Tag Archives: Encryption

Gangsters with Blackberry’s & the Upsurge in “Intelligence Led” Busts

A sensational story about the criminal use of encryption appeared across social media this week like it was a scoop. It wasn’t. But that’s the way it was portrayed.

For the uninformed it played directly into the narrative that encryption is bad and overwhelmingly used by those withquestionable motives or downright evil intentions.

So What Happened?

The headlines varied but basically Vincent Ramos the boss of Phantom Secure, a company whose website declares that it supplies “THE WORLDS MOST TRUSTED COMMUNICATION SERVICE” was arrested in California.

The company supplies or supplied a modded and allegedly zero knowledge handset which is or was it claimed “Simple, effective and easy to use while highly secure, … recognized by government agencies and cyber experts as “Uncrackable” “.

All utter rubbish of course but if you are selling a high performance sports car to a guy who struggles with a gear change on a bicycle then who is to contradict you?

Imagine! Organised crime were using encrypted phones to communicate and those encrypted phones were being supplied by commercial outfits who knew.

Scoop? No.

“Buyer Beware” — What Did Phantom Secure Sell?


The sales bumf declared that the “Classic Phantom Secure Encrypted BlackBerry Device”, apparently proven “year after year”, (by whom is unstated) was light weight and easy to use and provided end to end encrypted messaging, in theory. The package included:

  1. Modified and Locked Down Device
  2. Secure Encrypted Device to Device Encrypted Messaging
  3. Anonymous Communication
  4. International Roaming
  5. 6 months Subscription Included

The “Phantom Secure Android Edition” made the laughable statement that it provided unmatched secure enterprise mobility from BlackBerry and the “best at rest” security on an Android KNOX device, which communicated over the Phantom Secure service.

Summarising, the company promised “totally anonymous, device-to-device encrypted communications, brought to you by a globally trusted and recognized secure communications service.

The problem with that is that it was not brought to the companies customers by anything approaching a globally trusted and recognized secure communications service because it was hosted on Blackberry Enterprise Service servers.

Blackberry executive chairman and chief executive officer John Chen recently said “Today’s encryption has got to the point where it’s rather difficult, even for ourselves, to break it, to break our own encryption… it’s not an easily breakable thing. We will only attempt to do that if we have the right court order. The fact that we will honor the court order doesn’t imply we could actually get it done.

This Phantom Secure Android version included:

  1. Modified and Locked Down Device
  2. Secure Encrypted Device to Device Encrypted Messaging
  3. Anonymous Communication
  4. KNOX hardware and software integrated device security
  5. Prive Encrypted Chat
  6. Compatible messaging with BB7 Devices
  7. International Roaming
  8. 6 months Subscription Included

Worthless Disclaimers & Hollow Promises

Phantom Secure, and many like them, take care to make various disclaimers which they seem to think are a get out of jail freecard and state in their “Legal Compliance” section that:

We are a law-abiding company that is permitted to deliver encrypted communication services to our clients in order for them to protect their communications, without having the ability to decrypt their communications.”

The statement in no way ensures that these kind of suppliers cannot be indicted on charges. What it does do is give the impression to prospective customers that the company can in some way guarantee that even in the face of a warrant they do not possess the ability to compromise the historic or future communications of their customer base either intentionally or unintentionally.

But in the case of Blackberry that is just not true. It is public knowledge since 2016 that Operation Clemenza by the RCMP allowed Canadian investigators to access consumer-grade phones from Blackberry where the decryption key is in the company’s (RIM) possession.

BlackBerry, however, also offers the option to run their BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) which allows clients to run their own network of phones, and keep possession of their own decryption key. And this is what Phantom Secure were doing but as far back as January 2016 Dutch police said that they were able to read encrypted messages sent on the custom, security-focused BlackBerry devices.

Also in December 2015 in the article “The Encryption Debate: a Way Forward,” on the official Blackberry blog INSIDE Blackberry the company wrote that “privacy and security form the crux of everything we do. However,our privacy commitmentdoes not extend to criminals.”

