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RE: Strawman proposal for the low-level API - about the interoperable set of algo and algo naming

From: Mike Jones <Michael.Jones@microsoft.com>
Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2012 16:16:28 +0000
To: Ryan Sleevi <sleevi@google.com>
CC: GALINDO Virginie <Virginie.GALINDO@gemalto.com>, Seetharama Rao Durbha <S.Durbha@cablelabs.com>, David Dahl <ddahl@mozilla.com>, "public-webcrypto@w3.org" <public-webcrypto@w3.org>
Message-ID: <4E1F6AAD24975D4BA5B168042967394366572A73@TK5EX14MBXC283.redmond.corp.microsoft.com>
At a minimum, to the extent that our functionality overlaps, I believe we should use the same identifiers as JOSE.  Also, the JOSE registry will allow non-IETF specifications to define and register identifiers, so it would be fine for W3C-defined identifiers to be registered in the IANA registry.  In fact, some would say that that would be a very good thing. :-)

                                                            -- Mike

From: Ryan Sleevi [mailto:sleevi@google.com]
Sent: Monday, July 02, 2012 9:14 AM
To: Mike Jones
Cc: GALINDO Virginie; Seetharama Rao Durbha; David Dahl; public-webcrypto@w3.org
Subject: Re: Strawman proposal for the low-level API - about the interoperable set of algo and algo naming

My concern with such an approach is that it limits the functionality/utility of the web crypto API to the points where it overlaps with JOSE. I think the use cases we've seen presented so far do not necessarily depend on JOSE nor do they overlap with the problems being solved by JOSE, so it seems non-ideal to delegate the registry out.
On Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 8:15 AM, Mike Jones <Michael.Jones@microsoft.com<mailto:Michael.Jones@microsoft.com>> wrote:
IANA will be maintaining a registry of algorithm names for JOSE.  It will handle the addition of new algorithm identifiers, designating obsolete algorithms deprecated, etc.  We could do worse than to simply use that registry.

                                                            -- Mike

From: GALINDO Virginie [mailto:Virginie.GALINDO@gemalto.com<mailto:Virginie.GALINDO@gemalto.com>]
Sent: Sunday, July 01, 2012 12:30 PM
To: Mike Jones
Cc: Seetharama Rao Durbha; Ryan Sleevi; David Dahl; public-webcrypto@w3.org<mailto:public-webcrypto@w3.org>
Subject: RE: Strawman proposal for the low-level API - about the interoperable set of algo and algo naming

Mike, and all,

The WG has already discussed that, and we mentioned that we would not mandate any algorithm, but will have instead an algo discovery mechanism to help developers to tune their app behavior across the different platforms. We also suspected that the minimum core of algorithm implemented would be market driven and may evolve in the time, and thus would not need to be directed by the Web Crypto WG. Note for the editors : this implies that we will have to maintain a list of names for algorithms in our algo dictionary, and think about regular updates (a job for your entire life, guys :)).


Chair of Web Crypto WG

From: Ryan Sleevi [mailto:sleevi@google.com]<mailto:[mailto:sleevi@google.com]>
Sent: jeudi 21 juin 2012 20:34
To: Mike Jones
Cc: Seetharama Rao Durbha; David Dahl; public-webcrypto@w3.org<mailto:public-webcrypto@w3.org>
Subject: Re: Strawman proposal for the low-level API

On Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 11:22 AM, Mike Jones <Michael.Jones@microsoft.com<mailto:Michael.Jones@microsoft.com>> wrote:
I believe there are advantages beyond what a browser must implement.  For one, producing the set of defined algorithm/parameter combination labels forces the working group to make conscious choices about what combinations make sense to promote the usage of, just as JOSE is doing.  This will likely aid interop.

Fair enough. I think we'll probably be in disagreement on this - I don't think the WG should be in the position of arbitrar of what can or should be implemented, as I think it significantly limits the utility of the API and the ability  to make useful combinations. If any value decisions need to be made, I think they make more sense within the context of a high-level API, which the survey respondants indicated less interest in. The discussion of JWA/JWK/JWS previously were, as I perceived, discussions about how the high-level API should behave.

My view of interop is that the API should behave consistently across all platforms.
What I understand you to be saying (and may be mistaken on), is that you view interop is that the same algorithms should be implemented across all platforms.

I don't think that sort of view of interop is attainable, given how/where the web runs, in the same way that the <img> tag does not require a JPG implementation (as spec'd), nor does the <video> tag require H2.64 or WebM.

