Two recent disclosures show that often the weaknesses in cryptography lie not in the algorithms themselves, but in the implementation of these algorithms in functional computer instructions. Mathematics is beautiful. Or at least mathematics triggers the same parts of our brain that respond to beauty in art and music . Cryptography is a particularly beautiful implementation of mathematics, a way of ensuring that information is encoded in such a way so that it can only be read by the genuine intended recipient. Cryptographically signed certificates ensure that you are certain of the identity of the person or organisation with which you are communicating, and cryptographic algorithms ensure that any information you transfer cannot be read by a third party. Although the science of cryptography is solid, in the real world nothing is so easy.
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Is it the end of October already? As has been true for centuries, there is a tradition for children to wear costumes and disguise themselves while going door to door with a simple question: “Trick or treat?” While I am not sure there is a coincidence, but having National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) end on a day characterized by pranks, false identifications and the like seems appropriate. And what scary stories we had to tell!
Cryptography is critical to secure, trustworthy communications. Recent questions within the tech industry have created entirely new discussions about the cryptography underpinning our communications infrastructure. While some in the media have focused on the algorithm chosen for Deterministic Random Bit Generation (DRBG), we’ve seen many more look to have a broader crypto conversation. With this backdrop, I’d like to take the opportunity to talk about how we select algorithms (not just the DRBGs) for our products.
Before we go further, I’ll go ahead and get it out there: we don’t use the DUAL_EC_DRBG in our products. While it is true that some of the libraries in our products can support the DUAL_EC_DRBG, it is not invoked in our products. For our developers, the DRBG selection is driven by an internal standard and delivered to those developers from an internal team of crypto experts through a standard crypto library. The DRBG algorithm choice cannot be changed by the customer. Our Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT) confirmed this in a Security Response published on October 16.
In order for government and enterprise organizations to keep their data secure from increasingly advanced cyber threats, security solutions and protocols are critical. However, these organizations must ensure that their chosen security solutions meet key security criteria, are standards based, perform as expected and interoperate reliably with existing technology.
The challenges above are why Common Criteria was created. Common Criteria is an international standard for IT product security and reliability. In fact, many governments will not use security products that don’t meet Common Criteria standards.
This year, the International Common Criteria Conference is being held in Orlando, Florida from September 10-12. The conference is a place for Certification Bodies, Evaluation Laboratories, Researchers, Evaluators, Product Makers and Buyers and Sellers to come together and exchange ideas in order to improve Common Criteria.
Cisco will lead multiple sessions covering topics like Cryptography, Network Device Protection Profiles, Improving Common Criteria and Marketing Common Criteria.
Details on the speaking sessions presented by and in collaboration with Cisco are below:
- Keynote Speaker: CCUF Perspective
September 11 from 9-9:30AM ET
Alicia Squires, Cisco, CCUF Chair
- Marketing the New CC
September 11 from 9:30-11AM ET
Moderator: Mark Loepker, NIAP, CCES Chair
Panelists: Joshua Brickman, Oracle; Jen Gilbert, Cisco; Matt Keller, Corsec; Eric Winterton, Booz Allen Hamilton.
- Entropy Sources -- Industry Realities and Evaluation Challenges
September 11 from 10-10:30AM ET
Alicia Squires: CISSP, Product Certification Engineer, Cisco Chair, CCUF Management Group
- Cryptography and Common Criteria
September 11 from 11:30-12PM ET
Ashit Vora, Manager, Common Criteria Certification, Cisco and Chris Brych, Manager, Security Certifications, SafeNet, Inc.
- Lessons and Recommendations from Evaluating Against NDPP in Three Different Schemes
September 11 from 5-5:30PM ET
Terrie Diaz, Product Certification Engineer, Cisco and Ashit Vora, Manager, Common Criteria Certification, Cisco
- Widening the Use of CC for End Users Worldwide
September 12 from 9:30-11AM ET
Moderator: Michele Mullen, Director, ATA, CSEC
Adam Golodner, Director, Global Security & Technology Policy, Cisco; Steve Lipner, Microsoft; Blackberry (INVITED); Ericsson (INVITED)
Today, many encrypted networks use insecure cryptography. Attackers exploiting weak cryptography are nearly undetectable, and the data you think is secure is less safe every day. Legacy encryption technology can’t keep up with current advances in hacking and brute force computing power. Additionally, legacy solutions are increasingly inefficient as security levels rise, and perform poorly at high data rates. In order to stay ahead of this challenge, encryption needs to evolve.