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Computer underground Digest Sun May 8, 1994 Volume 6 : Issue 40
ISSN 1004-042X

Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer ([email protected])
Archivist: Brendan Kehoe
Retiring Shadow Archivist: Stanton McCandlish
Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth
Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala
Ian Dickinson
Suspercollater: Shrdlu Nooseman

CONTENTS, #6.40 (May 8, 1994)

File 1--The check finally arrived--(Steve Jackson Games Update)
File 2--"Why Censoring Cyberspace is Futile" (H. Rheingold reprint)
File 3--The Great Clipper Debate 5/9/94
File 4--NII Summer Internship at the White House
File 5--DOJ Clipper documents scheduled for summer release under
File 6--Re: Comment on the Lamacchia case
File 7--Opening of the Computer-Mediated Communication Studies
File 8--Net-Letter Guide 5/05
File 9--RSA-1,600 number Encryption Code Broken

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Date: Thu, 5 May 1994 18:56:10 -0500 (CDT)
From: Steve Jackson
Subject: File 1--The check finally arrived--(Steve Jackson Games

PRESS RELEASE May 5, 1994 - For Immediate Release


On March 1, 1990, agents of the US Secret Service invaded the offices
of Steve Jackson Games, in Austin, Texas, in what became a landmark
case for the rights of computer users. The agents seized several
computers, including the company's BBS, and hundreds of computer
disks. Among the files taken were several uncompleted books,
including one that was about to go to the printer!

The raid was carried out under a sealed warrant. It was eventually
revealed that the Secret Service was investigating an imaginary
"conspiracy" based on false information, and knew it had no grounds
to suspect SJ Games of any crime, but had never even considered
asking the company for its cooperation while planning the raid!

On March 12, 1993, a federal judge ruled for Steve Jackson Games and
its co-plaintiffs - Steve Jackson himself and three users of the
Illuminati Bulletin Board - on two separate counts. Judge Sam Sparks
ruled for SJ Games on the PPA (Privacy Protection Act), saying that
the publisher's work product was unlawfully seized and held. Under
the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act), he ruled that the
Secret Service had unlawfully read, disclosed and erased the
computer messages on the BBS - despite their repeated denials that
they had done any such thing. On a separate ECPA count, he ruled for
the defendants, saying that taking the computer out the door was not
an "interception" of the messages on it within the meaning of the
law. That decision is now being appealed.

Judge Sparks' opinion was harshly critical of the Secret Service's
behavior before, during and after their raid, calling the affidavit
and warrant preparation "simply sloppy and not carefully done."

Now, more than a year later, the Secret Service has finally paid the
judgment. The checks received today included $1,000 per plaintiff
under the ECPA, plus about 3% interest since the judgment. Under the
PPA, SJ Games received $52,431.50 for lost profits and direct costs of
the raid. The government agreed to pay additional costs of the suit,
originally borne by the EFF and the attorneys, adding another

Commented Jackson: "The heroes in this case are the people at the
EFF and the attorneys who put it together - especially Sharon
Beckman at Silverglate & Good, and Pete Kennedy at George,
Donaldson and Ford. Without them, we never would have had our day
in court. They made a big investment in justice. "As for us, we'll use
our share to pay off old debts and buy new computers."

Since the raid, Jackson's bulletin board service has grown hugely.
Originally a one-line forum for game fans, it is now a full-scale
Internet access service, specializing in helping newcomers learn their
way around the Net. Doing business as "Illuminati Online," Jackson
now serves over a thousand paying customers, with more signing up
every day. "If not for the raid, I wouldn't have done it," he says. "It
brought home to me how important the Internet is becoming. And
even if we protect our legal right to be on the info highway,
somebody has to teach people how to use it!"

For more information, contact Steve Jackson at 512-447-7866.


Date: Thu, 5 May 1994 22:21:32 CDT
From: CuD Moderators
Subject: File 2--"Why Censoring Cyberspace is Futile" (H. Rheingold

By Howard Rheingold. Originally published in the San Francisco
Examiner, part of a weekly series of columns called "Tomorrow."
Reposted with permission.]

vc.181: Howard Rheingold's "Tomorrow" Columns Online vc.181.27:
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Tue 5 Apr 94 20:30
The following appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on April 6, 1994

Why Censoring Cyberspace Is Futile
By Howard Rheingold

For years, many Netheads had a recurring nightmare that a pedophile
would use a computer bulletin board system to make contact with a
child, and follow up with physical abuse offline. Now this nightmare
has become a reality. (See the news pages of today's Examiner.)

