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Silly Question

by Administrator on July 5, 2007

In my files of background foo covering disk encryption, I have the following press release:

SPYRUS Talisman/DS® Selected by U.S. Department of Defense Data at Rest Program to Secure Data on Mobile Computer Platforms and Removable Storage Media

Comprehensive Product Offering Includes the Only Approved Secure USB Flash Memory Device and Combined Software-Hardware Solutions

San Jose, California, June 21, 2007 – SPYRUS, Inc., an innovator in portable high-security hardware and software products, today announced that the U.S. Government has selected the SPYRUS Talisman/DS Data Security Suite as a premier data at rest encryption solution under the Department of Defense (DOD) Data at Rest (DAR) Program. The SPYRUS award includes multiple software and hardware product configurations to protect sensitive data residing on computers, mobile computing devices, and removable storage media. The Talisman/DS Data Security Suite includes the groundbreaking Hydra Privacy Card® (Hydra PC™) Series II Enterprise Edition, the only hardware-based USB encryption device approved under the DAR Program.

The stimulus behind the DAR Program was an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum issued June 2006 requiring agencies to encrypt all sensitive data on mobile devices. The General Services Administration (GSA) and OMB intend to issue regulations that make the DAR Program Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) mandatory sources for agencies of the Federal government. According to the DOD, contract values could exceed $79 million. The Talisman/DS Data Security Suite is available for sale today through Autonomic Resources, a U.S. Small Business Administration Section 8(a) program participant, under SmartBUY Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) FA 8771-07-A-0308. Products and services are available for purchase by the DOD, Federal, State, and local agencies, NATO and Foreign Military Sales (FMS).

“We are proud to be selected as one of the few vendors that met the stringent requirements defined by the Government to address OMB Directive M-06-16 in this groundbreaking procurement,” said Tom Dickens, Chief Operating Officer, SPYRUS. “We have invested years in the design, feature set, and security review of our products to ensure they will protect Government and commercial enterprise data for decades. We are particularly pleased that the Hydra PC Enterprise Edition was the only hardware encryption memory device robust enough to be approved to protect data at rest and data in transit. ”

What sets Talisman/DS apart from other products awarded under the DAR Program is the unprecedented combination of high-strength hardware file encryption and efficient software disk encryption products to provide a scalable, multi-layered “Defense-in-Depth” solution to protect the confidentiality and integrity of data at rest and data in transit. Talisman/DS is unique in supporting the entire set of high-strength Suite B cryptographic algorithms, including the default settings of AES-256, SHA-384 and ECC P-384, as well as all of the legacy algorithms (RSA, triple-DES, and SHA-1).

Specific Talisman/DS Data Security Suite product packages under the BPA include:

  • WinMagic SecureDoc Software. Full Disk Encryption software that automatically protects every sector on the disk, including temporary files, free space and swap files.
  • WinMagic SecureDoc Software combined with SPYRUS Rosetta USB Executive Suite. Ideal for full disk encryption and pre-boot authentication. When used with a Rosetta USB token, the SecureDoc AES 256-bit disk encryption key can be protected by an equally strong ECC P-384 key, the equivalent of an RSA-7680 key. Competing products use the much weaker RSA 1024-bit or 2048-bit keys, or fail to encrypt the disk encryption keys at all. Hydra Privacy Card (Hydra PC) Series II Enterprise Edition. A hardware-based secure file sharing encryption and secure mass storage device.
  • Hydra PC Series II Enterprise Edition combined with WinMagic SecureDoc Software. Ideal for hardware-based secure file sharing encryption, secure mass storage and full disk encryption for superior protection of data at rest and data in transit. As the only hardware encryption device approved by the DAR Program, the Hydra PC Enterprise Edition features a Secure File Sharing system that allows files to be encrypted at one location and safely transported to another location for decryption, without requiring the keys to be transported as well. The Secure File Sharing system also permits a user to encrypt data, store the data in multiple locations, and share the encrypted data with one or more user-designated recipients. A unique Recovery Agent mechanism can decrypt files even when the Hydra PC is lost or destroyed or the PIN is forgotten. The use of an innovative Host Authorization Code allows enterprises to restrict the use of a Hydra PC to a selected set of computers, preventing users from removing sensitive data or using an unauthorized computer to maliciously or inadvertently breach data security, even if the user possesses the Hydra PC and knows the PIN. Of note is that the Hydra PC Enterprise Edition file encryption solution can be used in combination with any previously deployed full disk encryption solution.

