Cryptome – What Is Good Encryption Software?

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What Is Good Encryption Software?

A sends:

I have contacted you asking about certain security questions. After reading a few of the Snowden leaked documents, I have started to be more aware of my privacy being at risk. I have a few questions concerning certain programs and safety tips.

First, I’ve recently started to doubt about my encryption software. Is Symantec’s “PGP Endpoint” a good hard drive encryption software?

In other words, is it trustworthy since it is an American company. And if not, what encryption software is the best for Mac.

Second, is “ProtonMail” as secure as they say it is? If not, what email provider doesen’t let the NSA see into my account.

Third, is Jetico inc’s “Bestcrypt Container Encryption” trustworthy? If not, what could be an alternative.

Fourth, are these encryption types good? Blowfish, Gost & AES – 256bit. And which encryption type remains the best above all?

Last, is Kaspersky a good anti-virus software? If not, which one is the best for Mac.



Important, difficult questions, likely to produce a range of answers.

We will publish them for answers.


Answers to cryptome[at]

Cryptome Public Key Key ID: 0x8B3BF75C

Version: PGP Universal 2.9.1 (Build 347)


I think the author has not properly defined the problem. The first step to securing any system or information is to construct a threat model: _what_ do you want to defend, against _whom_? _What resources_ and capabilities does your attacker have? Which _compromises_ (usually reducing usability) are you willing to make? These questions have different responses when the above parameters vary.

Additionally, in my opinion, even if such a threat model were properly defined, the author does not approach the problem correctly. Here are some truisms I use when evaluating the security (however defined) of any system:

1) Software (and hardware) which is not publically-auditable is not trustworthy. Note that this does _not_ mean that publically-auditable software is trustworthy; publically-auditable code is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition, for trustworthiness.

2) All software which processes untrusted input has exploitable vulnerabilities. This is not true in theory, but decades of surprising exploits prove this in practice. Some software has a higher defect density than others, but the proper approach is to reduce the size of the attack surface.

3) Encryption works only in very constrained threat models.         Even assuming the cryptosystem is properly designed and the underlying crypto primitives are indeed “secure”, a motivated attacker will easily sidestep these measures in most scenarios.

4) “Antivirus” software is dangerous: it gives a false sense of security. If an attacker can execute code on your system–either by physical access or remote code execution–your entire system is now untrustworthy.

In general, no person can independently audit all security-critical parts of any system. Thus, security relies on trust. You trust chip designers, design IP vendors, EDA tools vendors, the chip fabricator, the fab employees making masks, the supply chain of your system integrator, the system integrator itself, the OEMs who write microcode and firmware, the distribution chain from those OEMs to your actual device, the software vendor, the distribution chain from the software vendor to your actual device, the supply chain of that vendor (was their compiler compromised?), … and the list goes on. In all, you must, whether wittingly or not, trust literally millions of people and companies, and a violation of that trust at any one point can destroy your entire system security.

With that said, let me elaborate on the above points and include some possible implications for the author.

1) Wherever possible, do not use proprietary services, software, or hardware. This means no Windows and no OS X, no Dropbox, no SkyDrive, no iCloud, etc.–at the very least. No email provider is secure. American companies may be particularly suspect, but this does not mean non-American companies are better. NSA compromised the Swiss crypto-device manufacturer Crypto AG–do you really feel safer using “Swiss secure” Proton Mail? If your mail must remain private, intentionally giving your email to a third party–_any_ third party–is just plain dumb. It’s hard enough to defend as it is!

2) Critically analyze the attack surface of your relevant software; determine the size of the trusted computing base (TCB): what software and hardware do you rely on to properly deny or mitigate an attacker?         Let’s suppose you want to prevent a) hardware access (reflashing BIOS, hard drive firmware, etc.), b) access to the OS core (rootkits), c) access to sensitive data (Cryptolocker, bank info-stealing malware). Let’s also suppose you use Microsft Windows and Internet Explorer.

For an attacker to exploit your browser, you rely on millions of lines of code in Internet Explorer for image handling, JavaScript sandboxing, etc. Assuming sensitive data is not already accessible to the attacker, you then rely on thousands to millions of lines of kernel discretionary access control code to prevent access to that data. For an attacker to control the OS core, you rely on millions more lines of kernel code, and maybe millions more lines of user-mode code (e.g. LSASS). For an attacker to control the hardware or firmware, you rely on millions more lines of kernel/driver and firmware code, and the hardware itself.