But isn’t criminality established after due process has taken place? Warrants do not prove criminality even if there is probable cause? Are RIM Blackberry qualified to make the distinctions?

Regardless they sold their BES products based on the claim that they would never be called upon to make the distinction because they had designed a product that was totally secure.

There are products which can guarantee this and even in the face of warrants are unable to provide logs, metadata, or encryption keys. But BES cannot. There lies one of the many significant problems that Mr. Ramos faces.

The disclaimer continues …

“Our service does not require personal information and has no back doors. In providing such a service we do understand that there will be a very small number of people that may use our service to do activities we do not support. We do not condone the use of our service for any type of illegal activities and if known we will terminate the use of our service without notice.”

“Considering this, requests for the contents of communications may arise from government agencies, which would require a valid search warrant from an agency with proper jurisdiction over Phantom Secure.”

“However, our response to such requests will be the content and identity of our clients are not stored on our server and that the content is encrypted data, which is indecipherable.”

“Our company was founded as a means to provide businesses and people the opportunity to communicate in private in this modern technological age. Unfortunately there will be people that will use this technology for acts we do not condone but this should not be the reason why our universal human right to privacy should be taken away.

Mr. Ramos & Explaining the Unexplainable

The very unlucky or very silly Mr. Ramos, depending on which way you look at it, has now been charged with racketeering activity involving gambling, money laundering, and drug trafficking. I hope Mr. Ramos enjoyed the spoils while he could because he is in a very tight spot now, one way or the other.

US authorities have argued that Phantom Secure operated explicitly to enable organised crime groups to evade detection while planning major crimes. Phantom allegedly built an international client base of criminals by taking BlackBerry devices, stripping out the camera, microphone, GPS navigation and other features, and installing encryption software, making them difficult for law enforcement to crack. He was arrested in California, amid claims that his firms products’ were allegedly linked to Australian murders and drug trafficking.” [This extract is from “Phantom Secure boss arrested in US, amid products’ suspected links to Australian murders” By Dan Oakes, ABC Australia, Monday 12th March 2018]

Think about that statement “Making them difficult for law enforcement to crack.”. Hmmmm. If Mr. Ramos makes bail I predict that one of the first questions that he will be asked by some of his more colourful customers is how exactly does that statement sit with the claims the company made on their website. At best he over-promised and under-delivered. [For posterity I have preserved the Phantom Secure website before it inevitably goes dark.]

These dog and bones went for between USD1500–USD2000 a piece with 6 months shelf life and Phantom Secure had 20k subscribers. Do the figures! If you lost one then you had to buy a new one, no discounts.

Isn’t it amazing that a market segment of normally paranoid individuals are willing to buy an expensive technology that they do not understand from a supplier that they do not know and then proceed to drop all normal “opsec”, if you could call it that, and openly plan the spectaculars that led to these arrests.

The Recent Upsurge in Success for “Intelligence Led” Operations

In the fullness of time it will be very interesting to see how the evidence to construct this indictment was acquired, what paper trail was left by the company showing their modus operandi, the promises versus the actual reality of what the company claimed it could deliver, and whether these claims as and of themselves are seen by the Courts as a marketing tool solely intended to appeal specifically to a certain base, namely those with criminal intentions, and how that can be proven.

The story also raises interesting questions on a topic that I have been researching now for some time – parallel construction. Over the last three years there has been a staggering increase in seizures of drug shipments and the foiling of multiple gangland assassinations attributed to “intelligence led” operations.

Since the late noughties Blackberry handsets have been the comms weapon of choice for organised crime even though they have been widely discredited. There is a school of thought that outfits such as Phantom Secure have been tolerated and let exist by law enforcement because they were such a rich source of warrantless intel.

But now that even the most clueless crims are moving away from the platform it seems that it has been decided that it is time to bring in all the “CEO’s” of these secure comms companies. Their usefulness has been exhausted.

Some of the coverage in recent days has claimed that Ramos is co-operating. My guess is that LE wish to use his arrest to turn him into a “co-operating witness” and as such provide them with what looks like legal access to the Phantom Secureservers.

