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Monday, 29 December 2014 23:37

Revealed: supposedly uncrackable encryption tools still not safe Featured


An online article supposedly reveals the encryption tools that spies can’t hack, but the list doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

An article over at Fairfax Media entitled ‘Revealed: the encryption tools spies can and can’t hack’ starts off with a lot of stuff about Edward Snowden, his revelations, COMINT, Five eyes and more.

It references Australia’s Federal Attorney-General naming Edward Snowden as ‘an American traitor’.

It goes on to note that Skype has been able to be spied upon since 2011, and talks of other once supposedly secure networks that have been hacked and cracked.

Then we’re told the list of ‘which tools the spies can’t crack’.

The list includes ‘the Tor network’, which is apparently considered to be a ‘major’ problem, as is ‘Truecrypt’, and then we’re told about ‘a combination of Tor, the instant messaging system CSpace, and a system for internet telephony called ZRTP is categorised as "catastrophic" for the NSA and its partners, resulting in a "near-total loss/lack of insight to target communications”.’

It would seem some basic Google searching would show this list to be not so amazing or uncrackable.

Tor is routinely hacked by the FBI, NSA and others - there are plenty of stories online stretching back years of TOR end points being monitored, of the FBI hacking Tor, of the recent PSN and Xbox hackers the Lizard Squad now attacking Tor and more.

There’s also the take downs of illegal black markets like the ‘Silk Road’ which operated on the ‘dark web’ through the supposed anonymity of Tor, but which have been smashed - despite ever more black market stores opening up like hydras - cut off one head and two more appear, as the saying goes.

Going to the Truecrypt Sourceforge page has a warning in red at the top of the page stating: ‘WARNING: Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues’.

ZRTP may be secure, but the Zfoneproject page states: ‘A user of ZRTP should note that ZRTP is not a panacea against unauthorized recording. ZRTP does not and cannot protect against an untrustworthy partner who holds a microphone up to the speaker. It does not protect against someone else being in the room. It does not protect against analog wiretaps in the phone or in the room. It does not mean your partner has not been hacked with spyware. It does not mean that the software has no flaws. It means that the ZRTP subsystem is not knowingly leaking ZRTP cryptographic key material.’

So, is there anything that is truly unhackable in this modern day and age?

It would seem not. Just ask Sony, Microsoft, Apple, Iran and goodness knows how many other companies and countries out there.

It’s no wonder there are reports that some governments have reverted back to using manual typewriters to keep their most secret documents completely offline!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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