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Moti Yung and Adam Young on Kleptography and Cryptovirology 6: The Summary

Having explained the concepts and applications of cryptovirology and kleptography, Moti Yung now provides a set of conclusions on the subject.

Summary of the key facts

Summary of the key facts

I will now move to the conclusion. I showed you several malware attacks, either general malware or Trojans, I mentioned just Trojans inside cryptosystems. In each attack the public key of the attacker was used by the malware to make the attack robust in some sense: keep the attacker anonymous, hide the malware, what it is actually doing, that is, stealing; give the attacker exclusive ability to decrypt data, and so on. So, it uses the cryptographic power of public-key cryptography, the technology that was invented in the late 1970s, in a very specific way.

Some of the attacks are active in nature, like extortion or leaking the factorization of the RSA number; and some are passive, like hiding channels or information stealing so that you don’t know which information was stolen. And probably there are other attacks of this nature that exploit this imbalance of power between the guy that creates a public key and knows the trapdoor, and the rest of the world.

The use and abuse of technology

The use and abuse of technology

Technology can be used and abused; technology is neutral, it’s what we make out of it. CryptoAPI was not generated by Microsoft for my collaborator Adam to write a virus, but you can do it. Public-key cryptography was generated for encryption in signature, not for these attacks, but you can use it for attacks. Ransomware has been used; I think also the deniability has been used in some way.

And for those of you who are in the area of detecting such attacks, the use of availability of technology should be well controlled and managed, not from the point of view of government control, but as an operational control on a system, access control: who does what. It’s not that if you run your system and you manage it you have to know which parts of the system are allowed to do what.

There’s something about threats: always look for new possibilities of attacks. It’s very easy to come after the attack and say: “Ah, there was an attack.” The idea is to predict attacks 10 years before they occur and respond to them before they occur; not just be reactive. 0-day attacks – be ready for them if you can, if somebody told you. In everything around us: system, Internet and so on – attackers are getting more sophisticated, we need to be proactive.

We can do great things with crypto, but it can also prevent us from foiling certain attacks.

I titled this talk: “Yes We Can’t!” Why “Yes We Can’t”? Because crypto has positive applications, and then cryptovirology showed negative applications; so we can do great things with crypto, but it can also prevent us from foiling certain attacks, so it has negative application. But then we can take cryptovirology and turn it into malware and crypto as a technology employed in a positive way. So, you can turn cryptovirology to produce distributed agents that are robust, survivable for example; or nobody knows what they do, so you do distributed computing, and even though somebody does the work for you, they don’t know what you do. And you can turn kleptography to key recovering methods that don’t use additional work and are just generating the key. So, the negative applications have positive applications, if you wish. It’s a strange world, you know.

Final conclusion

Final conclusion

Further conclusion: assurance of systems’ components is a tricky business: kleptographic cryptosystems show this. There are implications for testing: impossibility of black box testing and complexity of trust relationships in a system. And when suggesting new trusted hardware or new software you want to trust, be careful, as I already said before, but it won’t hurt if I say it again. And we need to be ahead of the attackers if possible.

Trust from the crypto perspective

Trust from the crypto perspective

Talks usually end with conclusions, but I will end with inconclusion. What is trust? Again, Ken Thompson already in 1984 showed us a problem with trust; the title of his paper is “Reflections on Trusting Trust”. Cryptovirology – some breaches of trust; recovery is at the mercy of the attacker. Yes, we can do it. Yes, we cannot do it on the inside of the system. Cryptography and trust relationship go beyond the boundaries of the system. You have to trust offline elements: the designers, the manufacturer, and so on. Yes, we cannot just trust black box component. Trust is a very tricky notion, and if somebody claims they understand it, they probably don’t. Thank you very much!

Read previous: Moti Yung and Adam Young on Kleptography and Cryptovirology 5: Skeptical Experts and Smart Attackers

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