[cryptography] this house believes that user's control over the root list is a placebo

Jonathan Thornburg jthorn at astro.indiana.edu
Sun Jun 26 13:34:28 EDT 2011


On Sun, 26 Jun 2011, Marsh Ray wrote:
> How about these questions:
> When is a centralized root list necessary and when can it be avoided?
> How can the quality of root CAs be improved?
> How can the number of root CAs be reduced in general?
> How can the number of root CAs be reduced in specific situations?

I think the last of these is very important, because it's the difference
between

[today]
I want to connect to https://www.bank.com or https://www.airline.com.
If *any* CA in the world has falsely issued a certificate for that domain,
then I could be talking to a phisher or MITM and be none the wiser.

[if we used certificates a bit more wisely]
I want to connect to https://www.bank.com or https://www.airline.com.
If bank.com's or airline.com's CA has falsely issued a certificate for
that domain, then I could be talking to a phisher or MITM and be none
the wiser.

The latter is far from perfect, but it's a lot better than the former.
I think the ssh model ("cross your fingers the first time you connect,
but then remember the info so future connections are safer if that first
time was actually ok") has a lot of potential.  I think there's a firefox
extension that does this for certificates, but I forget its name...

ciao,

-- 
-- "Jonathan Thornburg [remove -animal to reply]" <jthorn at astro.indiana-zebra.edu>
   Dept of Astronomy & IUCSS, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA
   "Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the
    powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral."
                                      -- quote by Freire / poster by Oxfam



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