PRISM and HTTP/2.0

Poul-Henning Kamp <> Sat, 13 July 2013 10:09 UTC

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From: Poul-Henning Kamp <>
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Subject: PRISM and HTTP/2.0
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I would like to advocate that everybody spends a little bit of time
reconsidering how we design protocols after the PRISM disclosures.

We don't need to have a long discussion about the actual legality
of the US spy operation, the sheer scale and the kind of efforts
that went in to it is the relevant message to us.

The take-home message is that encryption will be broken, disabled,
circumvented og watered down, if it gets in the way of political

We can do three things in light of this:

1) We can try to add more encryption to fight back.

2) We can recognize that there needs to be hooks for duly authorized access.

3) We can change or at least influence the political objectives

I think PRISM is ample evidence that #1 will have the 100% certain
result is that all encryption will be circumvented, with bogus CA
certs all the way up to PRISM and designed-in backdoors, and the
net result is less or even no privacy for anybody everywhere.

In my view, that would be very counterproductive.

#2 is not without challenges, but at least there are plausible paths
from there to a state of affairs where innocent people might still
have access to private communications, and it might seem to be a
necessary precondition for any hope on #3

#3 is clearly not inside HTTPbis scope, but it may be time for
all good nerds to come to the aid of their country and humanity.

A "market based" argument can be made under #3, that if we design
protocols with the necessary access (#2), programs like PRISM will
not be cost effective, but that will take some serious effort
of education and politics.

Anyway:  Edward Snowden has moved the rug under the HTTP/2.0
standardization process, and we should not ignore that.

Think about it.

Poul-Henning Kamp       | UNIX since Zilog Zeus 3.20
phk@FreeBSD.ORG         | TCP/IP since RFC 956
FreeBSD committer       | BSD since 4.3-tahoe
Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence.