Wishful thinking versus terrorism: why crypto backdoors are a dumb idea

And if you wanna talk about totalitarianism, I’ll point out that a lot of
people throw that out when people decide that you shouldnt be able to have
a machine which can propel hundreds of small bits of metal at high speed.
It turns out there are some downsides to letting anyone own that kind of
machine. It gives that person a huge amount of power over others.

It is also possible that we can make some things illegal but not others.
Just because it’s illegal to build pipe-bombs doesn’t mean you live in a
totalitarian state. It means you live in a reasonable society which
understands the implications of technology.

And yes I’m sure when someone cooks up a virus which uses genome editing
tech to transform every tree into making nerve gas the good guys will be
fighting it, but there will still be a lot of death. 3k people died on 9/11
and the US shit it’s pants. What will happen when some bio-script-kiddy
cooks up a strain of anthrax in their basement using a gene they got off a
torrent site?

Your worried about email, I’m worried about the truely horrific things
which technology is enabling.

In fact, anyone who can synthesize a smallpox genome and pipette it into a
tube of TXTL lysate will have smallpox. Currently that lysate can only be
made through a complex procedure by a moderately equipped molecular biology
lab. That used to be true of any biotech, now you can buy hobby kits to
make your own glowing bacteria. Soon though the technology will be much
more powerful and much easier to use.

At what point do we say “Not everyone should be allowed to do this?”

On Sat, Dec 19, 2015, 8:48 PM Clayton Coffman clayton.coffman@gmail.com

You don’t need to stop the racist dude. You just need to stop the virus.

In such a future as you describe, where a single person or a small group has the ability to design, compile, and assemble a tailor-made virus on a molecular level, imagine how much computing power the CDC will have. If you can assemble something that small, you must be able to image it, so the CDC will be able to look at the DNA of the virus, design a cure, and synthesize it, seconds after obtaining a sample. Heck, they may even be able to do that all in the field.

Yes, people will abuse general purpose computing and 3d printing, in the same way that every other technology has been abused across the ages. I’m sure that the people who invented and standardized plumbing fixtures never envisioned that they’d be used as DIY explosives. However, the answer isn’t to ban, or to regulate everything scary: it’s too walk into the future with our eyes open, and plan for the disasters before they happen.

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I have not read every post in this thread, it is dense. But when it comes to encryption keys, well I have a tad bit of experience.

You can certainly have brokered keys, or multiple key material to encrypt or decrypt. But as in everything, the human aspect is the most brittle.

To properly transmit a single key, with correct auditing, something like four hours of work for four trained people each, with a standby of eight more. Each. Transferring keys takes three days each, and each part of the ceremony is redundant. Every key officer is recorded at every step with video, audio, biometrics, a steward, third party tracking, and mandatory audits.

Tell a single paralegal to do that and I’ll eat my enormous hat. End to end when it comes to clients is the only way. Otherwise handling key material manually, which is what a judge would have to do, will just be insane.


The CDC or whomever certainly will control it.

Not till a lot of people have died though.

Heck, 13k people a year die from HIV in the US and we cant stop that. Forget the flu.

Yes, people abuse tech, but so far none of the available tech has been as powerful as what we will have tomorrow.

Muskets weren’t that useful in the beginning anyway. None of the US “founding fathers” thought about the implications of machine guns, how could they?

The computers we have now are the muskets of our day, at some point where going to have to think that maybe everyone shouldn’t be able to run a super-human AI in their pocket, which can design an implement any technology the user asks for.

So why is the NSA so worried about encrypted iMessages if its so impossible to securely send keys?

It isn’t hard, if it is end to end. The moment you throw brokered keys or multiple keys into the mix it gets insanely complicated. That is if you don’t want your brokered keys to be compromised.

The math is the easy part. The process when you involve a human is a biatch.


I really shouldn’t say the math is easy, it is quite tricky. I couldn’t come up with a reasonable s-box algorithm to save my life. Not to mention key exchange.


Today? No, we can’t stop the flu, or HIV. However, I think that nano-designed cures will precede nano-designed viruses, just due to the computing power involved. Once those exist, we will be rid of the flu and HIV, and it shouldn’t take long to tailor those cures to a newly designed virus.

As for the number of deaths: I’m not an expert in diseases, but, from what I understand, the reason that HIV is so dangerous is because it’s not immediately lethal, so it can spread before it kills the infected person. The ones that are more quickly lethal tend to kill their hosts off before they can spread too far. If they make it very lethal, it won’t spread far, and few will die. If they make it not-so-lethal, it’ll spread farther, but the cure should be ready more quickly than the disease can kill, and few will die.

It’s pretty clear this guy is the type who doesn’t actually have enough technical knowledge about anything involved to be entitled to an opinion on it, but still thinks he should get to write the rules that apply to people who do. You know, pretty much like the huge majority of politicians and government spokesmen who have anything to say about it.


Crypto is just one of those areas where you can be well educated, well trained, and well intentioned and still screw it up. In fact you are almost guaranteed to.

So we either do it right–encryption everywhere, the device basically becomes part of 2fa–or we don’t do it at all. As in HTTP everywhere. It’s not something we can reasonably half ass. :slight_smile:


Yup, but to people like him, science and math are basically magic, so when an expert says that something is not possible, they just assume it is due to lack of will, and sit around yelling about how we need to do it anyway.



Once this becomes available, I advise you to not stay between me and such device.

If you got a bad guy with a gene synth machine, you need a good guy with a gene synth machine. Example technology is a RNA interference. Fits perfectly our scenario here.

For RNA/DNA printing, I propose optically controlled “nanoenzymes”. Something fed with nucleotides (or, better, polynucleotides). Four elements around a center, each binding to a different polynucleotide chains. Each element with attached chromophores, one common for all (say R), one with a wavelength specific to the element (ABCD). Control/power with lasers. Illuminate with sequence of ARBRCRDRARARARAR, get output of ABCDAAAA. (The R one is for resetting the machinery back, to avoid production of polynucleotide sequences.)

Instead of providing energy for the “enzyme” chemically, by e.g. ATP, the energy for the reaction (cleaving the nucleotide off the polynucleotide chain, attaching to the growing one in the center of the assembly) is provided by the photons selectively absorbed by the chromophore moieties.

Yes, yes, YES!!!
If it gives me somebody non-boring to talk with, YES!!!

And, as it is software and software can be copied with ease, the first one who writes the code can provide it to everybody who wants it.

And there is nothing you can do about it.

Because one coder, one engineer, has way more power than millions of scaredycat voters.

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