Tag Archives: Encryption

The Holistic Z: Selective Encryption gives way to “At-Rest” & “In-Flight” Data Protection with Pervasive Encryption

IBM Z encryption moves the market from a selective encryption model to one that is pervasive. This represents a significant modification in the basic structure of computing and its effect on security will, in my opinion, have a major disruptive effect.

The overall concept is to not introduce a decision layer that says what will or will not be encrypted. Instead, it will be possible to have encryption be part of normal processing. The removal of the decision for selective encryption is a further saving in the overall cost and a reduction in the difficulty in using encryption in the current market.

The Holistic Z

The new IBM Z provides a bullet-proof platform for digital transformation, a base for strong cloud infrastructure (fortified clouds, which can be open, private, public, and hybrid), and allows back-end services to be securely exposed through secure APIs.

IBM have put security at the core of the new platform with “Pervasive Encryption as the new standardAnalytics & Machine Learning for Continuous Intelligence Across the Enterprise, and Open Enterprise Cloud to Extend, Connect and Innovate”.

The Z is arguably more powerful, more open, and more secure than any other commercial offering and makes serious moves in the rapidly evolving domains of Machine Learning, Cloud and Blockchain.

Positive Disruption with Pervasive Encryption 

But for me the focus of my interest comes back to Pervasive Encryption. The Z (“Zero Downtime“) appeals to many, on many different levels but for me it is Pervasive Encryption that piques my interest.

It is a seismic shift and legitimately makes the z14 the go-to platform for organisations who can afford their own and the Cloud platform of choice for those who cannot. The z14 mainframe has a tried-and-true architecture and excels with security features that are built into the hardware, firmware, and operating systems.


True Cost & Performance Mitigation 

The largest barrier to doing full-scale encryption has been the cost of the encryption and the performance load that such activity puts on the computing platform.

Bolted-on solutions that are being deployed have caused system capacity to grow such that there are loads of up to 61% of the system load that is being consumed by security processes. This translates into significant infrastructure costs and performance drags.

Even without the newest advances the Z architecture delivered encryption (selective encryption) more efficiently and with a lower resource expenditure than other platforms.

It delivers over 8.5 times the security protection, at 93% less cost in overall expenditure, and with 81% less effort. The full impact of the faster encryption engine and the ability to encrypt information in bulk on the z14 creates a fully pervasive solution that runs more than 18.4 times faster and at only 5% of the cost of other solutions.

The Threat Landscape & GDPR Compliance 

IBM Z pervasive encryption provides the comprehensive data protection that organizations, customers, and the threat landscape demand.

Here are some stats on that threat landscape:

  1. Nearly 5.5 million records are stolen per day, 230,367 per hour and 3,839 per minute (Source:http://breachlevelindex.com/);
  2. Of the 9 Billion records breached since 2013 only 4% were encrypted (Source: http://breachlevelindex.com/);
  3. 26% is the likelihood of an organization having a data breach in the next 24 months(Source: https://www.ibm.com/security/infographics/data-breach/) ;
  4. The greatest security mistake organizations make is failing to protect their networks and data from internal threats. (Source:https://digitalguardian.com/blog/expert-guide-securing-sensitive-data-34-experts-reveal-biggest-mistakes-companies-make-data)

By placing the security controls on the data itself, the IBM solution creates an envelope of protection around the data on Z.


Extracts, Source Material, References, & Acknowledgements to IBM Z Systems, IBM Security, IBM Systems, IBM Systems Social Program, and Solitaire Interglobal Limited.  

The Laurel & Hardy of Cybersecurity

When Turnbull and Brandis shuffle off to some home for the bewildered in a few years it is all of us that will be left with the legacy of their carry-on.

Here are some of the victories that these two beauties have presided over, and they don’t even know how it works, not even a little bit:

In an effort to drag the continent out from under the “stupid boy” stereotype, the Lowy Institute for International Policy, has just attempted to polish a turd by proposing that despite everything “Australia might be on the right encryption-cracking track” after all.

“From a cyber security perspective, as Patrick Gray has pointed out, sufficient safeguards could be placed around these ‘updates’ to ensure that they couldn’t be reverse engineered – they wouldn’t need to be a ‘backdoor,’ open to abuse. And by focusing on a device rather than a specific app, the displacement effect, so obvious in focusing government efforts on just What’s App or Telegram, would not apply.