In other words, your TCB is astronomically large: you must trust so much code, that even if you assume the defect density is incredibly small, you can expect many vulnerabilities.

A better approach is to start from first principles, like Qubes OS or Citrix. Isolate those parts of the system which must be isolated from each other, and rely on as little software, firmware, and hardware as possible to enforce the isolation.

3) Focusing on which crypto primitives are used is likely a waste of time, especially for a non-cryptographer: there are so many potential pitfalls in cryptosystem implementation, that a sophisticated attacker would never bother attacking the crypto primitives themselves, but rather the implementation. And don’t forget the cryptosystem necessarily includes _you_, the user–and you’re usually the weakest link.

Think about this in traditional military terms: you have some territory to defend against an attacker. If you build an impenetrable 30km-high and 10-km deep wall of Uranium around 30 degrees of your perimeter, no attacker is going to waste time destroying the wall; they’ll just go around it.

Specifically for full disk encryption, forget about which primitives are used. Don’t worry about whether 20km is tall enough: make sure there aren’t giant gaps in the wall. The best way to do this is to use the most-audited code you can.         In practice, this means using LUKS.

4) Don’t rely on detection. In all cases but the most trivial botnet malware, you need prevention. Once cryptolocker encrypts all your files, it’s already too late. Once NSA exploits your browser with QUANTUMINSERT, it’s already too late. You must architect your system to provide the maximum defensive capabilities–before it’s too late.

Finally, if you really _need_ security, don’t use a computer. At the very least, never connect your computer to a network, never process untrusted data or connect untrusted devices, and _physically remove_ as many components as possible to reduce your attack surface.

Response 2:

I would add to the picture. How secure is it?

Response 3:

Don’t use unseen

Response 4:

Tweet: Tell the users it’s not about encryption. It’s about implementation. The flaws are usually there.

Cryptomeorg: Perhaps. Crypto producers-advocates use that excuse for failure to deliver on marketing promises. Pretty good fails.

Tweet: Oh come on you can’t blame mathematics for the failure of Windows to prevent buffer flaws.

Response 5:

This question has already been answered in some detail at the Cryptome library:

Greenwald Blames the Hostage, November 20, 2014:

“Encryption is a citizen fraud, bastard progeny of national security, which offers malware insecurity requiring endless ‘improvements’ to correct the innately incorrigible. Its advocates presume it will empower users rather than subject them to ever more vulnerability to shady digital coders complicit with dark coders of law in exploiting fear, uncertainty and doubt.”

FBI Breaks Crypto, October 31, 2014:

“Protections of promises of encryption, proxy use, Tor-like anonymity and ‘military-grade’ comsec technology are magic acts — ELINT, SIGINT and COMINT always prevail over comsec. The most widely trusted and promoted systems are the most likely to be penetrated, exploited, spied upon, successfully attacked, covertly compromised with faults hidden by promoters, operators, competitors, compromisers and attackers all of whom warn against the others while mutually benefiting from continuous alarms about security and privacy.”

Apple Wiretap Disbelief, September 20, 2014:

“Because this first release of their encryption software has no security bugs, so you will never need to upgrade it to retain your privacy?”

Natsec the Mother of Secfuckers, June 9, 2013:

“Security is deception. Comsec a trap. Natsec the mother of secfuckers.”

In fact, the NSA itself has tipped its hat on this matter essentially echoing Cryptome:

“The Inevitability of Failure: The Flawed Assumption of Security in Modern Computing Environments “

“Current security efforts suffer from the flawed assumption that adequate security can be provided in applications with the existing security mechanisms of mainstream operating systems”

Response 6:

Are there any “good” anti-virus software? I still keep thinking the best AV is the one you don’t install or use at all, since endpoint security is mostly reliant on “secure” user behavior anyway…

…somehow I find the idea of sharing hashes and checksums of all my files with AV industry (or MSFT even due to msrt.exe running all the time) a little disturbing 😉

Response 7:

Looking for Perfect Cryptography: The One-Time Pad

Simple and Secure.

Response 8 (to Response 7):

On 28/11/2014 20:08,…but don’t use it for long narrative and member…

1) don’t use an electronic random number generator( much less an on-line one) dice are good.

2) ensure that, to the best of your ability , you are not being observed in the creation of said otp.

3) write on a single sheet resting on a hard surface( you don’t want to leave tell-tale indentations lying about.

