Smart cards

Andreas Schwier at
Thu Dec 13 10:48:52 CET 2018

> I agree that smartphones are not safe, but I am not particularly in favor of smartcards, dongles, and security tokens like yubikeys, either.
> Any kind of special-purpose cryptographic *hardware* is essentially proprietary, and too attractive and soft a target for various nations' spy agencies to covertly backdoor. "Don't look at me! I've got something to hide, and nowhere to protect it!"

So you really believe that international payment organizations or mobile
network operators worldwide or border control authorities rely their
risk management on a piece of hardware from well known chip manufacturer
that could easily be subverted by a national security agency ?

I you believe that, then an Intel Management Engine, a ARM Trust Zone or
the baseband processor in mobile phone isn't anything better. Then it
doesn't help if your software is open source, because your keys are
"open source" as well.

I've been working in the smart card industry for over 30 years now and
the tale of subverted smart card chips has been around for ages. It's
one of the often told myths - but there hasn't been any evidence that
this has already happened.

Yes, this technology is far from being perfect and so are people
implementing code of those devices. We've seen a number of security
flaws in smart card systems, that is unfortunately true. Still, I would
rely on a smart card well designed for the purpose of keeping things secret.

> There's a secure phone on the President's desk, and not even the Secret Service can say it's all that "secure."
Fact or fiction ?

> Open-source cryptographic software that runs on general purpose computer hardware is generally much more difficult to backdoor.
And why ?

> If you plug some little doohickey or thingamagig into your computer to do *crypto*, of all things, your computer is liable to become infected with spyware over the USB bus via BadUSB and various firmware- and device-related security vulnerabilities.
But that has nothing to do with smart cards.


I believe you are working for one of those nations' spy agencies and are
unable to break in. So you want us to believe that those devices can be
broken. so we leave our keys unprotected. Sounds absurd ?


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