ready to POUNCE and protect me at a moment's notice, I think it would be better if I did that for myself, ya know? And that includes the use of STRONG encryption that can't easily be cracked)

      In short: it's a war by "the elite" to make sure that everyone NOT in their "special people" club may NOT defend themselves, whether it be encryption, or any form of weapon.

      What are "they" going to ban NEXT, *MARTIAL* *ARTS* ??? KEYS TO YOUR HOUSE?

      At some point the people need to say *ENOUGH*. That point is *NOW*.

      icon: because 'big brother' _IS_ watching you [and he needs your 'keys']

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: ONLY! THE! CRIMINALS! WILL! HAVE! THEM!

        No, Bob, the police will have them too.

        Please take your meds.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Making Non-compliant Encryption Illegal

      There are a couple of points about backdoors.

      1, For the spooks, time is often of the essence. So a poorly implemented private encryption scheme will often be good enough to serve the needs of some bad actor.

      2. Making private encryption schemes illegal is unlikely to deter the bad guys (see point 1 above).

      3. The scope of a private encryption scheme does not have to be large. A scheme to encrypt text messages and email might be enough (since the bad guys are already using so-called "burner" phones for voice).

      *

      For example, how long will it take to decrypt the following text message which uses a poorly implemented word replacement scheme?

      putrescine memorabilities underbubble mecometer aggregates decidement interpellant Creamer moppets Hourihan Camorrist dineric fibroenchondroma pulsation simulates incapacitator orthoxazin resolder nephele coradicate Gallicolae snake-eyed microphonic rain-soaked entoplasm facet scoliorachitic appreciating comournful marshalled hout alada self-recording sweet-scented Altingiaceae acupuncturation Reformati Pellikka sophronizing unaverted nontumultuous nukes time-tested NAR unclotting diskery lance-breaking telpherage intebreeding highveld Cirone sure-refuged Orobanche free-tongued reclaimableness pseudomiraculous Alec oxyphilous knownothingism tut-tutted

      *

      Feel free to publish the plain text.

  2. Bob Ajob

    Lotus Notes? Twat!

    This guy needs a severe punishment for inflicting Lotus Notes on the world. That is all.

    1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: Lotus Notes? Twat!

      Lotus Notes isn't bad when used properly (*not* as a mail system), and particularly during the 90s when things were rather different.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        I'll second that. Notes remains the best development platform to this day (despite stuffing it with Eclipse).

        I do wish they'd updated the UI, though, because that is a seriously clunky piece of shite.

        Maybe for Notes 10 ?

        1. Fred Goldstein

          20 years ago I went to work for a company that used Notes internally for email. I have been using email since the ARPANET days, and have used many products, but Notes was particularly bad. But I think I understood its reasoning. Back in the 1980s, before the Windows desktop monoculture (with Mac as the official opposition), there were a lot of different desktop environments. VMS, Unix, Wang, DG, IBM PROFS, etc. So there was a push for programs to be consistent across OSs, in case the user was shfted from VMS to Solaris or something like that. But that made the programs inconsistent with their host OSs. So Notes Mail on Windows was more like a foreign application. And not a well-designed one at that.

          Conceptually, however, Notes was good. Ray had apparently worked on DEC Notes, a very different and simpler text-discussion program that did what it did quite well. Lotus Notes let you design database applications in it. But many people instead just used its half-baked mail program. I used it, but did more using my unofficial Eudora client on an outside system.

          1. Elmer Phud

            Oh, whatever happened to 'Framework'.?

            The pre-windows Office.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I wonder people still listen to this snake oil seller.

      It got half an idea right in the 1990s, but built a bad database system and on top of it a bad messaging system with an ugly UI.

      No surprise that as soon SQL RDBMS became affordable, and better tools to build frontends too (Visual Basic, Delphi, then web applications), Notes became something only IBM shops could still think to use.

      Than it made Groove, the most mysterious app installed by Office, which almost nobody used. Still it got a high ranking places at MS, just to leave later.

      Like the Wizard of Oz(zie), he must be really good at deceiving people.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "That report concluded that law enforcement demands ... pose problems for human rights."

    Not surprising. That's the objective when stripped of all the rhetoric.

    1. Tinslave_the_Barelegged

      > "That report concluded that law enforcement demands ... pose problems for human rights."

