The Northern Spy: Hey You Kids -- Get Off My Encryption
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

The Northern Spy: Hey You Kids -- Get Off My Encryption

By Rick Sutcliffe

"Hi Nellie." I didn't need to turn around. The sound of her cowboy boots and a certain air of eau de geek that pervades her space tipped me to her presence.

"What'ya workin' on?"

"This column."

"Still into self referentialism as always, so no doubt you'll quote us quoting us."

Lest we get tied up in logical knots, I ignored this sally. "So what's got your shirt in a knot today, Nellie." She rarely visited unless she wanted to sound off about something.

"Remember what I said the first time I came into your office?"

"That was back in the early 80s. Sure I remember. You put your boots up on my desk and proclaimed you could break into any computer in the world? Of course I remember it. I believed you. Still do. So?"

"So what do you think about all this fuss over the NSA reading people's mail and files down in the Excited States "

"And around the world to boot? Seems a lot of tempest over a spy agency going about the everyday business of spying. Why?"

"'Cause I don't get why people seem so surprised they read people's encrypted stuff. Like we said back in the day in this very space--anything that can be encrypted can be rendered."

I chuckled. "Actually I think the original issue was the futility of copy protection."

"The Spy's sixth law, though it was probably the first. We used to amuse ourselves by removing the locks from copy protected disks and sending clean copies back to the manufacturer to demonstrate the futility of wasting their time on such juvenile projects."

"Some of their schemes were quite sneaky."

"Counting nulls between the end of two specified tracks, separately encrypting the loading algorithm, adding a decrypter to the loader--all trivial to defeat. Same goes for the modern schemes."

"Mind you don't say or do so in those same Excited States, Nellie. People have been sent to jail for less under the new copyright laws."

"Still teach encryption in the Discrete Math course?"

"Of course. And yes, I know full well that math course could be viewed as illegal or subversive in some countries."

"The same countries no doubt that'll let you enter if you have only 256-bit encryption on your hard drive, but not if it's more robust. Won't find that in the bigger places, 'cause it ain't an issue there." Good thing the one can be made to appear like the other for the purpose of fooling custom agents, so that's no matter."

"And you elucidate your upsetedness these days precisely how?"

"That since I cannot believe people could have been so naive as to suppose the NSA and its equivalent in twenty other countries wasn't ready, willing, and able to read encrypted files all along, I also cannot figure out what the fuss now is all about."

"In a word, politics."

She cocked her head on one side and ruminated a space on that, helping herself to one of my sandwiches to aid the process. "Your wife makes a mean peanut butter and jelly", she offered after a while. "And speaking of mean, I suppose you're suggesting it became convenient to make the fuss, not that anyone was really surprised."

"About sums it up, kiddo. Seems to me the press and a few of the governments that do exactly the same thing thought it was expedient to embarrass the Americans..."

"...with a chorus of 'Holy Privacy' when they know full well there ain't no such thing, hasn't been for years, and won't ever be again."

"I mightn't put it that way exactly, but you have the gist."

"'Course, you did just put it that way. I bin looking over your shoulder as you type this stuff."

"Well, you helped."

"But Nellie Hacker is just a character in these dialogues and your novels--a figment of your imagination."

"Rather, say, a composite of the real people on whom the character is based. There've been many 'Nellies' over the years."

"Of whom you think as daughters, despite that some like me are getting on in years ourselves, and are pretty sassy. I suppose you have our true names encrypted--as if you think that's a problem for me."

"Not written down anywhere, kiddo, so you're safe. But don't forget what I taught you about problems."

"That they by definition have solutions, otherwise they'd be called something else. But there's no problem at all solving the problem of reading encrypted material in plain text. It just takes sufficient time and resources. So why do people care?"

"Back to that? Actually, Nellie, it's probably a good thing that a security contractor occasionally goes public and blows the whistle on government."

"So little sister gains a bit of a leg up on big brother. Yes, I've read your stuff."

"The idea being that in the long run, if everybody can find our anything they want to know about everybody else it won't just be hard to hide criminal activity from the government, it will be impossible for the government to do anything without the whole world knowing all the details."

"But is a world with no privacy a better place?"

"I consider it ethical to extend privacy to others, but see little point in imagining one have it for oneself. Indeed, doesn't the Bible suggest we ought always to be open and transparent?"

"Oh, I know you practice what you preach. I doubt you could have a hidden agenda or meaning if you tried. But don't politicians constantly promise transparency in theory only to be opaque in action?"

"A little cynicism surfacing here, Nellie?"

