1994-06-16 - Unofficial Excerpt from InfoSecurity News

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Subject: Unofficial Excerpt from InfoSecurity News
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To: Cypherpunks:

The following is unofficially extracted
from the Infosecurity News, May/June 1994.

 * Please forward this on to EFF and CPSR, *

 * but please strip out all info remaining to me *

   (I don't want to lose my subscription.  
    Know thy enemy and all that.)

Avoid Encryption Anarchy

=======================Tim:  like the title? -NS


Encryption is a powerful tool for protecting
data stored in workstations, LANs and
mainframe systems and in transit between
systems. In fact, it is so powerful that its misuse
may cause great damage to tomorrow's informa-
tion owners and users. Unfortunately, this "en-
cryption anarchy" may come very soon if work-
station and network encrYPtion is allowed to
proliferate unchecked in its present form.

What is encryption anarchy
and how might it happen in
your organization? Here are
some examples:

Hidden by voice encryp-
tion, an employee could leak
valuable information over
phone lines, without worry-
ing about wire taps or call
monitoring/recording. Also,
Privacy-Enhanced Mail is
increasing on the Internet.
But its encryption-based cer-
tificates protect individual
end-users by shielding their
activities from managers. En-
cryption technologies such as
these could reduce or elimi-
nate management control
over voice and data communi-
cations with the outside world.

Large amounts of worksta-
tion, LAN and mainframe in-
formation may be lost if it is
encrypted incorrectly, if de-
cryption fails or if encryption
keys are lost. As a result,
many users may adopt less-
secure practices. These in-
clude backing up copies of
files in cleartext or storing
encryption keys where they
can be compromised. Both
practices can result in more
exposure of information to
unauthorized parties.

Corporate deception also
could become easier. If false
information is given to audi-
tors, for example, the true
data could be hidden behind an
encryption barricade. 

In one company, an ex-execu-
tive's alleged theft of trade se-
crets only after the company
reviewed his e-mail.

The executive's actions
might never have been known
if he had encrypted his e-mail
and kept the key.
An employee could leave a
company and take copies of
valuable data. If no one else
knows the encryption
keys, the remaining en-
crypted data will be lost.

As international
companies turn to en-
cryption to protect
communications with
trading partners, sup-
pliers, contractors and
customers in different
countries, it will be-
come increasingly diffi-
cult to manage and
control the many dif-
ferent algorithms and
keys that will be used in
the organizations'
workstations, LANs
and mainframe sys-
tems. Countries'differ-
ing import/export
controls, encryption laws 
and restrictions on
data exchange will cre-
ate both operational and man
agement headaches.
Without centralized, en-
forced encryption standards,
workstations, LANs and wide-
area networks will include
varying products,technolo-
gies and key-management ap-
proaches. Today's transitory
data will be encrypted in dif-
ferent ways, as will critical 
databack-ups and archives. Years
from now, however, these files
could become unavailable if
encryption algorithms and key
changes are not carefully
tracked and controlled.

A matter of control.

These examples reveal that
encryption anarchy may occur
when the people who control
and use information are not
accountable for it or have no
jurisdiction over it, or when
people who rightfully own in-
formation lose control over it.
Encryption anarchy may also
occur through the indiscrimi-
nate use of encryption without
standardized key manage-
ment or managerial oversight.
But even the proper use of
encryption could, in
the future, create unan-
ticipated technical
problems in network
settings. For example,
LAN maintenance and
diagnosis often requires
that information be
checked for authentici-
ty and integrity. This is
done by comparing in-
formation sent with in-
formation received. If
ny a this is done in real time
on an encrypted net-
work, special testing
systems and additional
network encryption/de-
cryption operations
may be required.
Similarly, LAN
managers may have to
install special back-up
and recovery products
tabdlty as LANs become in-
creasingly encrypted. These
could add unexpected operat-
ing costs, and the additional
key management may intro-
duce new security exposures.
How can infosecurity man-
agers avoid encryption anar-
chy in the coming years? First,
make sure that information
(whether encrypted or not) re-
mains accessible to all man-
agers, boards of directors,
reg llators and auditors who
are held accountable for it or
have jurisdiction over it. No
one person should possess ex-
clusive encrypted access to an
information asset.
Encryption also should be
managed using a hierarchy of
override decryption keys cor-
responding to information
ownership and accountability
in the organization. This over-
ride hierarchy should extend
beyond the organization--
under careful control--to any
government or regulatory
body overseeing the enter-
prise The U.S. government's
Clipper escrowed-key propos-
al, although a step in that di-
rection, does not go far
enough in providing these hi-
erarchical override capabili-
ties. Encryption keys must be
escrowed in business organiza-
tions as well.