In theory then, this model appears promising. How closely it aligns with the legislation promised by Turnbull and George Brandis last week remains to be seen. But whichever legislative model Australia pursues, its progress will be watched closely by governments across the world. And of course, by a whole host of technology and communications companies.

Recent developments suggest that underneath the techno-babble, political point scoring and counter-terrorism blame game, governments the world over are faced by a very real policy problem. Australia may prove to be the test case for a policy solution that has far reaching consequences for privacy, technological development and the future of law enforcement operations.”

Try again gents.


Australia Is A Proxy War for the Five Eyes & Also Hogwarts

The Aussie government is pushing a Five Eyes agenda. Australia seems to have become a proxy war in the ongoing assault on privacy. They are to the Surveillance Wars what Yemen is to the Saudi-Iran ideological conflict. It is always a good idea to vary the cast but in reality they are May acolytes. A testing ground.

The amount of nonsense emanating from the encryption debate Down Under though is astonishing. If you have not been keeping up to speed with some of the recent comments down under then here is a quick recap for you:

  1. The George Brandis metadata interview;
  2. George again (36th Attorney-General for Australia) and the summary of his “over a cuppa” conversation with the GCHQ chappie on the feasibility of reading messages sent by platforms implementing end to end encryption such as WhatsApp and Signal – “Last Wednesday I met with the chief cryptographer at GCHQ … And he assured me that this was feasible.”;
  3. Malcolm Turnbull (the Prime Minister) and his alternative theory on the exceptional laws that govern Australian reality “Well, the laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that. The laws of mathematics are very commendable but the only laws that applies in Australia is the law of Australia”;
  4. And a much more eloquent articulation by Troy Hunt of the whole phenomenon “Firstly, a quick apology from Australia: we’re sorry. Look, our Prime Minister and Attorney General didn’t try to launch us onto the World Encryption Comedy Stage but unfortunately, here we are.

In an effort to find something of the same equivalence on the stupidity index as 1-3 above I chose to google “Harry Potter and places where the laws of mathematics do not apply, excluding Australia and Hogwarts”.

One of the things that I found in the search results was the perfectly reasonably comment by a HP fan on a Reddit forum that “Gamp’s Laws of Transfiguration and the Fundamental Laws of Magic spring to mind, they’re pretty much what you can and can’t do with magic. They’re a lot like Newton’s Laws in that they both deal with nature.

This guy really meant it and so did the other guys he was chatting with. They all really, really believed or rather really, really wanted to believe that it was all real and true and factual.

Just like Brandis and Turnbull believe.

Totally lost in a universe of their own creation where mathematics and people work differently.

And then I found a scholarly dissertation by Shevaun Donelli O’Connell of Indiana University of Pennsylvania titled “Harry Potter and the Order of the Metatext: A Study of Nonfiction Fan Compositions and Disciplinary Writing

” which said on P.24 that “I already knew that Harry Potter was an important part of my relationships with my family and friends, but increasingly I realized that Harry Potter metaphors and analogies were working their way into my thinking and teaching about writing.“.

And there it was. The struggle is real. It seems many, many people are having trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality.

Christ help us when VRSNs arrive on the scene.


Data Is The New Perimeter in Emerging Age of Corporate-Espionage-as-a-Service

Last Tuesday, July 11 2017 I was pleased to listen to Mike Desens, Vice President, IBM Z and LinuxONE Offering Management, IBM Systems as he took myself and some colleagues through a preview and introduction of the z14 prior to the July 17 announcements *.

The overriding theme of the briefing was that IBM view the z14 as “Designed for Trusted Digital Experiences”. The last twenty four months in particular have seen data breaches that have seriously eroded public confidence in erstwhile trusted institutions and organizations.

There have been hacks that have embarrassed nations, and led to real fears about the risk that insecure data poses to our energy and commercial infrastructures not to mention the veracity of election results but I am not going there.

Shadow Brokers dumps and WikiLeaks releases of alphabet agency backdoors and toolkits have given cyber criminals (even the opportunists), and terrorist outfits almost nuclear-grade hacking capability when compared to 2014.

IBM are hoping that these real fears, but more particularly their real solution, will be the key driver in convincing customers to adopt the new platform.

