david wong

Hey! I'm David, a security engineer at the Blockchain team of Facebook, previously a security consultant for the Cryptography Services of NCC Group. I'm also the author of the Real World Cryptography book. This is my blog about cryptography and security and other related topics that I find interesting.

Explanation of Shellshock posted January 2015

Here's an awesome explanation of shellshock: https://bitbucket.org/carter-yagemann/shellshock/src/f0a88573f912?at=master

This repository contains useful documents which I have written to help educate the cybersecurity community on the "ShellShock" bash vulnerability. These documents are designed to help facilitate learning, including on how to identify possibly vulnerable services and how to remediate such vulnerabilities.

It's actually the clearest explanation I've seen on the subject.

Made by these guys from Syracuse:

  • Carter Yagemann
  • Amit Ahlawat
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One example of a crypto backdoor: NSA's backdoor in Lotus-Notes posted January 2015

Excellent finding from Adam Back.

If I understand the article correctly, when exporting encrypted content with Lotus-Notes, 24 bits of the 64 bits key would be encrypted under one of the NSA's public key and then appended to the encrypted content (I guess). This would allow NSA to decrypt those 24 bits of key with their corresponding private key and they would then have to brute force only 40 bits instead of 64 bits.

This shouldn't allow any bad attacker to get any advantage if they don't know the NSA's private key to decrypt those bits. And if they do acquire it, and they do decrypt 24bits of key, they would still have to have the computing power to brute force 40 bits of key. I have no idea what I'm talking about but I have the feeling the NSA might be the most powerful computing power when it comes to brute forcing ciphers.

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Awk in 20 minutes posted January 2015

I posted a tutorial of awk a few posts bellow. But this one is easier to get into I found. It says Awk in 20 minutes but I would say it takes way less than 20 minutes and it's concise and straight to the point, that's how I like it.


EDIT1: And here's a video of someone using a bunch of unix tools (awk, grep, cut, sed, sort, curl...) to parse a log file, pretty impressive and informative: https://vimeo.com/11202537

EDIT2: Here's another post playing with grep, sort, uniq, awk, xargs, find... http://aadrake.com/command-line-tools-can-be-235x-faster-than-your-hadoop-cluster.html

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How Differential Power Analysis (DPA) works? An explanation of the first paper from Kocher et al (1998) posted January 2015

I wanted to get into educational videos and this is my first big try (of 13minutes). I made some quick animations in Flash and some slides and I recorded it. I didn't want to spend too much time on it. It doesn't feel that clear, my English kinda got stuck sometimes and my animations were... crappy, let's say that :D but it's a first try, I will release other videos and improve on the way hopefully :) (I really need to get more pedagogical). So I hope this will at least help some of my fellow students (or people interested in the subject) in understanding Differential Power Analysis

Note: I made a mistake at the start of the video, DPA is non-invasive (source)

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How facebook hash its passwords posted January 2015

$cur  = 'plaintext'
$cur  = md5($cur)
$salt = randbytes(20)
$cur  = hmac_sha1($cur, $salt)
$cur  = cryptoservice::hmac($cur)
        [= hmac_sha256($cur, $secret)]
$cur  = scrypt($cur, $salt)
$cur  = hmac_sha256($cur, $salt)

the explanation is here

tl;dr: the md5 is here for legacy purpose, cryptoservice::hmac is to add a secret salt, scrypt (which is a kdf not a hash) is for slowing brute force attempts and the sha256 is here for shortening the output.

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How does TOR works posted January 2015

I've always wondered how TOR (The Onion Router) worked and was a bit scared of digging into it. After all, bitcoin is pretty hard to grasp, how would TOR be different? But I found out that TOR was actually a pretty simple concept!

The official explanation is top notch. To sum up, instead of sending a packet to the destination (google.com for example), you choose a route of TOR nodes that will lead to that destination (usually 3 nodes). And for efficiency purpose you will keep that route for 10 minutes)

The idea is similar to using a twisty, hard-to-follow route in order to throw off somebody who is tailing you


  • The first node only see who's sending the packet (you) and who it is for (the second node). It decrypts the payload and send it to the second node.
  • The second node only sees it came from the first node, decrypts the payload and send it to the third node
  • The third node sees it came from the second node, decrypts the payload and send it to the destination (in clear if you don't use ssl)

From TOR's FAQ:

Can't the third server see my traffic?
Possibly. A bad third of three servers can see the traffic you sent into Tor. It won't know who sent this traffic. If you're using encryption, such as visiting a bank or e-commerce website, or encrypted mail connections, etc, it will only know the destination. It won't be able to see the data inside the traffic stream. You are still protected from this node figuring out who you are and if using encryption, what data you're sending to the destination.

To be able to do this, this is where the encapsulation or rather onion routing technique is used.


As we know the route we are going to take, we can encrypt several time our packet. For example: we'll encrypt the packet router B will have to send to router C with the public key of router A. So when router A opens the packet and decrypts it with its private key, he only sees the encrypted payload destined to router B. He can then send it to router B and the latter will decrypt it and send the payload to router C and on and on. I think the picture is clearer than my explanations.

Voilà! Not that hard huh?

PS: here's a list of potential attacks on TOR in their design paper

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Morse code in a pop song posted January 2015

Amazing article on the verge about how the army created a song hiding a message ("19 people rescued. You’re next. Don’t lose hope") so that hostages of the FARC could hear it on the radio.

This is a genius idea for concealing a message! Not really crypto, but kinda cool none the less. I knew about Stenography and I also posted about transforming your message into spam as a way of hiding your message, but this is cool on a different level. Even the song is catchy ^_^

There was this disturbing video of a captive soldier in a North Vietnamese prison who when forced to do a fake interview, blinked the Morse Code 'T-O-R-T-U-R-E'.

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