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[liberationtech] Cryptography super-group creates unbreakable encryption

Adam Fisk a at
Tue Feb 19 10:00:14 PST 2013

On Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 2:01 PM, Nadim Kobeissi <nadim at> wrote:
> On Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 4:35 PM, Adam Fisk <afisk at>
> wrote:
>> I'm certainly more confident in the overall security of silent circle in
>> its first release than I was in the overall security of cryptocat.
> Of course this is true. The first release of Cryptocat was made in early
> 2011 by me back when I was in my second year of university and only barely
> beginning to understand proper programming and security practice. It was an
> experimental product full of holes and by no means secure. The first release
> of Silent Circle was by a team of superheroes with 25 years of experience in
> being totally badass. Big difference!

That's really my point exactly -- there are many things that determine
the security of a piece of software.

> But when your model is closed-source, you're not participating in
> reviewable, verifiable security practice and you're negatively affecting the
> practical cryptography industry as a whole. Look at Cryptocat — it
> progressed from a toy into a real product that I'm proud of, and that fully
> passed a security audit with a 100/100 score just last week
> (
> after two years of hard work, restructuring and redesigning the whole thing,
> and getting alternatively beaten up and helped by experts in the field.—
> This would have *never* happened had we not been open source from the
> beginning.

Sure. Again, I believe that open source is a beneficial license for
security, but we have to keep in mind that it's a means to an end --
secure code -- and that it's not the only means. I think you were
beaten up unfairly under the circumstances for cryptocat 1, and I
similarly think we're beating up Silent Circle unfairly.

> Being open source is a painful but necessary process. It invites criticism,
> bone-breaking and having to admit bad design, apologize for your mistakes
> and work hard on fixing them. But only through that process you create
> something great that benefits the security community by offering
> opportunities to learn. Sure, Silent Circle started off as a good product,
> but by being closed-source they disregard the proper practice of what makes
> this industry progress in terms of engineering, and they cast a shadow of
> uncertainty and closed progress upon themselves, too.

There are just so many aspects that go into software licensing that I
just don't draw that same line. If the goal is secure code, I again
think the key is having an adequate number of capable people analyzing
and dissecting that code on a constant basis. That can mean closed
source code audits, and it can mean having a full time security team
analyzing and improving the code at all times (Google, Facebook, many
others) regardless of the software license. Open source is awesome,
and I believe in it wholeheartedly, but I don't think if an
organization doesn't open source their code they're automatically
crazy and kicked out of the club.


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