In that way all of that juicy warrantless surveillance can be seen to have been legitimately obtained intelligence and the clientbase, big fish and small, can be hoovered up en-masse or turned into assets.

As for the stuff that has gone before — well, it didn’t become an issue at the trials so no need to revisit that. It was credited to HUMINT in the shape of informants who could not be named in order to protect their identity.

The Inevitability of Licensing

I have no particular insight into the innocence or guilt of Mr. Ramos in this case. I do not know whether he overtly solicited criminal clients in the full knowledge of their business and their need for secure comms in order to evade detection in a criminal enterprise.

What I do know is that if you are legally recorded saying:

“Hey man, I sell these phones that are bullet proof and can’t be hacked or eavesdropped (“even though that is not the case”) and I know you value your security and privacy because your foe is law enforcement and your trade is illegal and I can sell you these phones for $$$$’s and you can ply your trade without fear of discovery

….. then you are nicked mate.

Mr. Ramos is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. He is finished every which way he turns.

The movie Layer Cake has a rich seam of relevant content to illustrate my point. In that movie Colm Meaney explains to Daniel Craig’s character XXXX his Cornelian dilemma as a result of being present during an incident:

“Listen, son. Let me explain something to you. Freddie’s in intensive care with a bit of a brain haemorrhage. You were there at the scene. That’s called joint venture. Now, if Freddie dies, you’re either in the dock with Morty… …or you’re in the witness box putting him away. Think about that.

The outcome of this matter is likely to produce significant and wider repercussions for the providers of secure communications solutions in general.

This case and those to follow are a preparatory step for compulsory licensing for purveyors of private encryption systems. They offer an antidote to the privacy objections about backdoors and present a far more pragmatic solution to giving law enforcement access to encrypted communications than systems that are “thoughtfully design” as was recently and ridiculously suggested by FBI Director, Christopher Wray.

The provision of private secure comms solutions will evolve to the same standard of licensing as is applied to firearms sales. Such companies will be required to be licensed before offering the service and when selling licenses I guess that pre-qualification checks on the purchaser will be required too. Purchasing a license will probably be enough to claim “probable cause” under FISA rules in the US. It takes little enough justification to eavesdrop as it stands.

Undermining the Argument for Un-Compromised Encryption

The arguments in support of generally available un-compromised encryption services are devalued by the incorrect parallels that the opponents of encryption make between them and the Phantom Secure case.

It plays directly into the narrative that the host of encryption luddites in law enforcement, government, and the intelligence community peddle daily as they seek to justify back-dooring or banning encryption products.

Those who oppose encryption use illogical extrapolations when making their arguments — “the bad guy used encryption … therefore the crime was committed because of encryption”. They use the special case to undermine the general case.

The Phantom Secure case will be used as another example of why encryption is bad. But the Phantom Secure case is not about privacy or encryption rights or freedom of speech.

If there is even the slightest question that the provider of hardware, software, and any other “wares” knowingly supplies them for assisting the commission of an offence or even suspects that they will be used in one then it is aiding and abetting and all the other bits and pieces that have been included on Mr. Ramos’s much publicised indictment.

