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Old July 23 2012, 08:50 PM   #51
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Re: Breaking Bad - Season 5

sidious618 wrote: View Post
Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
Hank might lack faith in the DEA's ability to break the encryption because there are some kinds of encryption you just can't break. There are some that are impossible to brute force in anything resembling a realistic timeframe.
Isn't it possible to have the files deleted automatically if someone tries to get into it? If it is, then I wouldn't be surprised if Gus set it up that way.
There are a lot of ways to accomplish something like that.

One is if the system requires a decryption key to be entered within a certain length of time after boot. If the key is not entered in time, the drive begins to overwrite all data with random 1s and 0s. This is semi-effective, but can be terminated if the analyst realizes what's happening and simply cuts power. It takes a few rewrites to permanently destroy the original data.

A more volatile method would be to pack some plastic explosive with metallic dust inside the drive casing, tied to a hardware trigger/switch. If the switch is ever set off (say, by someone entering the wrong key, or attempting to physically disassemble the computer), the plastique is ignited, sending tiny bits of metal all over the platters, making them damn near impossible to read.

But really, the most effective method is just using very strong encryption that can't be broken in a practical amount of time. Fourteen rounds of AES-256 is unbreakable within the age of the universe, so that's "good enough" to keep the government from ever reading something you've encrypted with it.

Ideally, an effective encryption system is invisible to someone searching for encrypted data. Why encrypt the entire disk when having the data spread among numerous "temporary"-looking files lets it hide in plain sight?

Generally speaking, TV writers haven't the first clue about encryption, namely by assuming you either encrypt everything or nothing at all, and that all encryption is breakable in a reasonable amount of time. In reality, someone who knows what they're doing can encrypt to a degree that is impossible to break in any practical sense. That's where less ethical authorities bring in the "rubber hose" decryption method.
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