Re: What ASN.1 got right

Michael Thomas <> Thu, 04 March 2021 19:17 UTC

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Subject: Re: What ASN.1 got right
References: <20210302010731.GL30153@localhost> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>
From: Michael Thomas <>
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Date: Thu, 4 Mar 2021 11:17:39 -0800
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On 3/4/21 11:03 AM, Keith Moore wrote:
> On 3/4/21 1:56 PM, Michael Thomas wrote:
>>> It's silly to dismiss those as if they didn't exist or weren't 
>>> important. They're quite often parts of critical infrastructure.
>> Online != Internet connected. If you're using TLS you are online 
>> definitionally. You may be on a stub air-gapped network but you're 
>> still using internet protocols to communicate. That stub network can 
>> have all it needs to support its infrastructure. It's just as online 
>> as anything else.
> Usually, "all it needs to support its infrastructure" is an Ethernet 
> switch or WiFi access point.   DNS is often considered an operational 
> hazard in such environments, sometimes DHCP is also, as is firmware 
> update.
>> X.509 comes from a time where you couldn't even make that assumption. 
>> Applications that require that assumption are pretty far and few 
>> between these days.
> I don't think it makes sense to waste otherwise good protocol 
> engineering just because it doesn't fit someone's idea of "how the 
> network works".   TLS can be profiled to work well in such 
> environments (without change to the TLS stack), and so can X.509.  Why 
> re-invent the wheels?
My point here isn't to defend how TLS works, it's to say that almost 
nothing requires the truly offline verification aspect that x.509 brings 
to the table. I can (and have) built a asymmetric key login mechanism 
that just puts naked public keys into a user table of a database, for 
example. The x.509-first view of the asymmetric keys world has confused 
a lot of thinking and had I introduced it to that mechanism it would 
have worlds more complex and much harder to understand. Designers 
should, dare I say it, be looking at the actual requirements of the 
system before settling on a particular solution.