Been There, Done That

I have seen this before (IBM pinning their hopes of making the mainframe cool by leveraging an unexpected turn of events). I worked on the deep end of the ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager (ADSM) ESP’s in the early 90’s (renamed Tivoli Storage Manager in 1999).

Back then entire banks ran on less DASD than your kid’s pot burner phone does right now (and that included all the IMS, CICS, and DB2 data). IBM pinned some of their hopes on maintaining their lucrative storage market share on ADSM in the face of EMC inroads. “Disk mirroring” however by EMC was the final blow when EMC turned an engineering weakness into a strength. It cost outsider Ed Zschau, ADSTAR Chairman and CEO, his job in 1995.

IBM had made a very valid argument for ADSM adoption. All that data on the newly acquired (mostly by accident and without permission by rogue business units – especially the capital markets mavericks), rapidly expanding, and poorly managed (in terms of Disaster Recover and Business Continuity at the very least) AS/400, Tandem, and NT infrastructure was best managed on the mainframe storage farm.

This also included using those new-fangled robotic tape libraries on Level 2 (which even appeared in a few movies with perspex exterior, the StorageTek one though, not the IBM Magstar 3494 Tape Library).

It didn’t work though. Mainly because the network couldn’t handle the volumes, and record level backup was never going to work to help reduce the bandwidth requirements to fit the overnight backup windows what with the quagmire of proprietary databases that had sprung up.

GDPR Unwittingly Making the Market for “Corporate-Espionage-As-A-Service”

But I digress so I will briefly digress again to another but equally valid potential driver for z adoption. And that is GDPR. Soon GDPR regulators will be gleefully fining corporates who fail to adequately protect their data the higher of EUR€20M or 4% of annual turnover, for each breach. That’s an instant laxative right there for the entire C-Suite.

But what the proposed GDPR penalty system also makes me wonder is how much of a market maker it is (unwittingly) for Corporate-Espionage-As-A-Service (CEAAS) and Industrial-Espionage-As-A-Service (IEAAS).

Back On Message – Pervasive Encryption

Consequently, IBM have put security at the core of the new platform with “Pervasive Encryption as the new standardAnalytics & Machine Learning for Continuous Intelligence Across the Enterprise, and Open Enterprise Cloud to Extend, Connect and Innovate”.

Here are some stats to keep your CISO awake:

  1. Nearly 5.5 million records are stolen per day, 230,367 per hour and 3,839 per minute (Source:http://breachlevelindex.com/);
  2. Of the 9 Billion records breached since 2013 only 4% were encrypted (Source: http://breachlevelindex.com/);
  3. 26% is the likelihood of an organization having a data breach in the next 24 months(Source: https://www.ibm.com/security/infographics/data-breach/) ;
  4. The greatest security mistake organizations make is failing to protect their networks and data from internal threats. (Source: https://digitalguardian.com/blog/expert-guide-securing-sensitive-data-34-experts-reveal-biggest-mistakes-companies-make-data)

The Z is arguably more powerful, more open and more secure than any commercial system on the planet and the box makes serious moves in the rapidly evolving domains of Machine Learning, Cloud and Blockchain. But again and again the focus comes back to Pervasive Encryption and that is the potential seismic shift that just might make the Z the go-to platform for organisations who can afford their own and the Cloud platform of choice for those who cannot.

Pervasive Encryption Is The New Standard

Back in the day as an MVS370 systems programmer I stressed about downtimes, availability stats, and the SLAs with business units. If I am being honest though I mostly stressed about the long holiday weekends spent in subterranean data centers upgrading ESP code or patching or migrating new releases from TEST to PROD LPARS or doing S390 disk mirrors.

Therefore when I first heard of the this bold new “encrypt it all” call to arms I wondered what the price for this would be in terms of the social lives and general marital stability of SPs globally.

However I am assured that the encryption “migration” involves no application changes, no impact to SLA’s, and that all of this application and database data can be encrypted without interrupting business applications and operations.

What’s Under the Hood

This section of the briefing was prefaced with the statement that the Z will deliver “unrivalled performance for secure workloads.” I have another post in the works with the tech spec dets on the encryption under the hood but for now here’s the 60k foot view:

“Industry exclusive protected key encryption, enabled through integration with a tamper- responding cryptographic HSM. All in-flight network data and API’s, true end-to-end data protection. 4x increase in silicon area allocated to cryptographic operations. 4 – 7x faster encryption of data with enhanced cryptographic performance. 18x fasterencryption than competition at 1/20th the cost to implement. 2x performance boost on Crypto Express6S. Securing the cloud by encrypting APIs 2-3x faster than x86 systems. Linux exploits Protected Key encryption for data at-rest.”

