Crypto as in Crypto

Is crypto short for cryptography or cryptocurrencies? Grab your pitchforks! I’ve ranted against crypto-means-bitcoin since I first heard it. But the last few days have me wondering if we, the greying and already-grey cryptographers, should just accept it. At the very least, when prominent VC Fred Wilson keeps calling it crypto, we have to realize we are losing the battle very rapidly. Cryptography is a lot more than Blockchain 100 years ago, cryptography was mostly secret codes. It’s become a lot more than that over the last 40-50 years. It’s public-key encryption, signatures, identity-based crypto, deniable encryption, homomorphic encryption, zero-knowledge proofs, … Continue reading Crypto as in Crypto

Power & Accountability

So there’s this hot new app called Secret. The app is really clever: it prompts you to share secrets, and it sends those secrets to your social circle. It doesn’t identify you directly to your friends. Instead, it tells readers that this secret was written by one of their friends without identifying which one. The popularity of the app appears to be off the charts, with significant venture-capital investment in a short period of time. There are amazing stories of people seeking out emotional support on Secret, and awful stories of bullying that have caused significant uproar. Secret has recently … Continue reading Power & Accountability

there are 3 kinds of crypto

When we use terminology that is too broad, too coarse-grained, we make discussion more difficult. That sounds obvious, but it’s easy to miss in practice. We’ve made this mistake in spades with crypto. Discussing the field as one broad topic is counter-productive and leads to needless bickering. I see 3 major kinds of crypto: b2c crypto, b2b crypto, and p2p crypto. I suggest that we use this terminology consistently to help guide the discussion. We’ll spend less time talking about differences in our assumptions, and more time building better solutions. b2c crypto Business-to-Customer Crypto (b2c) is used to secure the … Continue reading there are 3 kinds of crypto

it’s the randomness, stupid

The New York Times is reporting that a flaw has been found in RSA. The original paper is here, and it looks like a second team was about to release similar information, so they’ve posted an explanatory blog post, which I recommend. A number of people are understandably concerned. Since I couldn’t find a simple explanation of what happened, I figured I would write one up. public-key encryption Public-key encryption is fascinating. You generate a keypair composed of a public and a private key. You post the public key on your web site, and anyone can use it to encrypt … Continue reading it’s the randomness, stupid

encryption is (mostly) not magic

A few months ago, Sony’s Playstation Network got hacked. Millions of accounts were breached, leaking physical addresses and passwords. Sony admitted that their data was “not encrypted.” Around the same time, researchers discovered that Dropbox stores user files “unencrypted.” Dozens (hundreds?) closed their accounts in protest. They’re my confidential files, they cried, why couldn’t you at least encrypt them? Many, including some quite tech-savvy folks, were quick to indicate that it would have been so easy to encrypt the data. Not encrypting the data proved Sony and Dropbox’s incompetence, they said. In my opinion, it’s not quite that simple. Encryption … Continue reading encryption is (mostly) not magic

Wombat Voting: Open Audit Elections in Israel

My friend Alon Rosen is leading an effort with colleagues Amon Ta-Shma, Ben Riva, and Yoni Ben-Nun in Israel to implement and deploy in-person open-audit voting. The project is called Wombat Voting. It combines a number of existing cryptographic techniques in a very nice package. Oh, and they’ve implemented it and used it to run a 2000+ voter election, with apparently a few more elections in the pipeline. There’s a ton of press about them. Here’s how it works: Voters use an intuitive, touch-screen interface, receive a paper ballot they can physically cast in a transparent ballot box, and they … Continue reading Wombat Voting: Open Audit Elections in Israel