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End-to-End Messaging Encryption Regulation – A European Issue

Balance scale showing the balance between privacy and law enforcement in EU regulation of end-to-end encrypted messaging.

The Controversy of End-to-End Messaging Encryption in the European Union

In a world where online privacy is increasingly threatened, the European Union finds itself at the center of a controversy: Reducing the negative effects of end-to-end encryption of messaging services. This technology, which ensures that only the sender and recipient can read the content of messages, is now being questioned by some EU member states.

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Discover our new Cyberculture article about a End-to-End Messaging Encryption European Regulation. Authored by Jacques Gascuel, a pioneer in Contactless, Serverless, Databaseless, Loginless and wireless security solutions. Stay informed and safe by subscribing to our regular updates.

Regulation of Secure Communication in the EU

The European Union is considering measures to regulate secure messaging practices. This technology ensures that only the sender and recipient can read the messages. However, some EU member states are questioning its impact on law enforcement capabilities

Control of Secure Messaging and Fragmentation

If the EU adopts these proposals, it could fragment the digital landscape. Tech companies might need to choose between complying with EU regulations or limiting their encrypted messaging services to users outside the EU. This could negatively affect European users by reducing their access to secure communication tools.

Why the EU Considers End-to-End Messaging Encryption Control

Law enforcement agencies across 32 European states, including the 27 EU member states, are expressing concerns over the deployment of end-to-end encryption by instant messaging apps. Their fear is that this could hinder the detection of illegal activities, as companies are unable to monitor the content of encrypted messages. This concern is one of the key reasons why the EU is considering implementing control over end-to-end message encryption.

Exploring the Details of the Proposed Regulation on Encrypted Messaging

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, has put forward a proposal that could significantly impact the tech industry. This proposal actively seeks to mandate tech companies to conduct thorough scans of their platforms, extending even to users’ private messages, in an effort to detect any illicit content.

However, this proposal has not been without controversy. It has sown seeds of confusion and concern among cryptographers and privacy advocates alike, primarily due to the potential implications it could have on secure messaging. The balance between ensuring security and preserving privacy remains a complex and ongoing debate in the face of this proposed regulation.

Background of the EU Proposal on Secure Messaging

A significant amount of support can be found among member states for proposals to scan private messages for illegal content, particularly child pornography, as shown in a European Council document. Spain has shown strong support for the ban on end-to-end messaging encryption.

Misunderstanding the Scan Form

Out of the 20 EU countries represented in the document, the majority have declared themselves in favor of some form of scanning encrypted messages. This proposal has caused confusion among cryptographers and privacy advocates due to its potential impact on secure communication protocols.

The Risks of Ending End-to-End Messaging Encryption

Privacy advocates and cryptography experts warn against the inherent risks of weakening encryption. They emphasize that backdoors could be exploited by malicious actors, thus increasing user vulnerability to cyberattacks.

Position of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Secure Messaging

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has taken a stance on end-to-end messaging encryption. In a ruling dated February 13, the ECHR declared that creating backdoors in end-to-end encrypted messaging services like Telegram and Signal would violate fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and privacy. This ruling highlights the importance of end-to-end messaging encryption as a tool for protecting privacy and freedom of expression within the context of human rights in Europe.

Messaging Apps’ Stance on End-to-End Encryption Regulation

As the European Union considers implementing control over end-to-end message encryption, several messaging apps have voiced their concerns and positions. Here are the views of major players in the field:

Signal’s Position on End-to-End Messaging Encryption Regulation

Signal, a secure messaging app known for its commitment to privacy, has taken a strong stance against the proposed regulation. Meredith Whittaker, president of Signal, has described the European legislative proposal as “surveillance wine in security bottles.” In the face of this legislative proposal, Signal has even threatened to cease its activities in Europe. Despite this, Whittaker affirmed that the company would stay in Europe to support the right to privacy of European citizens.

WhatsApp’s Concerns on End-to-End Messaging Encryption Regulation

WhatsApp, another major player in the messaging app field, has also expressed concerns about the proposed regulation. Helen Charles, a public affairs representative for WhatsApp, expressed “concerns regarding the implementation” of such a solution at a seminar. She stated, “We believe that any request to analyze content in an encrypted messaging service could harm fundamental rights.” Charles advocates for the use of other techniques, such as user reporting and monitoring internet traffic, to detect suspicious behavior.

Twitter’s Consideration of End-to-End Messaging Encryption

In 2022, Elon Musk discussed the possibility of integrating end-to-end encryption into Twitter’s messaging. He stated, “I should not be able to access anyone’s private messages, even if someone put a gun to my head” and “Twitter’s private messages should be end-to-end encrypted like Signal, so that no one can spy on or hack your messages.”

Mailfence’s Emphasis on End-to-End Encryption

Mailfence, a secure email service, has declared that end-to-end encryption plays a crucial role in setting up secure messaging. They believe it’s extremely important to protect online privacy.

Meta’s Deployment of End-to-End Encryption

Meta (formerly Facebook) recently deployed end-to-end encryption by default for Messenger conversations. This means that only the sender and recipient can access the content of the messages, with Meta being unable to view them.

Other Messaging Apps’ Views on End-to-End Encryption

Other messaging apps have also expressed their views on end-to-end encryption:

Europol’s View

The heads of European police, including Europol, have expressed their need for legal access to private messages. They have emphasized that tech companies should be able to analyze these messages to protect users. Europol’s director, Catherine De Bolle, even stated, “Our homes are becoming more dangerous than our streets as crime spreads online. To ensure the safety of our society and our citizens, we need this digital environment to be secure. Tech companies have a social responsibility to develop a safer environment where law enforcement and justice can do their job. If the police lose the ability to collect evidence, our society will not be able to prevent people from becoming victims of criminal acts”.

Slack’s View

Slack, a business communication platform, has emphasized the importance of end-to-end encryption in preserving the confidentiality of communications and ensuring business security.

Google’s View

Google Messages uses end-to-end encryption to prevent unauthorized interception of messages. Encryption ensures that only legitimate recipients can access the exchanged messages, preventing malicious third parties from intercepting or reading conversations.

Legislative Amendments on End-to-End Messaging Encryption

Several proposed amendments related to end-to-end messaging encryption include:

Encryption, especially end-to-end, is becoming an essential tool for securing the confidentiality of all users’ communications, including those of children. Any restrictions or infringements on end-to-end encryption can potentially be exploited by malicious third parties. No provision of this regulation should be construed as prohibiting, weakening, or compromising end-to-end encryption. Information society service providers should not face any barriers in offering their services using the highest encryption standards, as this encryption is crucial for trust and security in digital services.

The regulation permits service providers to select the technologies they employ to comply with detection orders. It should not be interpreted as either encouraging or discouraging the use of a specific technology, as long as the technologies and accompanying measures adhere to the requirements of this regulation. This includes the use of end-to-end encryption technology, a vital tool for ensuring the security and confidentiality of users’ communications, including those of children.

When implementing the detection order, providers should employ all available safeguards to ensure that the technologies they use cannot be exploited by them, their employees, or third parties for purposes other than compliance with this regulation. This helps to avoid compromising the security and confidentiality of users’ communications while ensuring the effective detection of child sexual abuse material and balancing all fundamental rights involved. In this context, providers should establish effective internal procedures and safeguards to prevent general surveillance. Detection orders should not apply to end-to-end encryption.

Advantages and Disadvantages of End-to-End Messaging Encryption

Advantages:

  • Privacy: End-to-end messaging encryption protects users’ privacy by ensuring that only the participants in the conversation can read the messages.
  • Security: Even if data is intercepted, it remains unintelligible to unauthorized parties.

Disadvantages:

  • Limitation of Detection of Illegal Activities: Law enforcement agencies fear that end-to-end messaging encryption hinders their ability to fight the most heinous crimes, as it prevents companies from regulating illegal activities on their platforms.

Technical Implications of Backdoors in End-to-End Messaging Encryption

The introduction of backdoors in encryption systems presents significant technical implications. A backdoor is a covert mechanism deliberately introduced into a computer system that allows bypassing standard authentication processes. It can reside in the core of a software’s source code, at the firmware level of a device, or be rooted in communication protocols. Backdoors can be exploited by malicious actors, increasing user vulnerability to cyberattacks. Detecting backdoors requires constant technological vigilance and rigorous system analysis.

Implications of New Cryptographic Technologies for Content Moderation

Innovation in cryptography is paving the way for new methods that allow effective content moderation while preserving end-to-end messaging encryption. Recent research is delving into advanced cryptographic technologies that empower platforms to detect and moderate problematic content without compromising communication privacy. These technologies, often rooted in artificial intelligence and natural language processing, have the capability to analyze metadata and behavior patterns to identify illicit content. For instance, the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) is aiming to make platform recommendation algorithms transparent and regulate online content moderation more effectively.

This could encompass systems that assess the context and frequency of messages to detect abuses without decrypting the content itself. Moreover, solutions like AI-based content moderation offer substantial advantages for managing online reputation, delivering faster and more consistent responses than manual moderation. These systems can be trained to recognize specific patterns of hate speech or terrorist content, enabling swift intervention while respecting user privacy. The integration of these innovations into messaging platforms could potentially resolve the dilemma between public safety and privacy protection. It provides authorities with the necessary tools to combat crime without infringing on individuals’ fundamental rights to communication privacy.

Potential Impact of This Technology on End-to-End Messaging Encryption of Messaging Services

Adopting these new cryptographic technologies represents a major advance in how we view online security and privacy. They offer considerable potential for improving content moderation while preserving end-to-end messaging encryption, ensuring a safer internet while protecting human rights in the digital age. These innovations could play a key role in implementing European regulations on end-to-end messaging encryption, balancing security needs with respect for privacy.

Messaging Services Affected by European Legislation

Among the popular messaging applications that use end-to-end messaging encryption available in Europe are:

  • Signal: A secure messaging application that uses end-to-end encryption. It ensures that only the sender and recipient can access message content, even when data is in transit on the network.
  • WhatsApp: Adopted end-to-end encryption in 2016. It ensures that messages are encrypted at the sender’s device and only decrypted at the recipient’s device.
  • Messenger: Meta (formerly Facebook) plans to generalize end-to-end encryption on Messenger by 2024.
  • Telegram: Uses end-to-end encryption for specific features, such as Secret Chats, ensuring message privacy between the sender and recipient.
  • iMessage: Apple’s messaging service uses end-to-end encryption for messages sent between Apple devices.
  • Viber: Another messaging app that uses end-to-end encryption to secure messages between users.
  • Threema: A secure messaging app that employs end-to-end encryption for all communications, providing high privacy standards.
  • Wire: Offers end-to-end encryption for messages, calls, and shared files, focusing on both personal and business communication.
  • Wickr: Provides end-to-end encryption for messaging and is known for its strong security features.
  • Dust: Emphasizes user privacy with end-to-end encryption and self-destructing messages.
  • ChatSecure: An open-source messaging app offering end-to-end encryption over XMPP with OTR encryption.
  • Element (formerly Riot): A secure messaging app built on the Matrix protocol, providing end-to-end encryption for all communications.
  • Keybase: Combines secure messaging with file sharing and team communication, all protected by end-to-end encryption.

