[cryptography] The consequences of DigiNotar's failure

Ian G iang at iang.org
Sun Sep 18 05:18:13 EDT 2011

On 18/09/11 8:38 AM, Jeffrey Walton wrote:
> On Fri, Sep 16, 2011 at 1:07 PM, M.R.<makrober at gmail.com>  wrote:
>> On 16/09/11 09:16, Jeffrey Walton wrote:
>>> The problem is that people will probably die
>>> due Digitar's failure.
>> I am not the one to defend DigiNotar, but I would not make such
>> dramatic assumption.
> I don't think DigiNotar has any defenders remaining :) As for the
> dramatic assumptions, I believe past performance is indicative of
> future expectations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAVAK and
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAVAMA. (Sorry about the lame wiki
> reference, I probably should have found a UN human rights report).

I don't think there is any doubt that people can die because of breached 
communications.  No need to look at the Iranians, just look at the US 
CIA, and the intel feeding into drones.

The question of causality is one that is very difficult to determine, 
absent some pattern revealed by WikiLeaks (who have been accused as well).

However causality is also very important.  Without some historical 
pattern of facts, we're all speculating to a greater or lesser degree. 
How confident are we of that?

>> No one actively working against a government that is known to engage
>> in extra-legal killings will trust SSL secured e-mail to protect him
>> or her from the government surveillance.

This is a sadly inaccurate statement.  Most people working actively and 
aggressively against unconstrained governments know diddly squat about 
tech.  The communities have frequent roll-over, frequent recruitment. 
The techies working with them are under considerable pressure to 
deliver, and often make basic mistakes.

> Perhaps I don't appreciate all the pressure and options, but I believe
> an [external] email service using HTTPS is one of the safer options
> available when observing due dilligence.

Yes, definately.  Open question:  did the 9/11 guys use HTTPS?  Or just 
HTTP?  I'm still searching for a case where it makes a clear difference.

(Their main counter-intel coup was to understand that the threat model 
better than their enemy.  Their technique was to open an ordinary Yahoo 
style account, share the account, then open up a draft email, and share 
that!  Never send it, just edit and delete, over and over.  The NSA 
which were presumably hoovering all sent emails ... never saw a thing.)

> Its kind of like the poor
> man's cloud (and corporate america is flocking to the cloud, in part
> due to the additional layer of liability offload).

! OK, I'll bite.  How does one offload liability by using the cloud?

(Note that liability is the keystone to the PKI debate....  Understand 
the liability transfers and you understand why it's SNAFU.)


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