4) DO NOT use the same cypher key twice!!!( or should tat by number/letter sequence?)

For OTP to work effectively there must be a high degree of trust between the parties involved. if you leave your pad so someone else can find it you’re fucked.

Response 9 (to Response 8):

Do you remember that US program encouraged by DARPA…TIA or Total Information Awareness? I thought that they had got rid of it, but I see that it is back again in a different form, but with a vengeance.

There is another cypher system where two or more identical books are used which are only known to the users as this information is exchanged previously using some other secure method, such as WOMB. Once this information is set up, then the users can communicate by using sentences or words from the book, i.e. (page) 6…(line) 10… (sentence) (word) 5 etc. Pretty foolproof but clumsy and requires recipients and senders to have a special relationship, like knowing and trusting one another. Once book is compromised the cryptography fails. If transmitted over the internet, suffers same problem as any other encryption sent over the internet. Ball squeezing, same problem. Mind you, using such a system might actually be more secure than any of those what we have at the moment…:-). I can see us having to educate internet users into Book Literacy. Read any good books lately…:-).

P.S.One Time Pad: Make sure that the password isn’t longer than the message. It might be “perfect” cryptography, but it is subject to the same “metadata” problems…Is there an electronic version of a one time pad? If so, subject to operation security just the same as pgp etc.

P.P.S. I seem to remember that our current most favourite political asylumee, at present resident at the Ecaudorian Embassy in London, and living in the vain hope that the European Arrest Warrant might be overturned, invented a cryptographic system which he called “rubber hose”, which apparently, like Truecrypt can hide itself within itself, so allowing plausible deniability… provided that another form of rubber hose aint used on the spherical objects…

Response 10 (to Response 9):

The way things are going at present, absolutely nothing surprises me any more…. as for any interesting reads… still ploughing through Bamford’s books ( current reading Pretext for War).

Things are getting quite, erm interesting here in the UK, a piece of legislation is being rushed through our parliament, but heres the interesting bit although it is being rushed through it is not classified as urgent. also comments have been made to the effect that, for a draft bill, parts appear to be very well developed. Even more intriguing is that this piece of proposed legislation dealing with widening powers perportedly in the name of counterterrorisim, appears to be supported by “stakeholders”, a rather odd anomaly for a government bill supposedly drafted in conjunction with or on the advice of the UK security services. I think I have the PDFs somewhere both of the proposed bill, the explanatory notes and a draft committee meeting discussing the bill.

Response 11:

Try the free Cryptology MOOC for a better understanding of algorithms:

Ask yourself if your hardware and operating systems are secure. Computers, routers, etc. Even the best encryption software won’t do much good if it is used on compressible machines and networks.

All anyone can hope for is ‘pretty good privacy’. “PGP” was a well chosen name – it wasn’t ‘Certain Privacy.’ Maybe you can protect yourself from friends, neighbors, co-workers, employers, but I don’t see how anyone can be assured of protection for the big guys like NSA.

At my age, I’m resolved to living in the Panopticon where almost everything is likely to become visible. I wish the privacy seekers well, and think some may find a modicum of success. I believe technology is too complicated for us ever to be certain that privacy and encryption will be effective.

Check with the EFF online for useful software tools and scripts. The Guardian online has some tools available too. But beware: even if the tools and encryption are perfect, the technology and machines we all use are the Achilles heel.

Most useful security link for the average person:

Response 12:

You can forget absolute security or privacy, with or without encryption.

Unfortunately, it isn’t about security software so much as your own personal needs and knowledge about security methods and how good you are at what is called “operational security”, which counts the most. You can have the best encryption software in the world, but security is a chain, and the weakest link is nearly always the human being(s) using it. It is like having a hi fi system, no good spending a fortune on having the best quality amplifier, speakers, microphones, recording and playback media and sound proofed rooms, all matching the same standard and specification if you are deaf…like me…:-). Better to check your hearing first…i.e. operational security and device security.

In an ideal world you could have unbreakable encryption, but that isn’t the end of the story. Operational security is also important. A hard disk can be encrypted with unbreakable encryption, but forensic software can take the disk back to its “new” condition and analyse everything which was ever recorded on it, up to the point of the encryption. The encryption part can be broken by using a variety of methods, brute force, analytics, heuristics, or just plain bringing you before a court and, on the pain of imprisonment or other such punishment, force you, under law to reveal your passphrase. The nasty people will just threaten to squeeze your spherical objects. Traffic analysis can also be used to find out when, for how long, and who you are sending to or receiving data from.

