Passwords and System Design

Careful attention needs to be paid to the key or password selection. Although the AES algorithm to date is not possible to crack to date (2012) - the encrypted data is not crackable itself - you can still apply cryptanalytic attacks that attempt recovery of a key within a reasonable amount of time, and for a justifiable budget depending on the target interest.

We have paid particular attention to the “implementation” of the AES Algorithm. Implementation is the weakest point in the encrypted data construct. All too often good algorithms create a false sense of security because of poor “implementation” or poor system architecture. These are attacks that would attempt to bypass the encryption algorithm: side-channel attacks, attacks against the key generation systems (either exploiting bad random number generators or sloppy password creation habits). For example in the email environment attacks that target the endpoints of the communication system and not the wire. Attacks that exploit key leakage based on poorly designed operating systems like Windows (all versions to date 2012). Attacks are very effective against poor system architecture and poor operating systems.

In our opinion the two safest systems available to the user today are our own 002 system, and Truecrypt.

002 is the safest for one or multiple individually stored and distributed files with manual password agreements between authorized users - it has no password checking for optimum endpoint leakage prevention. If you need to carry files on a notebook or usb stick or any other portable device, this is a good choice. If you need to share files from your computer with the trust that: no unknown third party has created your key, nothing has left your computer unencrypted when emailed, or nothing is present in the encrypted data enabling the system to know if your password was correct thereby enabling or aiding an attack in search of the password used to create the encrypted data.

Another good encryption system is Truecrypt. It is likely your best bet for massive numbers (or complete systems) of files that need to be encrypted and managed in a convenient transparent manner, typically on a local known system, but also very carefully in a portable environment. You can even encrypt your entire hard drive including the operating system using Truecrypt. This is a more complex installation but it increases your leakage security when using Windows which creates multiple temporary files that would then be encrypted, and otherwise would not be (leakage). This is perhaps the greatest weakness of the Windows operating system in a secure environment - it is very leaky! As such, it is important that you study the documentation for this system very carefully if you expect to be able to use it safely in a portable environment, ie on someone else’s system.

The balance of both 002 and Truecrypt can be very secure when the end use is understood and the above concepts and weaknesses of your environments are understood.


002 is the easiest and safest system to use for every day encrypting and decrypting of files. As your needs evolve, you might find Truecrypt convenient to use as well, but still continue to use 002 for highly secure email, transporting of files (usb/portability), and file sharing.

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Copyright 2008 Harvey Parisien, Ottawa, Canada, all rights reserved.