[cryptography] Definition of Identity (was Re: key management guidelines)

Arshad Noor arshad.noor at strongauth.com
Wed Sep 15 00:23:48 EDT 2010

Marsh Ray wrote:
> You know that ATM cards are frauded all the time, right?
	Indeed.  However, what makes these - and many such attacks
	possible, is the fact that modern systems still rely on a
	4-decade old scheme of authentication, based on shared
	secrets - something I classified at Identity Protection
	Factor (IPF) Level 2:


> Why wouldn't the phished customer be willing authenticate with his
> second factor as well as the first? Why couldn't the phisher be able to
> forward that credential nearly as easily as a password?

	With an authentication scheme based on SSL ClientAuth, that
	relies on a digitally-signed nonce, while a MITM attack is
	not infeasible, it is significantly more difficult to carry
	out for credentials at IPF Level-6 (see IPF paper) or higher.

> Dude, this is messed up.
	You are entitled to your opinion, Marsh.

> There are a couple of influential books you might consider reading:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four

  	However, I believe it is naive to bring up the "Orwellian
	Society" as a "bugaboo" because of a concept that enables the
	tracking of every legitimate, non-anonymous transaction through
	strong authentication/digital-signatures.  You are already
	living in an Orwellian society whether you like it or not:
	http://www.eff.org/issues/nsa-spying.  Any assumption on your
	part that you have any modicum of privacy on the internet, is

>> When a child goes to enroll at a preschool or kindergarten, proof of
>> residency and the date of birth can be provided to the school by
>> having the hospital of birth e-mail a digitally signed birth
>> certificate to the school admissions office (the guardian will
>> actually request it through an application on the hospital's site,
>> after authenticating him/herself with their own healthcare
>> credential, or their child's credential).
> Is there really such a problem today with preschoolers being enrolled
> with fake identities that it could possibly justify such an infrastructure?
	The problem isn't about fake identities; it is about
	improving archaic business processes through the use of
	technology - and doing it securely, and across a sector,
	in one fell swoop.

>> Most people – including security-conscious professionals – resort to
>>  using similar passwords (or small set of passwords), or writing them
>>  on a piece of paper for the multitude of credentials in their
>> possession. [...] access to sensitive information, which was
>> controlled in the past, is now a mere login-screen away to anyone in
>> the world with an Internet connection. This has given rise to new
>> forms of attacks – most notably, phishing and keystroke-loggers - to
>> siphon away credentials to valuable service accounts.
> All this, to fix that?
	When an entire system is breaking down, there are many
	parts that need fixing; however, to stanch the problem, one
	has to begin at the point where you can slow down the rate
	of current compromises before you fix the problems inside.

> The only solution is common sense and an adaptable, organic system which
> recognizes the limitations of technology to address what are inherently
> human problems. Maybe sometimes it is a little extra work to apply good
> judgment rather than cranking the handle of some mechanistic rules
> engine. But we certainly can do without creating a machine which
> (literally) runs off the blood of newborn babies.

	Notwithstanding the hyperbole (you do know that DNA can be
	profiled based on spit), common sense is *always* necessary
	at all times.  However, events of the last decade have shown
	that there is very little of it exercised everywhere.

	The world's population is approaching 7 billion people, with
	projections of 10-billion by 2050.  The richest country in
	the world (the USA) with a mere 300M people has a trillion-
	dollar deficit, cannot fix roads, schools and is watching the
	resurgence of polio, TB and lice (aside from anti-biotic
	resistant bacteria).  Like it or not, solving problems for
	the next century is going to require some very different kind
	of thinking.

Arshad Noor
StrongAuth, Inc.

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