Archive for April 30th, 2009

What does “The only way to break into PGP” mean?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Note to PGP legal dept: I’m not going to put the ® sign every time when I mention PGP. I’m just tired; we already did that in our press release and on our web site, and I think it’s enough. No, really? Well, I’ll repeat one more time: all names like PGP are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners in the UK, USA, Russia and probably somewhere else  e.g. in Albania. There are too many countries to mention, sorry :). Why should I care about (R)? Keep reading, and you’ll see the reason.

Note to PGP executive and marketing depts: thanks again for helping our marketing people to spread a word about company and our software. We have received many calls from local and international media, a nice press coverage, and a lot of people coming to our booth at InfoSecurity. Well, and several good orders  mostly from forensic/investigation people.

Now an update to my previous post. It becomes more and more funny: PGP has wrote about our ‘conflict’ in their own blog. And the author is… Jon Callas, CTO of PGP. He called his blog entry Lies, Damned Lies, and Marketing – not bad, eh? But the contents is even better. Jon starts with the words about ElcomSoft: "The company who made this has a great product, and as I said then, it’s a very cool product." Thanks Jon, but we already knew that our software is "great" and "cool" – otherwise we would not get enough sales ;). But Jon’s story continues with the following:

[ElcomSoft] booth said, “the only way to break into PGP®.” This is a lie, and a lie in two directions.

1.They’re not breaking into PGP, they’re doing password cracking. There’s a difference.
2.They’re not the only people who do it. As I’ve said before there are plenty of other password crackers, both commercial and open source.
In short, the sign was factually incorrect, and lies about PGP.

If we lie, please sue us. If we don’t, better be quiet, please. But PGP marketing people have selected the 3rd way: complained to Reed Exhibitions and asked to destroy [a part of] our booth. Well done.

About [1]: from my personal point of view, "breaking into PGP" can mean "password cracking" as well. Do we provide the tool to get access to password-protected PGP disk? Obviously we do. Did we say that it works in 100% cases, or that we cracked PGP encryption/algorithms? No we did not. Oh well, our English is definitely not perfect, but I think it is still better than your Russian, Jon ;)

About [2]: yes, there is a lot of password crackers around. But I’m aware of just a single one (except ours, of course) for PGP Disk – and it is commercial; supports old versions of PGP Disk only; moreover, it is distributed only as a part of very expensive commerial e-discovery package – and it is MUCH slower than ours (because it does not use GPU acceleration). Sorry, I will not mention the vendor name here, simply because it is our competitor – and it did not pay us for an advertisement :). Jon, I’d appreciate if you can name the other ones (commercial or open-source). If you cannot, YOU lie. But I like your wording "as I’ve said before"; I think I should used it myself, too (e.g. "as I’ve said before, PGP is not secure and can be cracked" – without reference, for sure :)).

I recall how I talked to PGP representative a year ago – on previous InfoSecurity UK. The first question he asked was: "Have you received an e-mail from our legal department?". I replied "Should I?"; he said "Yes", and explained the reason: there was no (R) sign (near "PGP") in our press release (Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery Unlocks PGP Protection). Well, see the note at the beginning of this post ;)

Another note: in fact, we were strictly prohibited (by Reed, but that’s definitely not their own initiative, but for sure PGP’s one) from printing anything about PGP on our booth. It’s a pity that I did not have a voice recorder handy. So if we wrote something like The only way to break PGP passwords, or The most cost-effective way to crack PGP passwords etc, such panel will be removed as well. We’ll probably try this next year. But we reserved the other place for InfoSecurity 2010 – not so close to PGP; I think it is a good idea anyway, because every half an hour they’re doing very loud (but not very smart) presentations telling people that PGP is #1 in this and that (nothing really interesting/technical/innovative).

