Project image
)}
£1,256
pledged of £30,000pledged of £30,000 goal
9
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Mon, November 24 2014 8:00 PM UTC +00:00
£1,256
pledged of £30,000pledged of £30,000 goal
9
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Mon, November 24 2014 8:00 PM UTC +00:00

About

Back in medieval times, cartographers used to draw monsters in the uncharted areas of their maps, along with the words, ‘Here be dragons’. Today, the internet can seem much the same. Storing your files in the cloud is rife with hazards, as many people find out to their cost every day. But imagine that somewhere in those uncharted waters of the web there was a piece of hardware dedicated exclusively to your security: a little computer that you can trust to keep your files safe, no matter what the internet throws at it. 

This is Nikka: the foundation on which you can build your website, business, blog or any number of other applications in the confidence that they will not be compromised.

  • So what is Nikka?
  • Why should you support Nikka?
  • Using Nikka
  • How are we different?
  • Security and Nikka
  • Current status
  • Who we are
  • Contact 
  • Further links

So what is Nikka?

Nikka is a secure hub for your online activity – a point you can trust in an uncertain and often hostile digital world. Nikka will be a ground-breaking security platform: an innovation that could make obsolete everything currently commercially available. Think of it as a safe or strongbox for your data that is kept in a secure data centre. Your files are kept encrypted inside the unit using powerful public key cryptography, and sent to your computer whenever you need them. They are only ever decrypted on your computer – making them inaccessible to anyone else.Secure hardware has been around since the nineties, when the advent of secure internet access (HTTPS) prompted the need to accelerate encryption. There are plenty of companies that now offer secure hardware, and many that use it for compliance reasons. In fact, that’s one of the problems – since the nineties, hardware that was once fast has become slow, and its usefulness in many cases has been reduced to a tick box on an auditor’s form.

Nikka availability
Nikka availability

We believe everyone should benefit from this technology and the level of security it provides, so we’re building something new. Something that:

  • Is easy to use
  • Costs as little or as much as your needs justify 
  • Is as secure as the most secure technologies currently available 

That’s why we’re custom-building our own hardware platform to meet our requirements – in fact, we’ve already completed the development platform and the proof-of-concept is up and running.

Of course, even the best hardware is useless without the right user and application interface. It has to be straightforward to use, secure and extremely scalable – it should work just as well whether you want to send a single secure email or log-on to a website 100 million times a day.

Nikka and its use
Nikka and its use

So, there are two parts to Nikka:

  • 1) A set of powerful servers installed in secure data centres. These servers can create clusters delivering high-availability and scalability for their clients. Secure hardware forms the backbone of each server that provides an interface for simple use.
  • 2) User applications, plugins and libraries for easy deployment and everyday ‘invisible’ use. Operational procedures, processes, policies and audit logs then guarantee that what is stated is actually being carried out.

Why should you support Nikka?

Nikka is designed for anyone who has answered ‘yes’ to any of the following questions:

  • Do you feel powerless to secure your data reliably when using the internet and cloud applications? 
  • Do you believe you have lost control of your online files? 
  • Do you want to slow down or even halt the ever-increasing rate of online crime, from password leaks to credit card fraud? 
  • Do you believe everyone has the right to privacy when using computers and the internet?
  • Do you want to have a piece of secure hardware working just for you, wherever you are? 

Although many people feel the same way, the reality is that all too often, security simply isn’t convenient. There are lots of measures you can take to protect your data, but they are typically time-consuming and awkward. Consequently, they are too much trouble for most of us.

We are designing Nikka to be as unobtrusive as possible – ideally, users will barely notice it’s there at all. To begin with we’re building a hardware security platform with apps and plug-ins on top of it, and will provide several of these for you to use out-of-the-box. As time goes on, the list will keep growing, making Nikka ever more versatile and useful to you. It’s your digital strongbox, your dedicated piece of secure hardware, and it should work for your benefit.

Our rewards enable you to support our project on one of four levels:

  • Interest: You like the idea and want to register your interest.
  • Play/Test: You’ll be able to access Nikka and test it using a secure authentication device – a Nikka User Card, Nikka User S-CRIB or Nikka Power Card. 
  • Use: You’ll have access to Nikka with a guaranteed minimum usage allowance, along with everything you’ll need for that. There are three Nikka Service tiers.
  • Own: You’ll receive your own Nikka, either physically (your own small device) or fully managed at a data centre. There are three options here – your Personal Nikka, Managed Nikka Hardware Slice or Managed Nikka Appliance. If you opt for a Hardware Slice or a whole Appliance, you will fully own and be the sole user of a whole or a physical part of a Nikka server, with automatic access to a hot-swap Nikka for high availability on top of that! 