Also, it makes it simpler for code using the API to query whether a combination is supported.  A query for "ES256" is simple to formulate (and to respond to).  A query for { name: 'ECDSA', params: { hash: { name: SHA256' } } } - not so much.

                                                                -- Mike

Sure. But as I mentioned several times, the shorthand "ES256" is fully valid within what I was proposing. I agree, shorthand is good! At the same time, shorthand that sacrifices flexibility/extensibility is, I believe, short-sighted, which is why the API specifies the long form, for which the short form fits, rather than describing only a short-form, of which a long-form does not fit.

From: Ryan Sleevi [mailto:sleevi@google.com<mailto:sleevi@google.com>]
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2012 11:13 AM
To: Seetharama Rao Durbha
Cc: Mike Jones; David Dahl; public-webcrypto@w3.org<mailto:public-webcrypto@w3.org>

Subject: Re: Strawman proposal for the low-level API

On Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 9:27 AM, Seetharama Rao Durbha <S.Durbha@cablelabs.com<mailto:S.Durbha@cablelabs.com>> wrote:

"HS256" is the same as the hypothetical { name: 'HMAC', params: { hash: { name: 'SHA256' } } }
"ES256" is the same as the hypothetical { name: 'ECDSA', params: { hash: { name: SHA256' } } }

May be so. But the advantage/flexibility you are referring to here allows a future replacement of SHA256 with SHA1024, let us say. It is not so obvious to me how the developer may check the availability of ECDSA with SHA1024 in a specific browser. The above hypothetical may throw an unsupported algorithm/combination exception, but its much easier to query/check availability with one name.
JCE is another reference here (http://docs.oracle.com/javase/7/docs/technotes/guides/security/StandardNames.html#impl). The algorithm names in the table are essentially similar in approach to the JWA names. Its very clear from the table that if one were to write a Java program that is shipped and may run in unknown containers/VMs, it is better to not use RSA with SHA512.

I agree that this same information could have been provided by splitting the Algorithm column into multiple columns, one for each parameter. Its just a little harder to enforce it during development. For example, its very easy to provide constants for supported combinations, and thus enable compile time checking.

Except we're in JavaScript, the concept of compile time checking is a bit of a foregone conclusion. Providing hard constants (eg: an enum on an Interface) means that any implementation that extends this interface would be Non-Compliant, and any adoption of new algorithms MUST be done via updating the spec (which then makes legacy implementations non-compliant).

There are effectively two ways to check - using the .supports({ name: 'ECDSA', params: { hash: { name: SHA1024 } } }) (which returns a bool) or by attempting to instantiate it, such as via .encrypt({ name: 'ECDSA', ... })

This is the exact same way an application would check for support using strings as identifiers - .supports('ES1024') / .encrypt('ES1024')

Again, it sounds like the argument you're making is orthogonal to the representation - for example, "It's better to not use RSA with SHA512" is only true because it's not explicitly listed within the Implementation Requirements. However, as also noted within that spec, third-party providers can implement whatever they want.

The discussion about what U-A's MUST/SHOULD/MAY implement is a useful discussion to have, but it seems perhaps separate from the API discussion. The API should be flexible enough to support 'any' algorithm - not strictly for vendor extensibility, but simply on the basis of providing a well defined method for how we, as a WG, extend this spec in the future.

Is there an advantage to the 'string' representation that is not directly tied to what a browser MUST implement? The limitation I described I believe is reasonable - cannot provide arbitrary/algorithm-specific data, such as OAEP label.

From: Ryan Sleevi <sleevi@google.com<mailto:sleevi@google.com>>
To: Seetharama Rao Durbha <s.durbha@cablelabs.com<mailto:s.durbha@cablelabs.com>>
Cc: Mike Jones <Michael.Jones@microsoft.com<mailto:Michael.Jones@microsoft.com>>, David Dahl <ddahl@mozilla.com<mailto:ddahl@mozilla.com>>, "public-webcrypto@w3.org<mailto:public-webcrypto@w3.org>" <public-webcrypto@w3.org<mailto:public-webcrypto@w3.org>>

Subject: Re: Strawman proposal for the low-level API

On Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 3:06 PM, Seetharama Rao Durbha <S.Durbha@cablelabs.com<mailto:S.Durbha@cablelabs.com>> wrote:
I think this is tussle between interoperability and extensibility. For interoperability, we certainly need a published set of algorithms and their combinations that developers can rely on (previously I expressed that we need a mandatory list of such). The question is whether this set gets baked into the API itself (through an ENUM for example) or validated through interop tests. The former is more easier for developers to verify that their implementations are going to be cross-platform/browser compatible. The later allows developers to take advantage of features when they are available in certain platforms/browsers.

