Tuesday, May 23, 2006


"He had an aggregate fifty gigahertz."

"And was the defendant in any way cleared for that kind of processing power?"

"No. Since the anachronist bombing of 2019, civilians are limited to two gigahertz. As far as we can tell, he cobbled it together out of old laptops and portable music players."

"So, what was he using this incredible amount of computation for?"

"An examination of his hard drives shows he was running encryption routines. We believed at first he was attempting to decrypt federal and commercial communications. However, upon closer examination we found he was generating encryption seeds."

"Encryption seeds? Can you explain to the jury what those are?"

"Well, in any illegal network, people need to hide their data from the authorities. To do this, they encrypt the data. This is done with complex math. There are two numbers involved: an encryption number and a decryption number. You send messages with the first, and decode them with the second. We call these 'encryption seeds'."

"And why would he need to generate these 'encryption seeds'?"

"Well, illegal networks use extremely large numbers to keep government computers from cracking them, but they need a lot of different numbers to keep the network from being taken down as soon as one of them is captured. So, the more seeds you generate, the more people you can connect to in more ways. Illegal networks use these keys as currency."

"Ah. So he was, essentially, manufacturing money."

"From his point of view, yes."

"And trading it for services?"

"Almost certainly."

"Did he know the people he was trading to?"

"Probably not - illegal networks are carefully anonymous."

"So, these extremely large numbers. How much larger are his numbers than, say, what banks are allowed to use for their encryption?"

"Roughly a thousand billion times."

"So, if bank encryption was a person, his numbers would have been a hundred planets of people. It takes government experts months of computation to break commercial encryption. This encryption would have taken a thousand billion times longer. That's more years than the planet Earth has existed."

"That's accurate, assuming it takes the government months to crack commercial encryption."

"Thank you, sir. You can step down.

"Members of the jury, the government is already taxed to its limit protecting you from terrorists and anarchists. Encryption allows these criminals to talk to each other without anyone being able to listen in. Without the government being able to track them. They can talk across international boundaries, using any medium.

"The number of seeds found on this man's computer was enough to organize hundreds of terrorists, and there's no telling how many of these he has already traded away. Traded to total strangers.

"This is not only in direct violation of the law, it is in direct violation of your personal safety. This man has personally endangered the nation on the same scale as manufacturing atomic weapons. Make no mistake: information is power, and this man is a weapons broker who deals in the heaviest, most illegal data weapons.

"Keep your families safe, and vote guilty. Then we can pull the names of his compatriots out of him and start making this nation safe to live in, again."


Textual Harassment said...

Awesome story! And not too far-fetched either, I'm afraid.

Patrick Dugan said...

On a slightly tangential note, the 24 finale was sick.

I'm not worried about the government protecting me from terrorists, I'm worried about the government not protecting me from the government, which if you study materials in the public domain, has the most audacious record of terrorism to date.

Duncan said...

All you need is a quantum computer, with enough bits, and traditional encryption becomes obsolete.

Of course, quantum encryption poses a different (and unbreakable) problem.

Craig Perko said...

Well, in my post-apocalyptic lawyer world, they banned development on quantum computation about the same time that they banned the first amendment.