On 07/09/2013 01:48, Chris Palmer wrote: >> Q: "Could the NSA be intercepting downloads of open-source encryption >> software and silently replacing these with their own versions?" > > Why would they perform the attack only for encryption software? They > could compromise people's laptops by spiking any popular app.
Because NSA and GCHQ are much more interested in attacking communictions in transit rather than attacking endpoints. Endpoint attacks cost more to undertake, only give access to a limited amount of data and involve much greater risks that their attack will either be discovered or their means of attack will leave evidence of what they have done and how they have done it. The internal bueaucratic costs of gaining approval for (adverarial) endpoint attacks also makes it a more costly process than the use of network based interception. There is significant use of open source encryption software in end to end encryption solutions, in file archivers, in wifi and network routers, and in protecing the communications used to manage and control such components when at remote locations. The open source software is provided in source code form and is compiled from source in a huge number of applications and this means that the ability to covertly substitute broken source code could provide access to a huge amount of traffic without the risks involved in endpoint attacks. I stress that I am NOT suggesting that this has happened (or is happening), simply that it has attractions from an NSA/GCHQ viewpoint. Fortunately, I think it is a difficult attack to mount covertly (that is, without the acqiecience of the author(s) of the software in question). On the more general debate here, in my view, 'security for the masses' through the deployment of encryption is a 'pipe dream' that isn't going to happen. Functionality (and the complexity that comes with it) is the enemy of security and it is very clear that the public places a much higher value on functionality than it does on security (or privacy). Every time a new device comes onto the market, it starts with limited functionality and some hope of decent security but rapidly evolves to be a high functionality product in which the prospect of decent security declines rapidly to zero. Raspberry Pis look interesting _now_ but I would be willing to bet that they won't buck the trend of increasing funtionality and declining security simply because this is what the majority in even this limited user community will want. To buck this trend we need an effort like the Raspberry Pi effort but one driven by our community with a strong commitment to simplicty and deliberately limited functionality in both hardware and software. Brian Gladman _______________________________________________ The cryptography mailing list firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.metzdowd.com/mailman/listinfo/cryptography