It is only a matter of time before law enforcement authorities use
cases like this to crack down on the free-wheeling,
everything-is-permitted culture of cyberspace. It's not hard to
imagine Jesse Helms standing before the US Senate, holding up an
X-rated image downloaded from the Internet, raging indignantly
about "public funds for porno highways."

As the public begins to realize that communications technology is
exposing them to an unlimited array of words and images, including
some they might find thoroughly repulsive, the clamor for censorship
and government regulation of the electronic highway is sure to begin.

But it would be a mistake to let traffic cops start pulling people
over on the highway.

Yes, we have to think about ways of protecting our children and our
society from the easy availability of every kind of abhorrent
information imaginable. But the "censor the Net" approach is not
just morally misguided. It's becoming technically impossible. As Net
pioneer John Gilmore is often quoted: "The Net interprets censorship
as damage and routes around it."

The Net's technological foundation was built to withstand nuclear
attack. The RAND Corporation designed the network to be a
thoroughly decentralized command-and-control-and
communications system, one that would be less vulnerable to
intercontinental missiles than a system commanded by a centralized

This decentralization of control means that the delivery system for
salacious materials is the same worldwide one that delivers
economic opportunity, educational resources, civic forums, and
health advice. If a hacker in Helsinki or Los Angeles connects to the
Internet and provides access to his digital porno files, anybody
anywhere else in the world, with the right kind of Internet
connection, can download those steamy bits and bytes.

This technological shock to our moral codes means that in the future,
we are going to have to teach our children well. The locus of control
is going to have to be in their heads and hearts, not in the laws or
machines that make information so imperviously available. Before we
let our kids loose on the Internet, they better have a solid moral
grounding and some common sense.

I bought an Internet account for my daughter when she was eight
years old, so we could exchange e-mail when I was on the road. But I
didn't turn her loose until I filled her in on some facts of online life.
"Just because someone sends you mail, you don't have to answer
unless you know them," I instructed her. "And if anybody asks if you
are home alone, or says something to you that makes you feel funny
about answering, then just don't answer until you speak to me."

The worldwide virtual communities that provide users with
companionship, personal support, enlightenment, and entertainment
can also contain imposters and worse. Your 14 year old might look
like he is doing his homework, but is actually secretly joining a hot
chat session with lecherous strangers. (The same dangers exist with
the telephone -- ask parents who have had to pay hefty bills for
their kids' 976 habits.)

You should have the the right, and the ability, to restrict the
massive information-flow into your home, to exclude subject matter
that you don't want your children to see. But sooner or later, your
children will be exposed to everything you have shielded them from,
and then all they will have left to deal with these shocking sights
and sounds is the moral fiber you helped them cultivate.

Teach your children to be politely but firmly skeptical about
anything they see or hear on the Net. Teach them to have no fear of
rejecting images or communications that repel or frighten them.
Teach them to have a strong sense of their own personal boundaries,
of their right to defend those boundaries physically and socially.
Teach them that people aren't always who they present themselves
to be in e-mail and that predators exist. Teach them to keep personal
information private. Teach them to trust you enough to confide in you
if something doesn't seem right.

Yes, pedophiles and pornographers use computer networks. They also
use telephones and the mail, but nobody would argue that we need to
censor or shut down these forms of communication. The most
relevant question now is: how do we teach our children to live, in an
uncensorable world?


Date: Mon, 2 May 1994 18:17:02 +0000
From: Dave Banisar
Subject: File 3--The Great Clipper Debate 5/9/94

The Great Clipper Debate:
National Security or National Surveillance?

Sponsored by: The Georgetown University Law Center Space Law
Group and Communications Law Forum

In Coordination with: The George Washington University Institute for
Computer and Telecommunications Systems Policy, the Association for
Computing Machinery Special Interest Group for Computers and
Society, and the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section.

Date and Time: May 9, 1994, at 7:30 p.m.

Place: The Georgetown University Law Center(Moot Court Room)
600 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The Administration, through the Department of Justice and the
National Security Agency, has proposed a standard encryption
algorithm for both the public and commercial marketplace, with the
goal of making this algorithm the method of choice for persons
wishing to encode their telephone and other voice and data
communications. The FBI and the NSA are concerned that the
increasing availability, and affordability, of encryption mechanisms
will make it difficult and in some cases impossible for law
enforcement and intelligence agencies to tap into and to understand
the communications of criminals and other pertinent groups. This
proposal has become known as the "Clipper Chip," in that it would
be implemented by the voluntary insertion of a computer chip into
telephone, fax machine, and other communications systems.