      And once we realise that we lived happily without the utility of phoned that now monitor every aspect our lives, and stop buying surveillance phones, the next step will be to make non-possession of phones a crime...

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "the next step will be to make non-possession of phones a crime..."

        My British friends tell me that for anyone claiming Universal Credit it already is

        Yes folks. No phone, no credit.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Megaphone

          Re: "the next step will be to make non-possession of phones a crime..."

          "No phone, no credit."

          *ahem*

          How **DARE** they **FORCE** you to **PURCHASE** **A** **PRODUCT** **BY** **LAW** like that!

          I'm glad THAT would NEVAR happen here in the good ol' U.S. of A ... no, wait...

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: "the next step will be to make non-possession of phones a crime..."

            What was worse was that the Government Dept of Starbucks (GDS) that invented it, only tested it with their latest flagship phones. Unemployed and not using iPhone X - tough.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    obligated

    obliged <- and it's fewer letters

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: obligated

      At least it wasn't obligatorized

  5. DougS Silver badge

    Why would Apple (or anyone else) want to be in the loop?

    Why do they want to be in the business of determining which law enforcement requests are legit? That's not exactly an easy problem, either. You could probably assume an organization like the FBI could have a pretty solid process for who gets to make such requests, under what circumstances, how they are passed to Apple so Apple knows they are legit, etc.

    How about a 10 man police department? Do they get to make requests themselves, or do they have to forward them up to a larger organization? If they have to request the help of their state police, or the FBI, then those organizations have to create a way to determine whether it is a legit request or someone is going outside the law hoping to steal his ex-wife's phone and illegally spy on her.

    That doesn't even get into other countries, who might not observe the legalities that would (hopefully) be observed in the US. If Apple decides a country is using their police powers to spy on their citizens by unlocking their phones when they are not guilty of any crime, do they get to say "sorry, we won't do unlock requests for country X" and then country X may ban sales of their products in response. Or if they decide misuse of unlocking is not their problem, and respond to all such requests, then they have to deal with the blowback from people back home who will accuse them of helping a country violate their citizens human rights and maybe have congress looking to sanction them for helping evil country X. It is a lose/lose for Apple either way.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Why would Apple (or anyone else) want to be in the loop?

      Take it one step further.. who will store and hold all those keys in a 100% safe and secure manner such that the keys can't fall into hands that have less than good intentions? Yeah... in a basement, behind a locked door, etc. but we know that won't happen. Once the keys are sent to various agencies both domestic and foreign, they'll be about useless for protecting encryption.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Why would Apple (or anyone else) want to be in the loop?

        This inevitably is a problem for escrow schemes, and was a criticism of Clipper and its data analogue Capstone. It is an inherent vulnerability of key escrow, just as is exposure of a private key in a public key system. In Ozzie's scheme, the repository in one possible implementation contains private keys matching public keys on the devices. The difference, as Green observes, is that the opportunity to get all the keys wholesale would make the repository a high value target for attacks.

        The keys in the repository, if held by the manufacturer, would not have to be delivered to either domestic or foreign law enforcement or intelligence agencies. They would be used to decrypt the encrypted key those agencies obtained from the device and sent for decryption.

        1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

          Re: Why would Apple (or anyone else) want to be in the loop?

          Both Apple and Samsung were subjects of breaches of software (Apple's iOS 9 leak and that Golden Master build, its internal flashers, and Samsung's Odin3 flasher). It could happen again and again.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Why would Apple (or anyone else) want to be in the loop?

          The keys in the repository, if held by the manufacturer, would not have to be delivered to either domestic or foreign law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

          This might work if the keys were not accessible from any network. LEA wants a key, it gets emailed or hand delivered to them. Behind a firewall isn't good enough it would only isolation will work.

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Why would Apple (or anyone else) want to be in the loop?

        Take it one step further.. who will store and hold all those keys in a 100% safe and secure manner such that the keys can't fall into hands that have less than good intentions?

        You can watch the result of that with Telegram. That is what Russian law stipulated and this is what Telegram ran afoul of.

        The fallout there continues.

        1. The first lawsuit against malicious damage by the local telecoms regulator has been filed and accepted. More to follow.