Balancing Security and Privacy

The debate over end-to-end messaging encryption highlights the difficulty of finding a balance between security and privacy in the digital age. On the one hand, law enforcement agencies need effective tools to fight crime and terrorism. On the other hand, citizens have the fundamental right to privacy and the protection of their communications.

Alternatives to Weakened End-to-End Messaging Encryption?

It is crucial to explore alternatives that address law enforcement’s public safety concerns without compromising users’ privacy. Possible solutions include developing better digital investigation techniques, improving international cooperation between law enforcement agencies, and raising public awareness about online dangers.

Navigating Encryption: Security and Regulatory Impediments

Limitations and Challenges of Advanced Cryptographic Technologies

Hardware security modules (HSMs), such as PGP, actively enhance messaging and file encryption security. Similarly, Near Field Communication (NFC) hardware security modules, like DataShielder, significantly bolster protection. Yet, we must confront the significant limitations that regulations introduce; these aim to curtail the protection of both private and corporate data. By encrypting data before transmission, these solutions robustly defend against interception and unauthorized access, whether legal or otherwise. Additionally, this technology stands resilient to AI-driven content moderation filters. In particular, this pertains to messages and files that systems like DataShielder encrypt externally; subsequently, these services are employed for communication.

Ineffectiveness of AI-Based Moderation Filters

Content moderation systems relying on artificial intelligence face a major obstacle: they cannot decrypt and analyze content protected by advanced encryption methods. As a result, despite advances in AI and natural language processing, these filters become inoperative when confronted with messages or files encrypted via HSM PGP or NFC HSM.

Consequences for Security and Privacy

This limitation raises important questions about platforms’ ability to detect and prevent the spread of illicit content while respecting user privacy. It highlights the technical challenge of developing solutions that strike a balance between privacy protection and public safety requirements.

Towards a Balanced Solution

It is imperative to continue researching and developing new cryptographic technologies that enable effective moderation without compromising privacy. The goal is to find innovative methods that respect fundamental rights while providing authorities with the tools needed to fight criminal activities.

HSM PGP and NFC HSM: Alternatives to End-to-End Messaging Encryption

In addition to end-to-end encrypted messaging services, there are alternative solutions like Hardware Security Modules (HSM PGP) and Near Field Communication Hardware Security Modules (NFC HSM) that offer potentially higher levels of security. These devices are designed to protect cryptographic keys and perform sensitive cryptographic operations, ensuring data security throughout its lifecycle.

DataShielder NFC HSM and DataShielder HSM PGP are examples of products that use these technologies to encrypt communications and data anonymously. These tools allow encryption of not only messages but also all types of data, providing a versaced solution that uses Freemindtronic’s EviEngine technology to provide secure and flexible encryption, meeting the diverse needs of professionals and businesses. This solution is designed to operate without a server or database, enhancing security by keeping all data under the user’s control and reducing potential vulnerabilities.

Impact of HSM PGP and NFC HSM on End-to-End Messaging Encryption

HSM PGP and NFC HSM integration adds a vital layer to cybersecurity. They provide a robust solution for information security.

Specifically, DataShielder HSM PGP offers advanced protection. As the EU considers encryption regulation, DataShielder technologies emerge as key alternatives. They ensure confidentiality and security amidst digital complexity. These technologies advocate for encryption as a human rights safeguard. Simultaneously, they address national security issues.

Conclusion

The European legislator faces complexity in harmonizing regulation with Member States. They aim to finalize it by next year. Clearly, preserving end-to-end encryption requires exploring alternatives. This includes better cooperation between law enforcement and advanced investigative techniques.

HSM PGP and NFC HSM transform messaging into secure communication. They do so without servers or identification. Thus, they provide strong protection for organizational communication and data. These measures balance privacy needs with public safety requirements. They offer a comprehensive digital security approach in a complex environment.

Sources

TETRA Security Vulnerabilities: How to Protect Critical Infrastructures

TETRA Security Vulnerabilities secured by EviPass or EviCypher NFC HSM Technologies from Freemindtronic-Andorra
TETRA Security Vulnerabilities by Jacques Gascuel: This article will be updated with any new information on the topic.

TETRA Security Vulnerabilities

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TETRA Security Vulnerabilities: How to Protect Critical Infrastructures from Cyberattacks

TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) is a radio technology that is used worldwide for critical communications and data, especially in the sectors of security, energy, transport and defense. But this technology, which has been kept secret for more than 25 years, hides serious security vulnerabilities, including a backdoor that could allow devastating cyberattacks.

What is TETRA?

TETRA is a European radio standard that was developed in the 1990s to meet the needs of professional mobile services, such as police, firefighters, emergency services, military, prison staff, etc. TETRA allows to transmit data and voice encrypted on frequencies ranging from 380 to 470 MHz, with a range of several kilometers.

TETRA is used by more than 2000 networks in more than 150 countries, according to the TETRA and Critical Communications Association (TCCA), which brings together the manufacturers, operators and users of this technology. Among the main manufacturers of TETRA radios, we find Motorola Solutions, Hytera, Airbus, Sepura and Rohill.

TETRA offers several advantages over other radio technologies, such as:

  • better sound quality
  • greater transmission capacity
  • greater security thanks to encryption
  • greater flexibility thanks to the possibility of creating communication groups
  • greater interoperability thanks to the compatibility of equipment

Source french: TETRA digital mode & F4HXZ – Blog radioamateur

What are the vulnerabilities of TETRA?

Despite its strengths, TETRA also has weaknesses, which have been revealed by a group of Dutch researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen. These researchers conducted a thorough analysis of the TETRA standard and its encryption algorithms, which were until then kept secret by the manufacturers and authorities.

The researchers discovered two types of major vulnerabilities in TETRA:

  • A backdoor in the encryption algorithm TEA1, which is used in radios sold for sensitive equipment, such as pipelines, railways, power grid, public transport or freight trains. This backdoor allows an attacker to decrypt the communications and data transmitted by these radios, and possibly to modify or block them. The backdoor exists since the creation of the algorithm TEA1, in 1998, and cannot be corrected by a simple software update. The researchers managed to extract the secret key of the backdoor by analyzing the binary code of the radios.
  • A weakness in the encryption algorithm TEA2, which is used in radios intended for professional mobile services, such as police, firefighters, emergency services, military or prison staff. This weakness allows an attacker to reduce the number of possible keys to test to decrypt the communications and data transmitted by these radios. The researchers estimated that it would take about 10 minutes to find the right key with a standard computer. This weakness was corrected by the manufacturers in 2016, but the radios that have not been updated remain vulnerable.

To find the backdoor in the TEA1 algorithm, the researchers used a technique called “differential analysis”, which consists of comparing the outputs of the algorithm for slightly different inputs. By observing the differences, they were able to identify a part of the code that was not normally used, but that was activated by a special condition. This condition was the presence of a secret key of 64 bits, which was hidden in the binary code of the radios. By analyzing the code, they were able to extract the secret key and test it on encrypted communications with the TEA1 algorithm. They were thus able to confirm that the secret key allowed to decrypt the communications without knowing the normal key of 80 bits. The researchers published their official report and the source code of the TETRA encryption algorithms on their website.

Source: https://cs.ru.nl/~cmeijer/publications/All_cops_are_broadcasting_TETRA_under_scrutiny.pdf

What are the risks for critical infrastructures?

The vulnerabilities identified in TETRA represent a danger for the critical infrastructures that use this technology, because they could be exploited by cybercriminals, terrorists or spies to disrupt or damage these infrastructures.

For example, an attacker could:

  • listen to the communications and confidential data of the security or defense services
  • impersonate an operator or a manager to give false instructions or orders
  • modify or erase data or commands that control vital equipment, such as valves, switches, signals or brakes
  • cause failures, accidents, fires or explosions

These scenarios could have dramatic consequences on the security, health, economy or environment of the countries concerned.

How to protect yourself from cyberattacks on TETRA?

The users of TETRA must be aware of the vulnerabilities of this technology and take measures to protect themselves from potential cyberattacks. Among the recommendations of the researchers, we can mention:

  • check if the radios used are affected by the vulnerabilities and ask the manufacturers for correction solutions
  • avoid using the algorithm TEA1, which contains the backdoor, and prefer safer algorithms, such as TEA3 or TEA4
  • use encryption keys that are long and complex enough, and change them regularly
  • set up verification and authentication procedures for communications and data
  • monitor the radio traffic and detect anomalies or intrusion attempts
  • raise awareness and train staff on cybersecurity and good practices

TETRA digital mode: how to transfer data via TETRA

TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) is a digital and secure radio communication standard used by emergency services, law enforcement, public transport and industries. TETRA uses a π/4-DQPSK phase modulation and a TDMA time division multiplexing to transmit voice and data on a bandwidth of 25 KHz per transmission channel. Each channel is divided into four timeslots, one of which is reserved for signaling in trunked mode (TMO).

TETRA allows file transfer via radio in two ways: by the packet data service (PDS) or by the circuit data service (CDS).

The PDS uses the IP protocol to transmit data packets on one or more timeslots. It offers a maximum throughput of 28.8 kbit/s per timeslot, or 86.4 kbit/s for three timeslots. The PDS can be used to send small files, such as images, text messages or forms.

The CDS uses the LAPD protocol to transmit data by circuit on a dedicated timeslot. It offers a constant throughput of 4.8 kbit/s per timeslot, or 19.2 kbit/s for four timeslots. The CDS can be used to send large files, such as documents, videos or maps.

The choice of the data service depends on the type of file, the size of the file, the quality of the radio link, the cost and the availability of radio resources. The PDS offers more flexibility and performance, but it requires a good signal quality and it can be more expensive in terms of battery consumption and spectrum occupation. The CDS offers more reliability and simplicity, but it requires a prior allocation of a timeslot and it can be slower and less efficient.

Securing TETRA file transfers with Freemindtronic’s EviCypher technology

However, both data services are subject to the TETRA security vulnerabilities that we have discussed in the previous sections. These vulnerabilities could allow an attacker to intercept, modify or corrupt the files transferred via TETRA, or to prevent their transmission altogether. Therefore, the users of TETRA must ensure the integrity and the confidentiality of the files they send or receive, by using encryption, verification and authentication methods. Freemindtronic’s EviCypher technology can be a valuable solution for encrypting data with post-quantum AES-256 from an NFC HSM with your own randomly generated keys before transferring them via TETRA. This way, even if an attacker corrupts the data transmitted by TETRA, they will not be able to decrypt the data encrypted by a product embedding

How to secure file transfers via TETRA with Freemindtronic’s EviCypher technology

La technologie EviCypher de Freemindtronic peut être une solution précieuse pour chiffrer les données avec AES-256 post-quantique à partir d’un HSM NFC avec vos propres clés générées aléatoirement avant de les transférer via TETRA. Ainsi, même si un attaquant corrompt les données transmises par TETRA, il ne pourra pas décrypter les données cryptées par un produit embarquant la technologie EviCypher NFC HSM technology, such as DataShielder NFC HSM or DataSielder Defense NFC HSM. These products are portable and autonomous devices that allow you to secure the access to computer systems, applications or online services, using the NFC as a means of authentication and encryption.

The management of encryption keys for TETRA

To use encryption on the TETRA network, you need an encryption key, which is a secret code of 80 bits, or 10 bytes. This key must be shared between the radios that want to communicate securely, and must be protected against theft, loss or compromise.

