Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tamper Evident Devices: An Introduction.

Tamper devices refers to a series of devices and security methods designed to allow for unauthorized access to the protected object to either easily detected or deterred from occurring.Generally speaking deterrence from tampering means using the device in a method other then what it was intended for originally. You know how every bottle of juice or water or soda on the planet has that little seal around the cap which you break when you first open it?

That is a tamper evident device it allows you upon picking the bottle off of the shelf immediately identify if the bottle has been opened. It wont prevent tampering as anyone can still open the bottle and add any number of things to the liquid (such as poison or chemicals) but anyone who picks up that bottle will know the bottle was tampered with in some form.

We can see these kinds of technologies everywhere when you stop and look around. Very often electronic devices such as game consoles and computers will have tamper seals installed inside that would reveal if the device had been tampered with. This is predominantly done for warranty purposes as most companies will not cover warranty if a product has been tampered with.

Now these seals are essentially little more then simple stickers and can not prevent the device from being tampered with however if someone does tamper with the device then you will be able to tell by looking at the sticker. In the 1980's just after the case of cyanide pills being placed in Tylenol bottles scare around the Chicago Illinois area the US Government instituted the Federal Anti Tampering Act of 1983. This allowed for prison sentences to anyone who tampered with pharmaceutical medication and called for the private sector to develop tamper seals. Today we can see tamper devices on currency in financial institutions. Once again these devices do not prevent tampering but they do produce evidence of tampering.

This article is merely to serve as an introduction to the many different kinds of tamper evident devices In the coming months we hope to advance this into a much larger series.


Monday, May 6, 2013

InfoSec: The Caesar Shift Cipher

I will come right out and say as a disclaimer that I am not a code breaker, or cryptography specialist, Nor do I have any solid hands on experience in Information Security so this is purely academic. But like a diligent professional I strive to learn the ins and outs of whatever comes my way in the event it helps me out some time down the road. 

The Caesar Shift is believed to be the first example of a substitution cipher used for political and military purposes. Gaius Julius Caesar used this cipher to encode all of his private correspondence to friends and colleagues in Rome while he was commanding the 13th Gemina Legion in Gaul. The code involved a simple shift of alphabetical order known as an algorithm. So if we use a four letter shift then we jump four letters in the alphabet and the fifth letter will become the code. For example if the letter A is to be encrypted and the shift used is four letters then A will appear encrypted as E M as Q and so on and so on. 

The Caesar shift cipher therefore has 25 different potential ciphers and in turn 25 separate keys depending on which shift is chosen. However this makes it very insecure to people experienced with ode breaking because if the analyst suspects a Caesar shift has been used they only have to check 25 potential keys in order to decipher.

This is not to say it is not a useful tool and understanding a simple cipher can go a long way towards learning more advance codes. So if we were to send the message


And we wanted to encode the message using a four point cipher the message would be translated into


Now while this is not the most complex of codes it is a tool that is available and there are methods to make a cipher  even more secure by using additional techniques like removing spaces or punctuation marks, including symbols and numbers into your master code, There are lots of ways to enhance a simple cipher. Many historical ciphers that involved monoalphabetic substitution keys would sometimes use symbols to replace certain letters of the alphabet which would have the effect of making the encrypted message seem even more confusing to anybody other than your intended audience.

The same cipher can be used with numbers if we were to build a legend to encode our above message with numbers it would look like this.

18-5-9-14-6-15-18-3-13-5-14-20-19 15-14 20-8-5 23-1-25

So the use of numbers is also a possibility to deliver coded messages by using the exact same system with only a minor change. You could also just use any combination of 26 numbers, Letters, Symbols etc so long as the key to the cipher is either made available somehow to the receiver or some hint is provided to them to discover the key then the message is easily decrypted.

I am hoping to write more articles on codes, ciphers and symbols in the coming months. It is really a fascinating subject of human history.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kershaw Drone: Quality Utility Folder.

I have yet to find a Kershaw knife I have not appreciated in some way. Since the companies founding in 1974 they have put out a lot of a wide array of folding pocket knives, hunting and sporting knives and kitchen cutlery. They are for the most part fantastic little blades which are usually quite affordable and have always offered exactly what I wanted in a knife, especially their folding knives

I received the Kershaw Drone in a recent shipment from my go to knife vendor. The Drone was released in 2011 as part of that years lineup and is marketed as an every day carry knife. It is a spring assisted clip point folding knife designed by Tim Galyean which features a 3.25 inch 8CR13MoV steel blade with glass filled nylon scales which sport a diamond cut texture that offers a good firm grip in the hands all at an affordable MSRP of 39.95 USD.

