Over the last few months, you undoubtedly have heard a lot of crazy sounding stuff in the news, from National Security Agency (NSA) leaks from Snowden, cryptography, hackers, threats, vulnerabilities, and more.
I want to start by saying it doesn’t matter what political side of the fence you are on, the purpose of my column this week is just to put things into perspective, make you aware how it can potentially affect and impact you.
Not that terribly long ago, the best cryptography had to offer was the infamous ENIGMA Machine, an electro-mechanical rotor cipher machine invented by the German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I, and used extensively by Nazi Germany during World War II.
The Germans were convinced that Enigma output could not be broken, using it for most military communication on land, sea, and sky.
Big mistake, as they were about to learn.
Enigma enciphered texts were first broken by the Polish Cipher Bureau, in December 1932 by three Polish cryptologists, Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski, and Marian Rejewski, who literally “reverse-engineered” Enigma, using theoretical mathematics.
So what does this have to do with what is happening now? Well, the important take away, is not to trust passwords, encryption, or anything that is supposed to be “safe”.
Passwords don’t really mean anything anymore. As I mentioned in the column wrote back in April, (Password? No Barrier For A Hacker. ) hackers / crackers can get through just about any password you have.
It got this way due to the fact most people have horrible passwords, use the same password everywhere, and now even more complex passwords really aren’t a barrier to the massive computing power of the systems they use, and the botnets they have access to.
What the lone hacker / hacker group doesn’t get into, imagine the resources a government has access to, for example the major threat that China poses with their armies of hackers.
Then, of course, Governments want to know what is going on, keeping tabs on enemies and domestic issues, using massively powerful systems and software, such as CARNIVORE for example. A major tech site, Ars Technica, has a full in depth article ( NSA attains the Holy Grail of spying, decodes vast swaths of Internet traffic), while Pro Publica outlines in their column (Revealed: The NSA’s Secret Campaign to Crack, Undermine Internet Security ). Yes, there are many ways the government can legally obtain your data.
Where is all this going? Again, this article isn’t judging the reasons why, just discussing that like it or not, the facts of life today are that you should assume that your accounts, information, and communications can be compromised, accessed, or eavesdropped upon.