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I'll be giving a talk at Yahoo Security Week in June entitled "When Crypto Attacks!" I hope to post slides afterward.

If you find yourself needing to implement crypto, it's likely you can avoid it by thinking about the situation differently. For example, many web developers get seduced into designing their own crypto as a way to push state to the client instead of managing it on the server. This opens up a much wider attack surface on the server application since now every part of that blob needs to be considered malicious. As the saying goes, "... now you have two problems."

The reason all this is so hard is that crypto is fundamentally unsafe. People hear that crypto is strong and confuse that with safe. Crypto can indeed be very strong but is extremely unsafe.

Have you ever tried to clean up from a root private key compromise? I wrote previously (http://rdist.root.org/2009/05/17/the-debian-pgp-disaster-tha...) about how a one-line change in the PRNG had compromised every DSA private key used on Debian/Ubuntu. Not generated, used. The properties of DSA make it such that your private key is directly revealed to any attacker who knows some bits of your PRNG output. I hope that emphasizes how dangerous crypto is, because it is so sensitive to its prerequisites.




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