What happens when Russian and American security vendors butt heads at a large European trade show? It's like the cold war all over again, only instead of fighting with Walther PPKs and poison pills, they're using seltzer bottles and cream pies. Think John LeCarre meets the Three Stooges.
First, some background.
The trade show: Infosecurity Europe, which gained notoriety last year when show reps stood outside a London Tube station and offered chocolates to anyone who'd surrender their e-mail passwords. About one out of five happily gave up their logons (including 45 percent of women -- as The Inquirer's Sylvie Barak snidely noted, they should have offered beer). This year they asked London Tubers if they'd give up their employers' sensitive data for a bribe. More than a third said yes, though they wanted a lot more than candy -- generally in excess of a million pounds.
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The Russians: ElcomSoft, essentially a small group of hackers who've decided to use their powers for good instead of evil. They specialize in password cracking -- kind of like a safecracker who gives up the game and decides to show clients how to break into their own safes when they forget the combination. (In the past, ElcomSoft has uncovered backdoors into Quicken software and successfully fought off a DMCA law suit brought by Adobe against ElcomSoft and its employee, Dmitry Sklyarov.) This year, ElcomSoft decided to come out of the woodwork and buy a tiny booth at Infosec Europe to show off their wares, including a new app that lets you recover passwords from PGP encryption [PDF] software.