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Letter from Bill Payne on Cryptography at Sandia

Wednesday 3/4/98 6:59 PM


While trying to recover from the stomach flu, I am going over your stuff summarized at http://www.aci.net/kalliste/dcguide.htm.

You wrote at Brickell-Gemmell-Kravitz:

Sandia National Laboratories have created the digital cash equivalent of the Clipper chip: an "anonymous" digital cash system that would give participants privacy from all viewers, except for the government agencies that would control the secret keys required for backdoor access.


Why is Sandia interested in digital cash systems? Well, Sandia is responsible for all non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons. The security of nuclear weapons depends partly on cryptology. The code-breaking National Security Agency (NSA), for example, is responsible for the communication security of the Minuteman missile, as well as the codes by which the President must identify himself to authorize a nuclear strike.

Brickell and Simmons were in the COMPUTATIONAL/COMPUTER SCIENCES & MATH CENTER, directorate 1400, at Sandia.

I worked in the ELECTRONIC SUBSYSTEMS CENTER, directorate 2300, division 2311, when I was project leader of the Missile Secure Cryptographic Unit, the small missile, [between about 1982-86].

All of the nuclear bomb crypto implmentation work was done in 2300, not 1400.

The MAIN difference is that the 2300 people were a bunch of PRACTICAL engineers and REAL-PRACTICAL software types. NOT theoreticians.

Gus Simmons once tried to get into the implentation business. [Gustav Simmons, editor of Contemporary Cryptography: The Science of Information Integrity, IEEE Press, New York, 1992.]

Simmons bought an Intel 320 [?] development system. The Intel 320 was a piece of junk and nothing happened with Simmons implementation work.

Simmons' try, naturally, caught the attention of 2300 management, for business reasons, of course.

I LOVE reading all of this stuff from a Sandia historical standpoint.

The REAL WORLD of Sandia crypto stuff is pockmarked by some REAL SCREW-UPS. Which all of us implementers shared so as not to commit the same mistakes again.

I asked my department manager, Kent Parsons, how the screw-ups affected him. He responded that it made him sleepy. These were MULTI- if not HUNDREDS- million dollar screw-ups.


Posted here March 5, 1998
Web Page: http://www.aci.net/kalliste/