1995-01-13 - Re: How do I know if its encrypted?

Header Data

From: eric@remailer.net (Eric Hughes)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 28bfd56c926eb284d28dff3c1c6845934085e701f5efed0be3def4d275674f5f
Message ID: <199501131912.LAA02985@largo.remailer.net>
Reply To: <N3V5lG9s1WC8075yn@wwa.com>
UTC Datetime: 1995-01-13 19:14:22 UTC
Raw Date: Fri, 13 Jan 95 11:14:22 PST

Raw message

From: eric@remailer.net (Eric Hughes)
Date: Fri, 13 Jan 95 11:14:22 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: How do I know if its encrypted?
In-Reply-To: <N3V5lG9s1WC8075yn@wwa.com>
Message-ID: <199501131912.LAA02985@largo.remailer.net>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

   From: lce@wwa.com (Larry E)

   The goal is to convince the two groups of concerned parties[, in
   short, users & lawyers,] that the remailer operators don't know the
   contents of what's passing through their remailers:

This is exactly right.  With a sealed box which you can't look in at
all, this is easy.  Providing an assurance on a general purpose
computer is more difficult.  And yes, it _is_ always possible to
simulate a filter that's not a filter, blah, blah, blah.  We are in
the realm of social interactions here, not in the realm of technology.

   The remailers are operated by people who want to promote information
   flow, not restrict it.  They provide an important service that is of
   critical importance to some people and groups who use the net.  They
   shouldn't be held accountable for the few who abuse the remailers,
   and encryption helps prevent that from happening.

I agree with this argument.  It is the germ of discourse about the
public policy of remailers and anonymity generally.  I want to point
out the rhetorical content of this statement, though, more than my
agreement with it.

The cypherpunks list is filled with paranoid nay-sayers who can't
distinguish their own paranoia from a legitimate technological
failing.  I feel a dire need for a positive rhetoric of cryptography.
I want to be 'for' something and to know what it's good for rather
than to be against everything that doesn't meet my personal desires.

How many times have I seen particular solution whose response is "But
I want more, and this won't work for that"!  The most self-deceptive
say "It can't be done", the slightly more honest say "You can't do
it", and none say "I will not do it".  So now all you people who think
that remailers don't work, don't run one.  Good, I see most of you are
already complying with this directive.

Even the simplest remailer has utility.  If there were no utility,
then nobody would use them (duh).  It is not only foolishness and
idiocy but also mendaciousness to say that "remailers just don't
work".  It is constructive to say, however, that "the current
remailers don't work against the following opponent", but this is not
usually the case.  Rather, the speaker's paranoia silently projects
their own requirements onto a technical discussion, leaving only

Look at the recent conversation over postage for remailers.
Paraphrasing: "Credit cards won't work because they're not anonymous".
My response: "Bullshit".  Using a credit card as a means of payment
does put constraints on usage, but it doesn't prevent usage (duh
redux).  What credit card payment does do is to require more effort in
order to link email transactions.  This is an unalloyed good, but pure
silver instead of gold.  There are better ways, one of them First
Virtual, which at the least has counterparty anonymity; another, blind
sigs (as yet unusable for payments).

The implicit assumption here is that "If I can't use it to smash the
state, it's worthless".  Well, thank you very much for constraining my
ability for privacy with your political agenda.  And I have a hint for
all the state-smashing wannabe-businesspeople out there: the ones who
have a business (less secure) now will eat your lunch for the business
(more secure) later.

To be dry and academic about this, I'd say that the problem was an
insufficiency in threat modelling.  But that just doesn't quite mean
the same thing, n'est ce pas?