Try to imagine an internet without secure communications. Scary, right? Yet, according to the “father of the internet”, Vint Cerf, security was never part of the plan for the internet. That’s why cryptographic keys and digital certificates were created: They create a strong foundation for securing communications, commerce, critical systems and data. But what would happen if that foundation crumbled? In a letter published by Strategic News Service, Venafi CEO Jeff Hudson explores what the world would look like if encryption failed.
How important is encryption to our everyday lives? According to Hudson, our reliance on encryption may well be the dirty little secret that cybercriminals don’t want you to…well…decipher.
“In the cyber world, all of our security and privacy relies on encryption. Encryption is an extremely powerful technology that protects everything from global financial transactions to software that controls airplanes, medical devices, and everything in between. Encryption is so vital to the cyber world we have created and completely depend upon that without it the world we live in would stop functioning, with drastic consequences.”
This cryptographic co-dependence puts us in a bit of a precarious position. We have no fallback if encryption fails. Even worse, it’s already showing cracks. Cybercriminals can hijack encryption to create tunnels that subvert their original purpose: to enable the safe exchange of information between two points. Cybercriminals then appear to be trusted, and gain access to encrypted communications. This is happening today. And, surprisingly, most organizations are not prepared.
“Most information technology and security professionals do not fully grasp the importance of tunnels. The vast majority of corporations do not know about all the tunnels that exist on their networks. Even though tunnels are considered important by corporations, they are typically not well-documented, well-maintained, and well-protected.”
But the real question is whether we can continue to trust encryption. Most encryption is based on a single algorithm. And that algorithm may eventually be threatened by the advent of quantum computers and radical increases in available resources. When that happens, are we prepared to react quickly? Or will we suffer the consequences?
Peaked your interest? Dive deeper into the questions that Jeff Hudson tackles in his special letter (requires subscription).