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[FYI] A pocket guide to NSA sabotage


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2 September 2000  

September 1, 2000  

A pocket guide to NSA sabotage  

Doug Porter  

The NSA engages in sabotage, much of it against American companies 
and products. One campaign apparently occurred at about the time when 
PGP's most serious vulnerability was added.  

To understand the whole story requires some background.  

In Bruce Schneier's newsletter Crypto-Gram he told us last year about 
Lew Giles, said to be an NSA saboteur wrecking American privacy 
products in 1997. Schneier says that according to several sources 
Giles went from company to company, asking them to destroy the 
security of their own products, and arranging cover stories to 
protect them. According to Crypto-Gram sometimes Giles worked 
directly with engineers, with no managers around. The sabotage was 
always supposed to look like a mistake.  

At about the same time, PGP introduced "key recovery" with the hidden 
flaw recently covered worldwide, including Schneier's own clear 
description in Slashdot. Other serious vulnerabilities have been 
found in the PGP versions released then. For example, just last May 
PGP was found to generate weak keys on Linux and OpenBSD. The 
original report in BugTraq says the bug was introduced in version 
5.0, released in 1997.  

Undoubtedly most security bugs are just bugs. But it's also very 
possible that some are backdoors.  

CNN and Network World detailed how the NSA openly strong arms 
companies, "leaning on software, switch and router vendors" to make 
them "add a government-approved back door into network gear." 
Companies working with the NSA, however unwillingly, include 
Netscape, Sun,  and Microsoft. Chris Tolles of Sun says, "Everyone in 
Silicon Valley, including us, has to have specific staff -- highly 
paid experts -- to deal with them." If everyone's dealing with them, 
are any products secure?  


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