March 22, 2011 8 Comments
- Soft Attacks
No matter how sophisticated the attack techniques become, one must not forget that when the ultimate goal is to obtain the secret message, coercion or social engineering are often the most effective attack techniques. These attacks are based on using physical or psychological threats, robbery, bribery, embezzlement, etc. The attacks are mostly directed to human links of the data security chain.
Social Networks have become a launching pad for these kind of attacks. In a typical soft attack such as the so-called spear-phishing, e-mail addresses and information about the victims social circle is harvested from social networks and then used to send targeted e-mail with malware that cause to reveal secret information for access to secured systems.
- Brute Force Attacks
Assuming, as Kerchoff’s principle recommends, that the algorithm used for encryption and the general context of the message are known to the cryptanalyst, the brute-force attack involves the determination of the specific key being used to encrypt a particular text. When successful, the attacker will also be able to decipher all future messages until the keys are changed. One way to determine the key entails exhaustive search of the key-space (defined as the set of all possible valid keys for the particular crypto-system).
Brute force is a passive, off-line attack in which the attacker Eve passively eavesdrops the communication channel and records cipher text exchanges for further analysis, without interacting with either Alice or Bob.
To estimate the time that a successful brute-force attack will take we need to know the size of the key-space and the speed at which each key can be tested. If is the number of valid keys and we can test keys per second, it will take, on average seconds to find the proper key by brute-force.
The threat that a brute-force attack poses cannot be underestimated in the real world. Most financial institutions use cipher-systems based on DES. Keys of length 56-bits, such as the one used by the
standard implementation of DES, can be obtained by brute-force using computer hardware and software available since the late 1990’s. Indeed, to counter this possibility, most contemporary implementations of DES use a derivative known as Triple-DES (or 3-DES) which uses three different 56-bit keys instead of one. The effective key length for the combined 3-DES key is a more secure 168 bits.
Brute force analysis have been used in combination with other attacks as was the case for the deciphering of the Enigma. The famous bombes were an example of the brute-force approach working in combination with a mathematical method that provided an important reduction of the key-space.
To be continued…..