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Dual_EC_DRBG, Cool Tools, and Modern Markets Initiative


Nick Sullivan, arstechnica, How the NSA (may have) put a backdoor in RSA’s cryptography: A technical primer, here.

There has been a lot of news lately about nefarious-sounding backdoors being inserted into cryptographic standards and toolkits. One algorithm, a pseudo-random bit generator, Dual_EC_DRBG, was ratified by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2007 and is attracting a lot of attention for having a potential backdoor. This is the algorithm that the NSA reportedly paid RSA $10 million in exchange for making it the default way for its BSAFE crypto toolkit to generated random numbers.

So how is that possible? This is a technical primer that explains what a backdoor is, how easy it can be to create your own, and the dangerous consequences of using a random number generator that was designed to have a backdoor. This is necessarily a long technical discussion, but hopefully by the end it should be clear why Dual_EC_DRBG has such a bad reputation.

David Carr, NYT, Print Starts to Settle Into Its Niches, here.

Kevin Kelly is not a dumb guy — far from it actually. As the founding executive editor of Wired and one of the people who helped buildThe Well, among the earliest online communities, he has done a good job of seeing what is coming next for decades.

Kevin Kelly self-published a collection of reviews accrued from a website over the years, and it sold extremely well.

But last year, he had what sounded to me like a dumb idea. Mr. Kelly edits and owns Cool Tools, a website that writes about neat stuff and makes small money off referral revenue from Amazon when people proceed to buy some of those things. He decided to edit the thousands of reviews that had accrued over the last 10 years into a self-published print catalog — also called “Cool Tools” — which he would then sell for $39.99.

Bradley Hope and Scott Patterson, WSJ,  High-Speed Traders Form Trade Group to Press Case, here.

“There are a lot of noisy opponents of high-frequency trading, but there hasn’t been an organized rebuttal, and that is going to change,” said Ari Rubenstein, managing partner of Global Trading Systems LLC, New York, one of the four founding firms of the new group.

The other founding firms are some of the oldest high-frequency traders in the industry: Tower Research Capital LLC and Hudson River Trading LLC, in New York, and Quantlab Financial LLC, in Houston. The group is seeking additional members. The initiative won’t be the first to push high-speed traders’ agenda. In 2010, about 30 high-speed firms formed the Principal Traders Group, part of the Futures Industry Association trade group, to help shape policy in Washington.


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