david wong

Hey! I'm David, a security consultant at Cryptography Services, the crypto team of NCC Group . This is my blog about cryptography and security and other related topics that I find interesting.

Just learn Vim

posted March 2014

The editor I'm using the most is Sublime Text 3. It's just super easy to use and super useful when you combine it with the right plugins and snippets.

But I love switching editors. I've used Frontpage, Dreamweaver, PHP Designer, Netbeans, Notepad++... and others I can't remember. I've recently tried the beta of Light Table and Brackets (that is truly amazing!), and I am eagerly waiting for Atom the open source IDE of github.

I also love spending time with Emacs. It's hard to master but I dig the "you don't need a mouse" aspect. One thing I found really annoying though is that most software use Vim by default. Wanting to master emacs, I didn't want to spend time learning Vim as well and I started tweaking the settings so that software X would use emacs by default. And that works well until... But then you run into some complications, for example I'm still trying to figure out how to do a git diff with emacs, or you run into a machine without emacs, and then it's either nano, which is shitty, or something else that is installed on the machine... and vim is (almost?) always installed by default.

So I decided to just learn Vim. And it was actually easier than it sounded and I feel like I'm going to avoid a lot of headaches now. Sometimes it's better to learn and adapt rather than try to use our own tools.

And if you're like me, you'll actually have a lot of fun learning vim :)

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Twitter is giving up on encrypting direct messages...

posted March 2014

...At least for now.

This shows how unnecessary encrypting is sometimes. Some people like to encrypt and encrypt everything, and don't consider a solution "usable" if it not fully protected.

I'd argue that twitter has always been a very "public" and "exhibitionist" kind of websites where the private messages have never been a core feature (and it's actually not a really well done message system) and no user is obviously going to use it for "serious" matters. So why spend time encrypting it ?

http://www.theverge.com/2014/3/19/5523656/twitter-gives-up-on-encrypting-direct-messages-at-least-for-now

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Hashes, MACs, Signatures

posted March 2014

I was very confused when I was introduced to signatures and macs because I thought they were just Hashes. I got to understand what it was and... it's actually super simple.

Here's a great explanation on the crypto stackexchange but here's mine:

  • I have a huuuge message that I want to transfer to a friend. I'm scared some of the words would change during transit. Solution? I just hash it and send the hash with the message. hash = Hash(message). A hash is pretty small (for example a md5 hash is 32 characters) so it's no trouble. My friend then receives the message and the hash, he can Hash(message) it and see if it gives him the same hash. If it doesn't then he knows that the message was changed and he can ask me for a new copy.

You can also call that an unkeyed hash, simply because it doesn't use a key. You just apply the algorithm to the message, no other arguments are given to the hash function.

  • Okay now, We had some problems because some bad guy has sent numerous bad messages to my friends pretending he was me. I still want to hash my message but I also want to tell my friend it was me who wrote it. So, like a symmetric cipher, I generate a key that I share with my friend. And I hash my message with that key Hash = HMAC(key, message). My friend can now hash it with the same key when he receives the message and see that we have the same hash.

We just used a (symmetric) keyed hash or a HMAC (Hash-based message authentication code). Note that we could have used a MAC based on a Cipher as well (CMAC).

  • So me and my friend have been writing many messages to a community of coders. We want to sign each messages with our name, but that's not enough, another bad guy is posting bad stuff signed with our names on different websites. So let's use a Hash that people can verify, like an asymmetric cipher, we generate both a secret key and a public key, we hash the message with our secret key and we post the message, the hash and the public key. Hash = Sign(secret_key, message). People can then verifiy that Hash with the public key. Voila ! We just used a Signature or how I like to call them a asymmetric keyed hash. It allows for integrity of data, thanks to the hash, authentification of the authors, thanks to the secret key (this is a MAC), non-repudiation thanks to the public key (and now we have a signature).

So if you got it right, Hash < Mac < Signature. They're all useful and you should use the one relevant according to the context.

I'll just copypasta the table on the stackoverflow answer, because it's a real nice summary:

Cryptographic primitive | Hash |    MAC    | Digital
Security Goal           |      |           | signature
------------------------+------+-----------+-------------
Integrity               |  Yes |    Yes    |   Yes
Authentication          |  No  |    Yes    |   Yes
Non-repudiation         |  No  |    No     |   Yes
------------------------+------+-----------+-------------
Kind of keys            | none | symmetric | asymmetric
                        |      |    keys   |    keys
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I made a LTC chart

posted March 2014

I wanted something I could display on my TV continuously, I think I did a pretty good job.

This shows how much is a LTC in US dollar in real time, it's made with a bit of python and a bit of javascript, you can check it here

ltc chart

ltc chart light

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Atom invites

posted March 2014

I have two invites for the new IDE by github. I can't try it because I don't own a mac and there are no versions for windows at the moment (not even linux). Weird, but eh, if you own a mac and want an invite just ask me in the comments !

https://atom.io/

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Elliptic Curve Cryptography

posted March 2014

A video I found about Elliptic Curve Cryptography that talks about the Discreet Logarithm Problem and the Diffie-Hellman Handshake with ECCs. Class is in english, with bits of german and even some french :)

Such a nice lecture, Christof Paar makes me think of a younger Gilbert Strang, seems to be a great professor. I was captivated until the end and I started liking ECCs again :)

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Matt Whitlock - Elliptic Curve Cryptography, the Foundation of Bitcoin

posted March 2014

Great lecture from Matt Whitlock, the video's quality is a bit off but the talk is really easy to understand and nicely paced.

And you can tell right away that he's a great educator: "I'll explain first why we use ECC, because in general I don't really understand things when I don't know how they're important" (not the exact words but you get the idea).

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Hacking Week

posted February 2014

A teacher from my uni (and who was teaching Programming last semester) is organizing a Hacking Week next week. Signs up are still possible there : http://hackingweek.fr/contestant/list/

It should be a Capture The Flag kind of contest. It should be interesting, although I'm going to ski with some friends so I won't be able to be really into it...

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