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[liberationtech] Deconstructing the security risks narrative of Haystack
alec.muffett at gmail.com
Fri Sep 17 05:13:32 PDT 2010
On 17 Sep 2010, at 09:10, Mehdi Yahyanejad wrote:
> On Sep 17, 2010, at 12:26 AM, Jacob Appelbaum wrote:
>> To be fair - I said that our analysis took six hours - the issues that
>> are the most horrible were spotted in less than a minute. One minute.
> Thanks for confirming my observation. You knew that these risks can be
> discovered in less an a minute. You also believed that the risk puts
> "bullet to their heads", and you still went public with it? Why?
Let's be blunt:
* It is better sooner than later to expose bad software, because
without exposure even more people will adopt software that
could put them at risk.
* I am not a big fan of "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of
the few", but practically this is how harm-minimisation works in the
world of software.
* The notion that adoption of flawed software can be mitigated or
corrected without the light of publicity is regrettably false;
empirically it has been proven again and again that some form of
full-disclosure is the best way to raise public awareness of
software security flaws.
* It is especially hard to to prevent adoption of flawed software in
the face of hagiographic public-relations stories.
* Risking N peoples' heads with regime-fired bullets is better than
N*100 peoples' heads; blame those who fire the guns first and
foremost, and secondarily those who by stupidity or design put
dissidents in harm's way by virtue of tagging them in some manner.
* But don't blame the people who explain to potential victims the
danger of being [thusly tagged] through use of [such software]
There is a lot of crap circulating about Haystack; as someone who
followed the project for about a year but with a background in hard
network security, Haystack rang dozens of snake-oil alarm bells but
countered with such elegant, fluffy media coverage that even
today I can't decide whether it was by intent of the organisers, or
by shared groupthink of the media, that it rose to such prominence.
But I will be glad if it's dead. There is plenty of room for
alternatives, and if Kerckhoffs' principle becomes more widely
understood as a result, I shall be doubly so.
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