Nadim Kobeissi

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Nadim Kobeissi
Nadim Kobeissi.jpg
Nadim Kobeissi in 2015
Born1990 (age 27–28)
ResidenceParis, France
CitizenshipLebanon
EducationPolitical Science (BA)
Philosophy (BA)
Computer science (PhD)
Alma materConcordia University
French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation
Known forCryptocat
AwardsWebby Award[1]
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science, Cryptography
InstitutionsNew York University
Microsoft Research
PatronsNew America Foundation
Websitenadim.computer

Nadim Kobeissi (born 1990) is a computer science researcher specialized in applied cryptography and a professor at New York University's Paris campus. He is the author of Cryptocat, an open-source encrypted web chat client. Kobeissi is also known for speaking publicly against Internet censorship and Internet surveillance.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Kobeissi was born in Beirut, Lebanon. He studied psychology at the Lebanese American University in Beirut from 2008–2009, and graduated with a double major in political science and philosophy at Concordia University in Montreal in 2013.[3]

After that he was a PhD student studying applied cryptography at the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (Inria), in France [4] and worked at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Research[edit]

Kobeissi is the primary author of Cryptocat. In 2012, he presented Cryptocat at the HOPE hacker conference in New York City.[5][6] During the following year, Kobeissi presented Cryptocat-related talks and research at Google's Internet at Liberty conference,[7] Beirut's SHARE conference,[8] the Chaos Computer Club's SIGINT2013 conference,[9] at RightsCon in Rio de Janeiro,[10] and at Republika in Rijeka, Croatia.[11]

Kobeissi is also known for discovering a privacy issue in Windows 8, in which the operating system automatically reported to Microsoft what applications users were installing in an insecure fashion. Kobeissi's research was picked up by Gizmodo[12] and Microsoft issued a response.[13] Kobeissi is also a known proponent of browser cryptography[14] and is a member of the W3C's Web Cryptography Working Group.[15]

Activism[edit]

In 2010, Kobeissi was one of the earliest supporters of the Bradley Manning Support Network.[16] He organized a march through Montreal in December that year in support of WikiLeaks, ran a WikiLeaks mirror site, and defended WikiLeaks on various Canadian news publications.[17] During 2011 and 2012, Kobeissi hosted CHOMP.FM, a radio program on Internet activism that ran weekly on Montreal's CKUT-FM radio station. The show included guests from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), security researcher Bruce Schneier, and journalist Glenn Greenwald.[18]

In 2013, Kobeissi led an effort known as the Skype Open Letter[19] which brought together more than forty organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, and the Open Technology Institute, calling on Microsoft and Skype to release transparency reports regarding Skype monitoring and surveillance. The effort was successful, and Microsoft released its first transparency report shortly after the letter was published.[20]

Controversies[edit]

Detention and entrapment attempt[edit]

Kobeissi was detained and questioned at the U.S. border by the DHS in June 2012 about Cryptocat's censorship resistance. He tweeted about the incident afterwards, resulting in media coverage and a spike in the popularity of Cryptocat.[21][22] Kobeissi was regularly searched and questioned whenever he flew in the U.S. in 2012.[23]

In 2012, the FBI attempted to entrap Kobeissi using Sabu – an American hacker involved with LulzSec, an offshoot of Anonymous – as an undercover informant.[24] Kobeissi responded on his blog: "To all young hackers out there – use your talents for research. Never acquiesce to anything illegal with anyone, even if they do it with you."[25]

Cryptocat vulnerability[edit]

In mid-2013, critical vulnerabilities were discovered and fixed in the Cryptocat application suite,[26][27] potentially exposing prior communication via the chat program for over a year. The vulnerability was limited to group chat and did not affect private one-on-one conversations.[28] The ensuing controversy centered on the technical naïveté of Nadim and others who had worked on the project.[29] Steve Thomas, the security researcher who discovered the vulnerabilities, blogged criticizing Cryptocat as "run by people that don't know crypto, make stupid mistakes, and [does not have] enough eyes [that] are looking at their code to find the bugs."[27][30] However, this comment was removed in more recent versions of Thomas's blog post.