The Clipper Chip has generated considerable controversy. Opposing
it are various civil libertarian groups, as well as telecommunications
companies, software and hardware manufacturers, and trade
associations. The debate has raged behind closed doors, and openly in
the press.

On Monday, May 9, at the Georgetown University Law School, a
round table debate will take place on this controversy. The
participants represent both sides of the issue, and are illustrative of
the various groups which have taken a stand. The participants are:

Dorothy Denning, Chairperson of the Computer Science
Department of Georgetown University

Michael Godwin, Legal Counsel of the Electronic Frontier

Geoffrey Greiveldinger, Special Counsel to the Narcotic and
Dangerous Drug Section of the U.S. Department of Justice;

Michael Nelson, of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
of the White House;

Marc Rotenberg, Director of the Electronic Privacy Information
Center; and

Stephen Walker, President of Trusted Information Systems, Inc.,
and a former cryptographer with the National Security Agency

In addition, there will be two moderators: Dr. Lance
Hoffman, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at
The George Washington University, and Andrew Grosso, a former
federal prosecutor who is now an attorney in private practice in the
District of Columbia.

The program will last approximately two and one half hours, and
will be divided into two parts. The first half will offer the panel the
opportunity to respond to questions which have been submitted to
the participants beforehand; the second will present the panel with
questions from the audience.

There is no charge for this program, and members of the public are
encouraged to attend. Reservations are requested in advance, and
should be directed to one of the following individuals:

- C. Dianne Martin, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical
Engineering and Computer Science, The George Washington
University, Phillips Hall, Room 624-C, Washington, D.C. 20052;
telephone: (202)994-8238; E mail: [email protected]

- Sherrill Klein, Staff Director, ABA Criminal Justice Section,1800
M Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; telephone: (202) 331-2624;
fax: (202) 331-2220

- Francis L. Young, Young & Jatlow, 2300 N Street, N.W., Suite 600,
Washington, D.C. 20037; telephone: (202) 663-9080; fax: (202)

Questions for the panelists should be submitted, in writing, to one
of the moderators:

- Lance Hoffman, Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering
and Computer Science, The George Washington University,
Washington, D.C. 20052; fax: (202) 994-0227; E mail:
[email protected]

- Andrew Grosso, 2300 N Street, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C.,
20037; fax: (202) 663-9042; E mail: [email protected]


Date: Mon, 2 May 1994 10:33:57 -0700
From: [email protected]
Subject: File 4--NII Summer Internship at the White House


The Technology Division of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
in the Executive Office of the President has the intention of hiring
an intern this summer. The Technology Division is the part of OSTP
that works on the National Information Infrastructure Initiative. We
would like our intern to be qualified to help the build the White
House World Wide Web server, which is likely to be open to the public
in the fall. The position will pay between $3,800 and $4,700 for 90
days. The person selected will devote approximately half of his or
her time to the Web server and half to general office duties such as
answering telephones, making photocopies, and sorting incoming
paper mail.

Anyone may apply for this position by responding to Vacancy
Announcement Number OSTP-94-02-AR (Student Assistant GS-303-
3/4/5). Applications must be received no later than close of business
Friday 6 May 1994.

How to Apply: Send your SF-171 form (Application for Federal
Employment, available at a public library or campus placement office)
and a written narrative summary of your experience and/or education
on a separate sheet, and a SF-15 (Application for 10-point Veteran
Preference, if applicable).

Where to apply: Office of Science and Technology Policy, Technology
Division Room 423, Executive Office of the President, Old Executive
Office Building, Washington, DC 20500. You may send your completed
SF-171 by fax to 202- 456-6023. Applications must be *received* by
the closing date and will not be returned. Relocation Expenses will
*not* be paid to the applicant selected. A security prescreen will be
conducted. The applicant tentatively selected for this position may be
required to submit to urinalysis to screen for illegal drug use prior
to appointment. After appointment, the employee will be included in
the agency's random drug testing program.

Applications will be accepted from all qualified persons.
Consideration will be extended without discrimination for any
non-merit reasons such as race, color, religion, gender, national
origin, political affiliation, marital status, age, membership or
nonmembership in employee organizations, or nondisqualifying
physical handicap.

Selective factors: Experience operating a personal computer and using
word processing software; experience in locating and assembling
information for reports, briefings, or meetings.