Kickstarter is all about making amazing things happen. If you think what we’re doing will help others, that’s a good reason to support us – as well as benefiting yourself. Make this the beginning of a story and become part of history with us.

Using Nikka

Using Nikka will be as simple and intuitive as possible. You will visit the Nikka website and select the function you need from a menu. It could be to encrypt your Dropbox files, conduct secure user log-ons for your blog, build a card payment gateway or any one of a dozen other activities.

You’ll then need to download a configuration file and store your ‘master secret’ (a long string of characters that acts as the password to your Nikka) somewhere safe for rainy days, just in case. You’ll also receive a Nikka-compatible application itself – or classes and snippets to copy to your own software project if you’re a developer. That’s it, you’re ready!

Setup and Use of Nikka
Setup and Use of Nikka

The image above shows the sequence of events for users in more detail. The first step is to set up your secure hardware. This is simply a matter of creating a small data file (a Nikka Package) that will tell Nikka what you want to use it for. You will be able to do this through a secure web page or an application you install on your computer. It could also be automated within the set-up procedures for a new service on one of the cloud platforms, like Amazon EC2.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to let Nikka know you want to use it by sending your Nikka Package over to it. There will be a range of ways to do this, and you’ll simply select the one you want from a menu.

At this point, you’ll be given your master secret. This is important, since it will allow you to manage your Nikka strongbox if your computer is ever compromised. It’s a long string of around 30 random characters. You can print this out, split it into two pieces and store it on different devices, or keep it in a special authorisation smart card.

These steps should only take a few clicks of your mouse (perhaps a few more if you want to make sure an external auditor can verify the security of your set-up). Now you can enjoy all the benefits of Nikka. Some of the first plug-ins and applications we anticipate will be popular are email security plug-ins, Dropbox or Google Cloud Storage encryption, and local file protection. You can use Nikka with new applications or pass instructions to it using a scripting language like Python.

Lastly, you can check your Nikka’s usage and make sure there are no anomalies with your strongbox – you can set up alerts to notify you of any potential issues automatically.

How are we different?

Our goal is to create a cryptographic security system suitable for a wide range of applications, including payment systems. We use components with independent security evaluations manufactured by long-established security companies. We want to deliver the functionality of these components to your devices – a laptop, smartphone, or even a hosted server.

Nikka Security Mechanisms
Nikka Security Mechanisms

Nikka uses secure cryptographic hardware. Its sole purpose is to protect your secrets and never export them unless they are encrypted. If someone unplugs it, resets it, or tries to open it, it will make all your secrets unusable. If you’re using Nikka and your computer is compromised, there’s a good chance your data will remain safe. Whatever happens, you can always find out if someone has tried to use your Nikka digital strongbox. You are the owner – shared or full, depending on your use and needs – of that piece of secure hardware.

But Nikka is more than a platform or a piece of secure hardware: it’s everything else you need to make it comprehensively useful. Auditable procedures and processes to manage it. A straightforward interface. Applications to allow efficient use. We have built such systems before and know how to do it right.

Security and Nikka

Security is absolutely paramount with Nikka. That’s why we’re making this product! We all want to use what the NSA or GCHQ have with their large budgets and armies of experts. We provide scalable security so everyone can use Nikka (and although we call it ‘scalable security’, you can be sure that it’s extremely secure even at the lowest levels!). 

Layered security
Layered security

You can choose the degree of protection against malicious attacks when you start using Nikka, and increase the level of security whenever you think it necessary – whether that’s for encrypting personal emails, accepting card payments or anything else. Whatever level you choose, Nikka will always be able to tell you whether your device or server has been compromised.

Nikka Authentication System
Nikka Authentication System

The best part of the Nikka design is that you don't have to trust us to get everything right. We use existing hardware with recognised security certifications. (We do not compromise on Common Criteria and we actively explore options for FIPS140-2 certifications - a universally accepted standard for evaluating the most secure commercially available cryptographic hardware). 

We are building a system on top of this established hardware to maximise its potential and make it easy to use. Our platform delivers user experience, simplicity and computational results where they are required.

Current status

We have completed the second generation of the system architecture and have been testing it under a proper load. It behaved in line with our expectations and needed only small adjustments. Our small development platform was capable of 12 million operations per day (a figure we have continued to improve since), while utilising the available secure hardware to 98 percent or more.

Who are we

We are Dan Cvrcek (@DanCvrcek) and Petr Svenda. We are based in Cambridge, UK and Brno in the Czech Republic. We have known each other for over ten years and Nikka has been one of our long-term plans. Now, it’s time to turn the plans into a reality.

