2008/02/13

FDLLUG, Encryption and Video Streaming

The topic of the FDLLUG meeting (Fond du Lac Linux Users Group) on 13 February 2008 was encryption with Jim L from Madison as the guest speaker.

We tried to make the meeting available on the web with streaming video, but technical difficulties prevented us from getting Stickam to work. The likely culprit is the Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC) firewall or traffic shaping policies. We were able to get the video from the camcorder to the computer, but couldn't get it out onto the web via Stickam. The lesson from this video streaming effort was an old, familiar one -- always check out your a/v equipment prior to a presentation. Or, in this case, check out your web connections and services before a videocast. Because the FDLLUG is a technology-focused group, we may do the check-out at the start of the March meeting as a fun project. But most groups who are more interested in having technology that works than in how the technology works should make sure to do at least one trial run with all the hardware, software and web services before the presentation is scheduled.

If we can't get Stickam to work at during future meetings at MPTC, we'll try Y! Live or one of the other streaming video solutions mentioned in a recent post.

Jim's presentation on encryption was thorough, entertaining and informative. Unfortunately for me, the math was waaaay over my head. In spite of not being able to quickly absorb all the equations he threw at us, however, I enjoyed the talk and learned a few new things about crypto. One of his slides summed up eight basics of cryptography that he wanted us to focus on:


The underlying concept I took away from the meeting is that 'crypto-secureness' of the overall communication system between people or organizations is much more important than whether you have a super-strong 2048 bit encryption algorithm. Regardless of how strong your encryption algorithm is, there are other factors in your communication system that are probably fairly easy to exploit. Jim summed it up nicely with two quotes, the first from Bruce Schneier and the second attributed to an anonymous (of course...) NSA employee.
"There are two kinds of cryptography in this world: cryptography that will stop your kid sister from reading your files, and cryptography that will stop major governments..."

"Real systems are so insecure that the NSA needn't bother breaking the crypto."
Before my next exposure to crypto in a live setting (presentation, barcamp, tech meeting, etc), I need to read "The Codebreakers" by David Kahn (recommended by Jim L after his presentation) and re-read "Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson. I'll still be way out of my depth, but at least I'll understand and retain more the next time around.

*****

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