There are several methods to save and enter encryption keys for TETRA, depending on the type of radio and the level of security required. Here are some examples:

  • The manual method: it consists of entering the encryption key using the keyboard of the radio, by typing the 10 bytes in hexadecimal form. This method is simple, but impractical and unsafe, because it requires to know the key by heart or to write it down on a support, which increases the risk of disclosure or error. For example, a 80-bit key could be 3A4F9C7B12E8D6F0.
  • The automatic method: it consists of using an external device, such as a computer or a smart card, which generates and transfers the encryption key to the radio by a cable or a wireless link. This method is faster and more reliable, but it requires to have a compatible and secure device, and to connect it to the radio at each key change.
  • The EviPass method: it consists of using the EviPass NFC HSM technology which allows to generate, store and manage keys and secrets in a secure and independent NFC HSM device. This method is the most innovative and secure, because it allows to create keys higher than 80 bits randomly in hexadecimal base 16, 58, 64 or 85, to store them in a physical device protected by an access code and a robust AES-256 post-quantum encryption algorithm, and to transfer them by various contactless means, via a computer. This method does not require to know or write down the key, which reduces the risk of disclosure or error. For example, a 10-byte key of 80 bits could be 3F 8A 6B 4C 9D 1E 7F 2A 5B 0C.

The EviPass NFC HSM technology of Freemindtronic allows to create secure gateways between the NFC devices and the computer systems, using advanced encryption protocols, such as AES, RSA or ECC. The EviPass NFC HSM technology is embedded in the PassCyber NFC HSM product, which is a portable and autonomous device that allows to secure the access to computer systems, applications or online or offligne services, using the NFC as a means of authentication.

Conclusion

TETRA is a radio technology that was designed to offer secure and reliable communication to professional mobile services and critical infrastructures. But this technology, which has been kept secret for decades, presents vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cyberattackers to compromise these communications and infrastructures. The users of TETRA must be vigilant and take measures to protect themselves from these threats, by updating their equipment, choosing robust encryption algorithms, using strong keys, verifying and authenticating data and monitoring radio traffic. The EviPass NFC HSM technology of Freemindtronic can be an effective solution to strengthen the security of keys and secrets used for verification and authentication, by storing them in a secure and independent NFC device. The researchers who revealed the vulnerabilities of TETRA hope that their work will contribute to improve the security of communications in critical domains.

Dual-Use Encryption Products: a regulated trade for security and human rights

Dual-Use encryption products a regulated trade for security and human rights by Freemindtronic-from Andorra
Dual-use encryption products by Jacques Gascuel: This article will be updated with any new information on the topic.

Dual-use encryption products: a challenge for security and human rights

Encryption is a technique that protects data and communications. Encryption products are dual-use goods, which can have civilian and military uses. The export of these products is controlled by the EU and the international community, to prevent their misuse or diversion. This article explains the EU regime for the export of dual-use encryption products, and how it has been updated.

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The international regulations on dual-use encryption products

The main international regulations that apply to dual-use encryption products are the Wassenaar Arrangement and the EU regime for the control of exports of dual-use goods.

The Wassenaar Arrangement

The Wassenaar Arrangement is a multilateral export control regime that aims to contribute to regional and international security and stability. It promotes transparency and responsibility in the transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. It was established in 1996 and currently has 42 participating states, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Russia, China and most of the EU member states.

The Wassenaar Arrangement maintains a list of dual-use goods and technologies that are subject to export control by the participating states. The list is divided into 10 categories, with subcategories and items. Category 5, part 2, covers information security, including encryption products. The list of encryption products includes, among others, the following items:

  • Cryptographic systems, equipment, components and software, using symmetric or asymmetric algorithms, with a key length exceeding 56 bits for symmetric algorithms or 512 bits for asymmetric algorithms, or specially designed for military or intelligence use.
  • Cryptanalytic systems, equipment, components and software, capable of recovering the plain text from the encrypted text, or of finding cryptographic keys or algorithms.
  • Cryptographic development systems, equipment, components and software, capable of generating, testing, modifying or evaluating cryptographic algorithms, keys or systems.
  • Non-cryptographic information security systems, equipment, components and software, using techniques such as steganography, watermarking, tamper resistance or authentication.
  • Technology for the development, production or use of the above items.

The participating states of the Wassenaar Arrangement are required to implement national export controls on the items listed in the arrangement, and to report annually their exports and denials of such items. However, the arrangement does not impose binding obligations on the participating states, and each state is free to decide whether to grant or refuse an export license, based on its own policies and national interests.

The EU regime for the control of exports of dual-use goods

The common legal framework of the EU for dual-use goods

The EU regime for the control of exports of dual-use goods is a common legal framework. It applies to all EU member states, and it has two main goals. First, it aims to ensure a consistent and effective implementation of the international obligations of export control. Second, it aims to protect the security and human rights of the EU and its partners. The regime is based on the Regulation (EU) 2021/821, which was adopted in May 2021 and entered into force in September 2021. This regulation replaces the previous Regulation (EC) No 428/2009.

The Regulation (EU) 2021/821: the principles and criteria of export control

The Regulation (EU) 2021/821 establishes a Union list of dual-use goods. These are goods that can have both civilian and military uses, such as software, equipment and technology. These goods are subject to an export authorization, which means that exporters need to obtain a permission from the competent authorities before exporting them. The Regulation also sets out a set of general principles and criteria for granting or refusing such authorization. The Union list of dual-use goods is based on the international export control regimes, including the Wassenaar Arrangement. It covers the same categories and items as the latter. However, the EU list also includes some additional items that are not covered by the international regimes. These are cyber-surveillance items that can be used for internal repression or human rights violations.

The Union list of dual-use goods: the categories and items subject to an export authorization

The Union list of dual-use goods consists of ten categories, which are:

  • Category 0: Nuclear materials, facilities and equipment
  • Category 1: Materials, chemicals, micro-organisms and toxins
  • Category 2: Materials processing
  • Category 3: Electronics
  • Category 4: Computers
  • Category 5: Telecommunications and information security
  • Category 6: Sensors and lasers
  • Category 7: Navigation and avionics
  • Category 8: Marine
  • Category 9: Aerospace and propulsion

Each category contains a number of items, which are identified by a code and a description. For example, the item 5A002 is “Information security systems, equipment and components”. The items are further divided into sub-items, which are identified by a letter and a number. For example, the sub-item 5A002.a.1 is “Cryptographic activation equipment or software designed or modified to activate cryptographic capability”.

The novelties of the Regulation (EU) 2021/821: the due diligence obligation, the catch-all clause, the human security approach and the transparency and information exchange mechanism

The Regulation (EU) 2021/821 also provides for different types of export authorizations. These are individual, global, general or ad hoc authorizations, depending on the nature, destination and end-use of the items. Moreover, the Regulation introduces some novelties, such as:

  • A due diligence obligation for exporters. This means that exporters have to verify the end-use and the end-user of the items, and to report any suspicious or irregular transaction.
  • A catch-all clause. This allows the competent authorities to impose an export authorization on items that are not listed, but that can be used for weapons of mass destruction, a military end-use, human rights violations or terrorism.
  • A human security approach. This requires the competent authorities to take into account the potential impact of the items on human rights, international humanitarian law, regional stability and sustainable development, especially for cyber-surveillance items.
  • A transparency and information exchange mechanism. This requires the competent authorities to share information on the authorizations, denials and consultations of export, and to publish annual reports on their export control activities.

The dual-use encryption products: sensitive goods for security and human rights

The dual-use encryption products are a specific type of dual-use goods that fall under the category 5 of the Union list. These are products that use cryptographic techniques to protect the confidentiality, integrity and authenticity of data and communications. These products can have both civilian and military uses, and they raise important issues for security and human rights.

The dual-use encryption products: a definition and examples

The dual-use encryption products are defined by the Regulation (EU) 2021/821 as “information security systems, equipment and components, and ‘software’ and ‘technology’ therefor, which use ‘cryptography’ or cryptanalytic functions”. The Regulation also provides a list of examples of such products, such as:

  • Cryptographic activation equipment or software
  • Cryptographic equipment for mobile cellular systems
  • Cryptographic equipment for radio communication systems
  • Cryptographic equipment for computer and network security
  • Cryptanalytic equipment and software
  • Quantum cryptography equipment and software

The dual-use encryption products: security issues

The dual-use encryption products can have a significant impact on the security of the EU and its partners. On the one hand, these products can enhance the security of the EU and its allies, by protecting their sensitive data and communications from unauthorized access, interception or manipulation. On the other hand, these products can also pose a threat to the security of the EU and its adversaries, by enabling the encryption of malicious or illegal activities, such as terrorism, espionage or cyberattacks. Therefore, the export of these products needs to be carefully controlled, to prevent their misuse or diversion to undesirable end-users or end-uses.

The dual-use encryption products: human rights issues

The dual-use encryption products can also have a significant impact on the human rights of the EU and its partners. On the one hand, these products can protect the human rights of the EU and its citizens, by safeguarding their privacy and freedom of expression on the internet. On the other hand, these products can also violate the human rights of the EU and its partners, by enabling the repression or surveillance of dissidents, activists or journalists by authoritarian regimes or non-state actors. Therefore, the export of these products needs to take into account the potential consequences of the items on human rights, international humanitarian law, regional stability and sustainable development, especially for cyber-surveillance items.

The modification of the Union list of dual-use goods by the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1

The Union list of dual-use goods is not static, but dynamic. It is regularly updated to reflect the changes in the technological development and the international security environment. The latest update of the list was made by the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 of the Commission of 20 October 2021, which modifies the Regulation (EU) 2021/821.

The changes made by the international export control regimes in 2020 and 2021

The Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 reflects the changes made by the international export control regimes in 2020 and 2021. These are the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime. These regimes are voluntary and informal arrangements of states that coordinate their national export control policies on dual-use goods. The EU is a member of these regimes, and it aligns its Union list of dual-use goods with their lists of controlled items. The changes made by these regimes include the addition, deletion or modification of some items, as well as the clarification or simplification of some definitions or technical parameters.

The new items added to the Union list of dual-use goods: the quantum technologies, the drones and the facial recognition systems or biometric identification systems

The Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 also adds some new items to the Union list of dual-use goods. These are items that are not covered by the international export control regimes, but that are considered to be sensitive for the security and human rights of the EU and its partners. These items include:

  • Certain types of software and technology for the development, production or use of quantum computers or quantum cryptography. These are devices or techniques that use the principles of quantum physics to perform computations or communications that are faster or more secure than conventional methods.
  • Certain types of equipment, software and technology for the development, production or use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. These are aircraft or systems that can fly without a human pilot on board, and that can be used for various purposes, such as surveillance, reconnaissance, delivery or attack.
  • Certain types of equipment, software and technology for the development, production or use of facial recognition systems or biometric identification systems. These are systems or techniques that can identify or verify the identity of a person based on their facial features or other biological characteristics, such as fingerprints, iris or voice.

The entry into force and application of the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1

The Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 entered into force on 7 January 2022. It applies to all exports of dual-use goods from the EU from that date. The exporters of dual-use goods need to be aware of the changes and updates to the Union list of dual-use goods, and to comply with the export control rules and procedures established by the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. The competent authorities of the member states need to implement and enforce the new Union list of dual-use goods, and to cooperate and coordinate with each other and with the Commission. The Commission needs to monitor and evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the new Union list of dual-use goods, and to report to the European Parliament and the Council.