        2. Their equivalent of facebook (VK) has openly declared that it will implement an end-to-end encrypted messaging for all of its 100M+ users and the regulator can go shove its demands into a location which is usually described as where sun does not shine.

        What the proponents of these ideas fail to understand is that we live in different times. France, USSR could ban end users using encryption and enforce the ban because of the ratio of resources between state and violator. The state could swat the violator like a fly.

        In this day and age that ratio for any reasonable size Internet company is reversed. From a network perspective all the large Internet companies possess MORE resources than a nation state. Some (as Telegram has shown), are not afraid to use them either.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Why would Apple (or anyone else) want to be in the loop?

          One possible improvement would be that keys are generated and stored encrypted with another key - the private key of which is sent to a third party. So if Apple's giant DB 'o keys was stolen, the miscreants would also need to steal the third party's giant DB 'o keys as well. This would also prevent rogue elements in a phone OEM from hacking/misusing access to the keys.

          Companies like Apple could get out of the business of being the arbiter by giving keys upon request by the third party, and the third party would get the unwelcome job of being the arbiter. You could even have more than one third party - though they'd all have to agree a request is legit but that way you could have one in the US, one in China and one in the EU, for example.

          In order to make something like that work the US, EU and China would need to have some sort of treaty to make it all work, which is the genius part of the plan - it would take so long for them to negotiate this all that half of us would be dead by the time we have to worry about this :)

      3. John Savard Silver badge

        Re: Why would Apple (or anyone else) want to be in the loop?

        That seems to be the biggest unsolvable problem regarding any key escrow scheme.

        But I can see one thing that could be done, which would not solve it 100% in theory, but which might be claimed to be "good enough" by those politicians and others who feel a key escrow scheme is necessary.

        What if, instead of one "master key" which, if stolen, would allow hackers to read encryption with the same facility as law enforcement (but without needing warrants)... there were five of them?

        So that when a police department gets a warrant to decrypt a cracked phone, they have to send the encrypted escrow key on a trip to five different government agencies to get back the key they need to read it? I can see it being believed that hackers wouldn't be able to simultaneously crack the security of, say, the Department of Justice, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and NIST, to get all five master keys. And without even one of those keys, the encryption would remain unbreakable.

        That, of course, requires a commitment to erase all the other master keys when one of them is compromised, and give up the ability to read all the old phones, though, and that's probably the part that won't happen.

        1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

          Re: Why would Apple (or anyone else) want to be in the loop?

          That doesn't solve the issue; it's just more pushing the problem backwards. What if the data at stake was so high-target (think the keys to a mega-millionaire's Swiss safe) and the miscreants (state-sponsored ones) had agents at all five locations? Hard, improbable, but not impossible.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            "pushing the problem backwards"

            Remember that physical access to the phone would also be required, so sure a state actor could conceivably plant agents in five different organizations, then steal the target's phone, but since it would have to be put into a mode from which it cannot resume normal operation at least they couldn't do it without the target's knowledge.

            You can come up with improbable what-ifs for almost everything, but I think the scenario you describe is a lot more work than simply kidnapping your target and beating him with a rubber host until he unlocks his phone for you. Unless your target is a world leader constantly surrounded by security I don't see how kidnapping isn't far easier - and if this scheme is implemented world leaders will insure they get phones without the easy-unlock keys us little people have to use.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: "pushing the problem backwards"

              Remember that physical access to the phone would also be required,

              Version 1 - but then the FBI need access to all the messages of a suspected political opponent terrorist who is out there somewhere - so we need access to the online data of all citizens suspects

              1. DougS Silver badge

                "Access to online data"

                They already have that, with a search warrant Apple will give them whatever they have for them on iCloud. Wouldn't work with me, since I don't control the encryption key for iCloud I don't use it. I back my phone up using iTunes, where I do control the encryption key. The FBI can't get my iMessage logs (well other than that where the recipient uses iCloud...) but they can get other stuff like call logs from my carrier, and they probably log URLs I visit etc.

                Pretty much iMessage and details like contact lists or calendar entries are the only things on the phone that the FBI can't get via other methods - but I'm sure it is iMessage they are primarily concerned with. Good luck getting Apple to change it so it all goes through a server that can be tapped rather than encrypted directly from point to point!

        2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          Re: Why would Apple (or anyone else) want to be in the loop?