Oh, I forgot to mention that we received a document from Reed explaining why they’ve removed our wall paper, finally – at the end of the first day, i.e. about 8 hours after removal. The official Regulations (sorry, I’m too lazy to scan it – but I will, if you wish) say that it should be done in advance (and no action can be made without prior notice in writing), but who cares? Anyway, for those who interested – here is how it looks like:

But I should also mention that Reed keeps their word: our panel has been replaced this morning (at their own cost). Have a look (the second panel from the right; the color is slightly different from the original one, but still better than nothing):

 

Lessons learned? You guess yourself. I would not say anything bad about PGP and/or Reed – they really helped us a lot. And I would NOT recommend PGP to send smarter people to the exhibition next year – so we’ll be able to save a significant part of our marketing budget ;)

After all… All of the above (as well as my other posts) is my personal view, and not an official position of ElcomSoft. Yeah, I’m the CEO of ElcomSoft, and I’m the person who approved the design of our booth (btw, only two days before the show: we were really busy doing technical stuff), but anyway.

Oh, almost forgot to share one more picture – with ElcomSoft people:

From left to right:

  • Andrey Belenko, IT Security Analyst (and an inventor of GPU acceleration; well-known person in ‘crypto’ world)
  • Olga Koksharova, Marketing Director (doing real and smart marketing and PR, much better than PGP’s one)
  • Vladimir Katalov, CEO/co-owner (me; ex-programmer – not a stupid ‘manager’ hired by expensive headhunters)

And finally, thanks to all who made the comments to my previous post. As you can see, our blog is NOT MODERATED – in contrary to PGP’s one (which is actually premoderated, try it yourself; we made some comments there, but they have not appeared – at least in about two hours after writing). Censored? ;)

On the Infosec once again

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

There is a lot of speculation about what has happened between Elcomsoft and PGP here on Infosecurity Europe 2009 in London, so I would like to share my own point of view which may or may not coincide with Elcomsoft’s.

First, I’d like to make it clear that I do respect PGP Corporation; those guys are making great software.

Now, I’d like to comment on Jon Callas (CTO of PGP) blog entry. There are some important factual errors which I suspect Jon is not aware and which I would like to correct. He writes:

We complained to the trade show that someone else was being factually incorrect about our product, and the trade show staff spoke to the company in question, and then took the sign down.

Well, I’m not sure if "to spoke to the company in question" means to try to remove wall paper in the absense of Elcomsoft staff 30 minutes before exhibition opening, and this is what has exactly happened. We’ve been approaching our stand when organizers were removing the wall paper. Nobody has even tried to contact us beforehand (they have mobile phones of every exhibitor, I guess), nor they gave us a chance to talk to PGP representative to explain anything. So that was not a really nice behavior, and pictures are only showing how ridiculous it was.

Marketing is a not something I feel comfortable with, but I suspect that if organizers remove every statemement which is not 100% true then we’ll see mostly white walls on most exhibitions. I can only see PGP’s request to remove our questionable (yes, I personally do admit this) marketing statement as a sign of inability and incompetence of their booth staff to expalain basics of password security to their (potential) customers.

Next, Jon writes:

1. They’re not breaking into PGP, they’re doing password cracking. There’s a difference.

2. They’re not the only people who do it. As I’ve said before there are plenty of other password crackers, both commercial and open source.

Breaking (into) something means breaking the weakest link. With PGP this is definitely the human being, not the technology. We did not say anything about breaking PGP encryption, so I don’t think we’re said something wrong here. Breaking password is usually sufficient to gain access to desired data and this is what often called breaking the system. And this is a slogan, not a technical paper.

We’re the only to provide hardware acceleration for PGP password recovery using commonly available hardware. This makes our product unique, so I believe word only can be here.  By the way, there are not "plenty" of products, maybe just one or two besides ours, and no open source PGP Disk and/or PGP Whole Disk Encryption password crackers that I am aware of.

Again, I do respect PGP Corporation. Today we do not have many security vendors who make source code available for review, and this is just one thing I respect PGP for. And I really hope we will resolve this situation to our best.