Re: [arch-d] Time to reboot RFC1984 and RFC2804?

Eliot Lear <> Wed, 14 October 2020 09:10 UTC

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From: Eliot Lear <>
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Date: Wed, 14 Oct 2020 11:10:51 +0200
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Cc: Stewart Bryant <>, "" <>
To: Stephen Farrell <>
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Subject: Re: [arch-d] Time to reboot RFC1984 and RFC2804?
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Hi Stephen

> On 13 Oct 2020, at 15:17, Stephen Farrell <> wrote:
>> So the problem that we have a moral responsibility to address is to
>> find methods that stop or minimise those harms.
> I don't accept that. The "we" isn't clear, but what
> does seem clear is that meeting the requirements posed
> is (IMO anyway) likely to do more harm. I've never
> seen any proponent of borked crypto do a proper analysis
> of the damage that would be done - they almost always
> seem to approach it as mostly a PR exercise and so go
> straight to the "think of the children" and "what about
> the terrorists" talking points.

There are (at least) two threads going on here.  The first is what the social responsibility of the IETF community actually is.  The nature of our work has always been dual use.  Crypto is the classic example of that.  We have to accept that.  But in so doing, do we also have a responsibility to ameliorate risks or even articulate them?  That’s not to say that crypto is bad- it is a foundational technology without which the Internet could not have grown to its current size of O(10^10) devices and over 4 billion users.  I do think it’s reasonable to evaluate the societal impact of our work.  The hrpc was sort of a nudge in that direction, but very small one.

The second is the risks of having these conversations in the abstract.  That generates more heat than light.  When we talking about “borked crypto”, what do we mean?  Do we mean algorithms that are weak?  Do we mean key sharing and escrow schemes?  Do we mean something else? I like the approach that the Carnegie Endowment committee led by Steve Bellovin and Susan Landau took in dissecting this problem, in order to find starting points and common ground with law enforcement.[1]. But even that presents challenges.  It assumes that there are, as you more than allude, a limited number of well-governed actors in the conversation.

I’m not taking a position on updating any documents, but I do think it’s good for us to ponder these questions as we consider new mechanisms.