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[liberationtech] W3C WebCrypto Last Call for Comments *today*

Eleanor Saitta ella at dymaxion.org
Sat May 24 04:19:00 PDT 2014


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On 2014.05.24 09.54, GALINDO Virginie wrote:
> Anyway, thanks for taking the time to share your view with us. You 
> are pointing us to an interesting problem, that we discussed 
> intensively. We are currently trying to see how to word warning to 
> developers in the specification to encourage them to understand
> the web security big picture. That task is not easy due to the 
> always-living side of the security/cryptography science.

I find this approach a little worrying.  While clearly warning
developers is obviously preferable to *not* doing so, it's also been
shown to be largely insufficient over the past 20-odd years.  If the
default behavior of a system is unsafe, developers will generally
implement that behavior, regardless of what your documentation warns
them to do.  It would be better for the state of web security to
provide a significantly more limited but default safe API.

If there is no API, developers needing to solve related issues will
roll their own and get it wrong -- the state we have now.  If there is
a safe API, they're more likely to make architectural choices on the
basis of that API, because you've shaped the level of effort from
"either way I'm going to have to do everything" to "I can stay within
this box that I recognize as being trustable, or I can do all the work
myself".  Shipping an API that allows developers to be unsafe puts you
right back in the position where they can choose to shoot themselves
and their users in their respective heads with no extra effort.

Every time we see bug classes entirely eliminated at the platform
level, we see those bugs mostly go away in the wild.  Every time we
see "guidance" provided, we see little or no impact in the incidence
of those bugs.  The web crypto API will be used in life-safety
critical code.  If you get this wrong, people will die.

Enjoy your guidance.

E.

- -- 
Ideas are my favorite toys.
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