How to Trace an Email Message

There is no way to verify an email's contents except through cryptography. Until every email client includes encryption and reliable authentication, we should always doubt an email's source. We can increase our confidence in an email a little, though, by tracing its path through the mail system. I use this technique more-or-less daily to look... Continue Reading →

HR and Phishing

I receive thousands of emails every month. I do a lot of (for me) critical activities online. I never receive legitimate emails demanding a suspicious online action any more. Except from HR departments. IT security people know this is a problem. The upper left image comes from the University of Minnesota's phishing awareness blog. HR people... Continue Reading →

The Six Types of Cyber-Risks

My textbook lists categories of cyber-attacks that focus on an attack's lasting impact: how does it affect the target's assets and resources? Since the categories really reflect the attack's impact on the target, they really represent risks. Here are the categories I use right now: Denial of service - Pillage - Subversion Masquerade - Forgery - Disclosure This is a... Continue Reading →

Quantum Skepticism

Quantum computing gives us a way in theory to quickly crack certain types of cryptography. Well-funded startups are working on prototype quantum circuits, as are big guns like Intel, Microsoft, and IBM. Success could render a lot of today's encryption obsolete. In theory. Academic and industrial research labs have built basic quantum circuits. If Moore's... Continue Reading →

Two Longs and a Short

By Dick Pence This story appeared in The Washington Post in 1991, shortly after a computer glitch caused a "long-distance blackout" on the East Coast. Those big phone outages of the past couple of weeks have had me feeling a bit guilty over what's been happening. You see, I remember exactly how all this started.... Continue Reading →

The Big Bug in the News: the WPA2 flaw

The big news this week is a protocol flaw in the Wireless Protected Access protocol, version 2 (WPA2). The Ars Technica article covers the details pretty well. This is what every Wi-Fi wireless router on the planet uses these days. The problem does not directly damage your system, but it can uncover data you had intended... Continue Reading →

Comparing Leaks: Trump vs. Hillary

As I said in an earlier post, no crime is committed if the appropriate official leaks sensitive classified information. This applies to both Secretary Clinton's email server and President Trump's unfortunate meeting with Russian diplomats. Both carried the authority to disclose what they disclosed. One question remains: what damage might have ensued from each leak? I would argue... Continue Reading →

Tiptoeing Through Vulnerabilities

I sympathize with developers who throw up their hands and say, "I don't do security stuff." No matter what you choose, there's a trade off that could go wrong. It's especially troublesome if one deploys a "security website." I've deployed security education websites in many environments over the past 20 years, and I rarely achieve... Continue Reading →

Cryptosmith Video Series #1 through #15

I have posted the fifteenth video in the Cryptosmith Series on practical basic cryptography. The video collection falls into three parts: the network crypto introduction, the DVD example, and the public-key certificate discussion. There are also updates to other series videos. They now use the acronym "SSL" a lot more, since people recognize it more often than "TLS."... Continue Reading →

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