References and Bibliography

  1. https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdca/pr/chief-executive-and-four-associates-indicted-conspiring-global-drug-traffickers
  2. https://motherboard.vice.com/amp/en_us/article/a34b7b/phantom-secure-sinaloa-drug-cartel-encrypted-blackberry?__twitter_impression=true
  3. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/bme5w3/customer-data-from-encrypted-phone-company-ciphr-has-been-dumped-online
  4. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-43425333
  5. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mbpyea/encrochat-secure-phone-hacking-video
  6. https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/state-secrets-privilege
  7. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/the-rogues-gallery-of-encryption-luddites-graham-penrose
  8. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/peertalk-tm-privacy-vs-national-security-panel-questions-for-session-1-graham-penrose
  9. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/all-blackberry-messages-can-be-decrypted-using-global-encryption-key-valery-marchuk
  10. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/would-you-hire-a-locksmith-you-dont-trust
  11. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/boss-of-a-company-that-supplied-encrypted-phones-arrested-andrew-commons
  12. https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/01/09/dark-side/secret-origins-evidence-us-criminal-cases
  13. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/canadian-law-enforcement-obtained-blackberry-global-encryption-key-hega-geoffroy
  14. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/android-blackberry-spyware-used-in-india-attacks-or-securityweek-com-hega-geoffroy
  15. https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2016/01/13/police-say-they-can-crack-blackberry-pgp-encrypted-email/
  16. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/01/13/blackbery_pgp_riddle/
  17. https://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/news/2441666/blackberry-pgp-handsets-cracked-by-dutch-cyber-cops
  18. https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/one-reason-get-blackberry-2016-security/
  19. https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2016/04/26/police-seize-network-behind-encrypted-blackberry-pgp-devices/
  20. https://www.itgovernance.co.uk/blog/phone-evidence-remotely-wiped-in-police-stations/
  21. http://www.zdnet.com/article/police-hack-pgp-server-with-3-6-million-messages-from-organized-crime-blackberrys/
  22. https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160118/07441433368/blackberry-which-said-it-wouldnt-protect-criminals-assures-criminals-phones-are-still-secure.shtml
  23. https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/are-encrypted-phones-allowing-criminals-to-get-away-with-murder-20150523-gh82gv.html
  24. http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/criminals-love-the-blackberry-s-wiretap-proof-ways-police-1.815031
  25. https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/crime/cops-struggling-crack-encrypted-phones-6962815
  26. https://www.thedailybeast.com/meet-danny-the-guy-selling-encrypted-phones-to-organized-crime
  27. https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2018/03/the-fbi-busts-phantom-secure-ceo-for-allegedly-selling-encrypted-phones-to-gangs-drug-cartels/
  28. https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/crime/cops-struggling-crack-encrypted-phones-6962815
  29. http://uk.businessinsider.com/methods-that-police-use-to-catch-deep-web-drug-dealers-2016-8?r=UK&IR=T
  30. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/oct/30/metropolitan-police-mobile-phone-surveillance
  31. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38183819
  32. https://www.techrepublic.com/article/fbi-nabs-ceo-of-encrypted-phone-company-for-sales-to-cartels-gangs/
  33. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/nz7e3z/decrypted-pgp-blackberry-messages-helped-convict-uk-gun-smugglers
  34. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/03/fbi-again-calls-for-magical-solution-to-break-into-encrypted-phones/
  35. http://scholars.wlu.ca/etd/1758/
  36. https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/phantom-secure-ceo-arrested/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter


The My Face Value “Tout Free” Guarantee

My Face Value is preparing for launch on 31st December 2017. To keep up to date with the latest news follow us on Facebook and Twitter

The My Face Value ability to tackle the problem of touts using our community is key to  earning and retaining the trust of the My Face Value community. The algorithms that My Face Value have developed to solve this problem are only one of many unique selling points in the My Face Value promise to genuine fans.

Using Innovative Technology To Beat The Touts

Similar to the auditable Random Number Generator algorithms that our Random Picking Software utilises to ensure fairness & transparency when selecting winners of our competitions & promotions, our approach to Phishing Prevention, Intercept “Man in the Middle” Attacks and our proprietary Automated Tout Detection systems use our own set of proprietary processes and algorithms to keep My Face Value secure and “tout free”.

My Face Value have developed sophisticated mechanisms that protect the data that the My Face Value community entrust us with and prevent the My Face Value community unwittingly assisting touts in their efforts to buy tickets at face value.

Protection from Trolls and Hackers 

My Face Value expects to be the target of concerted campaigns by trolls (on a simplistic level) and hackers (in a sophisticated manner) because My Face Value are dislodging and disrupting a lucrative “street level” business as well as a “respectable” corporate sector who make large amounts of money from ticket touting and price gouging tickets to events.