More later.

* From an article originally published on July 18 2017 on my Peerlyst blog


IBM Mainframe Ushers in New Era of Data Protection with Pervasive Encryption

Main take-outs in IBM Z Systems announcement:

  1. Pervasively encrypts data, all the time at any scale;
  2. Addresses global data breach epidemic;
  3. Helps automate compliance for EU General Data Protection Regulation, Federal Reserve and other emerging regulations;
  4. Encrypts data 18x faster than compared x86 platforms, at 5 percent of the cost (Source: “Pervasive Encryption: A New Paradigm for Protection,” K. R. E. Lind, Chief Systems Engineer, Solitaire Interglobal Ltd., June 30, 2017);
  5. Announces six IBM Cloud Blockchain data centers with IBM Z as encryption engine;
  6. Delivers groundbreaking Container Pricing for new solutions, such as instant payments.

The new data encryption capabilities are designed to address the global epidemic of data breaches, a major factor in the $8 trillion cybercrime impact on the global economy by 2022. Of the more than nine billion data records lost or stolen since 2013, only four percent were encrypted, making the vast majority of such data vulnerable to organized cybercrime rings, state actors and employees misusing access to sensitive information.

In the most significant re-positioning of mainframe technology in more than a decade, when the platform embraced Linux and open source software, IBM Z now dramatically expands the protective cryptographic umbrella of the world’s most advanced encryption technology and key protection. The system’s advanced cryptographic capability now extends across any data, networks, external devices or entire applications – such as the IBM Cloud Blockchain service – with no application changes and no impact on business service level agreements.

“The vast majority of stolen or leaked data today is in the open and easy to use because encryption has been very difficult and expensive to do at scale,” said Ross Mauri, General Manager, IBM Z. “We created a data protection engine for the cloud era to have a significant and immediate impact on global data security.”


* From an article originally published on July 17 2017 on my Peerlyst blog

The CIA Dark Triad – Windows, macOS & Linux

According to the WikiLeaks Vault 7 dump the CIA deploys malware that includes the capability to hack, remotely view and/or clone devices running the Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.

This seems to suggest that the agency has no problem bypassing encryption, proxies, VPN and that Tor anonymity is a myth.

This does not mean that each of the point solutions offering a product under each of the above headings have been compromised. Rather it means that the OS level hack capability of the CIA – as seen on iOS and Android – means that they can gain full control of the device and render any point solution counter measures moot.

Therefore they subvert the platform which by extension means that anything that is running on the platform is subverted.

Tablet, laptop, smart-phone, AV device – it seems they are all fair game and in that case so is everything that you do on them.

You have been warned.

You are being watched.


Is Moxie Still An Anarchist, Are Farcebook Deliberately Hobbling WhatsApp & Does SIGNAL Leak?

Recently I wrote in a blog post “When The Privacy Advocate Becomes An Apologist For The Opponent” about the main stream media sponsored spat that had @Moxie from @WhisperSystems siding with @WhatsApp and @Facebook in a face off against @Guardian and their contributor @tobiasboelter (Security and Crypto at UC Berkeley) in a “man in the middle” versus “design” versus “vulnerability” versus “backdoor” versus “privacy” versus “convenience” versus “user experience” tit for tat.

1. Is Moxie Still An Anarchist?

I said of Moxie Marlinspike that:

“When the advocates become apologists for the mainstream then they longer deserve to be called advocates in the purest sense of the word. And Moxie does consider himself “pure”. He is not. In July 2016 Wired wrote “Meet Moxie Marlinspike, the Anarchist Bringing Encryption to All of Us” but being an “anarchist” and an ally of Zuckerberg are incompatible ideological stances.”

The blog post drew some comment on Peerlyst and elsewhere that took the debate in a number of different directions that I think are worthy of note. My personal belief is that WhatsApp is a more inferior app than most people will accept and that Moxie’s stance also leads me to doubt the once unassailable position of Signal as a trustworthy option.

