From a story in the Daily Mail today I found this October article in the Evening Standard about security firm Scentrics which has been working with UCL
In technical parlance, Scentrics has patented the IP for “a standards-based, fully automatic, cryptographic key management and distribution protocol for UMTS and TCP/IP”. What that translates as in layman’s language is “one-click privacy”, the pressing of a button to guarantee absolute security. Where issues of national security are concerned, the ciphers used are all government-approved, which means messages can be accessed if they need to be by the security services. What it also signals in reality is a fortune for Scentrics and its wealthy individual shareholders, who each put in £500,000 to £10 million.Hmm. That's a fairly vague description - the "government-approved" language makes it look like key escrow, but it's not clear. I was curious about the details, but there didn't seem to be any linked from the stories. Chandrasekaran was also touting this in the Independent in October, and it's not clear why the Mail ran with the story now.
I tried googling around for any previous news from Scentrics. Nada. So I tried "Paran Chandrasekaran" and found him back in 2000 talking about maybe netting £450M from the prospective sale of his company Indicii Salus. I couldn't find any announcements about the sale happening, but it looks like email security firm Comodo acquired the IP from Indicii Salus in March 2006. According to Comodo's press release
The core technology acquired under this acquisition includes Indicii Salus Limited's flagship security solution which, unlike other PKI offerings, is based on server-centric architecture with all information held securely in a central location thus providing a central platform necessary to host and administer central key management solutions.That's a single-point-of-failure design of course - when your central server is down, you are screwed, and all clients need to be able to authenticate your central server so they all need its current public key or similar signature validation. It's not really world-setting-on-fire, but hey it's 8 years ago.
Then LexisWeb turns up an interesting court case: Indicii Salus Ltd v Chandrasekaran and others with summary "Claimant [Indicii Salus] alleging defendants [Chandrasekaran and others] intending to improperly use its software - Search order being executed against defendants - Defendants applying to discharge order - Action being disposed of by undertakings not to improperly use software"
Where the claimant had brought proceedings against the defendants, alleging that they intended to improperly use its software in a new business, the defendants' application to discharge a search order, permitting a search of the matrimonial home of the first and second defendants, would be dismissed.The case appears to be fairly widely quoted in discussions of search+seizure litigation. I wonder whether Paran Chandrasekaran was one of the defendants here, or whether they were other family members? There's no indications of what happened subsequently.
How odd. Anyway, here's a sample of the Scentrics patent (USPTO Patent Application 20140082348):
The invention extends to a mobile device configured to:This reads to me like "given a message and a target, you encrypt it with a public key whose private key is held by your target and send it to the target as normal, but you also encrypt it with a separate key known to a potential authorized snooper and send it to their server so that they can access if they want to."
send to a messaging server, or receive from a messaging server, an electronic message which is encrypted with a messaging key;
encrypt a copy of the message with a monitoring key different from the messaging key; and
send the encrypted copy to a monitoring server remote from the messaging server.
Thus it will be seen by those skilled in the art that, in accordance with the invention, an encrypted copy of a message sent securely from the mobile device, or received securely by it, is generated by the device itself, and is sent to a monitoring server, where it can be decrypted by an authorized third party who has access to a decryption key associated with the monitoring key. In this way, an authorized third party can, when needed, monitor a message without the operator of the messaging server being required to participate in the monitoring process.
Because both the message and its copy are encrypted when in transit to or from the mobile device, unauthorized eavesdropping by malicious parties is still prevented.
WTF? That's really not a world-beating million-dollar idea. Really, really it's not. Am I reading the wrong patent here? Speaking personally, I wouldn't invest in this idea with five quid I found on the street.