Infosecurity managers also
could avoid encryption anar-
chy by enforcing related poli-
cies and standards, choosing
technologies with assured
Iongevity and training users to
handle encryption properly.

When not to encrypt.

In some cases, encryption may
even be inadvisable. Much
business information may be
adequately protected with
commercially available data-
compression utilities, and not
full-fledged encryption. Other
information may be accessed
so often that encryption or
compression is imprac-
tical due to its cost, in-
convenience and
processing time. If in-
formation is ubiquitous,
it makes no sense to
protect it in one place
and not in another.
There also may be
valid business reasons to
not encrypt. A newspa-
per, for example, may
deliberately exchange
cleartext messages with
correspondents in a for-
eign country, to avoid
any impression that
these individuals are
spying or otherwise
working against the

Even if encryption is im-
plemented and managed
properly, infosecurity man-
agers should assume that their
adversaries--industrial spies,
thieves, burglars and even kid-
nappers and murderers--
will try to obtain information
through the easiest possible
route. If they encounter en-
cryption, an easier route may
be through inside informants,
human engineering or dump-
ster diving. In fact, interviews
with more than 200 computer
criminals reveal that the most
vulnerable form of
information is spoken,
followed by printed/
dlsplayed, removable
media, and finally
information that is
communicated elec-
tronically or stored
in computers. In the
coming years, do not
overlook the many
such ways in which
information can be

Donn B. Parker is senior
consultant for SRI inter-
national, Menlo Park, Calif. 
He can be reached at Internet ad-
dress dparker@sri.com.

Also by the author:
Which crypto to use?

Most encryption products using 
the Data Encryption Standard (DES) 
will be acceptable for
at least thc next five years. 
After that time, DES will be 
discontinued as a U.S. federal
standard and will no longer have 
the same strong due-care status 
it enjoys today. This is
because increasing computing speeds 
will make the algorithm too weak for 
some applications.
Many claim that DES and Rivest-
Shamir-Adleman (RSA) algorithms will 
remain acceptable indefinitely. 
New encryption products and technologies, 
however, probably will encour-
age a migration to new algorithms 
beyond the next five years.
For example, in spite of recent protests, 
Clipper/Skipjack, Digital Signature Algorithm
and their hardware implementations will 
see greater acceptance, but only in the U.S. govern-
ment and among government Contractors. 
Other methods, such as DES triple encryption,
will provide alternatives in commercial settings.
However, international acceptance of 
Clipper/Skipjack may take longer, due to various
countries' import export restrictions and 
U.S. control of the technology's algorithm and es-
crowed keys. The underlying purpose of this 
control is not just to facilitate court-approved
wire taps, but also to discourage criminals 
and foreign entities from using Clipper/Skipjack
technology. This control mechanism would force 
them to use other, less powerful, algorithms
and key management.

Over time, the effectiveness, change frequency 
and management of encryption keys
probably will prove more important than the 
specific algorithms chosen. New encryption
products that automate these activities and 
make them transparent to users may help
strengthen encryption management, even though
fhey may introduce more opportunities for
technical compromise.

Infosecurity managers would be wise to delay 
the use of any of these new encryption
technologies. This would allow time for products 
to fully develop and early adopters to report
their experiences.

Donn B. Parker.