There are many different types of passwords. Some are for a financial institution and others are for blog comment websites and others are for your email accounts. Not all of these need to be 100% secure, but it would be easier if they were. If someone gets into a blog or forum account, so what, provided you have different passwords for each login. Good password management works. OTOH, if they get into your primary email account, that will provide access to almost every other account, including financial ones, with just a little effort. It would be best if there aren’t any breaches for these sensitive accounts – either through password cracking or other back-end cracks that we hear about weekly. That’s the ideal world. Reality is a little different.
The problem isn’t just about cracking your passwords today. The smarter cracker will retain your encrypted data/packets so they might be decrypted/cracked in the future. Yes, we need to protect our sensitive data not just for today, but for the next 20-40 years when 256-bit encryption will be trivial to crack. Perhaps protecting it for our lifetime is the best practice?
So, what can we do to minimize the future risks?
I love KeePassX and the cross-platform versions of this password manager, so I try to always use a long, complex, random, generated password for most of my needs. Sometimes a website limits the complexity to only 20 characters or just letters and numbers, significantly reducing the strength of the crypto alphabet. To counter act those limitations, I’ll try to use a nonsensical userid too. There are lots of other uses for a password manager that might be useful.
All this is stored inside a KeePassX database and automatically replicated to 4-10 different systems daily. The actual number changes since not all of them are always available. It is also backed up on many of these systems daily with 30 or 90 or 365 day versions available. The DB will not be lost. I would be sad if it became corrupted on my main system that I consider read-write, but any of the read-only versions are good enough too, if something bad happens.
High Value Targets
With all this data stored inside a file, that means my cracking just that 1 file, everything important to me can be known. It is a very high-value target. Lots of people do this with their password databases too. They trust the strength of the encryption as the only protection.
That is a false sense of security. Here’s why. Just because some encryption cannot be cracked today, that doesn’t mean it can’t be cracked in 5 or 10 or 15 or 30 years. Anyone with a copy of the old file can crack it years later and gain access to sensitive data or passwords. It has been reported that the NSA has been recording SSL data packets on the internet for years – not because they can crack the crypto today, but for when they can crack it, then all that traffic will become available.
Keeping It Safe
There is no way to keep the data safe once it gets out, even if encrypted. At some point in the future, our 4096 AES encrypted data will be as easy to crack as anything encrypted with ROT13 is today. The point is that any current encryption will be trivial to crack in the future. Count on that. Here are a few steps to limit your exposure. You’ve probably heard most of them before:
- Use the strongest encryption possible.
- Use the longest keys/passwords possible, everywhere, not just for important data.
- Change your high-value passwords periodically, annually is probably often enough, unless there is a breach.
- Follow good password creation practices – which has been written about everywhere recently. There is no substitute for length.
- Try to prevent leaks of your passwords and password manager DB – don’t tempt fate.
- Other Techniques for Secure Passwords
About Future Cracking
Any encrypted packet, file, whatever-data, is only as secure as the crypto, passphrase, AND lack of access to the raw data can make it for your lifetime. In the future, we must assume that all our current state-of-the-art encryption will be cracked and the currently protected content will be available.
I use to offer my KeePass-database to anyone to show how confident I was in the crypto. That was stupid. Fortunately, nobody ever took a copy … unless it was on a USB flash drive I was sharing and they grabbed it without my knowledge. I can’t think of any of those people who are likely to spend more than a few hours on the file before deleting it. I could be wrong.
The file was also stored on a smart phone that was brazenly stolen during a recent trip overseas. It is out there now and forever. The smart phone had been reset to factory settings the day before the theft, SIM removed and the external SDHC memory was removed, my google account was not connected to the phone, but doing all that doesn’t remove all the data stored on the internal SDHC media. Some data is left behind, including my KeePassX database and a few photos. Of course, I had a strong passphrase on the DB, the phone was locked, but still, the general data on the device, not encrypted, could be recovered. I am not panicked about this, but I will be changing all the passwords over the next few months just to be certain. Obviously, the passphrase for KeePass has been changed too.
Don’t you just love reading about governments making stupid assumptions about people? No? Me neither.
It seems many people may be terrorists by doing things that are
- perfectly legal
- required due to other stupid government laws
- necessary to ensure privacy
Here’s the news article to provide some background on the FBI and DoJ thoughts.
A few months ago, I purchased Quicken 2012 Home & Business with the intent of upgrading my Quicken 2008 version which runs pretty well under Linux in WINE. I finally got around to trying to get it working. I’m sad to report that after over 8 hours of attempts, I was unable to get Quicken 2012 to startup and stay running for more than 10 seconds before crashing under WINE. Sorry.
There are instructions over at the WineHQ to get Quicken 2012 running. These did not work for me.
For most readers, that is enough to move along.
If wiretaps and intercepting snail-mail both require a court order in the USA, then why doesn’t listening in on internet communications also require a court order?
If you trust Google maps, I think you’re crazy. Over the years, it has sent me to the wrong place numerous times.
Recently, deliveries to my home have been screwed. The only explanation that I have is because Google invented a new street name and points the correct address to the wrong houses.
Almost every week, I see the same question asked on different technology websites. That question, "How should I learn to program X?" Below I'll attempt to provide a considered answer that question. Other people will have different answers.
Every year I receive a text message on my cell phone reminding me that my minutes are about to expire. For the last 5+ years, I’ve added $10 worth of minutes every October to keep the plan alive.
Just $10/year for cell phone use?
Life is too short to deal with filing (paper or electronic) very much. We all have better things to do with our time than waste it on excess organization. The goal is to locate a receipt or statement fast enough. Nobody is watching your filing – there is no test later. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I usually need to find a single document every year, no more. Minimal effort for maximum return is the goal.
At my day job, I’ve been doing some Android development. Due to the nature of the application, we’d like to connect the device to larger screens both directly using HDMI and by streaming through a DLNA client/server connection.
Anyway, I ordered a 10 foot HDMI cable off Amazon last week and it arrived today. After connecting the Android tablet to the TV and pressing “play”, I was happy to see the same thing displayed on the tablet show up on the 37 inch HDTV here. Pretty sweet …. until ….