and the laws of physics changed

Google just introduced Google Plus, their take on social networking. Unsurprisingly, Arvind has one of the first great reviews of its most important feature, Circles. Google Circles effectively let you map all the complexities of real-world privacy into your online identity, and that’s simply awesome. You can think of Circles as the actual circles of friends you have. The things that are easy to do in real life, like sharing a fun anecdote with the friends you generally go out with on Saturday nights, are easy to do in Circles. The things that are hard to do in real life, … Continue reading and the laws of physics changed

Online Voting is Terrifying and Inevitable

Voting online for public office is a terrifying proposition to most security experts. The paths to subversion or failure are many: the server could get overwhelmed by attackers, preventing voting altogether the server could get hacked and the votes changed surreptitiously the users’ machines could get compromised by a virus, which would then flip votes as it chooses with little or no trace even if somehow we secure the entire digital channel, there’s still the issue of your spouse looking over your shoulder, strongly suggesting you vote a certain way So, terrifying. And yet, I’m now pretty sure it is … Continue reading Online Voting is Terrifying and Inevitable

grab the pitchforks!… again

I’m fascinated with how quickly people have reached for the pitchforks recently when the slightest whiff of a privacy/security violation occurs. Last week, a few interesting security tidbits came to light regarding Dropbox, the increasingly popular cloud-based file storage and synchronization service. There’s some interesting discussion of de-duplication techniques which might lead to Oracle attacks, etc., but the most important issue is that, suddenly, everyone’s realizing that Dropbox could, if needed, access your files. Miguel de Icaza wonders if Dropbox is pitching snake oil. Yes, Dropbox staff can, if needed, access your files. I don’t mean to harp on my … Continue reading grab the pitchforks!… again

intelligently designing trust

For the past week, every security expert’s been talking about Comodo-Gate. I find it fascinating: Comodo-Gate goes to the core of how we handle trust and how web architecture evolves. And in the end, this crisis provides a rare opportunity. warning signs Last year, Chris Soghoian and Sid Stamm published a paper, Certified Lies [PDF], which identified the very issue that is at the center of this week’s crisis. Matt Blaze provided, as usual, a fantastic explanation: A decade ago, I observed that commercial certificate authorities protect you from anyone from whom they are unwilling to take money. That turns … Continue reading intelligently designing trust

degrees of trust: software vs. data hosts

Overjoyed by all the SSL goodness around me (Twitter offers SSL-only as an option, so does Facebook, Google offers 2-factor auth), I started dutifully upgrading my web browsing experience on Firefox, specifically installing the EFF Add-On that turns on HTTPS everywhere it can, in particular when using Google (it uses encrypted.google.com by default). I googled myself to test it out, and I found this interesting blog post by CSS Squirrel from a few months ago, in regards to the issue I have with Opera Mini. CSS Squirrel says: Ben Adida offered the following question as a counter: “Does privacy matter? … Continue reading degrees of trust: software vs. data hosts

the difference between privacy and security

Facebook today rolled out new security features, both of which are awesome: SSL everywhere, and social re-authentication. True, SSL everywhere should probably be a default, even though I continue to believe that the cost is significantly underestimated by many privacy advocates. Regardless, this announcement is great news. The only nitpick I have, and I point it out because I think it’s significant in Facebook’s case, is that the announcement confuses privacy and security. The first paragraph mentions Data Privacy Day, then the general concept of controlling your data, then transitions to the new security features. But those are quite different. … Continue reading the difference between privacy and security

Facebook, the Control Revolution, and the Failure of Applied Modern Cryptography

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was widely assumed by most tech writers and thinkers, myself included, that the Internet was a “Control Revolution” (to use the words of Andrew Shapiro, author of a book with that very title in 1999). The Internet was going to put people in control, to enable buyers to work directly with sellers, to cut out the middle man. Why? Because the Internet makes communication and commerce vastly more efficient, obviating the need for a middle man to connect us. Fast forward to 2011, and the world is vastly more centralized than it … Continue reading Facebook, the Control Revolution, and the Failure of Applied Modern Cryptography

an answer to John Gruber: Google dropping H.264 is good for everyone

Google just dropped support for H.264 in Chrome. John Gruber, among others, is not happy. Now, John Gruber is a very smart guy, but his Apple bias is too much even for me, and it’s preventing him from seeing what is fairly obvious. So, allow me to answer John’s questions, even though I have no inside knowledge whatsoever: In addition to supporting H.264, Chrome currently bundles an embedded version of Adobe’s closed source and proprietary Flash Player plugin. If H.264 support is being removed to “enable open innovation”, will Flash Player support be dropped as well? If not, why? Look … Continue reading an answer to John Gruber: Google dropping H.264 is good for everyone

privacy icons

Aza Raskin has posted alpha 1 of the proposed Mozilla Privacy Icons. I was at the Mozilla-sponsored get-together where this was first discussed, and I’m really happy to see this moving forward. A few quick thoughts: the least useful of the icons is the “used only for intended use.” I don’t think that icon can be boolean, because what, exactly is the intended use? This is one area where an icon alone probably won’t be enough, and a web site should list the intended uses. machine-readability: yes, fantastic, I’m glad this is part of the story, it’s an incredibly important … Continue reading privacy icons

OK, let’s work to make SSL easier for everyone

So in the wake of the FireSheep situation, which I described yesterday, the tech world is filled with people talking past each other on one important topic: should we just switch everything over to SSL? As I stated yesterday, I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. I would love to be wrong, because certainly if we could switch to SSL for everything, the Web would be significantly more secure. I just don’t think it’s going to be that easy. But let’s explore this a bit, because I think most people agree that there would be tremendous benefits. A … Continue reading OK, let’s work to make SSL easier for everyone