Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Abuse images 'hidden on sat-navs'

Abuse images 'hidden on sat-navs' (BBC News, Tuesday, 22 January 2008)

Det Insp Snell is quoted: "The bottom line is that people in possession of these images of abuse will be caught and we will find the evidence."

The guy is only doing his job, and that job includes discouraging crime, with strong language and threats, whether accurate or complete boloney. One should respect that.

In contrast, the job of serious journalists (whom the BBC hasn't hired for ages) is to question such propaganda, rather than to act as the mouthpiece of law enforcement agencies. The real bottom-line is that the facilities available to the police are no match for modern cryptographic tools available to any computer user, and the battle was decided a long time ago.

On a technical level, the state of the art of mathematics restricts the possibilities of cryptanalysis (or 'code breaking') in a very concrete way. In the article, the poor policeman can boast about a '£200,000 computer server' but this is rather transparent bluff. Not even all the computers of the NSA together could crack ciphertext in AES-128 if the key is well chosen.

I tend to put all my financial data and Internet passwords on an encrypted hard drive. In this way, were it ever to be stolen, I can rest assured the thieves cannot, for example, commit fraud with my credit card information. As the tool I use (viz. TrueCrypt) also allows steganography ('information hiding'), I could quite easily hide data that I don't want to be found.

Should I believe that technology that is just fine for an honest, law-abiding, tax-paying, technophobic dunce like me is too complicated for a hardened criminal? Do criminals think that it is easier to put whatever criminal data they have on satellite navigation systems and games consoles than to hide the data with off-the-shelf, industrial-strength steganographic software? If I believe this, I might as well believe all the far-fetched drivel that the BBC has on offer.

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