While it fits my hand quite nicely I do have some complaints about the overall design and build of the knife when it comes to ergonomics. For starters it is a pretty chunky knife by way of sporting so very thick scales  and while it offers a very nice texture I find that because these scales are so thick that manipulating the thumb studs is difficult and digging into the small strip of gimping on the blade is absolutely impossible making it quite useless as gimping.

Though the blade fits my hand quite nicely and for light utility tasks I have no concern about the knife going anywhere anytime soon. The blade response is very fast and offers a firm lockup I typically employ the paddle flipper to open the blade due to the aforementioned issue with the thumb studs, the flipper is very responsive and very easy to manipulate.

The factory edge on the blade when it arrived at my house is not something to write a lot of praise for. That being said I was able to use the blade for a couple of weeks with no major issue or difficulties before I decided to touch up the edge.

The pocket clip is very stiff and from what I can tell is made from a very strong steel and could tear your pockets quite badly after some use, that being said I do not ride this knife in my pocket it usually goes in my bag as a backup or on a pouch on my belt. However those who would be pocket carrying this knife may encounter such issues or may want to go with a different blade as the weight is something you notice immediately I am not usually someone who complains about blade weight but this weight (about is very noticeable

The lock up on my knife is very solid and I have no fear of the lock collapsing though I have heard complaints about the lock being unmilled but that has yet to be a bother to me.

All in all I think it is a very inexpensive option as a backup knife or a knife to leave in your vehicle or a kit somewhere and for being a pretty strong knife that is not likely to break could be a good gift for someone you know who needs a blade for work purposes but is not a knife guy.

Thats all for now folks. 

Gerber Swagger: A nice inexpensive and effective folding knife

For all my preparation efforts, all of my training, all of my time spent watching other peoples valuables I have learned one thing. I am bad for losing my work knives.
My work knives are all small little pocket knives I carry while at work as opposed to my “play” knives which are usually the larger more defensive or outdoors oriented blades for use in my spare time outside of work.

My work knives are typically not expensive or of the highest end brands out there because.. Well because those are expensive and I lose my knives.
Thankfully the loss of the work knife is normally not permanent as typically a few months down the road I will find the knife again whilst digging through some former kitbag or stuffed at the bottom of a desk drawer however I do not like to go without a blade for too long so I usually rush out to my local store and grab another folder for a couple bucks and so as time goes on I find myself amassing a fairly sizeable blade collection.

As I recently lost my then current work knife A sort of CRKT M16 knock off made by Schrade and my Kershaw Drone was at the time another 2 weeks out I made the trek over to my local Mountain Equipment Co-op to see what they had to offer me in the way of sharp things. As I rolled over the mountains of Swiss Army Knives I happened upon the Gerber Swagger folding knife priced at about 30 dollars before tax.

This was a bit more then I paid for my Schrade (I told you they weren’t very expensive) however It was not an amount I would regret spending should I lose this one so five minutes at MEC and I walked out with a new work knife.

 The Gerber Swagger is a frame locking folding knife with a 3.5 inch 7Cr17MoV stainless steel blade and a combination of a stainless steel scale on one side and a slightly coarse G10 scale on the other.  The thumb stud and G10 scale have a nice texture which allows a good grip and opening even when wearing gloves or when wet. The top of the blade also has such texturing to allow two handed opening with gloves or when wet.

The blade profile is that of a drop point with about half of the blade bearing serrations which I am normally not to fond of but in this case I have no real complaints. The frame lock has a very firm lock up and is easy enough to close.  Some difficulty may be found while wearing gloves though I have yet to encounter them while gloved (I use Mechanix utility pros and Hatch search gloves if that helps you any)

Some people have complained about the frame locking mechanism jamming the blade open and I will admit when I first purchased it I had issues with the frame lock sliding too far forward on opening and locking the blade open to the point where I had to use my leatherman to close the knife. This happened on two occasions and now after a few weeks of opening and closing the knife it seems to have been dealt with. My advice to you on this is to spend the first day or two opening and closing as kind of a break in and that seems to mitigate any issues.

For such a cheap knife it has pretty solid construction. Usually on these little 30 dollar “tactical knives” I always encounter blade wobble after a few dozen openings. You would swear these companies have never heard of Loc-Tite.. But on this one so far I have encountered zero wobble and it has a good solid lock.

Now I do know some people who expect no flaws from their knives. And I wont fault them for that why spend money on something that might not work as expected? But let’s just be honest with ourselves that a 30 dollar knife that was made in china is not always going to be the greatest knife out there.  There are bomb proof 30 dollar knives some of which even made in china but this blade just might not be one of them.

But again I have no complaints.

There are similar priced options available that can be seen as such and are made by better brands but this was hardly a waste of 30 bucks especially if you need a throwaway knife or just a cheap folder. While I bought mine at Mountain Equipment Coop I am sure there are plenty of places on and offline you can pick up this knife for around 30.00 dollars.