The national regulations on dual-use encryption products

How some countries have their own rules on dual-use encryption products

The case of the United States

Some countries have their own national regulations on dual-use encryption products, which may differ or complement the existing regimes. For example, the United States has a complex and strict export control system, based on the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). The EAR classify encryption products under category 5, part 2, of the Commerce Control List (CCL). The EAR require an export license for most encryption products, except for some exceptions, such as mass market products, publicly available products, or products intended for certain countries or end-users. The EAR also require that exporters submit annual self-classification reports, semi-annual sales reports, and encryption review requests for certain products.

The case of Andorra

Andorra is a small country between France and Spain. It is not an EU member, but it has a customs union with it. However, this customs union does not cover all products. It only covers those belonging to chapters 25 to 97 of the Harmonized System (HS), which are mainly industrial products. Agricultural products and products belonging to chapters 1 to 24 of the HS are free of import duties in the EU. But they are subject to the most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment in Andorra.

Andorra has adopted the EU list of dual-use goods. It requires an export or transfer authorization for these goods, according to the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. This regulation came into force on 9 September 2021 and replaced the previous Regulation (EC) No 428/2009. Andorra has also adopted the necessary customs provisions for the proper functioning of the customs union with the EU. These provisions are based on the Community Customs Code and its implementing provisions, by the Decision No 1/2003 of the Customs Cooperation Committee.

Andorra applies the EU regulation, as it is part of the internal market. Moreover, Andorra has adopted the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 of the Commission of 20 October 2021, which modifies the EU list of dual-use goods. This modification reflects the changes made by the international export control regimes in 2020 and 2021. It also adds some new items, such as software and technologies for quantum computing, drones or facial recognition. The Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 came into force on 7 January 2022, and applies to all exports of dual-use goods from the EU from that date.

Andorra entered the security and defense sector for the first time by participating in Eurosatory 2022. This is the international reference exhibition for land and airland defense and security. Andorra became the 96th country with a security and defense industry on its territory. Among the exhibitors, an Andorran company, Freemindtronic, specialized in counter-espionage solutions, presented innovative products. For example, DataShielder Defense NFC HSM, a device to protect sensitive data against physical and logical attacks. It uses technologies such as EviCypher NFC HSM and EviCore NFC HSM, contactless hardware security modules (NFC HSM). The president of Coges events, a subsidiary of GICAT, identified these products as dual-use and military products. They need an export or transfer authorization, according to the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. Freemindtronic also showed its other security solutions, such as EviKey NFC HSM, a secure USB key, a security token. These products were displayed in the Discover Village, a space for start-ups and SMEs innovations.

Switzerland

Switzerland is not an EU member, but it has a free trade agreement with it. Switzerland has adopted the Regulation (EU) 2021/821 by the Ordinance of 5 May 2021 on the control of dual-use goods. Switzerland applies the EU list of dual-use goods and requires an export or transfer authorization for these goods, according to the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. Switzerland has also adopted the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 of the Commission of 20 October 2021, which modifies the EU list of dual-use goods.

Turkey

Turkey is not an EU member, but it has a customs union with it. Turkey has adopted the Regulation (EU) 2021/821 by the Presidential Decree No 3990 of 9 September 2021 on the control of exports of dual-use goods. Turkey applies the EU list of dual-use goods and requires an export or transfer authorization for these goods, according to the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. Turkey has also adopted the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 of the Commission of 20 October 2021, which modifies the EU list of dual-use goods.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom left the EU on 31 January 2020. It has adopted the Regulation (EU) 2021/821 by the Dual-Use Items (Export Control) Regulations 2021, which came into force on 9 September 2021. The United Kingdom applies the EU list of dual-use goods and requires an export or transfer authorization for these goods, according to the Regulation (EU) 2021/821. The United Kingdom has also adopted the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/1 of the Commission of 20 October 2021, which modifies the EU list of dual-use goods.

The challenges and opportunities for the exporters of dual-use encryption products

The exporters of dual-use encryption products face several challenges and opportunities in the current context of export control regulations. Among the challenges, we can mention:

  • The complexity and diversity of the regulations, which may vary depending on the countries, the products, the destinations and the end-uses, and which require a deep knowledge and a constant monitoring from the exporters.
  • The costs and delays related to the administrative procedures, which can be high and unpredictable, and which can affect the competitiveness and profitability of the exporters, especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
  • The legal and reputational risks, which can result from an involuntary or intentional violation of the regulations, or from a misuse or diversion of the products by the end-users, and which can lead to sanctions, prosecutions or damages to the image of the exporters.

Among the opportunities, we can mention:

  • The growing demand and innovation for encryption products, which are increasingly used in many sectors and domains, such as finance, health, education, defense, security, human rights, etc.
  • The contribution to the security and human rights of the exporters, their customers and the general public, by enabling the protection of data, privacy, freedom of expression, access to information and democratic participation, thanks to encryption products.
  • The cooperation with the competent authorities, the civil society and the international community, to ensure the compliance and accountability of the exporters, and to support the development and implementation of effective and balanced encryption policies and regulations, that respect the security and human rights of all stakeholders.

Conclusion

Dual-use encryption products can have both civil and military uses. They are subject to export control regulations at different levels: international, regional and national. These regulations aim to prevent the risks that these products can pose for security and human rights. At the same time, they allow the development and trade of these products. Therefore, the exporters of dual-use encryption products must comply with the regulations that apply to their products. They must also assess the impact of their products on security and human rights. The exporters of dual-use encryption products can benefit from the demand and innovation for these products. These products are essential for the digital economy and society. They can also enhance the security and human rights of the exporters, their customers and the public.

Freemindtronic Andorra is a company that specializes in dual-use encryption products. It offers secure and innovative solutions for data, communication and transaction protection. Freemindtronic Andorra respects the export control regulations that apply to its products. It is also committed to promoting and supporting the responsible and lawful use of its products. It follows the principles of security and human rights. Freemindtronic Andorra cooperates with the authorities, the civil society and the international community. It ensures the transparency and accountability of its activities. It also participates in the development and implementation of effective and balanced encryption policies and regulations. It respects the interests and needs of all stakeholders.

RSA Encryption: How the Marvin Attack Exposes a 25-Year-Old Flaw

NFC HSM Devices and RSA 4096 encryption a new standard for cryptographic security serverless databaseless without database by EviCore NFC HSM from Freemindtronic Andorra
Marvin attack RSA algorithm & NFC HSM RSA-4096 by Jacques Gascuel: This article will be updated with any new information on the topic.

Decrypting Marvin’s Assault on RSA Encryption!

Simply explore the complex area of ​​RSA encryption and discover strategies to repel Marvin’s attack. This article examines the intricacies of RSA 4096 encryption, ensuring your cryptographic keys and secrets are protected. Discover an innovative NFC HSM RSA 4096 NFC encryption protocol, serverless and databaseless.

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How the RSA Encryption – Marvin Attack Reveals a 25-Year-Old Flaw and How to Protect Your Secrets with the NFC HSM Devices

RSA encryptionRSA encryption is one of the most widely used encryption algorithms in the world, but it is not flawless. In fact, a vulnerability of RSA encryption, known as the Marvin attack, has existed for over 25 years and could allow an attacker to recover the private key of a user from their public key. This flaw, which exploits a mathematical property of RSA encryption, was discovered in 1998 by the cryptographer Daniel Bleichenbacher, but it was never fixed or disclosed to the public. In the first part of this article, we will explain in detail how the Marvin attack works and what it means for the security of RSA encryption.

Moreover, NFC HSM and RSA 4096 represent a new dimension in cryptographic security. These technologies allow you to protect and use your cryptographic keys and secrets within a contactless device that communicates with your smartphone through NFC (Near Field Communication). The main advantage they offer is the formidable defense against cyberattacks, achieved by implementing state-of-the-art encryption algorithms and strong security protocols. You can discover more about the very simple functioning of NFC HSM devices for RSA 4096 encryption, as well as their multiple benefits, by reading until the end of this article. Moreover, we will highlight how Freemindtronic used the extreme level of safety of an NFC HSM device to establish, without contact and only on demand, a virtual communication tunnel encrypted in RSA-4096 without a server, without a database, from an NFC HSM device.

The Marvin Attack: Unveiling a 25-Year-Old RSA Flaw

Understanding the Marvin Attack

The Marvin attack targets the RSA algorithm, a foundational asymmetric encryption technique characterized by the use of two distinct keys: a public key and a private key. The public key serves to encrypt data, while the private key is responsible for decryption. These keys mathematically intertwine, yet revealing one from the other presents an exceedingly challenging task.

Named after Marvin the Paranoid Android from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” this attack exploits a vulnerability in the RSA algorithm discovered by Swiss cryptographer Daniel Bleichenbacher in 1998. The vulnerability relates to the padding scheme that the RSA algorithm uses to introduce random bits into the data before encryption. The padding scheme has a design. It makes the encrypted data look random. It also thwarts attacks based on statistics. However, Bleichenbacher showed his ingenuity. He sent special messages to a server. The server used RSA encryption. By doing so, he could learn about the padding scheme. He could also recover the private key.

Implications of the Marvin Attack

The Marvin attack has profound implications for the security and confidentiality of your secrets. If an attacker successfully retrieves your private key, they gain unfettered access to decrypt all your encrypted data and compromise your confidential information. Furthermore, they can impersonate you by signing messages or executing transactions on your behalf.

The Marvin attack isn’t limited to a single domain; it can impact any system or application that uses RSA encryption with a vulnerable padding scheme. This encompasses web servers that employ HTTPS, email servers that use S/MIME, and blockchain platforms that rely on digital signatures.

Notably, NFC HSM devices that use RSA encryption for secret sharing are vulnerable to the Marvin attack. NFC HSM, short for Near Field Communication Hardware Security Module, is a technology facilitating the storage and utilization of cryptographic keys and secrets within contactless devices such as cards, stickers, or keychains. These devices communicate with smartphones via NFC, a wireless technology enabling short-range data exchange between compatible devices.

If an attacker intercepts communication between your NFC HSM device and smartphone, they may try a Marvin attack on your device, potentially recovering your private key. Subsequently, they could decrypt secrets stored within your device or gain access to your online accounts and services.

The Common Factor Attack in RSA Encryption

Understanding the Common Factor Attack

In the realm of RSA encryption, attackers actively exploit a vulnerability known as the Common Factor Attack. Here’s a concise breakdown:

1. Identifying Shared Factors

  • In RSA encryption, public keys (e, n) and private keys (d, n) play pivotal roles.
  • Attackers meticulously seek out common factors within two public keys, exemplified by (e1, n1) and (e2, n2).
  • Upon discovering a shared factor, their mission gains momentum.

2. Disclosing the Missing Factor

  • Once a common factor ‘p’ surfaces, uncovering its counterpart ‘q’ becomes relatively straightforward.
  • This is achieved through the simple act of dividing one key’s module by ‘p’.

3. Attaining Private Keys

  • Empowered with ‘p’ and ‘q,’ attackers adeptly compute private keys like ‘d1’ and ‘d2.’
  • This mathematical process involves modular inverses, bestowing them with access to encrypted content.

4. Decrypting Messages with Precision

  • Armed with private keys ‘d1’ and ‘d2,’ attackers skillfully decrypt messages initially secured by these keys.
  • Employing the formula ‘m = c^d mod n,’ they meticulously unlock the concealed content.