          People attack the weakest link.

          Here I would corrupt a lowly police official, so that he would provide me with the officially-obtained keys to anyone I wanted. That's why creating a central repository is such a bad idea - it's a single place you need to attack to gain access to everything.

          You could ask for a 20 key encryption process. The one target is the operator. And look how easy it is for crims to get data out of DVLA...

  6. Tim99 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    How much damage does he want to do to society?

    First Lotus Notes and CTO at Microsoft, now this...

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Don't forget that, as CTO of Microsoft, he pulled Sharepoint out of a black cauldron.

      Now that is damage.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Sharepoint out of a black cauldron

        Sharepoint is still a black hole. Put something in and two days later it is gone with no trace.

        The URL that you carefully cut and pasted is worthless.

        This is what happened to me at not one, not two but at three companies. The thing that was common was that the systems were all setup by MS themselves.

        At another company, Sharepoint was setup by someone else and it all worked perfectly.

        Could it be that MS don't know how to setup their own dog food?

        It would not surprise me one little bit.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "We know how to make backdoors, we just don't know how to secure them."

    And we never will, because the backdoor knowledge is held by humans and humans are the most unsecure part of any security scheme.

  8. Chronos Silver badge
    Big Brother

    A better question

    Why does it seem that only politicians (and their spooks) and people with a surfeit of money want this? It just seems to me that if they're so afraid of people talking to each other privately, there must be a bigger problem here. Oh, sure, terrorism, criminals et al but those subsets aren't going to play by the rules anyway and they'll probably go back to using sneakernet cyphers - if they haven't already.

    I suspect the ultimate goal is to extend things like RIPA to light up a beacon over anyone using privacy-enabling protocols and assume their guilt. That is a huge problem because it undermines two of the most important aspects of the UK legal system: Innocent unless proven guilty and mens rea. RIPA is already treading on one of those.

    Naturally, government and big business will still be allowed to keep secrets. The rest of us will be in the fishtank, watched by the privileged few. They may as well lock us all up at that point as the whole country will be an 18th Century panopticon.

    If you want a hobby, Ray, go fishing. With your money, you won't even have an argument over supper about the cost of those fancy floats.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Gimp

      ..only politicians (and their spooks) and people with a surfeit of money want this? I

      Look up the term "data fetishist."

      And in most countries politicians come and politicians go. It's the bureaucrats behind them that have the pathological compulsion

      It makes no sense. Looking for a terrorist is already looking for a needle in a haystack (MI5 said they had 1500 suspects from 60million people in 2015. Suspects, not actual terrorists. That's 0.0025% of the population)

      But they want to fill the field with more haystacks (of data).

      Why? Because they can.

      1. handleoclast

        Re: ..only politicians (and their spooks) and people with a surfeit of money want this? I

        Why? Because they can.

        Nope, because they hope they can use it to political advantage. Like finding dirt on their political opponents. Like finding the terrible people who propose voting the other bastards into power so they can be targeted.

        It's just another step along the way to authoritarian totalitarianism. Gotta do it while we're still in power because if the other guys get into power they'll do it and use it against us.

      2. Chronos Silver badge

        Re: ..only politicians (and their spooks) and people with a surfeit of money want this? I

        And in most countries politicians come and politicians go. It's the bureaucrats behind them that have the pathological compulsion

        When I use the term "government" it naturally includes the faceless, unelected cronies and Sir Humphreys who persist like a floating turd when you don't have a pointy stick. I'm well aware our "democracy" is a sham, designed only to make the electorate think they have a choice, legitimise the continued erosion of personal sovereignty and waste public resources for private gain.

        It's why I refuse to vote until they give me a "sod off, get some new people in" option. It's a futile gesture, of course, but it makes me feel less like a hypocrite.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    FAIL

    'assume a lock nobody can break,'

    The fail is right there.

    The follow up (never answered) question is who does everyone trust to hold such a key?

    The answer (IMHO) is no one.

    The USPTO once again showing it's FUBAR. Not exactly a surprise there.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: 'assume a lock nobody can break,'

      is who does everyone trust to hold such a key?

