The 2nd Annual HacDC CryptoParty is Nov 16


Date: 16 Nov 2013
Time: 4 – 10pm
Place: 1525 Newton St NW
Washington DC 20010
(16th St entrance)

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The HacDC CryptoParty will cover topics aimed at helping you keep your data safe by learning how to use basic cryptography tools to protect the content of your data and — of particular interest because of recent revelations— to thwart common forms of surveillance.

Like most of us, your life is probably pretty normal and of course you have nothing to hide. You may even think that allowing the government to read citizens’ email is the price we all have to pay for security.

But what if increased surveillance actually doesn’t keep us safer? What if the mere specter of surveillance suppresses your free expression? And what if you do have something that you want to keep private — for instance your sexual orientation, health status, political views, or that you’ve decided to stop practicing your religion?

Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom. —Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo

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DNA Cryptography

Diagram showing how DNA cryptography can work

For those folks that saw the Biomolecular Cryptology talk at This article in Technology Review talks about how DNA can be used to also encode data.  This approach leverages some deep properties of DNA biology, transcription and translation to enable a “public key” approach in which proteins (or their virtual equivalent) can be exchanged as a kind of public key, allowing the decoding of the underlying data encoded in DNA.  It is an interesting compliment to the so-called DNA stegnography, in which messages are encoded directly in the DNA bases, in something like a Caesar Cipher.

The paper appears to have some weaknesses in the cryptography, but I am nowhere near expert enough to be an effective judge- I wish that the paper has better references.  Perhaps some of our HacDC cryptography experts would be interested in giving it a go!

The details can be found in the paper here on arxiv.

Hack the Genome Shmoocon Presentation


Had a bunch of really interested folks at the “Hack the Genome, the age of biomolecular cryptography” talk today at Shmoocon.  Lots of fantastic ideas and great discussions afterwards with interested hackers.  It is great to see how much creative knowledge and energy there is in our community.  I was asked to share my slides, so I have put them up on my site over at Radio Free Genome, and you can download the presentation directly from here.

Enigma (and other cool cryptographic machines)

My family and I recently visted the Historical Electronics Museum (see ) in Linthicum, Maryland.   Along with an amazing treasure trove of defense electronics is a case containing several very interesting cryptology artifacts from  the World War II era, including an Enigma machine.  Pam thought it was the coolest thing in the museum, and we all spent quite some time admiring it, along with some other contemporary artifacts.

Enigma Machine from the Historical Electronics Museum

Enigma Machine from the Historical Electronics Museum

I you haven’t had the opportunity to vist the HEM, it is certainly worth the trip- it is very near BWI Airport right outside of Baltimore.  It is free and open to the public, but be sure and check the hours carefully on the website, since they are a bit irregular.  If you have kids, there are lots of great hands-on exhibits that explain electronics science and techology, which both my 11-year old and 8-year old daughters really enjoyed.  Given that they wanted to go back again almost immediately, it is certainly a fun place for them.