The first target of these hacks as we see it would be to undermine the trust in the My Face Value community by targeting our community members’ data, in all its forms. But in particular our community members credit card details. Aside from the myriad white-hat hacker tests that we have conducted, our operating systems, applications and network configurations have been comprehensively penetration tested by leaders in the field.

The Safety of Your Data – Security & Encryption 

My Face Value uses security protocols that protect the My Face Value community member from malicious interception attacks. My Face Value use a secure and encrypted connection (HTTPS/SSL) when handling My Face Value community members’ data.

The My Face Value EV SSL certificate offers the highest available levels of trust and authentication to our website. When performing transactions, the green address bar prominently displays our company name and provides highly visual assurance to customers that our site is secure – immediately giving the My Face Value community member the confidence to complete their transaction.

Sensitive Data Storage

For a further level of comfort My Face Value use an external provider with PCI Service Provider Level 1 Certification (the most stringent level of certification) to manage the process of no-hassle security and compliance that meets all PCI-DSS requirements for desktop and mobile transactions [PCI-DSS: The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a proprietary information security standard for organisations that handle branded credit cards from the major card schemes including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB.]

No sensitive data hits the My Face Value servers. To bolster this counter measure My Face Value have added an extra layer of security in the form of Two-Factor Authentication.

Phantom Community Members / Spam Accounts

But how do My Face Value detect touts posing as allegedly legitimate community members and avoid the scenario where the tout uses the My Face Value community as a source of leads to purchase tickets at face value and then tout.

The My Face Value community, without the measures that we have taken, would be a readily available environment with millions of community members which touts could “raid” for tickets.

The Value of Anonymity

This process is outlined in great detail on our website and on our social media pages. But in short, the answer to preventing the use of My Face Value as a ticket sourcing platform for touts is “anonymity”.

The information posted by My Face Value community members in relation to BUY/SELL/SWAP requests is not visible to the My Face Value community. Rather My Face Value store the data and identify matching BUY requests with SELL offers and SWAP requests with SWAP matches.

The relevant My Face Value Community members are then notified simultaneously by email. The email contains a link and when clicked this link will allocate the ticket on a First-Come-First-Served basis to the first My Face Value community member who secures the ticket by making the required payment.

The SELLER / SWAPPERS are then requested to send the ticket(s) to My Face Value for a counterfeit check and thereafter – assuming no issues relating to payment fraud or counterfeiting arise – My Face Value will post the ticket to the BUYER and pay the SELLER or in the case of SWAPS post the tickets to the respective My Face Value community members.

The process is managed from end-to-end by My Face Value to ensure compliance.

Detecting “Organised Touting” in the My Face Value Community

My Face Value will keep the community tout free. The BUY/SELL/SWAP Process is conducted thru a series of simple menu selections. This process is outlined in detail on our website and on our social media pages. Once completed and in order to SUBMIT the information to the My Face Value databases – the My Face Value community member is requested to LOGIN, if they have not already done so, or REGISTER – if they are not an existing My Face Value community member.

Now the science bit – the steps in the REGISTRATION process provide one level of protection against touting – but not enough. Sweat shops exist and the industry (organised crime element) are well capable of setting up hundreds of identities and email addresses using pre-paid cards in an attempt to circumvent this LOGIN or REGISTER Wall counter measure.

Tout Prevention & Community Compliance 

My Face Value have developed systems to encode expertise for detecting touts, in the form of rules. Employing Big Data Analysis / Data Mining to develop community member behaviour patterns and profiles for matching against a baseline to detect deviations and automatic responses / actions or in certain cases issue automated real time notifications to the  My Face Value Tout Prevention & Community Compliance Team for examination (See Level 1-4 below for details on this process).

The My Face Value Pattern Recognition techniques to detect clusters or patterns of suspicious behaviour are automated to ensure scaleability. Machine learning techniques automatically identify the characteristics of touting. The My Face Value algorithms learn suspicious patterns from samples which are then used later to detect breaches.

