W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-identity@w3.org > August 2011

Re: WebID and HTTPS Client Certificate Authentication

From: Anders Rundgren <anders.rundgren@telia.com>
Date: Sat, 06 Aug 2011 10:39:52 +0200
Message-ID: <4E3CFDD8.2000407@telia.com>
To: Henry Story <henry.story@bblfish.net>
CC: "public-identity@w3.org" <public-identity@w3.org>
I believe we have entered another phase of web development were alternative
routes to standardization are becoming more common due to the slowness and
political difficulties associated with SDO processes.

That just about everybody is connected to the Internet and can update
their SW platform in minutes makes the new ecosystem highly dynamic.

It isn't even necessary getting everything completely right from scratch.
My experiences @ TrustedComputingGroup indicates that the traditional way
of developing stuff for the masses is simply put contra-productive.

IMO "all bets are off" regarding the final solution for secure and
ubiquitous access to the Internet.  It presumably lies in the hands of
browser vendors and service providers.

I [really] like the trust model of WebID but not the enrollment in MSIE.
That HTTPS CCA was designed by the best cryptographers in the world
doesn't necessarily make it a sure-fire success.  S/MIME anybody?


On 2011-08-06 09:57, Henry Story wrote:
> Hi Anders,
>    I agree that there is not excellent support of CCA in browsers. But I am also surprised how much support there is for CCA in browsers given their very low usage. One could try to invent something
> new, and I have nothing against that. BrowserId is one such idea, and as I argued on StackExchange [1], it would work with WebID too.  But that will also have a large adoption hurdle. Furthermore CCA
> have a huge advantage for a more semweb world: they are completely robot friendly, and are extremely efficient.
> Still we have implementations of WebId using CCA on pretty much every platform. It could easily be shipped with most J2EE services with a bit of work. And most services are moving to TLS. So TLS is
> gaining a lot of visibility now.
>   So I don't have anything against other technologies. TLS works for us now, and we can make the case for its usefulness. It is also easy to create services to authenticate people without TLS. I am
> working on an improved version right now.
> Henry
> [1] http://security.stackexchange.com/questions/5406/what-are-the-main-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-webid-compared-to-browserid
> On 6 Aug 2011, at 09:20, Anders Rundgren wrote:
>> Dear List;
>> I would like to express why I feel that WebID (/long-term NB/) is worth a better client solution than HTTPS CCA (Client Certificate Authentication).
>> The innovation going on in the TLS space is hardly of any interest outside a small circle of cryptographers.  From a user's point-of-view /HTTPS CCA pretty much behaves like when it was introduced
>> some 15 years ago/. 
>> There has been some efforts in the IETF to improve the client-certificate GUI but I doubt that Microsoft (who championed it), have any plans implementing it.  If you look deeper into the subject
>> you'll soon find that it won't deliver much value unless you begin to muck around in the middleware layer and then it becomes really difficult since this involves third-party SW.
>> From a developer's point-of-view I feel that HTTPS CCA is a quirky technology since/it is clearly at odds with the web session concept/.  If you would like to mix and match passwords and CCA in the
>> same web application it gets rather messy.  Due to automatic reauthentication performed by browsers, "logout" must be solved using highly dubious methods that haven't gotten any serious
>> consideration by any standards group I'm aware of.
>> A particular issue with WebID is that you (if you use CCA) must /tweak the web-server to accept any certificate/.  For MOD-SSL hackers this is probably piece of cake but it surely isn't a standard
>> feature in for example Java Servlet containers such as Tomcat and Glassfish.  /Using application-level CCA authentication you can run HTTPS in a completely plain vanilla (server only authentication)
>> fashion/.
>> Since CCA on the web probably has less than a 0.1% "market-share", the incentive for improvements seems to be lacking.  Sweden's BankID who have three million users, recently introduced version #3
>> of their browser PKI client that (for many reasons) use an application-level CCA authentication scheme.
>> The biggest bank used HTTPS CCA for decade but have now adopted BankID's PKI-client since they have given up on the browser vendors' abysmal support of client-side PKI, from enrollment to usage. 
>> Ref: http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2009Sep/0663.html
>> Anders
> Social Web Architect
> http://bblfish.net/
Received on Saturday, 6 August 2011 08:40:29 UTC

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