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/.

 
AAPL
$111.78
Apple Inc.
-0.87
MSFT
$47.66
Microsoft Corpora
+0.14
GOOG
$516.35
Google Inc.
+5.25

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Monolingual 1.6.2 - Remove unwanted OS X...
Monolingual is a program for removing unnecesary language resources from OS X, in order to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. It requires a 64-bit capable Intel-based Mac and at least... Read more
NetShade 6.1 - Browse privately using an...
NetShade is an Internet security tool that conceals your IP address on the web. NetShade routes your Web connection through either a public anonymous proxy server, or one of NetShade's own dedicated... Read more
calibre 2.13 - Complete e-library manage...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Mellel 3.3.7 - Powerful word processor w...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
ScreenFlow 5.0.1 - Create screen recordi...
Save 10% with the exclusive MacUpdate coupon code: AFMacUpdate10 Buy now! ScreenFlow is powerful, easy-to-use screencasting software for the Mac. With ScreenFlow you can record the contents of your... Read more
Simon 4.0 - Monitor changes and crashes...
Simon monitors websites and alerts you of crashes and changes. Select pages to monitor, choose your alert options, and customize your settings. Simon does the rest. Keep a watchful eye on your... Read more
BBEdit 11.0.2 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
ExpanDrive 4.2.1 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
Adobe After Effects CC 2014 13.2 - Creat...
After Effects CC 2014 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous After Effects customer). After Effects CS6 is still available... Read more
Evernote 6.0.5 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Make your own Tribez Figures (and More)...
Make your own Tribez Figures (and More) with Toyze Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
So Many Holiday iOS Sales Oh My Goodness...
The holiday season is in full-swing, which means a whole lot of iOS apps and games are going on sale. A bunch already have, in fact. Naturally this means we’re putting together a hand-picked list of the best discounts and sales we can find in order... | Read more »
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode f...
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode for Angry Birds Epic Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minec...
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minecraft: Story Mode – A Telltale Games Series Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their...
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their New Game: Tempo Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] WarChest Ltd and Splash Damage Ltd are teaming up again to work | Read more »
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary...
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary with a Bunch of Free Games Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] BulkyPix has | Read more »
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking F...
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking Fever’s new sushi-themed update Posted by Simon Reed on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Lithuanian developer Nordcurrent has yet again updated its restaurant simulat | Read more »
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to C...
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to Celebrate 20 Million Downloads Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Desti...
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Destiny, and Beyond – AppSpy Takes a Look at AAA Companion Apps Posted by Rob Rich on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] These day | Read more »
A Bunch of Halfbrick Games Are Going Fre...
A Bunch of Halfbrick Games Are Going Free for the Holidays Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

The Apple Store offering free next-day shippi...
The Apple Store is now offering free next-day shipping on all in stock items if ordered before 12/23/14 at 10:00am PT. Local store pickup is also available within an hour of ordering for any in stock... Read more
It’s 1992 Again At Sony Pictures, Except For...
Techcrunch’s John Biggs interviewed a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) employee, who quite understandably wished to remain anonymous, regarding post-hack conditions in SPE’s L.A office, explaining “... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: MacBook Pros for...
 B&H Photo has new MacBook Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP as part of their Holiday pricing. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1699... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: MacBook Airs for...
B&H Photo has 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP, for a limited time, for the Thanksgiving/Christmas Holiday shopping season. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: iMacs for up to $...
B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $200 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software: - 21″ 1.4GHz... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: Mac minis availab...
B&H Photo has new 2014 Mac minis on sale for up to $80 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $459 $40 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $629 $70 off MSRP... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: Mac Pros for up t...
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for up to $500 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2599, $400 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3499, $... Read more
Save up to $400 on MacBooks with Apple Certif...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs available for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Save up to $300 on Macs, $30 on iPads with Ap...
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
iOS and Android OS Targeted by Man-in-the-Mid...
Cloud services security provider Akamai Technologies, Inc. has released, through the company’s Prolexic Security Engineering & Research Team (PLXsert), a new cybersecurity threat advisory. The... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Store Leader Program (US) - Apple, I...
…Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll master our retail business inside and out through training, hands-on experience, Read more
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...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.