Dave Totten's personal voyage to the land of IT Fluency, and other Digital Governance issues.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Fluencey Mileston #1: Encription & Privacy

Snyder's discussion of Privacy & Encryption was quite an eye-opener. I had heard terms like "128-bit encryption" before, but I didn't know what that really meant. Snyder does a good job of explaining the math behind encryption without getting stuck in formulae. As I read, I realized that I had heard that the factoring of large numbers was part of how data was encrypted, but I never had the slightest idea how that was useful.
As I understand it, however, the weakest part of the encryption scheme is still the same problem as every other code ever invented: somebody must have the key. Encryption seems designed to foil some data-bandits but he doesn't answer how hard it is to obtain the key. The system is not based on a "one-time pad," where the keys are destroyed after each use, but that couldn't happen here, could it? I just wonder if Amazon.com can get a key, why can't a bad guy?
Inspired by the discussion of math and encryption, I went and rented the movie Sneakers, where Robert Redford plays an ex-hacker who steals the ultimate de-cipher machine. It's been about five years since I've watched it and it really struck me how much of the plot has become real hot-button issues: cyberterrorism, identity theft, biometrics (and its limits), dumpster-diving, and whether government agencies should have the authority to snoop on encrypted Internet data for law enforcement purposes. The movie takes that one step farther, as the government agency desperate to obtain the de-cipher is the NSA, and they want it for illegal spying on other government agencies. Ah, if only that were the limits of the government's wishes.


Post a Comment

<< Home