[cryptography] Allergy for client certificates

Guido Witmond guido at witmond.nl
Wed Oct 9 05:56:14 EDT 2013

On 10/09/13 00:41, Tony Arcieri wrote:
>     On 09/30/13 17:43, Adam Back wrote:
>     > Anyway and all that because we are seemingly alergic to using
>     client side
>     > keys which kill the password problem dead.

> As for web browsers, client certs have a ton of problems:
> 1) UX is *TERRIBLE*. Even if you you tell your browser to use a client
> cert for a given service, and you go back to that service again,
> browsers often don't remember and prompt you EVERY TIME to pick which
> cert to use from a giant list. If you have already authenticated against
> a service with a given client cert, and that service's public key hasn't
> changed, there's absolutely no reason to prompt the user every single
> time to pick the cert from all of the client certs they have installed.
> 2) HTML <keygen> tag workflow is crap and confusing. It involves
> instructing users to install the generated cert in their browser, which
> is weird and unfamiliar to begin with. Then what? There's no way to
> automatically direct users elsewhere, you have to leave a big list of
> instructions saying "Please install the cert, then after the cert is
> installed (how will the user know?) click this link to continue"
> 3) Key management UX is crap: where are my keys? That varies from
> browser to browser. Some implement their own certificate stores. Others
> use the system certificate store. How do I get to my keys? For client
> certs to replace passwords, browsers need common UI elements that make
> managing, exporting, and importing keys an easy process.
> Passwords may be terrible, but they're familiar and people can actually
> use them to successfully log in. This is not the case for client certs.
> They're presently way too confusing for the average user to understand.

Hi Tony,

You might want to take a look at my experiments. It's a user agent that
does all the key management for you.

It even does it with never asking anything more difficult than what
username you want to have at a site.

See the parts on 'signing up' and 'manage accounts'.

I hope it sparks your interest.

Regards, Guido.


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