This simplified overview sheds light on the Common Factor Attack in RSA encryption. For a more comprehensive understanding, delve into further details here

Safeguarding Against the Marvin Attack

To fortify your defenses against the Marvin attack, it is imperative to employ an updated version of the RSA algorithm featuring a secure padding scheme. Secure padding ensures that no information about the encrypted data or private key is leaked. For example, you can adopt the Optimal Asymmetric Encryption Padding (OAEP) scheme, a standard endorsed by RSA Laboratories.

Additionally, utilizing a reliable and secure random number generator for generating RSA keys is essential. A robust random number generator produces unpredictable and difficult-to-guess random numbers, a critical element for the security of any encryption algorithm, as it guarantees the uniqueness and unpredictability of keys.

The Marvin attack, though a 25-year-old RSA flaw, remains a persistent threat capable of compromising the security of RSA-encrypted data and communications. Vigilance and adherence to cryptographic best practices are essential for shielding against this menace.

Choosing a trusted and certified provider of NFC HSM devices and RSA encryption services is equally pivotal. A reputable provider adheres to industry-leading security and quality standards. Freemindtronic, a company based in Andorra, specializes in NFC security solutions and has developed a plethora of technologies and patents grounded in NFC HSM devices and RSA 4096 encryption. These innovations offer a spectrum of advanced features and benefits across diverse applications.

In the following section, we will delve into why Freemindtronic has chosen to utilize RSA 4096 encryption in the context of the Marvin attack. Additionally, we will explore how Freemindtronic secures secret sharing among NFC HSM devices, elucidate the concept of NFC HSM devices, and unveil the advantages and benefits of the technologies and patents pioneered by Freemindtronic.

How Does RSA 4096 Work?

RSA 4096 is built upon the foundation of asymmetric encryption, employing two distinct keys: a public key and a private key. The public key can be freely disseminated, while the private key must remain confidential. These keys share a mathematical relationship, but uncovering one from the other poses an exceptionally daunting challenge.

RSA 4096 hinges on the RSA algorithm, relying on the formidable complexity of factoring a large composite number into the product of two prime numbers. RSA 4096 employs prime numbers of 4096 bits in size, rendering factorization virtually impossible with current computational capabilities.

RSA 4096 facilitates four primary operations:

  1. Encryption: Transforming plaintext messages into encrypted messages using the recipient’s public key. Only the recipient can decrypt the message using their private key.
  2. Decryption: Retrieving plaintext messages from encrypted ones using the recipient’s private key. Only the recipient can perform this decryption.
  3. Signature: Adding an authentication element to plaintext messages using the sender’s private key. The recipient can verify the signature using the sender’s public key.
  4. Signature Verification: Validating the authenticity of plaintext messages and their sender using the sender’s public key.

In essence, RSA 4096 ensures confidentiality, integrity, and non-repudiation of exchanged messages.

But how can you choose and utilize secure RSA keys? Are there innovative solutions available to bolster the protection of cryptographic secrets? This is the focal point of our next section, where we will explore the technologies and patents developed by Freemindtronic for RSA 4096 secret sharing among NFC HSM devices.

Technologies and Patents Developed by Freemindtronic for RSA 4096 Secret Sharing among NFC HSM Devices

Freemindtronic employs RSA 4096 to secure the sharing of secrets among NFC HSM devices, driven by a commitment to robust security and trust. RSA 4096 stands resilient against factorization attacks, the most prevalent threats to RSA encryption. It upholds the confidentiality, integrity, and non-repudiation of shared secrets.

Freemindtronic is acutely aware of the potential vulnerabilities posed by the Marvin attack. This attack can compromise RSA if the prime numbers used to generate the public key are too close in proximity. Therefore, Freemindtronic diligently adheres to cryptographic best practices when generating robust and random RSA keys. This involves using large prime numbers, usually larger than 2048 bits, and employing a dependable and secure random number generator Freemindtronic regularly validates the strength of RSA keys through online tools or other means and promptly replaces keys suspected of weakness or compromise.

In summary, Freemindtronic’s selection of RSA 4096 is informed by its robustness. This choice is complemented by unwavering adherence to cryptographic best practices. The incorporation of the EVI protocol bolsters security, ensuring the imperviousness of secrets shared among NFC HSM devices. This will be further elucidated in the following sections

Why Freemindtronic Utilizes RSA 4096 Against the Marvin Attack

Freemindtronic’s choice to utilize RSA 4096 for securing secret sharing among NFC HSM devices is grounded in its status as an asymmetric encryption algorithm renowned for delivering a high level of security and trust. RSA 4096 effectively resists factorization attacks, which are among the most prevalent threats against RSA encryption. It guarantees the confidentiality, integrity, and non-repudiation of shared secrets.

To address the potential consequences of the Marvin attack, Freemindtronic meticulously follows cryptographic best practices when generating strong and random RSA keys. The company employs prime numbers of substantial size, typically exceeding 2048 bits, in conjunction with a reliable and secure random number generator. Freemindtronic vigilantly validates the strength of RSA keys and promptly replaces them if any suspicions of weakness or compromise arise.

Moreover, Freemindtronic harnesses the power of the EVI (Encrypted Virtual Interface) protocol, which enhances RSA 4096’s security profile. EVI facilitates the exchange of RSA 4096 public keys among NFC HSM devices, introducing a wealth of security measures, including encryption, authentication, anti-cloning, anti-replay, anti-counterfeiting, and the use of a black box. EVI also enables the transmission of secrets encrypted with the recipient’s RSA 4096 public key, using the same mechanism.

In summary, Freemindtronic’s selection of RSA 4096 is informed by its robustness, complemented by unwavering adherence to cryptographic best practices. The incorporation of the EVI protocol bolsters security, ensuring the imperviousness of secrets shared among NFC HSM devices. This will be further elucidated in the following sections.

How Freemindtronic Utilizes RSA 4096 to Secure Secret Sharing Among NFC HSM Devices

Freemindtronic leverages RSA 4096 to fortify the security of secret sharing among NFC HSM devices, following a meticulously orchestrated sequence of steps:

  1. Key Generation: RSA 4096 key pairs are generated on each NFC HSM device, utilizing a dependable and secure random number generator.
  2. Public Key Exchange: The RSA 4096 public keys are exchanged between the two NFC HSM devices using the EVI (Encrypted Virtual Interface) protocol. EVI introduces multiple layers of security, including encryption, authentication, anti-cloning, anti-replay, anti-counterfeiting measures, and the use of a black box.
  3. Secret Encryption: The secret is encrypted using the recipient’s RSA 4096 public key, employing a hybrid encryption algorithm that combines RSA and AES.
  4. Secure Transmission: The encrypted secret is transmitted to the recipient, facilitated by the EVI protocol.
  5. Secret Decryption: The recipient decrypts the secret using their RSA 4096 private key, employing the same hybrid encryption algorithm.

Through this meticulous process, Freemindtronic ensures the confidentiality, integrity, and non-repudiation of secrets exchanged between NFC HSM devices. This robust approach thwarts attackers from reading, altering, or falsifying information protected by RSA 4096.

But what exactly is an NFC HSM device, and what communication methods exist for secret sharing among these devices? What are the advantages and benefits offered by the technologies and patents pioneered by Freemindtronic? These questions will be addressed in the subsequent sections.

What Is an NFC HSM Device?

An NFC HSM (Near Field Communication Hardware Security Module) is a specialized hardware security module that communicates wirelessly with an Android smartphone via NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. These devices come in the form of cards, stickers, or keychains and operate without the need for batteries. They feature EEPROM memory capable of storing up to 64 KB of data.

NFC HSM devices are designed to securely store and utilize cryptographic keys and secrets in an isolated and secure environment. They shield data from cloning, replay attacks, counterfeiting, or extraction and include an access control system based on segmented keys.

One prime example of an NFC HSM device is the EviCypher NFC HSM developed by Freemindtronic. This technology allows for the storage and utilization of cryptographic keys and secrets within a contactless device, such as a card, sticker, or keychain. EviCypher NFC HSM offers a range of features, including offline isolation, seamless integration with other technologies, and enhancements to the user experience. With its robust security measures and innovative features, EviCypher NFC HSM sets a new standard for secure communication and secret management in the digital realm.

Resistance Against Brute Force Attacks on NFC HSM

The RSA 4096 private key is encrypted with AES 256. Therefore, the user cannot extract it from the EEPROM memory. The NFC HSM has this memory. It also has other secrets in this memory. This memory is non-volatile. As a result, it can last up to 40 years without power. Consequently, any invasive or non-invasive brute force attack on NFC HSM is destined for failure. This is due to the fact that secrets, including the RSA private key, are automatically encrypted in the EEPROM memory of the NFC HSM using AES-256 with segmented keys of physical origin, some of which are externalized from the NFC HSM.

Real-Time Secret Sharing with EviCore NFC HSM

An intriguing facet of EviCore NFC HSM technology is its ability to facilitate real-time secret sharing without the need for a remote server or database. EviCore NFC HSM accomplishes this by encrypting secrets with the recipient’s randomly generated RSA 4096 public key directly on their NFC HSM device. This innovative approach to secret sharing eliminates the necessity for a trusted third party. Furthermore, EviCore NFC HSM executes these operations entirely in the volatile (RAM) memory of the phone, leaving no traces of plaintext secrets in the computer, communication, or information systems. As a result, it renders remote or proximity attacks, including invasive or non-invasive brute force attacks, exceedingly complex, if not physically impossible. Our EviCore NFC HSM technology is an Android application designed for NFC-enabled phones, functioning seamlessly with our NFC HSM devices. This application serves as both firmware and middleware, constituting an embedded system, offering optimal performance and compatibility with NFC HSM devices.

What Are the Advantages and Benefits of NFC HSM Devices and RSA 4096 Encryption?

NFC HSM devices and RSA 4096 encryption offer numerous advantages and benefits across various applications and domains. Some of these include:

  1. Enhanced Security and Trust: They bolster security and trust in the digital landscape through the utilization of a robust and efficient encryption algorithm that withstands factorization attacks.
  2. Simplified Key and Secret Management: They simplify the management and sharing of cryptographic keys and secrets by leveraging contactless technology for communication with Android phones via NFC.
  3. Improved Device Performance and Compatibility: They enhance device performance and compatibility by functioning as a firmware-like middleware embedded within an Android application for NFC-enabled phones.
  4. Enhanced User Experience: They improve the user experience of devices by offering features such as offline isolation, seamless integration with other technologies, and enhanced user experiences.

In summary, NFC HSMs and RSA 4096 encryption offer inventive and pragmatic answers to the escalating requirements for security and confidentiality in the digital sphere.

Communication Vulnerabilities 2023: Avoiding Cyber Threats

Person working on a laptop within a protective dome, surrounded by falling hexadecimal ASCII characters, highlighting communication vulnerabilities
The hidden dangers of communication vulnerabilities in 2023  by Jacques Gascuel: This article will be updated with any new information on the topic.

Beware of communication vulnerabilities in 2023

Communication is essential for our personal and professional lives, but it also exposes us to cyber threats. In 2023, hackers will exploit the hidden dangers of communication vulnerabilities to steal data, disrupt services, and spy on users. This article will explain the main types of communication vulnerabilities, their impact, and how to protect yourself from them.

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Communication Vulnerabilities in 2023: Unveiling the Hidden Dangers and Strategies to Evade Cyber Threats

2023 Security Vulnerabilities in Means of Communication

Communication is essential for individuals and professionals, but it is also exposed to many cyber threats. In 2023, several security breaches affected emails and messages, compromising the security of data, services, and users. These breaches showed the vulnerability of communication systems, which are exposed to increasingly sophisticated and targeted attacks. To protect themselves, users need to encrypt their data and communications with their own keys that they created and stored offline. One of the solutions that can help them achieve this is EviCypher NFC HSM technology by Freemindtronic.

The Reality of Security Breaches in Communication Systems

However, we wanted to highlight a disconcerting reality: users often found themselves defenseless against the hidden dangers of communication vulnerabilities in 2023 that festered beneath the surface for long periods of time. Unaware of these current, imminent or future risks, they unwittingly provided gateways to espionage activities, whether motivated by legitimate or malicious intentions. These vulnerabilities enabled a relentless cycle of cyber victimization, perpetuating the very threats they aimed to mitigate.

For example, iCloud Email operated without end-to-end encryption from its launch in 2011 until December 2022 – a troubling reality that put users in a vulnerable position, their security at the mercy of external factors they could not control.

Another example, several reports by the Citizen Lab have revealed the existence and the use of Pegasus spyware developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, which sells its services to governments and private actors to spy on targets around the world. Moreover, several investigations by the consortium Forbidden Stories have revealed that more than 50,000 phone numbers have been selected as potential targets by NSO Group’s clients, including heads of state, journalists, human rights activists, etc.

Among the most recent examples of these vulnerabilities, we can mention the cyberattack against the US State Department, which was attributed to hackers linked to China.

Chinese hackers hacked 60,000 emails from the US State Department

In March 2023, Chinese hackers hacked 60,000 emails from the US State Department. Some of them were very sensitive to national security and foreign affairs. They used a Microsoft Exchange flaw named Log4Shell. This vulnerability allows hackers to remotely execute malicious code on servers that use this software. It affects millions of servers worldwide. Senator Mark Warner revealed the attack and criticized the lack of transparency and security of the State Department. He called for strengthening cooperation between government agencies and the private sector to cope with cyberthreats. This attack is part of a context of rising tensions between the US and China, who accuse each other of espionage and sabotage on cyberspace.

The other sensitive organs targeted by the attack

Besides the State Department emails, the attack also targeted other sensitive organs, such as:

  • The Bureau of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, which is responsible for coordinating the State Department’s efforts to prevent and respond to cyberattacks.
  • The Bureau of Consular Affairs, which is in charge of issuing passports and visas, as well as protecting US citizens abroad.
  • The Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which provides analysis and assessments on foreign policy and national security issues.

These sensitive organs hold confidential or personal information that could be used by the Chinese hackers for espionage, blackmail or sabotage. For example, the hackers could access the biometric data of visa applicants, the reports of intelligence agents or the action plans in case of crisis.

The security flaw exploited by the Chinese hackers

The most serious thing is that some servers that were hacked by the Chinese had not been updated with the patch released by Microsoft on December 10, 2022. This shows that the updates are not automatic and that they have to be installed manually. This also shows the lack of responsiveness and vigilance of the IT security managers. They let the Chinese hackers exploit this flaw before it was fixed by Microsoft, who released security updates. Indeed, this cyberattack shows the vulnerability of communication systems and the need to protect them effectively.

A Case of Satellite Messaging Security Vulnerability

Satellite messaging is a means of communication that allows the transmission of electronic messages or calls via a network of artificial satellites. It is used by professionals and individuals in areas with no cellular coverage or those seeking discreet communication. However, satellite messaging is not immune to security vulnerabilities that can compromise data confidentiality and integrity.

In September 2023, a team of cybersecurity researchers uncovered a significant security vulnerability in the Bullitt satellite messaging service. This vulnerability allowed hackers to read and modify messages sent and received by users, as well as access their personal information, including GPS coordinates and phone numbers. Hackers could also impersonate users by sending messages on their behalf. The vulnerability was found in the PubNub-Kotlin API used by the Bullitt Messenger app to manage communication between devices and the service’s servers. Despite alerting Bullitt, the service provider, about this vulnerability, the researchers received no satisfactory response.

This security flaw poses a high risk to satellite messaging users, as their data can be exposed or manipulated by hackers.

Security Vulnerabilities in Communication Systems: A Closer Look

2023 Security Flaws in Communication Channels is a paramount concern for individuals and organizations across the globe. Hackers frequently exploit vulnerabilities within communication protocols and services to launch attacks that can compromise data confidentiality, integrity, and availability. To illustrate the magnitude and gravity of this issue, we have compiled statistics based on our web research:

Security Vulnerabilities in Emails

Emails serve as a central vector for cyberattacks, representing a significant portion of security incidents, with up to 91% of reported incidents, as per cybermalveillance.gouv.fr. Among these email-targeted threats, ransomware attacks are the most prevalent, comprising 25% of reported security incidents. Additionally, it’s striking to note that 48% of malicious files attached to emails are Microsoft Office documents. These statistics underscore the critical importance of implementing robust security measures for emails to guard against evolving threats.

Furthermore, an analysis conducted by the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report for 20232 highlights that emails remain the primary variety of malicious actions in data breaches, underscoring their continued relevance as a vector for cyberattacks.

However, it is essential to note that email-specific vulnerabilities can vary based on factors such as email protocol vulnerabilities, server configuration errors, human mistakes, among others.

Security Vulnerabilities in Encrypted Messaging Services

Encrypted messaging services like Signal, Telegram, or WhatsApp are not immune to security vulnerabilities, which can compromise message and file confidentiality, integrity, and availability. In March 2023, Cellebrite, an Israeli data extraction company, claimed to have successfully decrypted messages and files sent via Signal. In June 2023, Google disclosed a vulnerability in its RCS service that allowed hackers to send fraudulent messages to Android users, containing malicious links redirecting victims to compromised websites.

Security Vulnerabilities in Communication Protocols

Communication protocols such as SMTP, RCS, or SMS are also susceptible to security vulnerabilities that can enable hackers to intercept, modify, or spoof messages and calls. SS7 vulnerabilities involve attacks exploiting the vulnerabilities of the SS7 protocol, used to establish and terminate telephone calls on digital signaling networks. These attacks can allow hackers to intercept, modify, or spoof voice and SMS communications on a cellular network. In January 2023, a hacking group named Ransomware.vc launched a data extortion campaign targeting organizations using the Progress MOVEit file transfer tool. The hackers exploited an SS7 vulnerability to intercept verification codes sent via SMS to MOVEit users, gaining access to sensitive data. In February 2023, the Ukrainian power grid was hit by a new malware called Industroyer2, attributed to Russian hackers. The malware used an SS7 vulnerability to take control of network operator phone calls, disrupting electricity distribution in the country. In March 2023, Samsung suffered a data breach that exposed the personal and financial information of millions of customers. The breach was caused by an SS7 vulnerability that allowed hackers to access SMS messages containing online transaction confirmation codes.

An Overview of Security Vulnerabilities in Communication Systems

Communication systems exhibit various vulnerabilities, with each element susceptible to exploitation by hackers. These weaknesses can have severe consequences, including financial losses, damage to reputation, or national security breaches.

  • Protocols: Communication protocols, like Internet Protocol (IP), Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), Signaling System 7 (SS7), and Rich Communication Services (RCS), can contain security vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities enable hackers to intercept, modify, or spoof communications on the network. For instance, an SS7 vulnerability allows hackers to eavesdrop on phone calls or read SMS messages on a cellular network.
  • Services: Network services, such as messaging, cloud, streaming, or payment services, possess their own vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities may permit hackers to access, modify, or delete data within the service. For instance, a vulnerability in an encrypted messaging service enables hackers to decrypt messages or files sent via the service.
  • Applications: Software applications, including web, mobile, desktop, or IoT applications, are prone to security vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities empower hackers to execute malicious code on a user’s device or gain control of the device itself. For example, a vulnerability in a web application allows hackers to inject malicious code into the displayed web page.
  • Devices: Physical devices, such as computers, smartphones, tablets, or IoT devices, feature their own set of security vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities can enable hackers to access the device’s data or functionalities. For instance, a vulnerability in a smartphone grants hackers access to the device’s camera, microphone, or GPS.

In conclusion, the multitude of security vulnerabilities in communication systems presents a significant challenge to all stakeholders. Protecting against these vulnerabilities and enhancing cybersecurity is essential to safeguard sensitive data and infrastructure.

How communication vulnerabilities exposed millions of users to cyberattacks in the past years

Communication is essential for our personal and professional lives, but it also exposes us to cyber threats. In the past years, hackers exploited the hidden dangers of communication vulnerabilities to steal data, disrupt services, and spy on users. These vulnerabilities affected software and services widely used, such as Log4j, Microsoft Exchange, Exim, Signal, Telegram, or WhatsApp. Some of these vulnerabilities have been fixed, while others remain active or in progress. The following table summarizes the main communication vulnerabilities in the past years, their impact, and their status.

Name of the breach Type of breach Impact Status Date of discovery Date of patch
Log4j Command injection Control of servers and Java applications Fixed November 24, 2021 December 18, 2021
Microsoft Exchange Remote code execution Data theft and backdoor installation Fixed March 2, 2021
Exim Multiple vulnerabilities Control of email servers June 5, 2020
Signal Denial of service Blocking of messages and calls Fixed May 11, 2020 May 15, 2020
Telegram Deserialization Access to messages and files Fixed January 23, 2021
WhatsApp QR code spoofing Account hacking Fixed October 10, 2019
File-based XSS Code injection Execution of malicious code in the browser Not fixed December 17, 2020 N/A
RCS QR code spoofing Interception, modification or spoofing of messages and calls Not fixed June 17, 2020 N/A
SMS SIM swap fraud Account takeover and identity theft Active or in progress
MMS Stagefright vulnerability Remote code execution and data theft Fixed July 27, 2015 August-September 2015
SolarWinds Orion Supply chain compromise Data theft and backdoor installation Fixed December 8, 2020 February 25, 2023
API PubNub-Kotlin Privilege escalation by deserialization of untrusted data Arbitrary command execution on SolarWinds Platform website Fixed February 8, 2022 April 19, 2023
SS7 Multiple vulnerabilities Data theft, interception, modification or blocking of communications, location tracking or spoofing, fraud Active or in progress 2014 N/A

This table provides a concise overview of the hidden dangers of communication vulnerabilities in 2023, their types, impacts, and current statuses.

EviCypher NFC HSM: The technology that makes your communications invulnerable to security breaches

Security vulnerabilities in the means of communication pose a high risk to users, including satellite messaging, as their data can be exposed or manipulated by hackers. Therefore, effective protection against this threat is essential. This is precisely where the EviCypher NFC HSM technologies mentioned in this article come in as an innovative and secure solution.

EviCypher NFC HSM Technology for Messaging Protection

EviCypher NFC HSM technology is a solution that enables contactless encryption and decryption of data using an NFC card. It employs a hardware security module (HSM) that securely stores encryption keys. It is compatible with various communication services, including emails, SMS, MMS, satellite messaging, and chats.

To use EviCypher NFC HSM technology, simply pair the NFC Card, to an NFC-enabled Android phone and activate it with your fingerprint. Messages sent and received through messaging services are encrypted and decrypted using the NFC card. Only the card owner can access their messages and files. No one can intercept or alter them, even if the  service is compromised by a security vulnerability.

EviCypher NFC HSM technology offers optimal protection for commincation, ensuring data confidentiality and integrity. It also safeguards against other types of security vulnerabilities that may affect communication methods, such as Log4Shell or SolarWinds. It is a simple, effective solution that requires no change in user habits.

What is EviCypher NFC HSM technology?

EviCypher NFC HSM technology is a contactless encryption technology that uses hardware security modules (HSM) devices that communicate via NFC (Near Field Communication) protocols. These devices are EviTag and Evicard, which are small and portable devices that can be attached to a keychain or a card holder. They allow users to store and manage their keys and secrets securely, without relying on third-party services or cloud storage.

How does EviCypher NFC HSM technology work?

EviCypher NFC HSM technology works by encrypting and decrypting data and communications with the user’s own keys that they created and stored offline. The user can use the devices for various applications, such as encrypting emails, messages or files.

To use NFC HSMs, the user must first pair it with their phone. He chooses the option of encryption or decryption on his phone, writes or reads his messages on his phone. Encryption and decryption operations are performed from the NFC HSM itself, without exposing keys or secrets to the phone. The same operation is available on computer via a phone-paired web extension and using the NFC HSM.

Why is EviCypher NFC HSM technology secure and reliable?

EviCypher NFC HSM technology is integrated into a hardware security module that stores encrypted secrets, such as encryption keys, in the highly secure NFC eprom memory. It enables to encrypt contactless communications upstream, in post-quantum AES 256, before sending them. It is thus secure and reliable, because it encrypts the data before transmitting them without ever keeping the message in plain text.

How can EviCypher NFC HSM technology protect you from security breaches?

EviCypher NFC HSM technology can protect you from security breaches by encrypting your data and communications in advance in volatile memory before sending them encrypted without ever keeping the message in clear automatically destroyed and replaced by its encrypted version in AES 256 symmetry considered post quantum. Thus, even if there are security flaws the messages and emails and their attachments remain always encrypted. This can be done from an Android NFC phone and/or from the Freemindtronic extension.

This way, you can avoid being exposed to past, present or future security vulnerabilities, since the encryption is done on the device itself, without exposing the keys or secrets to the phone or computer. Even if your phone or computer is compromised by a hacker or a spyware, they cannot access your data or messages in clear text. Only you can decrypt them with your device and your PIN code.

EviCypher NFC HSM technology is an innovative solution that offers a high level of security and privacy for your communication systems. It is developed by Freemindtronic, an Andorran company specialized in NFC security. It is based on EviCore NFC HSM technology, which is a hardware security module that combines hardware encryption and NFC communication protocols.

In conclusion, the EviCypher NFC HSM technology is integrated into a hardware security module that stores encrypted secrets, such as encryption keys, in the highly secure NFC eprom memory. It allows to encrypt contactless communications upstream, in post-quantum AES 256, before sending them. It is thus secure and reliable, because it encrypts the data before transmitting them without ever keeping the message in plain text.

How to secure your SSH key with NFC HSM USB Drive EviKey

NFC HSM USB drive SSH Contactless keys manager EviKey NFC & EviCore NFC HSM Compatible Technologies patented from Freemindtronic Andorra Made in France - JPG

How to Create and Store Your SSH Key Securely with EviKey NFC HSM USB Drive

NFC HSM USB Drive EviKey revolutionizes SSH key storage in our digital era. In a world teeming with cyber threats, safeguarding SSH keys remains paramount. Yet, striking a balance between top-notch security and effortless access often poses challenges. The answer? EviKey’s groundbreaking NFC HSM USB technology. Throughout this guide, we’ll uncover how EviKey stands out, ensuring robust security without forsaking user convenience. So, whether you’re a seasoned tech expert or just beginning your cybersecurity journey, dive in. You’re about to discover the next big thing in digital key storage.

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How to create and protect your SSH key with NFC HSM USB drive

The NFC HSM USB drive is a device that allows you to create and store your SSH key securely with EviKey technology. EviKey is a patented technology that encrypts your SSH key with a secret code that only you know and that is stored in a NFC tag embedded in the device. You will need to scan the NFC tag with your smartphone or another NFC reader to unlock your SSH key and use it for SSH sessions. You will also learn how to customize the security settings of your device and how to backup and restore your SSH key.

SSH: A secure protocol for remote communication

SSH, or Secure Shell, is a cryptographic protocol that allows you to establish a secure communication between a client and a server. SSH is often used to remotely administer servers, execute commands or transfer files. To connect to a server via SSH, there are two authentication methods: password or public key.

Password authentication: simple but insecure

Password authentication is the simplest method, but also the least secure. Passwords can be easily guessed, stolen or intercepted by attackers. Moreover, you have to remember your password and enter it every time you connect.

Public key authentication: advanced and secure

Setting up public key authentication for SSH

Public key authentication is a more secure and convenient way to access remote servers than using passwords. To set it up, you will need to generate a pair of keys, one public and one private, and copy the public key to the server you want to connect to. The private key will stay on your local machine and will be used to authenticate yourself when you initiate an SSH session. You will also learn how to use a passphrase to protect your private key from unauthorized access.

Advantages and constraints of public key authentication

Public key authentication: benefits and challenges

Using public key authentication for SSH has many benefits and challenges. Some of the benefits are: increased security, reduced risk of brute force attacks, and a streamlined login process. Some of the challenges are: managing multiple keys, ensuring the integrity of the public key, and recovering from lost or stolen private key. You’ll also learn some best practices for overcoming these challenges and protecting your SSH keys.

Public key authentication has several advantages:

  • Compared to password authentication, public key authentication offers a higher level of security. It also avoids typing your password every time you connect. In addition, it allows you to automate processes that require an SSH connection; such as scripts or orchestration tools.

However, public key authentication also involves certain constraints:

  • You have to deal with some constraints when you use public key authentication. For each client and each server, you have to generate a pair of keys; copy the public key on the server in a special file called ~/.ssh/authorized_keys; and protect the private key against any loss or compromise.

EviKey NFC HSM USB drive: A solution to store your SSH key securely

To overcome these constraints, there is a solution: using an EviKey NFC HSM technology to store your private SSH key physically externalized. EviKey NFC HSM USB drive is a hardware device that allows you to store sensitive data in a secure flash memory, which can only be unlocked with a contactless authentication via a smartphone compatible with NFC (Near Field Communication). It offers several advantages:

  • The EviKey NFC HSM USB drive allows you to keep your private SSH key outside of the hard disk of the client. This reduces the risks of theft or unauthorized access. You can also unlock your private SSH key without typing a password or a passphrase; you just have to approach your smartphone to the NFC HSM USB drive. Moreover, the device offers an industrial level of security equivalent to SL4 according to the standard IEC 62443-3-3.

EviKey NFC HSM: A technology developed by Freemindtronic SL

There are several models and brands of NFC HSM USB drives on the market, but in this tutorial, we will focus on the EviKey NFC HSM technology, developed by Freemindtronic SL, an Andorran company specialized in cybersecurity. EviKey NFC HSM is compatible with all operating systems (Linux, Windows, macOS, Android) and can be used with three free Android applications: Evikey & EviDisk, Fullkey Plus and Freemindtronic (FMT). These applications allow you to manag the NFC HSM USB drives, to create and restore backups, to encrypt and decrypt files, and to authenticate via SSH.

How to create an SSH key and use it with a NFC HSM USB drive

In this tutorial, we will show you how to create an SSH key under different operating systems, how to use a NFC HSM USB drive to store your private SSH key physically externalized, and how to use the public SSH key to authenticate locally, on a computer or on a server.

Prerequisites

The following are required to follow this tutorial:

  • A computer or a smartphone with an operating system among Linux, Windows, macOS or Android.
  • An internet connection.
  • A NFC HSM USB drive.
  • One of the three Android applications mentioned above installed on your smartphone.
  • A remote server that you want to connect to via SSH.

Creating an SSH key

The first step to use public key authentication is to generate a pair of SSH keys (private and public) on your computer or smartphone. To do this, you can use a special utility called ssh-keygen, which is included with the standard OpenSSH suite. By default, this utility will create a pair of RSA keys of 3072 bits.

The procedure to create an SSH key varies depending on the operating system that you use. Here is how to do it for each case:

  • Linux

    • Open a terminal and type the following command: ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "your_email@example.com"
    • This command will create a new pair of SSH keys using your email as a label.
    • You can choose the location and name of the file where to save your private key, as well as a passphrase to protect it.
    • By default, the files are named id_rsa and id_rsa.pub and are stored in the ~/.ssh directory.
  • Windows

    • Download and install the PuTTYgen software from the official website [2].
    • Launch PuTTYgen and click on the Generate button.
    • You will have to move the mouse over the blank area to create some entropy.
    • Once the key is generated, you can enter a comment (for example your email) and a passphrase to secure it.
    • Then, you will have to save your public key and your private key in separate files by clicking on the Save public key and Save private key buttons.
  • macOS

    • The procedure is similar to Linux.
    • Open a terminal and type the following command: ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "your_email@example.com"
    • SSH keygen will create a new pair of SSH keys using your email as a label.
    • You can choose the location and name of the file where to save your private key, as well as a passphrase to protect it.
    • By default, the files are named id_rsa and id_rsa.pub and are stored in the ~/.ssh directory.
  • Android

    • Download and install the ConnectBot application from the Play Store [5].
    • Open ConnectBot and press the Menu button.
    • Select Manage Pubkeys.
    • Press the Menu button again and select Generate.
    • Choose the type of key (RSA or DSA) and the size of the key (2048 bits or more).
    • Enter a nickname for your key and press Generate.

Using a NFC HSM USB drive

Once you have created your pair of SSH keys, you have to move the private SSH key into the flash memory of the NFC HSM USB drive. To do this, you have to plug the NFC HSM USB drive into the USB port of your computer or smartphone, and use the following command:

sudo mv ssh_private_key /usb_directory

This command will move the file containing your private SSH key (for example id_rsa or private.ppk) to the directory corresponding to the NFC HSM USB drive (for example /media/evikey or /storage/evikey). You have to replace ssh_private_key and /usb_directory with the appropriate names according to your case.

Once you have moved your private SSH key into the NFC HSM USB drive, you can lock it contactlessly with your smartphone. To do this, you have to use one of the three Android applications that embed the EviKey NFC HSM technology: Evikey & EviDisk, Fullkey Plus or Freemindtronic (FMT). Here is how to do it for each application:

With Evikey & EviDisk or Fullkey Plus or Freemindtronic (FMT) Android NFC app

  • Open the application on your smartphone.
  • Select the NFC HSM USB drive that you want to lock.
  • Press the Lock button.
  • Approach your smartphone to the NFC HSM USB drive to lock the access to the flash memory.