      Hardly matters when the lock is made in a fab owned by the Chinese army

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I cannot hide my contempt

    Does any one else find it reprehensible that this tech millionaire has a patent on his idea so that he can potentially profit from a tool that can be used to surveil, suppress and enslave us? The technical issues of backdoored encryption aside, here is a man who would stand to profit by disadvantaging us all. The "man" is a lizard.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: I cannot hide my contempt

      The "man" is a lizard.

      It's a company product.

      May contain ethics, but probably not.

  11. doublelayer Silver badge

    No good answer

    There is not a good way for this to occur, but I recently heard a suggestion from some researchers as to a way that is significantly less terrible than all these ill-considered alternatives. That's not to say it is good, just that it is better because people tried to think a bit before just shouting "I've got an idea so pay me some money and I'll solve all your problems right now and by the time you find out that it doesn't produce infinite security and access to data for only the people you want I'll have a nice big house and a squadron of lawyers for my defense". In short, the system involves the use of weaker encryption where the keys are not known by any group and where multiple keys are used. There is one master key that is long, so breaking that takes a lot of effort. Each message also has at least one short key that is unique. The process to break it requires a certain amount of brute forcing, but can be done at a cost. Governments would be able to get this, whereas small criminal organizations probably wouldn't. Mass surveillance would be made difficult because it costs the same amount of power to decrypt each separate communication, so you have to do a cost-benefit analysis on each one you want to see. So I quite like the math they use. The problem remains that, firstly, it won't solve the problem of good encryption inside government encryption, and secondly, that bad actors inside or outside government will break it because they don't want a good solution to the problem.

    Now that I've heard an idea that actually has a modicum of merit, all the other solutions that are essentially the same terrible one make me wonder why their designers are so stupid.

  12. martinusher Silver badge

    Taking the Fifth? Its already gone....

    One thing that might have escaped the notice of people in the UK is that people have been jailed in the US for the offense of "lying to the FBI". I'm not normally on the side of the criminal but I expect that people under pressure from agencies like the FBI to tell their version of the truth, a version that might differ from the official version to an extent that it could be called lying. Catching people's lies is the job of law enforcement. It shouldn't be a criminal offense (especially when the agency hasn't got anything concrete they can pin on the target).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Taking the Fifth? Its already gone....

      Especially when your story wobbles as human memory is wont to perform rewriting, then Special Agent Johnson whips out a previously recorded questioning and/or surveillance tapes about some conversation you had with the brother of the chef of the wife of the chauffeur of the Russian Ambassador and states you are lying.

      You are going down!

  13. Elmer Phud

    New phone please

    "It also calls for a security chip that effectively bricks the device when activated by law enforcement,"

    Yes, please - total burn-out, that'll stop the buggers from prying.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: New phone please

      Sound of door breaking down ? Throw phone in toilet, it dies before bricking happens or rots anyway.

      Dead-mans-handle alarm tells you your phone is bricked ? Phone in toilet and leg it, they're on the way.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: New phone please

        Maybe that's why they made waterproof ones. Still a toilet is not always within reach.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    XMAS present

    The RISKS Digest, Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems.

    ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator, Volume 19 Issue 52, Weds 24 December 1997

    The Swedes discover Lotus Notes has key escrow! Win Treese <treese@OpenMarket.com> Tue, 23 Dec 1997 22:15:31 -0500

    "Lotus cannot answer as to which authorities have received the keys and what rules apply for giving them out"

    1. An nonymous Cowerd
      WTF?

      Re: Sweden pwned

      According to security/liberty Professor Susan Landau, the Lotus Notes 24 bits of key escrow was held by the trendy friendly National Security Agency, N.S.A. of the U.S.A. (Hence IBM/Lotus reticence in talking)

      On the plus side for Ozzie, she says that he mentioned publicly in the mid 1990s that his ‘Notes design would comply with the (then) foreign hard-crypto export ban. But the odd governments here & there seem not to have noticed, or understood.

  15. Milo Tsukroff

    Who needs a Clipper chip when there's SPECTRE?

    So ... who needs a Clipper chip when there's Spectre? Funny how that "bug" showed up in almost everything starting about 10 years ago.

  16. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    Keychain of trusted peers.

    It's the same issue as doppel-ganging your archived personal ethereal primes, if Bad Tings TM happen. It's definitely not hardware or government, perhaps open sesame or shibboleth. #factsimilies

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