SPYRUS is the only company under the DAR Program that offers one-stop-shopping of “Defense-in-Depth” security product combinations to meet a variety of customer data security requirements. The SPYRUS Talisman/DS suite of products provides the most flexible and high strength security protection for mobile data, making it the logical choice for any Government or commercial organization that values its sensitive data.

About SPYRUS, Inc.

SPYRUS, Inc., a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, has pioneered portable security products and solutions for the information security market since its inception in 1992. Our primary product lines of LYNKS Hardware Security Modules, Rosetta smart cards and USB security devices, Hydra Privacy Card® Series II encryption and mass storage, Talisman/DS® Data Security Suite, and identity management products (Signal Identity Manager™ and SPYRUS PKI) meet customer needs for high-assurance security. Our mission is to set the standard for the new era of multinational information sharing and long-term data protection. SPYRUS, Inc. is headquartered in San Jose, CA. See for further information.

Okay, so let’s say I use this USB key to encrypt my laptop drive. Usually, I throw my USB keys into the same bag that holds my laptop so that they don’t set off alarms at airports. If the key is in the bag with the protected system, isn’t it vulnerable to misuse by the same dork who steals my system in the first place?

If anyone from SPYRUS (is that SPYs-R-Us???) reads this, please assuage my concerns.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

TomTreadway July 5, 2007 at 2:42 pm

I believe with WinMagic the user can optionaly be prompted for a pre-boot password. This is possible in the pre-boot environment because to perform true “full disk” encryption with software the boot loader on disk has to be replaced with an encryption aware loader that can decrypt the original boot sectors, etc., until the real Windows encryption software is loaded. This boot loader can also prompt for a password. Seagate does it this way with their Momentus drives.

So I guess the next question is, “What’s the point of the USB stick?” Isn’t a strong password good enough to create an AES key? The stick could save a copy of the AES key which is simply wrapped by a hashed version of the passphrase. But if that’s the case, I don’t understand the comments about the asymmetric RSA keys. What are they used for? I suspect they’re only needed for the non-passphrase boot, which as you point out is insecure if you keep the USB stick in the same bag as the laptop.


Administrator July 5, 2007 at 2:59 pm

If you are correct about Seagate, I am not sure that I understand how they will be tempting array manufacturers to do native encryption. I suspect that is their next target after laptops.

As for the other technology, I have personally invited SPYRUS to respond to my questions and the other questions posted here. Let’s see what happens.

TomTreadway July 5, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Yes, this boot code approach is unwieldy for array controllers. Luckily it’s optional. We would do the key management using controller firmware – bridging the gap between the motherboard TPM and the drives hidden behind the logical array.

justauser July 6, 2007 at 9:12 am

Generally the fobs are used as part of a two factor authentication, so you would need a PIN in addition to the information on the usb key. Presumably if someone only has your usb key, they still won’t gain access.

That does raise the question of why not use a strong pass phrase instead of the USB schtick? Generally, since you need both the USB and the PIN, it makes it more difficult for someone to gain access. They would have to both shoulder surf you and grab your USB stick. It’s just more difficult.

As for native drive encryption, that has a few interesting deployment vectors, one of which is enhanced secure erase – the ability to very quickly shred the drive by destroying the keys. That makes it very difficult for even a determined laboratory attack to recover the data.

I’m not in any way associated with the company in question, and have no idea if they use two factor authentication, so take the info for what it’s worth.

Administrator July 6, 2007 at 10:03 am

Thanks for the input, justauser. I was only asking the question because of the information supplied on the press release. I think it was an valid question to ask.

Robert Jueneman July 6, 2007 at 4:35 pm

I’m glad that you asked.

The first question concerns the use of the SPYRUS Rosetta token for pre-boot authentication with the WinMagic SecureDoc full disk encryption product.

