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[liberationtech] What I've learned from Cryptocat

Fabio Pietrosanti (naif) lists at infosecurity.ch
Mon Aug 13 09:38:25 PDT 2012


On 8/7/12 3:30 PM, Tom Ritter wrote:
> Yes, yes, yes.  There is a *tremendous* amount of implicit and
> unmentioned TRUST in the person operating the service or relying on
> the software.  That's why anyone would use RedPhone, TextSecure or
> WhisperCore back when it was closed source.  Because people *trusted*
> Moxie.
I was writing a response when i read you email explaining the same 
concept about the TRUST.

I 100% subscribe your point, and would like to add something about 
"average users and trusts".

The average user (a very stupid, dumb user but with very strong 
political commitment in freedom fighting) will always trust the website 
/ operator.

We CANNOT FIX that problem in any technical/cryptographic way.

That kind of user will do whatever the "server operator"/"website" will 
tell/ask him to do.

If the "server operator" will tell that kind of user :

                     "Hey, install this plug-in, because it's much more 
secure"

then the users will click to install the plug-in.
Now the user fully delegate his trust to the operator that delivered him 
a backdoored plugin.

So it's a chicken-egg problem, you cannot just fix from technical point 
of view.

We can only have good practice, making whatever is possible, communicate 
the risks in a clear way, teach people to be more aware and pay 
attention to various risks.

But imho we cannot technically fix that problem.

For that reason there is a ticket about creating "Portable CryptoCat 
Servers", that can be easily installed on Desktop computers, so that 
"group of people with relative trust among them" will be able to use 
their own servers on Tor Hidden Services (or via Tor2web) 
https://github.com/kaepora/cryptocat/issues/81 .

With many CryptoCat servers working within an XMPP Federated approach, 
with Riseup having it's own CryptoCat installation, but also a a small 
activist group with their own CryptoCat installation, all of them 
standalone or federated.

I like to see CryptoCat security in that context of 
setup/operations/distribution, with *partially delegated* trust to the 
server operator (that it's better than *fully delegated trust* to server 
operator)

-naif



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