Re: Security for various IETF services

Stewart Bryant <> Mon, 07 April 2014 09:40 UTC

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Date: Mon, 07 Apr 2014 10:40:07 +0100
From: Stewart Bryant <>
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To: Tim Bray <>
Subject: Re: Security for various IETF services
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On 05/04/2014 18:29, Tim Bray wrote:
> On Sat, Apr 5, 2014 at 1:50 AM, Stewart Bryant (stbryant) 
> < <>> wrote:
> > Please confirm that "friendly" implies that the user gets to
> > choose the degree of security privacy that they consider
> > appropriate, and that their applications and devices are not
> > encumbered  with the overheads unless they choose to invoke
> > the privacy and security mechanisms.
> Here, I think, is a key issue.  I disagree with Stewart.  WHAT?!  How 
> can I possibly disagree with
> ​user choice?  Because, a huge majority of people
> (a) aren’t aware that there is a choice to be made, and shouldn’t need 
> to be
> (b) do not understand the technical issues surrounding the choice, and 
> shouldn’t have to
> (c) do not understand the legal/policy issues surrounding the choice, 
> and shouldn’t have to
> This includes both the people who use online services and the people 
> who offer them.  Thus, the only sane ethical position is to operate in 
> a mode that is private by default, because the consequences of a 
> negative failure (the user really didn’t need privacy but got it 
> anyhow) are immensely less damaging than the consequences of a 
> positive failure (the user really needed privacy but didn’t get it).
I could be persuaded towards "crypto by default", but I hear in these 
discussions "crypto as an exclusive mode", and I do not think that is an 
acceptable constraint on implementations.

Privacy and authentication always ends up taking CPU, memory and 
bandwidth, which in turn costs money, silicon, power, weight and 
complexity. If a specific application requires privacy and or 
authentication, then fine, but each case needs to be examined on its own 
merits. Now you may say "ah but we are getting so much better at the 
engineering that who cares about such things", to which I would point 
out that such thinking stunts our ability to build things that are 
orders of magnitude smaller, lighter, cheaper and more power efficient 
than we can conceive of oday.

So please, let's not react to the recent news on spying, by creating a 
security religion that in the end hurts us even more that the problem we 
are reacting to.