Security researcher cancels talk at RSA conference in protest

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer of F-Secure, said he was protesting reports of a secret RSA-NSA deal

Security researcher Mikko Hypponen has canceled his talk at a RSA security conference in San Francisco, reacting to a report that the security division of EMC allegedly received US$10 million from the U.S. National Security Agency to use a flawed random number generator in one of its products.

In an open letter on Monday to Joseph M. Tucci, chairman and CEO of EMC, and(Art Coviello, executive chairman of RSA, Hypponen, who is chief research officer at Finnish security company F-Secure, referred to a report by Reuters which stated that RSA accepted a random number generator from the NSA, and set it as the default option in its product BSafe, in return for the payment from the NSA.

The RSA took money "secretly" from the NSA to embed the Dual EC DRBG (Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator) technology into its BSafe toolkit, according to the report on Friday.

The number generator used in a 2006 standard of federal agency National Institute of Standards and Technology came under scrutiny after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggested it provided back-door entry to NSA snooping, according to reports.

RSA has denied entering into a secret contract with the NSA. "We made the decision to use Dual EC DRBG as the default in BSAFE toolkits in 2004, in the context of an industry-wide effort to develop newer, stronger methods of encryption. At that time, the NSA had a trusted role in the community-wide effort to strengthen, not weaken, encryption," it said in a statement Sunday.

Hypponen said RSA had not denied receiving $10 million from the NSA to use the random number generator. "You had kept on using the generator for years despite widespread speculation that NSA had backdoored it," he wrote.

The researcher said he didn't expect EMC or the conference to suffer as a result of the alleged deals with the NSA. Nor did he expect other conference speakers to cancel. Most of the speakers at the conference are American so why would they care about surveillance that's not targeted at them but at non-Americans, Hypponen wrote. Surveillance operations by U.S. intelligence agencies are targeted at foreigners, he added.

"However I'm a foreigner. And I'm withdrawing my support from your event," the Finnish researcher wrote. He had earlier tweeted that "If the Reuters story is true, I - for one - will be cancelling my invited talk and my panel participation in the upcoming RSA Conference."

The RSA conference runs from Feb 24 to 28. Among the keynote speakers and other speakers, listed on the website for the conference, are executives from Microsoft, Juniper Networks, Cisco, McAfee, Symantec and Hewlett-Packard. Hypponen was to speak on "Governments as Malware Authors" at the conference. The researcher said he had spoken eight times at RSA conferences in the U.S., Europe and Japan. "You've even featured my picture on the walls of your conference walls among the 'industry experts,'" he wrote in the letter.

EMC could not be immediately reached for comment on Hypponen's decision.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags National Security Agencysecuritygovernmentemcrsa

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?