Dan Cvrcek, Petr Svenda
Dan Cvrcek, Petr Svenda

Dan started his first consulting and R&D company in 2010, after delivering numerous projects for third parties in the several years beforehand. Petr has worked on a series of IT security research projects funded by enterprises, government agencies and research bodies for more than 10 years.

Between us, we successfully hacked HSMs (a PDF for technical readers) used by banks and enterprises, studied smart cards, evaluated their security and build tools for thatcreated new security systems and mechanisms and even found time for fun along the way. All of our projects have been interesting, some have been remarkable, and some we’re not allowed to talk about – but Nikka is the most exciting thing we’ve worked on so far. 

Contact

You can get in touch on Twitter (@DanCvrcek) or email us at info@s-crib.com. 
Postal address:
20 Bridge St
CB2 1UF Cambridge
United Kingdom

tel: +44 1223 851159

Further Links

The Nikka public project website can be found at http://www.smarthsm.com.
We also presented the concept of Nikka at PasswordsCon in Las Vegas in August this year.
You can also read about another of our pet projects, a back-end piece of cryptographic hardware we implemented at the beginning of the year. 

Risks and challenges

of Nikka It is a hardware project and things can go sometimes horribly wrong. The most common problem is that the cost of design or manufacturing is higher than estimated.

We have progressed far enough to get a very good idea about future costs. We have also built devices using similar platforms before so we know what to expect.

We try to always have plan B and at the same time identify uncertain aspects and de-risk the project as soon as possible.

The most challenging is the timing. We think we know how long the project should take but we may be sometimes over-optimistic. The single challenge we are worried about is to deliver everything we promise on time. We will do all we can to do that. If we realise that the project starts slipping, we will immediately update you about the possibility of deliveries to be postponed.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £5 or more About $6

    OUR THANKS — This level gets you our eternal gratitude! Community access to photos, videos and updates as NIKKA is built.

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    Pledge £10 or more About $12

    NIKKA CLUB CARD — We build our project on smart-cards. We will send you a personalised club card made just for you (it does not do cryptography). We will also include you in the public list of our supporters.

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    Pledge £25 or more About $30

    NIKKA USER CARD — This level includes a personalised Nikka user card to connect and test Nikka for free. Smart cards are one of the ways to securely control your cloud NIKKA Strongbox.

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    Pledge £35 or more About $43

    NIKKA USER S-CRIB —This level includes a Password S-CRIB dongle updated for NIKKA use. Connect to and test your Nikka strongbox securely. See FAQ for details about the dongle.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge £69 or more About $84

    NIKKA POWER CARD — This level includes a Nikka User Card with additional preinstalled applications for digital signatures and secure email (OpenPGP, PKCS#11) for immediate use.

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    Pledge £99 or more About $120

    NIKKA SERVICE TIER 1 — This level gives you a personalised Nikka User Card for the NIKKA access. It also includes at least 20,000,000 NIKKA transactions (that many digital signatures and equivalent of 5-10GB of encrypted data) each year for the next 2 years.

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    Pledge £199 or more About $242

    NIKKA SERVICE TIER 2 —This level gives you 2 personalised Nikka Power Cards for the NIKKA access. It also includes 100,000,000 NIKKA transactions ( = e.g., that many digital signatures / OTP authentications / 25-50GB of encrypted data) each year for the next 2 years.

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    Pledge £199 or more About $242

    YOUR PERSONAL NIKKA. This level gives you 2 personalised Nikka Power Cards and a desktop version of NIKKA. The desktop NIKKA is just yours and you can use it for relevant applications we will support.

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    Pledge £999 or more About $1,215

    NIKKA SERVICE TIER 3 —This level gives you a personalised Nikka Power Cards for the NIKKA access. It also includes 1,000,000,000 transactions (= e.g., that many digital signatures / OTP authentications / 250-500GB of data encrypted) each year for the next 2 years.

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    Pledge £1,999 or more About $2,431

    MANAGED NIKKA HARDWARE SLICE — This level provides a package that includes personalised Nikka Power Cards and one physical slice of a NIKKA appliance fully reserved for you for two years with an additional hot swap slice. We will manage it and provide hosting in a suitable datacenter. It will provide at least 250 authentication transactions / 250 digital signatures / 64kB of encryption per second.

    Your support is incredible!

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    Pledge £4,999 or more About $6,078

    MANAGED NIKKA APPLIANCE - This level provides a package that includes NIKKA appliance fully reserved for you for two years with an additional hot swap appliance. We will manage it and provide hosting in a suitable datacenter. It will provide at least 1,000 authentication transactions / 1,000 digital signatures / 256kB encryption per second.

    We are absolutely chuffed, thank you!

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Funding period

- (29 days)