Authentication via SSH with a NFC HSM USB drive

You have prepared your NFC HSM USB drive and copied your public SSH key on the computer or remote server that you want to connect to via SSH. Now you can authenticate via SSH with the NFC HSM USB drive. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Plug the NFC HSM USB drive into the USB port of the smartphone
  • Open the Android application of your choice
  • Select the option “SSH Authentication”
  • Enter the information of the computer or remote server (IP address, port, username)
  • Select the private SSH key stored in the NFC HSM USB drive
  • Approach your smartphone to the NFC HSM USB drive to unlock the access to the flash memory
  • Validate the SSH connection
  • Access the terminal of the computer or remote server

The method allows you to authenticate locally, on a computer or on a server. Here are some examples of use cases:

Local authentication

You can use the NFC HSM USB drive to authenticate locally on your own computer or smartphone. That can be useful if you want to execute commands as another user, for example root or sudo. To do that, you have to enter the information of your computer or smartphone as IP address, port and username. For example:

ssh -p 22 root@127.0.0.1

It command will connect you via SSH to your local computer as root, using port 22 and IP address 127.0.0.1. It is a special address that always designates the local host. You will have to approach your smartphone to the NFC HSM USB cdrive to unlock your private SSH key and validate the connection.

Computer authentication

With the NFC HSM USB drive, you can authenticate on another computer that you have access to on the network. Such can be useful if you want to access files or programs that are stored on that computer, or if you want to perform maintenance or troubleshooting operations remotely. To do such, you have to enter the information of the computer that you want to connect to as IP address, port and username. For example:

ssh -p 22 alice@192.168.1.10

Local SSH will connect you via SSH to the computer whose IP address is 192.168.1.10, using port 22 and username alice. You will have to approach your smartphone to the NFC HSM USB drive to unlock your private SSH key and validate the connection.

Server authentication

The EviKey NFC HSM USB drive lets you authenticate on a remote server that you have access to via the internet. This can be useful if you want to administer a website, a database, a cloud service or any other type of server. To do this, you have to enter the information of the server that you want to connect to as IP address, port and username. For example:

ssh -p 22 bob@54.123.456.78

That command will connect you via SSH to the server whose IP address is 54.123.456.78, using port 22 and username bob. You will have to approach your smartphone to the NFC HSM USB drive to unlock your private SSH key and validate the connection.

Comparison of Secure Storage Solutions for SSH Keys

EviKey NFC HSM USB Drive: Redefining the Paradigm

The search for dependable, efficient, and secure storage for SSH private keys has evolved from a mere task to a pivotal mission. In a digital landscape riddled with threats, the EviKey NFC HSM USB drive emerges, not merely as a product but as a groundbreaking shift towards cybersecurity, regulatory compliance, and user-friendliness.

Cybersecurity and Safety: A Synergy

Combining cybersecurity (safeguarding digital assets) and safety (protecting the device itself) is a hallmark of the EviKey NFC HSM USB drive. The drive’s construction inherently merges these two dimensions. With electrical and thermal safeguards, ESD protection, and an integrated self-diagnostic system, it’s evident that the EviKey drive is designed not just to store but to fortify.

Simplicity Meets Security: Seamless SSH Key Storage

EviKey has revolutionized the SSH key storage process, doing away with complicated software or intricate steps. Upon unlocking the USB NFC HSM through a contactless mechanism, it presents itself as a standard medium on various operating systems. Users can then smoothly transfer SSH keys to this space. In its locked state, the drive becomes virtually undetectable to both computing and mobile platforms, ensuring unparalleled security. Furthermore, the option to fortify security with an additional password layer is available to users.

Normative Compliance: Setting the Gold Standard

EviKey’s technological prowess is evident in features such as NFC signal energy harvesting. This includes a state-of-the-art black box monitoring system. Additionally, there’s an assurance of data persistence for an astounding 40 years without needing an external power source.

Technological Advancements: Beyond the Ordinary

EviKey’s technological prowess is evident in features such as NFC signal energy harvesting, a state-of-the-art black box monitoring system, and an assurance of data persistence for an astounding 40 years without needing an external power source.

At a Glance: EviKey Versus the Rest


Criteria EviKey NFC HSM Nitrokey Yubikey SoloKeys OnlyKey Trezor
Storage Capacity 8GB-128GB 32KB 32KB 32KB 32KB Limited by key size
SSH Key Capacity Over 4 billion About 24 About 24 Up to 24 Up to 24 Several
Contactless Authentication Yes, via NFC No Yes, NFC or USB Yes, NFC or USB Yes, NFC or USB Yes, via USB
Physical Device Security Enhanced with attack detection & self-destruct Standard with PIN lock Standard with PIN lock Standard with PIN lock Standard with PIN lock Standard with PIN lock
OS Compatibility All OS All OS All OS All OS All OS All OS
SSH & OpenSSH Protocol Compatibility Yes, via OpenSSH Yes, via PKCS#11 Yes, via PKCS#11 Yes, via PKCS#11 Yes, via PKCS#11 Yes, via GPG
SSH & OpenSSH Authentication Modes Five-factor (MFA) Two-factor (2FA) Two-factor (2FA) Two-factor (2FA) Two-factor (2FA) One-factor (1FA)
Users for Contactless SSH & OpenSSH Unlocking Six different users None One user One user One user One user
Patents Three international patents None None None None None
Electrical Protection Integrated with intelligent regulator No No No No No
Thermal Safeguards Functional & thermal sensors with breaker No No No No No
ESD Protection 27kv on data channel No No No No No
Physical Robustness Military-grade resin; Waterproof & Tamperproof No No No No No
Security from Attacks Inclusive of invasive & non-invasive threats No No No No No
Limit on Auth. Attempts 13 (modifiable by admin) No No No No No
USB Port Protection Fully independent security system No No No No No
Contactless Security Energy Harvests energy from NFC signals No No No No No
Black Box Monitoring Comprehensive event tracking No No No No No
Fault Detection In-built self-diagnostics No No No No No
Memory Write Count Monitors flash memory health No No No No No
Data Persistence 40 years without external power No No No No No
Temperature Guard Ensures optimal performance No No No No No
Auto-lock Duration Admin-defined (seconds to minutes) No No No No No

Unveiling the NFC HSM USB Drive EviKey’s Innovations

Deep Dive: Why EviKey is the Leading Choice

With standout features like the swift auto-lock function, EviKey solidifies its position as a market leader. Its rapid automatic re-locking capability, combined with easy NFC unlocking, minimizes vulnerability windows, ensuring top-notch security. The EviKey NFC HSM USB drive signifies not just storage but an investment in unparalleled SSH key protection.

Physical Robustness: Beyond Conventional Protection

Designed with precision, the EviKey NFC HSM USB drive is adept at handling adverse conditions. Enclosed in a military-grade resin, its robustness parallels that of steel. Its unique construction ensures the EviKey drive’s resilience to damage, and its waterproof quality even allows it to operate underwater. Beyond the physical, the drive also provides countermeasures against invasive and non-invasive brute force intrusions.

Independence from Encryption Systems: Freedom of Choice

EviKey NFC HSM USB drive’s design is devoid of a pre-set encryption system, a strategic move to offer users flexibility and security. This choice ensures evasion from issues tied to outdated or flawed cryptographic elements, which may require user updates. This architecture offers users the autonomy to choose their preferred encryption method for data storage on the EviKey drive. Furthermore, the option for drive segmentation allows users to create specific encrypted sections, such as a BitLocker space, diversifying its applications.

Versatility: A Universal Key

EviKey NFC HSM’s adaptability is not limited to SSH key storage. Its versatile nature allows integration with various security ecosystems. The drive can serve as a decryption key for encrypted SSDs, HDs and SDs TPM2.0. Moreover, its compatibility extends to password management, functioning as a password manager or a token, harmonizing with other advanced technologies from Freemindtronic such as EviCode HSM OpenPGP and EviPass HSM OpenPGP.

Conclusion

You now know how to create an SSH key under different operating systems, how to use a NFC HSM USB drive to store your physically externalized private SSH key, and how to use the public SSH key to authenticate locally, on a computer or on a server. You can thus enjoy a secure and convenient authentication method, without needing a password or additional software, while benefiting from an industrial level of security equivalent to SL4 according to the standard IEC 62443-3-3.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact Freemindtronic SL, designer, developer, manufacturer and publisher of applications embedding the EviKey NFC HSM technology. You can also buy the products integrating this technology from Freemindtronic’s partners.

Digital signature: How Freemindtronic secures its software

Digital Signature EV Code Signing Certificate from Freemindtronic SL Andorra

Digital signature by Jacques gascuel This article will be updated with any new information on the topic, and readers are encouraged to leave comments or contact the author with any suggestions or additions.  

How Freemindtronic uses digital signature to secure its software

Digital security is the main focus of Freemindtronic. This innovative company offers software that use digital signature. This ensures their reliability and integrity. Some of these software are EviDNS and EviPC. They use NFC technology and asymmetric & symmetric cryptography. These techniques help to create, store and verify digital evidence. In this article, we will see the benefits of digital signature for users.

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What is digital signature?

Digital signature is a process that allows to authenticate the origin and content of a document or a computer program. It relies on the use of a digital certificate, which attests to the identity of the signer, and a private key, which allows to encrypt the data. The private key is stored on a secure physical device, called USB token, which requires a PIN code to be activated. Thus, digital signature protects the private key from theft or loss.

Why choose EV Code Signing Certificate Highest level of Security?

Freemindtronic has chosen the EV Code Signing Certificate Highest level of Security, which is the highest level of security available on the market. This certificate has the following characteristics:

  • It complies with the authentication standards of the CA/Browser Forum and Microsoft specifications, which ensures compatibility with major browsers and operating systems.
  • It establishes the reputation of the signer in Windows 8.0 and later versions, Internet Explorer 9 and later versions, Microsoft Edge, and Microsoft SmartScreen® Application Reputation filter, which increases user confidence by displaying the identity of the signer before running applications.
  • It supports all major 32-bit/64-bit formats, such as Microsoft Authenticode (kernel and user mode files, like .exe, .cab, .dll, .ocx, .msi, .xpi, and .xap), Adobe Air, Apple applications and plug-ins, Java, MS Office Macro and VBA, Mozilla object files, and Microsoft Silverlight applications.
  • It includes a timestamp functionality, which allows to continue using signed applications even after the expiration of the signature certificate.
  • It comes with a free USB token with a 3-year certificate.

How does digital signature benefit users?

By using a high-level digital signature, Freemindtronic guarantees its customers the quality and security of its software, while distinguishing itself from its competitors in the digital security market. Users can enjoy the following benefits:

  • They can verify the authenticity and integrity of Freemindtronic software before installing or running it.
  • They can avoid warnings or errors from browsers or operating systems that may prevent them from using unsigned or poorly signed software.
  • They can trust that Freemindtronic software is free from malware or tampering that could compromise their data or devices.
  • They can access Freemindtronic software even if they are offline or if their internet connection is unstable.
BENEFITS DIGITAL SIGNATURE
Authenticity ✔️
Integrity ✔️
Reputation ✔️
Compatibility ✔️
Security ✔️
Accessibility ✔️

In conclusion, Freemindtronic is a leader in digital security solutions, such as EviDNS and SecureSafe360, which use NFC technology and asymmetric & symmetric cryptography to create, store and verify digital evidence. To ensure that its software is reliable and secure, Freemindtronic uses a high-level digital signature that complies with industry standards and specifications. Users can benefit from this signature by verifying the identity and content of Freemindtronic software before using it. They can also avoid potential problems caused by unsigned or poorly signed software. Finally, they can access Freemindtronic software even when they are not connected to the internet.