Peter Stone on Peerlyst commented that:

“Your assertion that Moxie‍ fundamentally is no longer an anarchist when he sides with Zuck holds. And you’re right it matters that they made this design choice, and yes it can be a threat if you have Governments in your threat model. I cannot argue with you at all. My only point, and thanks for the mention, was that it wasn’t, as such, a backdoor.”

Conclusion: Moxie is not an anarchist

2. Are Farcebook Deliberately Hobbling WhatsApp?

This comment led me to ask:

“I agree with you Peter and my post is only expressing my view from the lens of being one of those “crypto geeks” that you and Dave Howe were discussing on the original thread. I accept all of the points that you both make about barriers to entry / usage and cost factors for “average” users in adopting escalating levels of security. But would you agree with the statement that:

“WhatsApp have made a design choice that can be exploited as a backdoor – the rest is semantics”?

Any takers?”

Boelter in his articles laments the fact that Farcebook, after being notified of the weakness in the “design-choices” that they had made for WhatsApp, still refused to take action.

This to me betrays an unwillingness to properly secure the platform for whatever reason and while I accept that a legitimate interim position between releases of a product is to state “it is good enough – for now – but lets see if we can make it even better” that does not seem to be what the Farcebook approach is to ongoing WhatsApp app hardening.

I really liked what Dave Howe had to say in reply to my original comment:

“I can agree totally on the first part of that. WhatsApp have made a design choice that can be exploited as a backdoor.

In fact, I would go further; WhatsApp have made a series of poor design choices which impact severely the security of the solution.

The first is that mail will be retransmitted without an option to block if a new device is added.

The second is that a new device can be added and, by default, this will be silently accepted by the system, and

The third is that the account holder has no reliable way to know a new device was added unless WhatsApp notify them – which of course for a TLA “listening tap” will not happen.

However, “the rest is semantics” I disagree with.

The impact of these poor choices is severe, but the solution is still better than it was before the protocol was added, and more importantly, now WhatsApp is aware of the mistake, it is in a position to fix it.

The detail is therefore important, and while a lot of crypto purists would class anything not a provable success as an abject failure, a more pragmatic security enthusiast will take any improvement as an improvement, and work to build on that platform.

Similarly, to a purist, a system is broken if, given a compute cube the size of the moon, you could break a message on average every thousand years or so – while a pragmatist would say “it’s good enough – for now – but lets see if we can make it even better”

We need to push them to get better. If nothing else, this “backdoor” publicity put this in the public eye (only for Brexit and Trump to push it back under cover of course).

I have to wonder if there is some sort of instruction preventing them from doing so – I know they can insist on that in the UK now, but I wasn’t aware this was true in the US yet (See my blog post Silencing the Canary & The Key Powers & Reach of The IPA)

Solution is obvious though – increase user choice, and make it so they can turn that *off* if they want to, not off by default.

New device added? Have confirmation of new devices as an option.

Until confirmed, new messages will *not* be encoded to the new key, so you can email the old keyset asking if they really have added a new device.

Options can have “auto accept” “ask” and “deny” with the default set to “ask”.

Unacknowledged messages? Have that only resend if the new device is confirmed, and not until; that takes care of that problem too.

If users then choose to disable the “annoying popup” then that’s their choice, not something imposed on them by Farcebook.”

Aside from the poor “design choices” that are covered in “When The Privacy Advocate Becomes An Apologist For The Opponent” and above by Dave here are a few more “design choices” WhatsApp chose not to include from the SIGNAL protocol:

Ability To Password Protect The WhatsApp App

WhatsApp does not have any password system built into the app. WhatsApp say there are many apps in the Google Play store that provide that functionality so just tag on a third party app to make it even weaker


“Disappearing Messages” Option in WhatsApp 

There is no “disappearing messages” option in WhatsApp.

Conclusion: Yes Farcebook are deliberately hobbling WhatsApp IMHO. Their reasons? I do not know but I do not accept “user experience” as a justification.

3. Does SIGNAL Leak? 

Would anyone care to comment on this statement regarding the signal app and “leakage”:

“Note that Open Whisper Systems, the makers of Signal, use other companies’ infrastructure to send its users alerts when they receive a new message. It uses Google on Android, and Apple on iPhone. That means information about who is receiving messages and when they were received may leak to these companies.”

Found at on a post on ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION Surveillance Self-Defense.

Conclusion: I don’t know