Abuse of cryptography? (a demo)

This simple demonstration shows that forbidding the use of cryptography is senseless -- sad as it may be, evil intentions are simple enough to hide, with or without crypto.

Cryptography uses advanced mathematics to make it possible to hide a message. Cryptography is sometimes called dual use technology because aside from its good applications, it can also be applied for evil purposes. Some countries choose to forbid the use of cryptography... as if terrorists would not use these principles illegally!

    Some would argue that then at least cryptographic messages will be noticed. Oh, how wrong they are. Many forms of data can hide creatively added information from casual users' eyes.

An example. Compare a standard text to another, seemingly harmess text and you will not notice any difference. Now, view the documents with view source code, and compare that. You may notice that the spacing is different -- your browser hid this from you. That looks innocent but in the latter document, this spacing contains a hidden message!
Techical specification: Two spaces encode a 1 bit, one space encodes a 0 bit, and it is serialised with the most significant bit first.

    People type a few spaces more or less all the time -- matter of fact, the original version contains 17 of those redundant spaces -- that sort of mistake is simply quite common!

Compare this hidden encryption to an encrypted message in OpenPGP format; this is obviously not plain text. To decrypt the message from this one, you also need the receiving-side secret key and the corresponding public key and any PGP implementation (beware, this is complicated software).

    If you were a terrorist, what format would have your preference?
    If you were a government, would you expect to be able to discover the first form?
    If you are a citizen, do you think your government should be this paranoid?

A smart person is able to hide whatever he wants, this simple demo is really not fancy at all. A government can impossibly ban all such things from existence -- not from truely persistent underground movements. In conclusion, there is no gain in outlawing cryptography. Sad as it may be, negative forces will always find ways to exploit means intended for good use. It's a fact of live, and we have to live with it.

    And as a matter of fact, cryptography has very useful applications...
    • protecting your bank balance
    • securing your online purchases
    • ensuring that you are not chatting with someone faking the role of your lover
    ...and do we want to outban all that from our lives? I doubt it. Even if cryptography has its downsides, it has too many good sides.

You may download this material to experiment with it. If you publish it, please refer back to this page.

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