Meanwhile, other security blogs and news sites called the vulnerability a "responsible disclosure" and praised Cryptocat's transparency regarding vulnerabilities and Kobeissi's warnings regarding the experimental nature of the project.[31][32] Adam Caudill, an independent security researcher noted that "[Cryptocat developers] didn't understand the data they were working with. [...] anyone [could] crack the keys in a frighteningly short amount of time."[33] However, Caudill later also stated that even in light of the controversy, "Cryptocat still achieves its basic goal."[34]

Kobeissi himself had been vocal in the past about other services using encryption. In a Forbes online article investigating the security of encrypted storage service MEGA, Kobeissi, who voiced concern along with other security researchers, noted: "It's a nice website, but when it comes to cryptography they seem to have no experience".[35] This made Cryptocat's own vulnerabilities a more high-profile discussion among security researchers. Nevertheless, MEGA eventually adopted Kobeissi's critique and implemented the suggested changes to their cryptographic code delivery methods.[36]

Peerio backdoor claims[edit]

In January 2016 Kobeissi tweeted his reasons for leaving Peerio, a cloud-based encrypted communications company he co-founded. These centred around potential plans to sell backdoored versions of the Peerio software to certain clients. Peerio soon denied the claims on their own blog.[37]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "16th Annual Webby Awards Official Honorees".
  2. ^ "How to fight PRISM". 21 June 2013.
  3. ^ Resumé, nadim.cc. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  4. ^ "Nadim Kobeissi". nadim.computer.
  5. ^ "Schedule - HOPE Number 9". www.hopenumbernine.net.
  6. ^ TheEthanwashere (1 October 2012). "Nadim Kobeissi HOPE 9 Why Browser Cryptography Is Bad & How We Can Make It Great" – via YouTube.
  7. ^ "Page not found – Netizen Project".
  8. ^ www.fermicoding.com, Fermicoding Internet Engineering,. "Cryptocat - Nadim Kobeissi - SHARE Foundation". www.shareconference.net.
  9. ^ "Cryptocat: The Social and Technical Challenges of Making Crypto Accessible to Everyone".
  10. ^ "A Cryptocat Spring".
  11. ^ http://www.republika.io/en/performer/103?width=560&height=80%2525&iframe=true Nadim Kobeissi: Cryptocat
  12. ^ Kobeissi, Nadim. "Windows 8 Tells Microsoft About Everything You Install, Not Very Securely".
  13. ^ Graziano, Dan (24 August 2012). "Windows 8 sends Microsoft information about every program you install [updated]".
  14. ^ "Thoughts on Critiques of JavaScript Cryptography".
  15. ^ "Participants in the Web Cryptography Working Group - DBWG, the Working Groups Database". www.w3.org.
  16. ^ Nicks, Denver (2012). Private: Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, and the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History. Chicago Review Press, p. 223.
  17. ^ "Montreal student hosts mirror WikiLeaks site".
  18. ^ For the march, see Shingler, Benjamin (18 December 2010). "Demonstrators march to support WikiLeaks in Montreal", The Canadian Press.
  19. ^ Pheenix. "PHEENIX::SELL". www.skypeopenletter.com.
  20. ^ "It's Time for Transparency Reports to Become the New Normal". 29 January 2013.
  21. ^ Matonis, Jon. "Detaining Developer At US Border Increases Cryptocat Popularity".
  22. ^ "Developer's detention spikes interest in Montreal's Cryptocat".
  23. ^ "This Cute Chat Site Could Save Your Life and Help Overthrow Your Government".
  24. ^ Sengupta, Somini (12 March 2012). "A Hacker Charms and Disappoints". The New York Times.
  25. ^ Kobeissi, Nadim (12 March 2012). "On Sabu and FBI Entrapment". nadim.cc. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012.
  26. ^ "DecryptoCat".
  27. ^ a b "DecryptoCat - TobTu". tobtu.com.
  28. ^ "New Critical Vulnerability in Cryptocat: Details". Archived from the original on 2013-07-05.
  29. ^ "Bad kitty! "Rookie mistake" in Cryptocat chat app makes cracking a snap".
  30. ^ tweet_btn(), Richard Chirgwin 4 Jul 2013 at 22:27. "Cryptocat WIDE OPEN, new version a must".
  31. ^ Says, Dubstepcat (5 July 2013). "Cryptocat 'encrypted' group chats may have been crackable for 7 months".
  32. ^ Online, Stay Smart (18 July 2013). "Popular "encrypted chat" service Cryptocat contained a vulnerability for 7 months". www.staysmartonline.gov.au.
  33. ^ Caudill, Adam (4 July 2013). "Do one thing right…".
  34. ^ Caudill, Adam (16 July 2013). "Cryptocat: What is the measure…".
  35. ^ Greenberg, Andy. "Researchers Warn: Mega's New Encrypted Cloud Doesn't Keep Its Megasecurity Promises".
  36. ^ https://twitter.com/kaepora/status/359684121221537792
  37. ^ Grauer, Yael. "Peerio Co-Founder On Why He Left The Company (Hint: It Had To Do With Admin Backdoors)". Forbes.com. Forbes. Retrieved 9 February 2016.

External links[edit]

Media related to Nadim Kobeissi at Wikimedia Commons