TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Nov 97 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Viewpoint

by Eric Gundrum

Why All This Crypto Stuff?

You can't have digital commerce unless you can be certain that your digital data is unadulterated. That's where cryptography comes in. Most people think of cryptography simply as a means to hide data, but actually it is much more useful than that. Through cryptography, we can assure (within reasonable expectations) that a block of data has not been changed by any intermediate party.

Imagine that you are a software publisher, and you want to use the Internet to distribute an update to your software. You could post the update to a few key software distribution sites and let it propagate. Within a day or two everyone would have access to it, but how can you be certain that it was your version of the update that was distributed? What's to stop some malicious person from releasing his own version of your updater and embedding his newly created virus? (Many readers may recall a similar situation with the recent release of a bogus StuffIt Deluxe 4.5 package as a trojan horse.) This problem can easily be prevented through the proper use of cryptography; in this case, digital signatures.

Another use of cryptography is access certificates. Imagine selling your software over the 'Net: your potential customer begins by examining a trial version of your software. The customer decides to purchase the software and sends you payment through some digital means. (Payment could be digital cash, digital checks, credit card information through an SSL connection, or some other means.) Once you have settled the payment with a bank (to be sure it is not fraudulent), you send an authentication code to the customer so they can turn the trial version of the software into the fully paid version. What is that authentication code? Many software companies struggle for countless hours trying to develop a serial number that can't be easily guessed or changed, and contains enough information to be traceable back to the customer in case they give it out for their friends to use. Another limitation of this mechanism is that you, the publisher, must maintain a database to map all the serial numbers to customers. This becomes even more complicated when you have single customers purchasing more than one copy of the product, or add site licenses, multiple versions, or other products.

Access certificates eliminate most of the limitations of serial numbers. An access certificate is a document which contains all the information the software publisher uses to control access to the software. This can include the purchaser's name and contact information and various license restrictions such as how many copies can be used simultaneously or when this use of the software expires. Cryptography is used to digitally sign the access certificate; the software being accessed can check this signature to verify the document has not been altered. The software can read the certificate to determine what restrictions to impose on the use of the software. If the information in the certificate is stored as clear text, then the customer also can see what restrictions are on the license. This certificate serves much the same purpose as a serial number; however, users are much less likely to distribute a certificate to friends when they see that their name and address is included in that certificate.

There are many uses of cryptography besides hiding data. The certificates mentioned above can be extended to limit access to services as well as software. No need for users and groups databases. No need to remember all those different passwords we each have on all the different systems we access. This could make our digital lives so much easier.

What's Holding Us Back?

We have most of the technology we need to make broad use of cryptography, but the technology is not deployed. The United States Government is actively trying to restrict access to the technology. They prevent software which uses the technology from being exported from the U.S. They also are coercing other governments to impose restrictions on the use of cryptography in those societies. The resulting fear, uncertainty, and doubt make U.S.-based businesses reluctant to develop products that use cryptographic technology, even when those products use only digital signatures, and therefore could easily get an export license.

Some companies, such as Microsoft, PGP and Sun, are actively working to have these export restrictions removed. Unfortunately Apple, as a member of the Key Recovery Alliance, is supporting the anti-cryptography stance of the U.S. Government. PGP http://www.pgp.com/ is the original strong cryptographic technology for the masses, available throughout the world on many platforms. They have done more to relieve the U.S. export restrictions than any other company. Recently, they released a number of new Macintosh products making cryptography easy for anyone to use. They are working on a developer's kit so we developers can add cryptographic services to our applications. Microsoft is building developer-accessible cryptography into a variety of products, including a future version of Windows. Sun has developed a cryptography module (JCE, http://www.javasoft.com/security/) for Java 1.1, but it is not available for the Mac.

