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Re: Draft W3C TAG Finding "Passwords in the Clear" available for review

From: Amir Herzberg <amir.herzberg@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2008 17:29:03 +0200
Message-ID: <3be421270802140729v14712044p5d77ebc26be12c79@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Rice, Ed (ProCurve)" <ed.rice@hp.com>
Cc: "Chris Drake" <christopher@pobox.com>, "David Orchard" <dorchard@bea.com>, "public-usable-authentication@w3.org" <public-usable-authentication@w3.org>

First, my apologies at giving comments at this late phase, I wanted to
help with this work (and was even invited to...), but my research
interests dragged me  to some other areas... (even more
interesting...). Anyway, here's my 2 cents.

Second, I want to say that the draft is nice, clear and concise.

Third, on the password protection issue... Indeed, it would be
advisable that the draft explicitly warn against relying on digest
authentication, due to dictionary attacks. Furthermore, you may want
to point out that this is desirable even for sites which are not very
sensitive, since users often reuse passwords. For same reason, you
should recommend not to use passpwords-in-clear even in `insensitive`
sites (better not ask pw at all).

Finally, I think you should also warn about incorrect use of SSL/TLS,
specifically the incorrect method, still applied (at least by default)
in several major sites, of sending unprotected login forms, and
invoking SSL/TLS only upon submission, to encrypt the password - as
I've pointed out years ago, and is now agreed essentially universally
(e.g. by FSTC recommendation), this is insecure, since an attacker
could send a look-alike page which will NOT encrypt the password.

Best regards, Amir Herzberg

On Thu, Feb 14, 2008 at 4:17 PM, Rice, Ed (ProCurve) <ed.rice@hp.com> wrote:
>  Dave,
>  I (Still) agree with Chris.  Sending passwords in clear text is wrong it doesn't really matter how complex the  password is.
>  -Ed
>  -----Original Message-----
>  From: Chris Drake [mailto:christopher@pobox.com]
>  Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 11:21 PM
>  To: David Orchard
>  Cc: public-usable-authentication@w3.org; Rice, Ed (ProCurve)
>  Subject: Re: Draft W3C TAG Finding "Passwords in the Clear" available for review
>  Hi David,
>  Thanks for the "review solicitation" on:-
>  http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/doc/passwordsInTheClear-52
>  In general - that entire document is horribly misleading.  You are
>  advocating that password exchange over non-encrypted mediums is
>  acceptable (albeit after obscuring the password itself).
>  This is never acceptable, because - in the absence of suitable
>  session-key protection, there is no way you can obscure a plaintext
>  password safely.
>  The "passwords" you propose to protect are short alphanumeric ascii
>  tokens, usually based on human-recognizable things like words.  The
>  "keyspace" of these make it trivial on modern PCs to test every
>  possible combination against whatever hash or obscuring method you
>  choose, in a very short time.  Using either Rainbow tables, or google,
>  cracking hashed passwords more often than not takes only a few seconds
>  nowdays.
>  http://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/2007/11/16/google-as-a-password-cracker/
>  Given that obscuring/hashing passwords makes people erroneously
>  believe they are now secure - it could well be making things worse by
>  doing this, rather than by sending via plain text:  at least when
>  they were in plaintext, every uneducated person who could observe them
>  passing by was able to understand it's not secure.  Hashing merely
>  serves to deceive the people building and operating the insecure
>  system, all while handing hackers and crackers free access to the
>  original plaintext passwords.
>  If any recommendation should be included at all - it should be this:-
>   Always use SSL or some equivalent security - there is no provision
>   in web browsers that allows passwords to be exchanged securely
>   without SSL.  Not even hashing.
>  Kind Regards,
>  Chris Drake
>  Thursday, February 14, 2008, 11:48:12 AM, you wrote:
>  DO> Dear Web Security Context WG,
>  DO>
>  DO> On behalf of the W3C TAG, I would like to solicit your review
>  DO> of the Draft TAG finding "Passwords in the Clear" [1].  Comments
>  DO> on this draft should be posted to www-tag@w3.org and are
>  DO> appreciated.  We do not have a firm deadline but I'd like to
>  DO> suggest March 7th 2008 as a rough timeframe for comments.
>  DO>
>  DO> Cheers,
>  DO> Dave Orchard
>  DO>
>  DO> [1] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/doc/passwordsInTheClear-52
>  DO>

Amir Herzberg
Associate Professor, Dept. of Computer Science
Bar Ilan University
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com//in/amirherzberg
Received on Thursday, 14 February 2008 15:29:15 UTC

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