The encrypted jihad

    Date05 Feb 2002
    CategoryCryptography
    3088
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    Ironically, winning possession of computer equipment on the battlefield may be the easy part; terrorists today have the capacity to protect data with encryption schemes that not even America's high-tech big guns can crack. The number of possible keys in the . . . Ironically, winning possession of computer equipment on the battlefield may be the easy part; terrorists today have the capacity to protect data with encryption schemes that not even America's high-tech big guns can crack. The number of possible keys in the new 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), for example, is 1 followed by 77 zeros -- a figure comparable to the total number of atoms in the universe.

    Luckily, not all encryption is hopelessly secure. Ramsi Yousef was careless in protecting the password to his encrypted files, giving the FBI relatively easy access to their contents. It took the Wall Street Journal only days to decrypt files on two Al-Qaida computers that used a weak version of the Windows 2000 AES cipher in Afghanistan. The U.S. cannot, however, count on such carelessness indefinitely.

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