"Surely you realize politics and courtroom lawyering is all about debating technique -- shift the ground under your opponents, misdirect, use ad hominem arguments, deploy eloquence to obscure that your statements have no content--it's all a shell game to make people believe you've won the debate. It's not about truth or justice."

"Which may have some truth to it, but as long as you know it and account for it, what difference does it make?"

She looked exasperated. "But how does an honest girl programmer make a living if she can't protect her work from being ripped off?"

"So that's the nub of the matter. Well, we both agree you can't protect anything from someone with the resources of a government and determined to crack your code."

"Agreed. Patently obvious that the Yanks and the Ruskies have been reading each other's secret mail all along. The Brits perfected the process at Bletchley Park during that dustup back in the forties."

"And ditto any hacker with your skills. So include some modest safeguards an ordinary Josephine can't work around, keep the price low enough so few will bother cracking your stuff, and go for volume."

"I do some of that. My code calls home once in a while to let me know if it's both licensed and undamaged. But as for volume, Mother Apple is the prototype for that, I suppose"

"I think you've got something there, Nellie. Momma's Apples seem a more delicious prototype than Big Brother's watches."

"Why you call this column what you do. Guess I'll have to cope. By the way, how's your language project coming?"

"The one Benjamin Kowarsch and I are working on? The design is finished, except for some minor cleanup, and we're most of the way through a descriptive book for a big scientific publisher."

"Lots of nice royalties coming your way?"

"Don't get too excited. We might be able to buy a pizza now and again."

"Oh, right. I forgot about the brokenness of the paper publishing industry. I suppose you could sell it online, but it wouldn't have the same cachet to your dean as an academic book."

"You are a cynic, aren't you, Nellie."

"Takes one to know one."

"Since you're here and in a talkative mood, what do you think about the new iPhones? "

"Don't much care. Incrementalism. Besides, I can't be bothered carrying a cell. Too much hassle and rip-off from the providers. A three year contract is an anchor in this day and age. I'd rather carry a Pod and use Wi-Fi when I need connectivity on the go. But I prefer heavy iron and a wired connection."

"Faster and ubiquitous wireless is coming."

"So's Christmas. Meantime I've got serious work to do, and the slow speeds kill my productivity."

"Speaking of which, I've got some other writing to finish."

"So 'get lost and leave me alone'? What are you, late-blooming autistic?"

"Responsibilities, Nellie. Responsibilities."

"Whereas a figment of your imagination can come and go at will. All right." She got up to leave as I continued typing.

"Come visit again sometime, kiddo."

"In your dreams, prof."

--The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member or consultant with the boards of several community and organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and nine novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Arjay Enterprises:

The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com
opundo : http://opundo.com
Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org
WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net
WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net
nameman : http://nameman.net
General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Books:
Author Site: http://www.arjay.ca
Publisher's Site: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Richard-Sutcliffe.html
URLs for items mentioned in this column
Modula-2 R10--see the link at: http://www.modula-2.com/

 
AAPL
$102.24
Apple Inc.
+0.45
MSFT
$46.73
Microsoft Corpora
+0.05
GOOG
$591.40
Google Inc.
+2.13

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Attachment Tamer 3.1.14b9 - Take control...
Attachment Tamer gives you control over attachment handling in Apple Mail. It fixes the most annoying Apple Mail flaws, ensures compatibility with other email software, and allows you to set up how... Read more
Duplicate Annihilator 5.0 - Find and del...
Duplicate Annihilator takes on the time-consuming task of comparing the images in your iPhoto library using effective algorithms to make sure that no duplicate escapes. Duplicate Annihilator detects... Read more
jAlbum Pro 12.2 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code!... Read more
jAlbum 12.2 - Create custom photo galler...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
Quicken 2015 2.0.4 - Complete personal f...
Quicken 2015 helps you manage all your personal finances in one place, so you can see where you're spending and where you can save. Quicken automatically categorizes your financial transactions,... Read more
iMazing 1.0 - Complete iOS device manage...
iMazing (formerly DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and... Read more
Xcode 6.0.1 - Integrated development env...
Apple Xcode is Apple Computer's integrated development environment (IDE) for OS X. The full Xcode package is free to ADC members and includes all the tools you need to create, debug, and optimize... Read more
Apple Safari 7.1 - Apple's Web brow...
Apple Safari in OS X Mavericks brings you all-new ways to find and enjoy the best of the web. It works with iCloud to give you a seamless browsing experience across all your devices. It looks out for... Read more
Delivery Status 6.1.2 - Check delivery s...
Delivery Status displays delivery status of packages for a variety of shipment services. Can't wait for your packages to arrive? Don't waste your time checking the site constantly, just open this all... Read more
Mavericks Cache Cleaner 8.0.9 - Clear ca...
Mavericks Cache Cleaner is an award-winning general purpose tool for OS X. MCC makes system maintenance simple with an easy point-and-click interface to many OS X functions. Novice and expert users... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

