> Employing homomorphic encryption techniques, PIR enables datasets to remain resident in their native locations while giving the ability to query the datasets with sensitive terms.
I can imagine a few scenarios there. One perhaps is when db admin should not find out what someone, possibly working on a classified project is querying.
Or say one compartment / project collected the data and now they want to share it with another project. Those read into the second project don't want to reveal to the first one what they are querying because it would reveal classified information.
Another scenario is a database which has results of possibly illegally intercepted communications. If the NSA can argue that the Constitutionally defined "search" doesn't occur until someone actually performs a search (as in runs an SQL query over the data). Then having PIR capability means being able to break the law but only let as few people as possible do it.
Also https://github.com/redhawksdr is pretty damn impressive. It looks like a complete parallel implementation of GNU Radio. Completed with an IDE and such. Wonder how it compares?
In the UK personal medical records are often stored by systems integrators in datacentres with nebulous locations, and need to be accessed by third parties for things like underwriting life insurance policies.
To protect the data (compliance with the EU data protection act) it's encrypted in transit AND at rest. Access to data by third parties is managed through AMRAs (access medical record authorisation), which are completed by the third party, authorised by the data owner (private individual) and given to the data owner's general/dental practitioner or pharmacist, who is able to access and decrypt and appropriately share the sensitive data.
A lot of it is electronic these days, and is automated to the point that an individual authorises access by clicking a link in an email that calls an endpoint that in turn releases a token and URL to the requestor to view the appropriate records.
An example of use is video games that help prevent hacking and modification.
I think that there could be some great consumer usage for having the ability to encrypt data, but still be able to search it.
> The government benefits from the open source community’s enhancements to the technology.
They're hoping that by putting this code out there, unwitting dupes will then collaborate with them to contribute to the surveillance state.
Yes, it's understandable, but still ironic.
Once comment described it as a "shit show".
Apparently its terrible and they tried to get the company to rebuild it and they made it the same.
Another comment comment on how "buggy" it was.
Or that the only dev that willing to work with it are contractors that want money.
Greedy b*stards! </sarcasm>
Accumulo (a popular NoSQL distributed key-value store)
Apache NiFi (data processing system)
I'd be very interested in more public cryptanalysis of this. It's a damn simple cipher to implement, and if it were at least as secure as say Salsa20/12 it'd be very nice for all kinds of applications.
If there had been a community contributing back I expect that there would have been more activity, but if it seems like noone will, would you spend your time pushing out regular updates?
Also interesting is splitting the repos: that the NSA and IAD have different repos, and that one seems focused on defensive tech while the other is publishing analysis tools.
I know there's a lot of people who aren't fans of the NSA (or what they do), but I think most of us can see a need for a military-grade organization to research defensive technologies for helping secure our infrastructure. I don't think many of us would be unhappy with the NSA if that's all they did. (Or phrased another way: most of us are unhappy because of how they conduct intel work or compromise defensive capability for offensive ones, eg, that whole business with ECC.)
So I think it's important to respond positively to things like the IAD github page, even if we're not fans in general.
Something, mostly common sense, tells me that we will not find some smoking gun to a crime here in these OSS repos...if anyone wanted that, they can refer to any number of leaks.
Ultimately, I'm happy to see this stuff shared, happy to see others use it and happy to see the OSS community build on it.
It's likely someone spent a fair amount of political capital to draw attention to the agency by emphasizing their public projects and trying to engage with the wider public. If there's a negative response to that, it only lends weight to the voices inside the agency who are against that sort of thing.
I, for one, prefer the NSA to be working on defensive technologies in collaboration with the tech community to any number of things they could be spending the resources on -- and think we badly need their expertise and help to secure domestic assets.
So I'm going to say "good job!" when they're doing things I like and save my criticism of their other behaviors for more appropriate moments.
I think collaboration is fundamentally more powerful an instrument of change than shunning is.
They are criminals and should be disbanded. The US intel community is full of cheats and liars, straight to the top.
In other words, military-grade means used by military, which has no meaningful correlation to security.
In days past the 'commercial grade' crypto was often not real crypto, like voice scramblers, using 40-bit DES (when govt was using Triple-DES), XORing against a non-cryptographic PRNG keystream repeatedly, all sorts of rubbish.
On the other hand, if you run your own CA and mostly care about your own users - using a cert signed by your own CA makes sense - to a certain extent.
So TLS (X.509) only allows serving a single certificate. You have to choose to serve one trusted by people you need not to be hacked (your own CA) or a commercial one to reduce in general the likelihood of being hacked. I can see why they chose the first option.
Obviously if websites were not signed by one of the 'root trust' paths but by several, and the reputation of each of those trust paths, and the host itself, was tracked in a decentralised secure database where trust was built over time, that would be better.
Oops, I just suggested blockchain snake oil would solve something.
The world is full of shades of grey, and black and white 'they are all evil!' is just pointless and dumb.
Where did I call anyone evil? I didn't even vilify people - I specifically focused on the work that these people are performing. It works to make the world a worse place.
How should I criticize them?