Apple's position is quite sad, especially considering that Apple holds patents to some of the strongest cryptographic technology invented and some of the least restrictive licenses to other cryptographic technology. Hopefully, Apple will soon recognize the market opportunities they could develop by making these technologies available to developers as part of the OS. Fortunately there are some Macintosh-friendly software publishers picking up some of the slack, including PGP. Consensus Development http://www.consensus.com/ is another company that has had cryptographic technology available for years. Currently, they have a multi-platform SSL3 library, as well as other technologies in development. If you are interested in learning more about cryptography on the Mac, be sure to check out Vinnie Moscaritolo's crypto pages at http://www.vmeng.com/mc/.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Dreii guide - How to play well with othe...
Dreii is a rather stylish and wonderful puzzle game that’s reminiscent of cooperative games like Journey. If that sounds immensely appealing, then you should immediately get cracking and give it a whirl. We can offer you some tips and tricks on... | Read more »
Kill the Plumber World guide - How to ou...
You already know how to hop around like Mario, but do you know how to defeat him? Those are your marching orders in Kill the Plumber, and it's not always as easy as it looks. Here are some tips to get you started. This is not a seasoned platform... | Read more »
Planar Conquest (Games)
Planar Conquest 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $12.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: IMPORTANT: Planar Conquest is compatible only with iPad 3 & newer devices, iPhone 5 & newer. It’s NOT compatible with... | Read more »
We talk to Cheetah Mobile about its plan...
Piano Tiles 2 is a fast-paced rhythm action high score chaser out now on iOS and Android. You have to tap a series of black tiles that appear on the screen in time to the music, being careful not to accidentally hit anywhere else. Do that and it's... | Read more »
Ultimate Briefcase guide - How to dodge...
Ultimate Briefcase is a simple but tricky game that’s highly dependent on how fast you can react. We can still offer you a few tips and tricks on how to survive though. Guess what? That’s exactly what we’re going to do now. Take it easy [Read more... | Read more »
SoundPrism Link Edition (Music)
SoundPrism Link Edition 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ***Introductory price for a the first few days after launch - if you're reading this, get it while it's fresh out of... | Read more »
Pre-register now for hack and slasher An...
Fincon, which won Facebook's Studio to Watch award in 2015, has announced that pre-registration is now open for the massive 3.0 update for its award-winning hack and slasher Angel Stone. Angel Stone is a post-apocalyptic action RPG in which the... | Read more »
Google has named Piano Tiles 2 as its Be...
Google has named Piano Tiles 2, which launched back in August last year, as its Best Game of 2015. If you're yet to play it, now's a good time to do so. It's a sequel to the hugely successful viral hit Piano Tiles (Don't Tap the White Tile) but... | Read more »
Sago Mini Trucks and Diggers (Education...
Sago Mini Trucks and Diggers 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Drive a dump truck with Rosie the hamster! Pile dirt high and dig deep in the ground with diggers, cranes and... | Read more »
Day One 2 Journal + Notes (Lifestyle)
Day One 2 Journal + Notes 2.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Lifestyle Price: $4.99, Version: 2.0 (iTunes) Description: **New Release Sale—50% off for a Limited Time!** Capture life as you live it. From once-in-a-lifetime events to... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Watch Super Bowl 50 Live On Your iPad For Fre...
Watch Super Bowl 50 LIVE on the CBS Sports app for iPad and Apple TV. Get the app and then tune in Sunday, February 7, 2016 at 6:30 PM ET to catch every moment of the big game. The CBS Sports app is... Read more
Two-thirds Of All Smart Watches Shipped In 20...
Apple dominated the smart watch market in 2015, accounting for over 12 million units and two-thirds of all shipments according to Canalys market research analysts’ estimates. Samsung returned to... Read more
12-inch 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for up...
B&H Photo has 12″ 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $180 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 12″ 1.2GHz Gray Retina MacBook: $1499 $100 off MSRP - 12″ 1.2GHz Silver... Read more
12-inch 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook on sale fo...
B&H Photo has the 12″ 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook on sale for $1199 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model... Read more
Apple now offering full line of Certified Ref...
Apple now has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are... Read more
Free GUI Speedometer – The Ultimate Digital D...
Miami, Florida based RMKapps has announced the official release of GUI Speedometer 1.0, their digital dashboard display developed for iOS devices. GUI Speedometer allows users to track their precise... Read more
FutureCalc: Ergonomic iOS Calculator App For...
London, United Kingdom based Independent software developer and entrepreneur, Hovik Melikyan has announced the release and immediate availability of FutureCalc 1.0, his new ergonomic calculator app... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac Pros available for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The following... Read more
Apple’s ‘Next Big Thing’ Drought And Mature M...
Apple’s first fiscal quarter 2016 financial results yielded both good news and bad news. In the positive column, Apple made another boatload of money, reporting record quarterly revenue of $75.9... Read more
Lifeproof NUUD For iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus...
LifeProof NUUD was designed to defy more than the elements. It defies logic itself by combining legendary four-proof protection and screenless technology to survive mountaintop missions and seaside... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Macintosh OSX - Net2Source Inc. (Uni...
…: * Work Authorization : * Contact Number(Best time to reach you) : Skills : Apple Macintosh OSX Location : New York, New York. Duartion : 6+ Months The associate would Read more
Computer Operations Technician ll - *Apple*...
# Web Announcement** Apple Technical Liaison**The George Mason University, Information Technology Services (ITS), Technology Support Services, Desktop Support Read more
Restaurant Manager - Apple Gilroy Inc./Apple...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Service Repa...
Simply Mac is the largest premier retailer of Apple products in the nation. In order to support our growing customer base, we are currently looking for a driven Read more
*Apple* IOS / OS X Level 3 Support Analyst -...
Needed: Apple Support Analyst (OS X / IOS); 50k-60k/yr +…Horizon Technology Partners has an immediate opening for an Apple IOS / OS X LEVEL 3 Support Analyst. Your Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.