My Face Value deploy these detection algorithms on a number of levels using statistical techniques and artificial intelligence:

Level 1: Email addresses used by a community member, contact telephone number provided by a community member, frequency and time of day of logins by a community member, number and type of payment instruments used by a community member, transactions levels (numbers of transactions) by a community member, types of transactions conducted by a community member – BUY/SELL/SWAP;

Level 2: Combining source metadata, platform and device usage, IP address, browser type, geo-location (clustering), proxy spoofing and VPN detection to augment the Level 1 data My Face Value hold on behaviour patterns;

Level 3: Cross referencing My Face Value community member profiles with publicly available information on social media accounts for pattern matching and augmenting the community member risk profiling data to augment the Level 1 and Level 2 data;

Level 4: In the event that all the information points to a positive breach of the My Face Value Community Guidelines then the community member will be blocked. In circumstances where the information points to a possible breach of the My Face Value Community Guidelines then the My Face Value Tout Prevention & Community Compliance Team will request identification and documents to prove that the “member” is not a phantom account AND that the documents supplied to vouch for that assertion are genuine.

The My Face Value “Tout Free” Guarantee

By implementing Behaviour Analytics & Profiling with Context Data the My Face Value Machine-Learning Algorithms ensure a tout free environment. These processes reduce to almost zero the ability for touts to engage in the volume transactions that would make the effort commercially viable or feasible.

Whether dealing with touts as individuals or organised gangs their inability to fool the profiling algorithms and/or comply with the My Face Value escalating requests for proof of identity to determine if a suspicious account is in fact a genuine fan will keep our community tout free.

The My Face Value Tout Prevention & Community Compliance Team


Does anyone have experience of “KAYMERA MOBILE THREAT DEFENSE SUITE”

We are looking at this platform in parallel with the SaltDNA app which I previously posted about.

Kaymera has a pre-installed secured Android OS with integrated high-end security components to detect, prevent and protect against all mobile security threats without compromising on functionality or usability. A contextual, risk-based app uses a range of indicators to identify a risk in real-time and apply the right security measure so mitigation is performed only when needed and appropriate. Their Cyber Command Centre framework manages and enforces organization-specific permissions, security protocols and device policies. Monitors risk level, threat activities and security posture per device and deploys countermeasures.

Any thoughts welcome.


Using Stylometry DHS have id’d Bitcoin creator Nakamoto with help from NSA PRISM & MUSCULAR programs

Allegedly using word surveillance and stylometry the effort took less than a month. Apparently using encryption and complex obfuscation methods is not a defence when the “seeker” has access to trillions of writing samples from a billion or so people across the globe.

By taking Satoshi’s texts and finding the 50 most common words, the NSA was able to break down his text into 5,000 word chunks and analyse each to find the frequency of those 50 words. This would result in a unique 50-number identifier for each chunk. The NSA then placed each of these numbers into a 50-dimensional space and flatten them into a plane using principal components analysis. The result is a ‘fingerprint’ for anything written by Satoshi that could easily be compared to any other writing.

It is worth noting that the original post is littered with comments that request more details on the source of the information that informed the post or some other such proof of the veracity of the claims being made but the author declared in response:

Many readers have asked that I provide third party citations to ‘prove’ the NSA identified Satoshi using stylometry. Unfortunately, I cannot as I haven’t read this anywhere else — hence the reason I wrote this post. I’m not trying to convince the reader of anything, instead my goal is to share the information I received and make the reader aware of the possibility that the NSA can easily determine the authorship of any email through the use of their various sources, methods, and resources.

Many readers have asked who Satoshi is and I’ve made it clear that information wasn’t shared with me. Based on my conversation I got the impression (never confirmed) that he might have been more than one person. This made me think that perhaps the Obama administration was right that Bitcoin was created by a state actor. One person commented on this post that Satoshi was actually four people. Again, I have no idea.

If it is true then “The moral of the story? You can’t hide on the internet anymore. Your sentence structure and word use is MORE unique than your own fingerprint. If an organization, like the NSA, wants to find you [sic] they will.

Full story by Alexander Muse is on Medium.


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.