Maybe blame specific people (the DIR NSA Hayden, Bush, Obama). There was a strong culture at NSA of NOT spying on Americans until those clowns came along.
Nations are fictions and depriving rights to a group that you permit to others based on nationality is entirely unjust.
I blame the specific people who built these systems to collect and process data for the military.
If the British had had better intel they would never have invaded Afghanistan to repulse an imaginary Russian annexation. If intel had been listened to, instead of deliberately ignored/fabricated by Bush we wouldn't have invaded Iraq because of imaginary WMDs. If Kennedy hadn't actively understood the intel on Cuba, and just left it to the fears of the generals, the US would have invaded Cuba. The biggest fear of the Warsaw Pact is that the West would invade -- which was the West's fear also -- to the point that a lack of intelligence on Western force movements almost resulted in a counter-premptive invasion.
So maybe nations are fictions, but they are pretty powerful ones that most people are happy to roll with, and that makes the consequences real. These same people can agree on a set of collective norms that control who/what/where can be surveilled.
The propaganda that there are many ISIS terrorists embedded in Western nations is the key lever which will be used to transition from military/national intelligence to the surveillance state. This can't be won by railing against the NSA, but by countering (islamic and fascist) extremism, false reporting and propaganda.
And yet in the mean time we are being outflanked by traditional nation state adversaries using strategic propaganda campaigns. And they won't hesitate to spy on us. I want NSA(/GCHQ/DGSE/8200) working hard to prevent that, instead of navel gazing illegal programs about spying on environmentalists/unionists/politicans.
That makes this effort even more commendable.
It looks like the last commit was over a year ago, though. Is there information I'm not seeing of whether these projects are actively maintained (or still in use at NSA?).
It was literally a one letter change in the README file, but I still have the privilege to call myself the very first civilian to contribute to the NSA's open source project: https://github.com/NationalSecurityAgency/SIMP/pull/1
"Numerous Stasi officials were prosecuted for their crimes after 1990. After German reunification, the surveillance files that the Stasi had maintained on millions of East Germans were laid open, so that any citizen could inspect their personal file on request; these files are now maintained by the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records."
I wonder if that will ever happen in the US.
Changing "Github" to "GitHub" in a text file isn't even close to the same scale, and using that language is pretty tone-deaf.
Some spying is probably unavoidable in the current world - and just like with the army we need to think how to control it and make it civilized. Getting on a high moral horse only makes the matters worse.
Fuck the NSA!
These assholes are hoping the OSS community contributes back to reduce our own privacy! wtf
> The government benefits from the open source community’s enhancements to the technology.
This being hackernews I'd like to turn the conversation to something more constructive: the idea of whether the coder doing the work is just doing a job or should feel culpability and suffer the consequences of working for "the bad guys" has probably come up in many places. Heck someone could probably write a Master's thesis on whether "Evil Scotty" in Mirror, Mirror was actually evil. I mean he did keep the torture booths running for Evil Kirk, but he also helped the good guys get back to their parallel universe.
So, seriously - do we feel the IT guys working at places like No Such Agency are forever unclean or are they just doing a job? Clerks never settled the issue...
>Randal: There was something else going on in Jedi. I ever noticed it till today. They build another Death Star, right?
>Randal: Now, the first one was completed and fully operational before the Rebel's destroyed it.
>Dante: Luke blew it up. Give credit where credit is due.
>Randal: And the second one was still being built when the blew it up.
>Dante: Compliments to Lando Calrissian.
>Randal: Something just never sat right with me that second time around. I could never put my figure on it, but something just wasn't right.
>Dante: And you figured it out?
>Randal: The first Death Star was manned by the Imperial Army. The only people onboard were stormtroppers, dignitaries, Imperials.
>Randal: So, when the blew it up, no problem. Evil's punished.
>Dante: And the second time around?
>Randal: The second time around, it wasn't even done being built yet. It was still under construction.
>Randal: So, construction job of that magnitude would require a helluva lot more manpower than the Imperial army had to offer. I'll bet there were independent contractors working on that thing: plumbers, aluminum siders, roofers.
>Dante: Not just Imperials, is what you're getting at?
>Randal: Exactly. In order to get it built quickly and quietly they'd hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average storm trooper knows how to install a toilet main? All they know is killing and white uniforms.
>Dante: All right, so they bring in independent contractors. Why are you so upset with its destruction?
>Randal: All those innocent contractors hired to do a job were killed! Casualties of a war they had nothing to do with. All right, look, you're a roofer, and some juicy government contract comes your way; you got the wife and kids and the two-story in suburbia - this is a government contract, which means all sorts of benefits. All of a sudden these left-wing militants blast you with lasers and wipe out everyone within a three-mile radius. You didn't ask for that. You have no personal politics. You're just trying to scrape out a living.
I mean there's an interesting question here because if (hypothetically) someone takes what is in their mind a moral high road and says "I will never hire an ex-NSA coder or sysadmin" then hopefully that person doesn't work for Facebook or Google, because really the difference isn't a matter of kind as much as degree, malware notwithstanding.