1993-11-19 - Digital futures - the catastrophic edge

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From: baum@newton.apple.com (Allen J. Baum)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 03b29fcba737da6184da35ec35dc6c3ea9988045c109085bcc926c91dfe8d184
Message ID: <9311192142.AA04263@newton.apple.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-11-19 21:46:59 UTC
Raw Date: Fri, 19 Nov 93 13:46:59 PST

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From: baum@newton.apple.com (Allen J. Baum)
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 93 13:46:59 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Digital futures - the catastrophic edge
Message-ID: <9311192142.AA04263@newton.apple.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

There's been a lot of talk about digital money, digital identities,
how it might work, protocols for verifiability in the face of spoofing, how
to remain anonymous in spite of the best efforts of someone to find you,
etc, etc.

They all (to my unpracticed eye) rely on someone knowing a secret.
And only that someone knowing the secret.

Well, what if someone else finds it?
What if someone breaks into your house, finds it written somewhere,
or in some file somewhere?

It's one thing to say "anyone who allows that to happen is stupid"-
but people can be pretty stupid.

Or, conversely, what if the number of people who know it is <1, rather
than >1, i.e. what if you lose your secret key.

In a world where your identity is digital, the consequences could be
catastrophic. I can think of some extremely nasty consequences. It makes
the recent stories of people who have been mistaken (& prematurely) 
declared dead seem pretty minor.

So, my question is, what are the damage control mechanisms?
Has anyone thought about this much?

* Allen J. Baum            tel. (408)974-3385    *
* Apple Computer, 20525 Mariani Ave,  MS 305-3B  *
* Cupertino, CA 95014      baum@apple.com        *