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FBI Cracks Florida Man’s TrueCrypt Password

FBI Cracks Florida Man’s TrueCrypt Password

by P. H. MadoreAugust 6, 2015

fbi-cracks-truecrypt-password-encryption-backdoorAccording to recent reporting by South Florida’s Sun Sentinel, the government has managed to crack a TrueCrypt password in the case of Christopher Glenn. Army counterintelligence expert Gerald Parsons noted that in his estimation, it would have taken “billions” of years to do so by traditional methods with current capabilities.

The actual likelihood of the FBI, or anyone, cracking the 30-character password by using brute force or any other technique is incredibly low. More likely, the lengthy password was written somewhere and investigators discovered it, or a backup was left with another party, who disclosed it.

See also: How to Encrypt & Decrypt Any File On Your System (Video Tutorial)

In this case, TrueCrypt was being used to protect stolen e-mails and attachments from an Army official at a base in Soto Cano, Honduras. Glenn worked for Harris Corporation, a computer security contractor who does a lot of work for the government. This was central to the case since Glenn had previously been expelled from a government contracting job in Iraq because of misconduct. He had hacked US government systems to help Iraqi firms win contracts. Further, he and his wife were accused of giving benefits to Iraqis that were supposed to be exclusive to Americans. That particular case, from 2007-2009, did not receive much attention due to its limited scale. Glenn had only injured the government in the amount of around $17,000, investigators have said.

Also read: Florida Bringing Hacking Felony Charges Against 13-Year-Old

In the case of his Honduras work, the motive is unclear for Glenn’s theft and subsequent holding of the contents of the base commander’s classified e-mail account. In January, Glenn did confess and plead guilty to the crime. While it has not been stated publicly, this could have been when Glenn himself disclosed the TrueCrypt password as part of a plea agreement. Yesterday he received 10 years in federal prison. At no point during the investigation has he answered the question on everyone’s mind: why he did it. Instead, prosecutors have focused on the fact that much of the classified information could have been very dangerous to the United States in the wrong hands.

Also read: How to Create a Secure Password

No one from the FBI has publicly claimed to have cracked TrueCrypt, but then again this is not the sort of information the agency would want widely spread. After all, TrueCrypt is still one of the top destinations for anyone looking to encrypt files, for whatever purpose. If criminals continue to rely on it while not knowing it has been broken (the software’s maintenance was discontinued in a long, drawn-out intellectual property dispute), the FBI could see a higher rate of conviction on evidence. The question of whether hacking by the government for the purpose of obtaining evidence violates the 4th amendment will always exist, but if TrueCrypt and other forms of strong encryption start unraveling, it will certainly be a question brought up more often.

Images from Shutterstock.

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  • NemEu

    so what really happened? they brute forced the 30 character or discovered it ?

    • I bet they did a dictionary attack of some sort.
      Usually people use something they are able to memorize.

      • NemEu

        so anyway was bruteforce

        • Steve Bones

          Nope. The sun would go out before a random 30 character pw was brute forced.

      • Steve Bones

        30 character dictionary attack? Doubtful unless it’s “Dick and Dora went up the hill”, which would be cracked in minutes. More likely it was random text which he had to write down because he couldn’t remember it – or a keylogger or other exploit. The recent TC audit was very professional and came up relatively clean, no backdoors.

  • MikeyTG

    My guess is this is a little gubment FUD. They want to imply that truecrypt was cracked so people will stop using it.

    • englishvinal

      My opinion.. YOU are right on!

    • NemEu

      makes sense, due the latest truecrypt version on oficial website with that strange notice with NSA initials in CamelCase…you know …

    • P. H. Madore

      Or to try and scare people into whatever the new “it” tool is.

    • Robert Genito

      Trucrypt files have a suspicious area of data that is undocumented and not much information can be found on this mysterious block of data. This combined with the fact that there’s simply just not enough peer review for Trucrypt is the *exact* reason why I do not use Trucrypt. It’s also likely the reason why a 30 character password was easily discovered. Let’s call it a back door 🙂

      • Steve Bones

        Let’s NOT call it a back door 🙂 None of the code in TC is documented. And even better than “peer review”, *all* of the source code has now been audited by NCC Group Inc. with only 2 areas (CryptAcquireContext may silently fail in unusual scenarios & AES Implementation susceptible to cache timing attacks) considered to be high risk – but also extremely high difficulty in attacking. I’m interested in this “suspicious area of data” you talk about because there is no mention of it in the NCC Group audit report. Or are you referring to the very minor issue that there is some “Unauthenticated ciphertext in volume headers” which was found by NCC Group to be very low risk and very high attack sophistication. Please tell us more about this “mysterious block of data”.

  • englishvinal

    From the available facts, the govt. is full of shysa as usual… “never let a crisis/opportunity go to waste”…and the propaganda machine is spewing “we cracked an uncrackable code”.. ha ha ha.
    Makes people stop using the encryption because they don’t trust it anymore… makes life easier for the goons and mafia… fewer uncrackable codes to mess with.

    • P. H. Madore

      I recommend this as a TL;DR on my article. 😀

      • P. H. Madore

        Although, I would add that the fuzz most likley has their own new little freecrypt program.

        I will say that SourceForge had some weird data issues a few weeks back, still recovering IIRC. Dunno how that would even play into it, but what if they needed to doctor up a repo version history, or completely rewrite one, on a certain little crypto program that another thing was based on, and then when that thing went upstream, well, the bugs in the water, which fish will catch him first? It’ll be a little one, who will be little heard, except on little sites like this one. (I hope.)

        Anyway I think that would be the more likley motive: get people using whatever the top google result will be for “freecrypting.”

        Those who really understand cryptography on a basic level understand that all of it really begins with you. If your password was crackable at 30-characters, it had to be a phrase. IF.

  • concerndcitizen

    These “publicly available” crypto solutions are NOT as secure as people think. Combine some reasonable guesses with known information and it narrows down the number of guesses you have to make. There are more shortcuts than people imagine. The key gen for many original BTC wallets used SSL and the time in seconds, not nanoseconds, you can noodle over that for a bit. This is no big surprise.

    • P. H. Madore

      I’m just surprised that someone who knows what BTC is actually buys, for a second, that the FBI, the jokers who can’t even secure the White House (IDC if it’s not their department…), had actually hacked TrueCrypt.

      • Steve Bones

        Yep, I’m with ya. Until quantum computing, it’s sloppy housekeeping (written passwords esp. for 30 character pw’s like this guy’s, caught with live and open notebook, notebook ram scraped for plaintext key, hardware keylogger placed inside the notebook, one of the state sanctioned software keyloggers, JS/activex/flash exploits, etc and etcetera).

    • wonky tonky

      thats why i roll my private key with dice 🙂

  • solid12345

    Notice this comes weeks after James Comey was whining about encryption on the Senate floor.

    • P. H. Madore

      Let’s hope a Senator gets him to clarify what happened next time. “So, didn’t you crack one in Florida? Why do we need a new law and all this money if you can crack them? Man up and crack the passwords like a good little boy, now.”