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[liberationtech] What I've learned from Cryptocat

Mark Belinsky mark.belinsky at gmail.com
Thu Aug 9 08:56:24 PDT 2012


In the interest of usability to combat [1) SSL intercept], I'm curious
about the benefits/dangers of making the fingerprint of the SSL certificate
more accessible to users through visual means. For instance at Guardian
Project we've been exploring the ascii art that key fingerprints generate.
It's possible to expand that to a website background whose design is
generated automatically according to the fingerprint. If the pattern of the
background changes then whoops, the certificate may have changed.

Of course it's important to note that this too can be spoofed, but it's
potentially better than nothing and could be a stopgap until it's indeed
spoofed. With HMTL5, it could even be dynamic.  I for one agree that
Cryptocat is interesting in so far as it allowed for instant chat rooms to
easily be created. IMHO it's better than plaintext in certain threat models
and how to fix the cert problem should be explored, rather than reinventing
the project wholesale.

Here's a good write up of a piece of the concept:
http://blog.rootshell.be/2008/07/15/ssh-fingerprint-ascii-visualization/

Also, +1 on digital ballistic testing within given threat model parameters
ie x state is known for having y capabilities therefore we can assess this
technology in z frame.

Tossing a couple more cents into the jar,
Mark


--*
@mbelinsky <https://twitter.com/mbelinsky> | 4hours.wordpress.com | phone:
+1-347-466-9327 | skype: markontheline
*


On Tue, Aug 7, 2012 at 12:13 PM, bou <bou at aktivix.org> wrote:

>
> On 07/08/12 09:25, Luke Allnutt wrote:
> >
> > With Frank's message in mind, do list members have thoughts about the
> > best dumbed-down guide for activists to stay safer online?
>
> http://hacktivista.net/hacktionlab/index.php/Tech_tools_for_activists
>
> of course nothing is perfect and that booklet is in the process of being
> seriously updated.
> >
> > I know EFF, MobileActive, and Movements.org have done some good work
> > in this field, but wondered whether there is a consensus on a good
> > short, easy-to-understand document for activists?
> >
> > Luke
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > *<frank at journalistsecurity.net>*
> > Sent by: liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu
> >
> > 08/07/2012 07:19 AM
> >
> >
> > To
> >       "Moxie Marlinspike" <moxie at thoughtcrime.org>,
> > liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu
> > cc
> >
> > Subject
> >       Re: [liberationtech] What I've learned from Cryptocat
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > Hey guys,
> >
> > I appreciate the importance and depth of this discussion. But I also
> > wish to underscore that most of the people who are at risk are not
> > using any tools whether they be CrytoCat, PGP, GChat or others for the
> > simple reason that they either cannot figure them out, or don't have
> > time to figure them out, or both. And I am talking about people at
> > risk in many different nations.
> >
> > No doubt the functional security of tools is an indispensable,
> > essential concern. Ignoring any vulnerabilities is dangerous, indeed.
> > But the usability of the same tools and making them accessible to
> > non-technologists is just as big a concern, in my view. I know you
> > guys think that many such users including Western journalists are
> > simply lazy. But many, if not most of the available tools are simply
> > not intuitive, or not as much as most technologists who already know
> > how to use them seem to think.
> >
> > How many people on this list have spent time asking non-technologists
> > and other users who have tried, but have since given up even trying to
> > use tools like PGP? Or have examined how new users interact with such
> > tools? I have a great deal of respect for this community. But to be
> > honest it seems to me that neither the technologists nor the donors
> > have spent much time asking such questions.
> >
> > If a novice user make a mistake in PGP, for example, it's over.
> > Options are not intuitive if you don't already know them. And if you
> > hit the wrong button, you can end up at a deadend with no guidance how
> > to get back on track. Trust me. I know. And I am not trashing PGP. I
> > know well and fully appreciate it's value and I have used it and
> > continue to use it hostile environments. And I also know that users
> > and only users can make crucial choices during use for their own
> > security. I get that, too. But most digital security tools still do
> > not do a good job of laying out, let alone explaining the options. And
> > I say that with respect for the value of the tools and options
> > themselves.
> >
> > Cryptocat is one of the most user-friendly tools out there, and I
> > think Nadim deserves credit for the effort. Of course, the
> > vulnerabilities must be fixed before anyone should use it in a hostile
> > environment. Although the level of vulnerability might also depend on
> > the nature of the threat in any particular environment. But I also
> > think we need to spend as much time making tools accessible as we do
> > making them secure if we are going to reach the people who really need
> > them. And right now few if any of these tools are having the reach
> > that we all agree is needed. And that is an issue largely of usability.
> >
> > I think with more constructive collaboration we would achieve both. We
> > need to. Thanks.
> >
> > Best, Frank
> >
> > Frank Smyth
> > Executive Director
> > Global Journalist Security
> > _frank at journalistsecurity.net_ <mailto:frank at journalistsecurity.net>
> > Tel.  + 1 202 244 0717
> > Cell  + 1 202 352 1736
> > Twitter:  @JournoSecurity
> > Website: _www.journalistsecurity.net_
> > <http://www.journalistsecurity.net/>
> > _PGP Public Key_
> > <http://www.journalistsecurity.net/franks-pgp-public-key>
> >
> >
> >
> > Please consider our Earth before printing this email.
> >
> > _Confidentiality Notice_: This email and any files transmitted with it
> > are confidential. If you have received this email in error, please
> > notify the sender and delete this message and any copies. If you are
> > not the intended recipient, you are notified that disclosing, copying,
> > distributing or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this
> > information is strictly prohibited.
> >
> >
> >
> > -------- Original Message --------
> > Subject: Re: [liberationtech] What I've learned from Cryptocat
> > From: Moxie Marlinspike <_moxie at thoughtcrime.org_
> > <mailto:moxie at thoughtcrime.org>>
> > Date: Mon, August 06, 2012 10:29 pm
> > To: _liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu_
> > <mailto:liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu>
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > On 08/06/2012 06:59 PM, Eleanor Saitta wrote:
> > > Except that with your harm mitigation, you push many potential users
> > > back to plaintext, where they are guaranteed to be owned. What
> > > percentage of potential cryptocat users would the plugin version have
> to
> > > stop from using the tool for you to accept that there was a place for
> > > the non-plugin version?
> >
> > Let's stop using the word "plaintext," because my understanding is that
> > none of the chat services we're speaking of transmit data in the clear.
> > As I see it, there are currently three possible vectors for attack with
> > "existing" web-based chat services:
> >
> > 1) SSL interception.
> > 2) Server compromise.
> > 3) Server operator.
> >
> > The technology in CryptoCat v1 does not address any of these three
> > vectors, and all of them remain possible. My position is that it's
> > actually more susceptible to attack via #1 and #2 than existing
> > web-based chat solutions. I believe your position is that it improves
> > on vector #3 by virtue of being not-Facebook. (I'm curious how you
> > measure #3 in comparison to GChat.)
> >
> > If we postulate that CryptoCat does improve vector #3 by virtue of being
> > not-Facebook, it isn't a result of the technology, but simply that we've
> > agreed Nadim has a better monitoring/interception track record than
> > Facebook. If that's something you think is valuable, it actually seems
> > like it'd potentially be better served by having someone like the EFF or
> > Riseup host a web-based and SSL-protected chat service, without brining
> > any additional cryptography confusion into the mix. A trust project,
> > not a cryptography project.
> >
> > Unfortunately for me, I'd rather depend on cryptography than people.
> > But I believe that CryptoCat is actually well positioned to drive
> > changes in the ecosystem that will allow them to really improve on those
> > three vectors in time. I think it's difficult to experiment in public
> > with security tools, however, and that it's a sage decision to make a
> > secure solution available (CryptoCat v2) and work on reducing friction
> > while maintaining security from there.
> >
> > - moxie
> >
> > -- _
> > __http://www.thoughtcrime.org_ <http://www.thoughtcrime.org/>
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> --
> https://network23.org/bou
>
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