Quality ranking factors: Ability to organize, follow procedures,
prioritize tasks and complete deadlines; knowledge of grammar,
punctuation, and spelling; ability to communicate effectively both
orally and in writing; ability to achieve cooperative working
relationships with all levels of staff.

Important additional information: If you want to show us what you
can do please send the URL to your Web home page in the subject line
of an e-mail message to [email protected] Do not put any other
information in the subject line, just http://your.own.address. No
phone calls or faxes please. Be creative with your home page. You are
not required to list telephone numbers or other information you would
not want to be publicly accessible. Good luck!


Date: Wed, 4 May 1994 08:00:28 -0700
From: Lee Tien
Subject: File 5--DOJ Clipper documents scheduled for summer release
under FOIA

As you know, there has been much debate about the Clipper Chip
initiative, but relatively little hard information. John Gilmore,
member of the board of directors of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, filed FOIA requests to numerous government
agencies last April after the Clipper plan was announced. In
June 1993, he filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Justice Department
("DOJ") and the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI").
Gilmore v. FBI, et al, C-93-2117, U.S. District Judge Charles
Legge, Northern District of California.

As a result of this lawsuit, the Justice Department has agreed to a
staggered release of some documents about Clipper and Digital
Telephony. The Justice Department and Gilmore signed a joint
stipulation and agreement on Friday, April 29, 1994, in which the
Justice Department and several other federal agencies agreed to
release documents over the next several months:

a) DOJ's Office of Information and Privacy ("OIP") will
transmit all documents recovered in its search for responsive
documents that it has identified as requiring referrals or
consultations to the appropriate agencies or DOJ components by
May 31, 1994. OIP will complete processing of all documents that
it has identified as not requiring referrals or consultations to
other agencies or DOJ components by June 20, 1994.

b) DOJ's Justice Management Division ("JMD") will
complete processing of all documents recovered in its search for
responsive documents, excluding documents which have been
referred for processing to other agencies, by July 30, 1994.

0) The Office of Management and Budget ("OMB") will
respond to all DOJ consultation requests which OMB had received
as of April 20, 1994 by May 20, 1994.

d) The National Security Agency ("NSA") will respond to
all DOJ consultation requests which it had received as of April
20, 1994 by July 18, 1994. NSA will complete processing of all
documents which had been referred to it by DOJ as of April 20,
1994 for direct response to plaintiff by July 18, 1994.

e) The National Security Council ("NSC") will respond to
all DOJ consultation requests which NBC had received as of April
20, 1994 by July 29, 1994.

f) The Department of Commerce and National Institute of
Standards and Technology (collectively "Commerce") will respond
to all DOJ consultation requests which Commerce had received as
of April 20, 1994 by August 7, 1994. Commerce will complete
processing of all documents which had been referred to it by DOJ
as of April 20, 1994 for direct response to plaintiff by August
7, 1994.

The documents being processed by the NSC include the Presidential
Review Directive and Presidential Decision Directive which started the
Clipper initiative. We have been informed that NSC is processing the
two final versions as well as 68 draft versions.

We have also been informed that documents produced in the course
of the OMB legislative clearance process for the Digital Telephony
Bill are being processed. This should provide insight into how the
government decided to proceed with this bill.

We have also been informed that there are approximately 25
documents produced in the course of the government's solicitation
of industry views on Clipper.

Obviously, we do not know how much useful information will be
released. It is probable that the documents will be heavily redacted.
Given the recent directives from the President and the Attorney
General that all possible discretionary disclosures of information
should be made, we hope, optimistically, that these disclosures will
prove illuminating.

Unfortunately, the FBI is not a party to this agreement. We are in
the process of attempting to obtain the release of about 3000 pages
of FBI records. FBI has told the Court that it will be approximately
2 years and 8 months before it will even begin processing Gilmore's
request, and that actual processing will take about a year, if not
more. We believe that this delay is unlawful and cannot be

Lee Tien
Attorney for John Gilmore
[email protected]

any obvious typos, too)


Date: 02 May 1994 18:57:20 -0000
From: [email protected](Tim King)
Subject: File 6--Re: Comment on the Lamacchia case

The legal council for David LaMacchia posted an article in CUD #6.32,
basically asserting that a BBS sysop or other computer administrator
should not be held liable for information transferred illegally
through his computer system, even if the sysop knows that this
activity is occuring.