MUJO Review
MUJO Review By Campbell Bird on September 19th, 2014 Our Rating: :: ASSEMBLE THE GODSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad This match-three game has collectible and role-playing elements that make it continually satisfying... | Read more »
Project Life (Photography)
Project Life 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Imagine scrapbooking without scissors or adhesive or tools … or without having to print photos! Never before has... | Read more »
Skater (Games)
Skater 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: All of Skateboarding In The Palm Of Your Hand Designed by skaters for skaters, we teamed up with 17 of the most prominent brands in... | Read more »
Huerons (Games)
Huerons 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: EXCLUSIVE LAUNCH PRICE! Huerons is 50% off until September 20th! Huerons are tiny colored circles. Merge them by clicking on an empty... | Read more »
Down Among the Dead Men (Games)
Down Among the Dead Men 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Avast! Take to the high seas in a fully interactive piratical tale of broadsides and buccaneers. From author Dave... | Read more »
Sling Adds Chromecast Support Through Sl...
Sling Adds Chromecast Support Through Slingplaye​r Mobile Apps Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 18th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
How to Completely Delete Your iPhone’s C...
The iPhone 6 is out tomorrow, and plenty of people are excited about it. So much so that they’re planning to – or already have – traded in their old iPhone to go towards it. The thing about trading in hardware is it’s very important to make sure... | Read more »
Dragon Quest I Review
Dragon Quest I Review By Andrew Fisher on September 18th, 2014 Our Rating: :: THINE QUEST AWAITETHUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Its historical significance aside, Dragon Quest 1 is a fun, campy, difficult, thoroughly... | Read more »
It Came From Canada: Overkill 3
Overkill 3 is like every trope of big modern gaming rolled into one. It’s a sequel to an action-packed military shooter. It’s flashy and scripted and flaunts its sophisticated graphics. And it’s a mobile game with a heavy emphasis on in-app... | Read more »
Down Among the Dead Men Review
Down Among the Dead Men Review By Jennifer Allen on September 18th, 2014 Our Rating: :: AHOY, ME HEARTIESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Down Among the Dead is a pirate themed gamebook that’s quite delightful, if short... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Previous-generation 15-inch 2.0GHz Retina Mac...
B&H Photo has leftover previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros now available for $1599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $400 off original MSRP. B&H... Read more
21″ 2.7GHz iMac available for $1179, save $12...
Adorama has 21″ 2.7GHz Hawell iMacs on sale for $1179.99 including free shipping. Their price is $120 off MSRP. NY and NJ sales tax only. Read more
iOS 8 Adoption Rate Slower than iOS 7, 6, Hit...
Apple began pushing out iOS 8 updates to eligible devices around 1pm ET on September 17, 2014. However, unlike with iOS 7, which boasted a wide variety of differences from its predecessor iOS 6, in... Read more
LIkely Final Definitive OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks...
Apple has released what will almost certainly be the last incremental version number update of OS X 10.9 Mavericks (save for futire security updates) before OS X 10.10 Yosemite is released next month... Read more
Fingerprints, Apple Pay and Identity Theft Wa...
On Sep 9th, CEO Tim Cook unveiled Apple Pay, along with the new iPhone 6 and iWatch. Apple Pay is a newly developed technology that utilizes a near field communication (NFC) to enable customer... Read more
Amazon Introduces Two All-New Kindles
Amazon on Thursday introduced the 7th generation of its Kindle dedicated e-reader device: Kindle Voyage, its top-of-the-line e-reader, and the new $79 Kindle, with a 20% faster processor, twice the... Read more
Save up to $300 on the price of a new Mac wit...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
13-inch 2.8GHz Retina MacBook Pro available f...
B&H Photo has the new 2014 13″ 2.8GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1699.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. They’ll also include free copies of Parallels Desktop and LoJack for... Read more
16GB iPad Air on sale for $449, save $50
Walmart has the 16GB iPad Air WiFi on sale for $449 on their online store for a limited time. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup. Their price represents a $50 savings over standard... Read more
13-inch 256GB MacBook Air on sale for $1099,...
B&H Photo has the 2014 13″ 1.4GHz 256GB MacBook Air on sale for $1099.99. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

Project Manager, *Apple* Financial Services...
**Job Summary** Apple Financial Services (AFS) offers consumers, businesses and educational institutions ways to finance Apple purchases. We work with national and Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.