Although SecureDoc can use a number of different authentication schemes, the most secure approach uses two–factor authentication with a very high-strength elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) P-384 public key to encrypt the AES-256 key used for the disk encryption. This wrapped key can be stored on the disk, or stored on the token, but in either case, it can only be decrypted by using the ECC private key on the token.

In order to log on to the token to decrypt the wrapped key, the user must enter the PIN correctly, and if the PIN is entered incorrectly 10 times in a row, the token becomes blocked. Assuming the PIN is at least 6 digits long, this means there is one chance in 100,000 that the PIN could be guessed.

Unlike common USB memories, and even some that claim to do encryption, the keys in the Rosetta are contained within a security processor that is extremely resistant to attack, including such exotic approaches as ion beams, electron microscopes, etc. Multiple national laboratories have evaluated the security of this chip and concluded that a successful attack would be exceedingly difficult.

Now compare that approach with the conventional password-based encryption approach, using PKCS#5 or some variant. What those approaches do is perform a series of encryption and hashing operations to conceal the wrapped key, and they deliberately increase the number of rounds to make the operation take as long as possible.

But people don’t want to wait too long, so one or two seconds is about as long as could be expected.

Now, since the password-wrapped key is either stored on the disk or kept on the USB memory, it is accessible for an off-line attack if someone steals the laptop and the USB device. There is no hardware mechanism to limit the number of password guessing attempts, so it is just a case of how many machines can be devoted to the task of what length of time.

Suppose the PIN contains 6 randomly selected characters for the set of 66 upper and lower case characters, numbers, and special characters on a US keyboard. Then the number of possible PINs is 66^6, or 82,653,950,016. By way of comparison, a 56-bit DES key would have 72,057,594,037,927,936 possible keys, or 871,798 times stronger. Let’s assume a DES operation takes a microsecond, and the PKCS#5 password-based encryption scheme takes on the order of a second to decrypt. Then the two approaches are roughly comparable.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation broke a DES key in three days in 1998, using a machine that cost less than $130,000 and used multiple DES engines working in parallel. Networks of computer have been used to break 64-bit RC5.

Today, NIST is no longer certifying single-key DES, and is advising people to move to full three-key triple-DES instead of the two-key form by 2010. (For technical reasons involving a so-called meet-in-the-middle attack, two-key triple-DES offers only 80-bit effective strength, and three-key triple DES offers only 112-bit strength.) By comparison, ECC P-384 offers 192-bit strength. So if single DES can be broken in about a day, ECC P-384 would require 8.7*10^40 days.. However, since an ECC operation takes about a million times longer than a single DES operation, this calculation is probably off by a factor of a thousand or so. So that amounts to about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years!

As to the second question, although “SPYs-R-Us” is a tired old joke in the crypto community, the real origin of the name comes from “Secure Papyrus.”

Finally, I’d like to emphasize that the SPYRUS Hydra Privacy Card® Series II (Hydra PC™) is much more than an authentication and key storage device. It is a hardware-based file encryption system that hashes and then compresses the plaintext, encrypts each file uniquely and then digitally signs the entire file Files can be stored on a removable miniSD card within the Hydra PC, or stored on the computers hard drive, a network drive, sent via email, or burned to CD or DVD and physically transported with complete security, Secure file sharing is supported between multiple recipients. A Recovery Agent is support to protect against vital data being lost if the Hydra PC is lost or damaged. .Although Hydra PC uses the same security module as the Rosetta token, it includes two additional processors for high-speed ECC P-384, as well as simultaneous AES-256 encryption and SHA-384 hashing of the ciphertext. Hydra PC is the ONLY hardware-based encryption device approved by the OMB/DoD/GSA Data at Rest award, and is available to all federal, state, and local government agencies. See our web site for further details, and visit here for a brief video regarding the SPYRUS Hydra Privacy Card. A review of the Hydra PC by Smart Card magazine is posted here as a PDF file.

Robert R. Jueneman
Chief Scientist

Administrator July 6, 2007 at 6:46 pm

Thank you for the extensive feedback, Robert.

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