J. Eric Townsend ([email protected]) responded, "If the SYSOP actively
encourages others to use the system, doesn't that somehow change
this? This is something like saying that because a bar owner isn't
responsible for the activities of prostitutes, they should go out and
encourage prostitutes to frequent their bar."

I am interested in understanding this point of view, but I don't see
how the statement addresses the issue. The original statement did
not say that bar owners _should_ encourage prostitution, although
one might conclude that they _can_. I'll grant that the analogy holds,
but it hasn't been shown that the hypothetical bar owner is
responsible for the activities of the prostitutes. Is he? Why? By
what reasoning?

Again, Silverglate & Good state, "...Certain classified advertisements
for '_dating services_'... are really covers for high-class
*prostitution* rings. Yet... editors and publishers of the newspapers
are *not* prosecuted... even if the editors and publishers were well
aware of the fact..."

Eric replied, "But what about instances where the editors or
publishers actively sought out 'escort services' to advertise in their
paper, with full knowledge that the 'escort services' were
prostitution rings?"

Okay, what about these instances? Please describe at least one. It
is reasonable that the original posters would not cite instances that
had not come to court, and they would have had to in order to support
their claim that editors and publishers are not prosecuted. But Eric
certainly should be expected to cite instances that have come to
court, in order to support his counter-assertion.

However, Silverglate & Good _did_ cite a case that supported their
position. (_Smith v. California_, 361 U.S. 147 (1959)) This point
was not addressed at all in Eric's response.

So comes the conclusion, "In short, I don't buy the 1st Amendment
defense in this case."

Okay, but this doesn't change the way the courts view First
Amendment rights, which is the only point on which Silverglate & Good
were relying. I have not been provided any reason to believe that the
defense has made any false statements, as Eric did not address the
court's view.

Furthermore, it is obvious that the issue has not been treated deeply
enough to give me reason to develop a desire to see the law changed
in this matter. There was no legal precedent treated. No one
examined the reasons for which the current rules were established.
Eric did not even thoroughly address the points that are already on
the table.

Therefore, Eric, I don't understand precisely what you want to
accomplish. Why did you post your original response? Was it to try
to convince readers of your views? Although, my gut reaction would
be to agree with your conclusion, you've given me no objective reason
to do so.


Date: Sat, 30 Apr 1994 12:52:08 EDT
From: John December
Subject: File 7--Opening of the Computer-Mediated Communication
Studies Center

Announcing: Opening of the Computer-Mediated Communication
Studies Center and first issue of _Computer-Mediated Communication

The Computer-Mediated Communication Studies Center, a set of web
pages dedicated to serving the needs of researchers, students,
teachers, and practitioners interested in computer-mediated
communication (CMC), is now open. This Center helps people share
information, make contacts, collaborate, and learn about
developments and events related to CMC. This center includes the
first issue of _Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine_, links to
people who are interested in CMC, a resources collection, and pointers
to activities. If you are interested in CMC studies, you are invited to

About the CMC Studies Center


* To provide a forum for the exchange of information about CMC
* To foster community-building among CMC scholars students,
developers, and users through collaboration and information
* To articulate and define CMC studies
* To inform and educate interested persons about CMC issues and


The CMC Studies Center is not sponsored or officially endorsed by
any organization or institution. The opinions and information
expressed belong to and are the responsibility of the participants.


The CMC Studies Center is a non-profit, non-commercial,
privately-created enterprise created for the benefit of its
participants and as a public service to interested persons.


Over the World Wide Web. CMC Studies Center URL:

CMC Magazine URL:


Sections linked by hypertext


The intent of the development efforts for this center is to involve
many people in working on various web pages. This will mean that
links to some of the pages will change to allow for distributed
development and maintenance. You should consider linking to the
home page ( or
index ( as a "front
door" to the center, as these links should remain stable for a while.
Links on these pages (and the footers of other pages) will be
updated to reflect changes in links.

John December/[email protected]/Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute/Troy NY PhD Candidate/Department of Language, Literature,
and Communication
John December


Date: Wed, 4 May 1994 21:20:33 -0400 (edt)
From: John Higgins
Subject: File 8--Net-Letter Guide 5/05

A newshound's guide to newsy periodicals available through the
Internet. Compiled by John M. Higgins ([email protected])
Updated May 5, 1994

Introduction: My favorite things on the Internet are informative,
high-quality newsletters. The quality of info contributed to what
Mitch Kapor describes as the Net's "gift economy" is amazing. Despite
some excellent e-pub guides, tracking down good NEWSY letters can
be frustrating, partly because they get lost in the flood of zines and
very technical pubs.

So this list aims to point people to the news-oriented net-letters
with somewhat broader appeal. It's not intended to be as
comprehensive as other guides, but helpful nevertheless. Very
technical and fanzine newsletters are not included because they are
well covered by other guides.

GIMME FEEDBACK!! This is just an initial stab, just a dozen or so I've
seen and like (including one I edit!). Some are well-known, others are
not. Send me your favorite net-letters, particularly if you're the
editor. Include any subscription information plus a copy.

HOW TO GET THE NET-LETTER GUIDE: For now, it will be available by
e-mailing [email protected], plus Usenet groups alt.zines,
alt.etext, misc.writing, rec.mag,, alt.answers,
misc.answers, rec.answers, news.answers. If folks like it, other
arrangements will be made.

(Far more exhaustive lists of electronic publications include John
Labovitz's e-zine-list {FTP to
zine-list or http //} or the giant
e-pub archive, by FTP and Gopher {})

EDUPAGE: Tip sheet on information technology and media issued three
times weekly. Quickie summaries primarily of newspaper articles,
primarily from the majors.
How to get it. E-Mail ([email protected], SUB EDUPAGE YOUR NAME).

FITZ'S SHOPTALK: Daily dispatches on the TV business, both networks
and local stations by media headhunter Don FitzPatrick. Primarily
summaries of wire-service and major newspapers, but also includes
some full-text reprints.
How to get it: E-mail ([email protected], SUBSCRIBE
[email protected]).

LATE SHOW NEWS: A guy who obviously stays up way too late puts out
a weekly newsletter on the late-night talk show wars. It's biased
toward Letterman but contains surprisingly good industry dirt on
Leno, Conan, etc. (even for those of us writing about television for a
living). How to get it: E-mail ([email protected]), Usenet
( and, FTP

HICNet MEDICAL NEWS DIGEST: Something painless from a dentist.
Broad bi-weekly newsletter on medicine by Health Info-Com Network,
put together by dentist David Dodell. One week featured sleep apnea
and snoring plus hemlock! Also carries excerpts of the Center for
Disease Control's AIDS Daily Summary. The downside is conference
announcements (OK, on things like techniques for identifying corpses,
but they're still conference announcements!).
How To Get It: E-Mail ([email protected]);

NETWORKS & COMMUNITY: The emphasis here is on "community" in
Internet-land. Less techie than you might expect.
How To Get It: E-Mail ([email protected]; SUBSCRIBE YOUR
NAME) Gopher: ( or

CABLE REGULATION DIGEST: Weekly summary of news on cable
regulation published by Multichannel News.
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Date: Sat, 30 Apr 1994 22:12:01 EDT
From: Anonymous
Subject: File 9--RSA-1,600 number Encryption Code Broken

"1,600 Computers Help Break 129-Digit Code"
(From: Chicago Tribune, 27 April, 1994 (Sect 1, p. 3)


NEW YORK--The world's ultimate secret code--a 129 digit
combination billed as impossible to break--has finally been

The article explains how 600 people using 1,600 computers linked
together via the internet over five continents cracked the code in
about eight months. Dr. Arjen Lenstra of Bellcore compares the feat to
finding 8.5 million needles in a haystack. Lenstra coordinated the
breaking of the encryption, "names RSA for the first letters of its
three inventors' surnames."

The story explains that the code was devised 17 years ago by
computer scientists adn mathematicians Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir,
and Leonard Adleman.

"This discovery is important if you want to protect the code
guarding something like the secret formula for Coca-Cola or
nuclear weapons," rivest said at a press conference. He
suggested the encoders would have to use much longer numbers
in the future.

The article explains that numerical codes such as RSA 129 are
based on the difficulty of breaking down long numbers into
two sets of prime number (numbers divisible only by itself and
"1"). Lenstra is quoted as saying the breaking of the code
required the longest mathematical computation ever performed.
The secret message that they successfully decrypted was
"The magic words are squeamish ossifrage." The words were chosen
randomly, according to Lenstra.

Rivest presented Lenstra with a $100 check, the prize he and
his two colleagues offered when they first presented the
code to readers of Margin Gardiner's "Mathematical Games"
column in Scientific American magazine to solve.

While they billed it as being so hard that it would take 40
quadrillion years to do, they did not count on the power of
modern-day computers.


End of Computer Underground Digest #6.40

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