In todays world, as soon as you go on the internet, then everything you do, emails, downloading, uploading, installing, removing, updating, visiting websites, visiting the bank, joining a network, arranging a holiday, at home or abroad, or using social media, are all collected and stored by one or another (or all of them) state security or intelligence services in the world. Even if you aren’t a target, your activities will be recorded and kept for a long time, this is called the metadata…and it will be kept in different places, some more secure than others. It may or may not be read by an intelligence analyst at some stage, but it won’t be discarded.

A profile of you is or will eventually be created, which allows computer tracking software to map out your internet of things, computers, tablets, phones, routers, and other electronic devices…as long as they have executable files on them, they can be manipulated and their use recorded..from afar, no matter where you are in the world. Where you are in the world and when, and for how long, can also be mapped; whenever an electronic device is used, credit or debit cards, passport, i.d. card, computer An incomplete profile or a confused profile, will eventually have the “dots connected up” to paraphrase Mr. Obama.

If you are a target, then your devices will be “tagged” with different kinds of tags, depending on your position in the hierarchy of risk deemed by those agencies. Different security tags will set different levels of risk, or security, and take your information different places, depending on how much of a risk you are considered to be and what kind of risk. Your information, depending on how important you are considered to be, may be shared amongst the main intelligence or law enforcement agencies and secret services. You will be unaware of this for some time, or even for as long as you live, as remotely controlled software has been used on various occasions, such as stuxnet and such like, or finfisher in the private sector. When your passport is swiped through the computer terminal at the border, if you are on any lists, your passport will be tagged accordingly and the information sent off to the destination deemed by the tag. Not even the Customs or Passport Controller will know anything about it.

How do you become a target? Well, there are the usual, normal ways, suspected terrorism, serious crime, drug crime, threat to the security of the state or nation. Sod’s law operates here as well, a stupid joke to a security officer at an airport, venting your frustration at having to wait so long, carrying cup cakes on an aeroplane without a valid reason apart from causing suspicion. Here in England a serious crime can be putting the wrong kind of litter in a litter bin, allowing the local council to use RIPA to keep an eye on you. Yep, even the trivial can get you put on some kind of international list.

Encryption…you mean you haven’t got it? Lucky you, there might just be the slightest chance that you won’t be targeted. The security services say that anyone who uses encryption on the internet which they cannot crack will automatically be stored until such time as it can…”Yes…we can”. Using TOR or Tails and other such anonymising or “secure” software? Visited the website, downloaded it? Then your activities may well have moved you up the list. No point in having secure encryption software if your computer is being monitored for the creation of the passphrase.

Contacted cryptome or on one of those lists which the state may consider to be a threat? who could possibly consider Cryptome to be a threat?

After all, it is open, democratic website which exposes the failings of democracy, particularly those which the secret services and other organs of state would rather hide; and is not operated for a subversive, illegal or immoral purpose. Then you will be a target of some kind. Someone, somewhere will have taken note.

Anti-virus software, trojan horses, data tracking cookies and and all sorts of other malware can compromise your systems. Nation states, as well as the private and the criminal sectors on the internet already use such software on a large scale. The likes of Symantec and Kasperski and AVG can’t keep up with it…though it is still a good idea to have good anti-virus and privacy software and a firewall on your network of devices.

So, my advice is, if you are involved in any of the usual hanky panky, like banking or legitimate trading, or communicating with colleagues and friends…don’t bother about encryption. Anyway, you might not have any friends who use encryption. To give your activities some protection against the private sector, in terms of security and privacy, particularly if you are in business, then, the higher up you are in the financial chain, the more you become a target, for industrial or commerical espionage and you should take a course along with other people who are involved in your business. Such awareness, of course doesn’t prevent you or your data from being spied on.

There is literally no way you can protect your security or privacy absolutely. There is very little oversight of the intelligence and security communities throughout the world, and things are hotting up so much these days, that even those legitimate forces of law and order are using…shall we say…intrusive software which they have invented themselves which can not only map your internet of things, but take away your control over them. Just as no one allows their children to go to the park on their own these days, then nation states are using the very real dangers of international terrorism and conspiracies to enhance,”improve” and expand their security and intelligence systems, at a huge cost of money and resources.

Even air gapping your computers can hit problems. Air gapping means not connecting to the internet or to other computers. There are security concerns even there, about executive files somehow jumping over and installing themselves on a so called sterile computer.

