[cryptography] OTR and deniability

Meredith L. Patterson clonearmy at gmail.com
Fri Jul 15 16:52:39 EDT 2011

On Fri, Jul 15, 2011 at 6:45 PM, Marsh Ray <marsh at extendedsubset.com> wrote:

> On 07/14/2011 01:59 PM, Steven Bellovin wrote:
>> Put another way, the goal in a trial is not a mathematical proof,
>> it's proof to a certain standard of evidence, based on many different
>> pieces of data.  Life isn't a cryptographic protocol.
> The interesting thing in this case though is that the person providing the
> plaintext log file is:
> a) a convicted felon
> b) working for the investigators/prosecutors (since before the purported
> log file's creation?)
> c) himself skilled in hacking

Those bullet points are far more likely to be brought up at trial than any
of the security properties of OTR. Defense counsel has to weigh the benefits
of presenting evidence -- will it get some point across, or will it be lost
on the judge/jury?

I submit that a military judge or a panel of commissioned officers (and
maybe some enlisted personnel) is unlikely to appreciate the finer
mathematical points, and more likely to fall back on "but there are these
logs, right there, and the feds say they're authentic." The defense has
plenty of Lamo's own documented actions to use to undermine his credibility.

There's much to be said for "baffle them with bullshit" (not that there's
necessarily any bullshit even involved), but a jury that doesn't understand
an argument is likely to dismiss it as bullshit.

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