a simpler, webbier approach to Web Intents (or Activities)

A few months ago, Mike Hanson and I started meeting with James, Paul, Greg, and others on the Google Chrome team. We had a common goal: how might web developers build applications that talk to each other in a way that the user, not the site, decides which application to use? For example, how might a major news site provide a “share” button that connects to the user’s preferred sharing mechanism? Not everyone uses the same top-three social networks, yet users are constantly forced to search for their preferred service within a set of publisher-chosen buttons. That leads to undue … Continue reading a simpler, webbier approach to Web Intents (or Activities)

encryption is (mostly) not magic

A few months ago, Sony’s Playstation Network got hacked. Millions of accounts were breached, leaking physical addresses and passwords. Sony admitted that their data was “not encrypted.” Around the same time, researchers discovered that Dropbox stores user files “unencrypted.” Dozens (hundreds?) closed their accounts in protest. They’re my confidential files, they cried, why couldn’t you at least encrypt them? Many, including some quite tech-savvy folks, were quick to indicate that it would have been so easy to encrypt the data. Not encrypting the data proved Sony and Dropbox’s incompetence, they said. In my opinion, it’s not quite that simple. Encryption … Continue reading encryption is (mostly) not magic

BrowserID and me

A few weeks ago, I became Tech Lead on Identity and User Data at Mozilla. This is an awesome and challenging responsibility, and I’ve been busy. When I took on this new responsibility, BrowserID was already well under way, so we were able to launch it in my second week on the project (early July). It’s been a very fun ride. Here’s the BrowserID demo at the Mozilla All-Hands last week: Given my prior work on email-based authentication (EmID, Lightweight Email Signatures, BeamAuth), you might think BrowserID was my brainchild. In fact, it really wasn’t. And, in a testament to … Continue reading BrowserID and me

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