Theoretically, that is the picture as I see it, practically, there is still a lot of catching up to do. if you want to keep a secret, don’t share it, keep it in your head and think of something else…:-).

Response 13:

1. For encryption I would suggest fulldisk using LUKS. Im not an OSX user so I cannot suggest an OSX only application but generally fulldisk>container based. The best would be a combination of the two. Neither one will bypass obvious hardware attacks/flaws or flaws in the operating system itself (see: apple ssl bug). For windows ive seen diskcryptor from the reactOS team and it is pretty solid truecrypt clone that is more opensource

2. Ive used protonmail before and it is a very decent system. It works by having an account on their server that serves your mailbox then on a client side there is a javascript file that takes a unique password to decrypt the mailbox. The only flaw with such a system is that what if someone poisons the wateringhole and infects the server that serves the javascript decryption library? I think they really need a desktop app for that. You could always double up on encryption and use pgp+protonmail if that attack is a concern for you. protonmail is based in switzerland which is pretty good and I do like the fact that all of the creators hold passports on different countries and they seem like a solid bunch as I found a XSS attack and they patched it promptly. If you dont need the fancy built in encryption I would suggest for email/xmpp

3. It is a commercial solution, I would only trust it as far as I can throw it. Also it is closed source which is a huge concern.

4. Many encryption programs will allow you to put them end to end aes256->blowfish, this is preferable but you will suffer a performance loss as a result. If you are worried about someone cracking the encryption via flaws in the encryption scheme itself the data really should not be on a computer.

5. Kaspersky is decent all around its just decent, Its got the advantage of being sort of large which means fast updates but its still just an average system. In my opinion the two best are ESET Nod32 and Avira. Nod32 has a decent emulation engine that is pretty quick at flagging stuff using heuristics and Avira is the boy who cried wolf in anti-virus form. No idea about mac availability for either. To add to this; Anyone can create an undetected virus pretty quick, AV’s only defend against known threats so you just need to make an unknown threat to avoid them.

6. is interesting. I like that they are in Iceland but there is nothing on the site that says if the development team holds Icelandic passports or if the main developer is in California and can be hit with a wrench until he gives up a key. I would avoid until it’s a little more proven. Nothing against them personally tho.

Response 14:

> Is Symantec’s “PGP Endpoint” a good hard drive encryption software?

No, Symantec is compromised by long-term close cooperation with NSA and FBI, so that its encryption does not impede investigations.

> And if not, what encryption software is the best for Mac.

Apple is compromised by agreements with NSA, FBI, and others, to subvert all Mac encryption on demand, via Software Update and numerous other privileged OSX subsystems.

> Second, is “ProtonMail” as secure as they say it is?

No, ProtonMail is a hotbed of lawbreakers, subject to frequent National Security Letters and compromised by FBI technical implants.

> What email provider doesen’t let the NSA see into my account?

All are subject to NSA and foreign intelligence technical implants. Many are subject to PRISM and similar backdoors, via agreements made by vulnerable and/or ‘patriotic’ employees with sysadmin access.

> Is Jetico inc’s “Bestcrypt Container Encryption” trustworthy?

No, Jetico compromised by an agreement with FBI, so that its encryption does not impede investigations.

> Is Kaspersky a good anti-virus software?

No, Kaspersky is compromised by deep cooperation with FBI, CIA, FSB, and others, so that its virus detection does not impede investigations.

> Are these encryption types good? Blowfish, Gost & AES – 256bit

If you mean, “Are any of these encryption types unbroken?” then unknown. Claims otherwise are by definition fallacious.

> And which encryption type remains the best above all?

NSA Suite A. Good luck.

Response 15:

> You can forget absolute security or privacy, with or without encryption.


> Unfortunately, it isn’t about security software so much as your own
> personal needs and knowledge about security methods and how good you are
> at what is called “operational security”, which counts the most.

also true!

but speaking of technology, my favorite current hardest config is:

– coreboot laptop; a nice compat lappy and build your custom bios and grub.

– Qubes OS; using IOMMU separation, and Tor VM ahead of all network comms.

– Tor Browser 2.5-alpha1 in App VM with “Transparent Tor”. the circuit list doesn’t work, but it’s worth using for the fingerprint avoidance.

– Gnu Privacy Guard but NO EMAIL, for encrypting to and from. see command line usage.