I personally believe that having the API limit/specify features is a good thing. It cuts down a lot of time (doing research on what browser implements what algorithms) as well as second guessing what is a good combination.

On the other hand, concatenated combinations do not limit extensibility. If a particular browser provides a specific combination not in the spec, it can do so through a custom namespace - something like what people did with CSS, through -webkit or -mozilla prefixes.


It's worth noting that the (continued) use of prefixes is an area of great stylistic/semantic debate within the other WGs, and my understanding from the light following of discussions is that the prevailing opinion is that it is not the Right Way Forward. As we've seen, in practice simply forces vendors to implement each other's prefixes, since early adopters either fail to or, with some of the semantics, simply cannot, use prefixes in a way that will be forwards compatible.

I fundamentally don't see any differences between Mike's JWA reference and what I proposed, other than brevity, so I'm trying to understand what exactly the argument is. Both you and Mike have made references to interoperability, but that seems to me to be wholly orthogonal to the representation of algorithms and their parameters.

Likewise, the argument of "restricting people from getting it wrong" seems more an argument in favour of a high-level API, since by very nature, low-level APIs, in order to be useful for situations both described and yet to be discovered, must give you enough rope to hang yourself.

If the WG decides that there should be a list of MUST implements, then whether it's a set of string identifiers or a set of Algorithms+AlgorithmParams, its no different which scheme we choose.

"HS256" is the same as the hypothetical { name: 'HMAC', params: { hash: { name: 'SHA256' } } }
"ES256" is the same as the hypothetical { name: 'ECDSA', params: { hash: { name: SHA256' } } }

Both are fully extensible schemes - that is, new JWA algorithm identifiers can be registered via IANA or extended via URI, and new Algorithms can be implemented by vendors/implementations and possibly standardized as appropriate (eg: W3C WG efforts, the same as already happens for CSS, HTML, etc). As I mentioned to David, it's fully possible to express a JWA algorithm via short-name, such as { name: 'ES256' }, which serves as reasonable 'default' values.

As far as I can tell, the only actual difference at play is whether we use a single string or a dictionary. Under a single string, there is no way to convey additional, application specific data or optional parameters, as far as I can tell. For example, under JWA's single-string naming, with RSA-OAEP, there's no way for an application to include the 'label' data. I imagine that under the scheme, one would have to construct some canonical URI form and then append something like query parameters to specify additional data - encoding into an appropriate ASCII representation as necessary (base64?)

Again, I'm not trying to suggest that an implementor of a scheme like HMAC be required to support HMAC with every possible hash function real or imagined - just that the semantics of the arguments and their handling are well defined, both when supported and not. The API specification itself should be able to react to any set of identifiers/parameters - and that equally applies whether using pure string identifiers ("ES256") or using dictionaries.

It seems like this is really a discussion of more complexity/more flexibility vs less complexity/less flexibility. I'd much rather err on the side of more complexity/flexibility, since if there has been anything learned from the meteoric growth of the Internet and the richness of the Web, it's that there are so many ideas and use cases that we have yet to imagine.

I think a perfect parallel to the APIs we're discussing here would be WebGL (which allows for browser/vendor specific extensions), Web Intents (which allow for arbitrary intents to be registered), WebRTC (which does not specify the format of the MediaStream), the video tag (which allows arbitrary types), or even further back, the catch-all cloaca that is the <object> tag. All of these, by virtue of flexibility, have allowed for very quick and rapid iteration and adoption of new features/abilities, without mandating any specific behaviours beyond the core API.


From: Ryan Sleevi <sleevi@google.com<mailto:sleevi@google.com>>
To: Mike Jones <Michael.Jones@microsoft.com<mailto:Michael.Jones@microsoft.com>>
Cc: David Dahl <ddahl@mozilla.com<mailto:ddahl@mozilla.com>>, "public-webcrypto@w3.org<mailto:public-webcrypto@w3.org>" <public-webcrypto@w3.org<mailto:public-webcrypto@w3.org>>

Subject: Re: Strawman proposal for the low-level API

On Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 1:47 PM, Mike Jones <Michael.Jones@microsoft.com<mailto:Michael.Jones@microsoft.com>> wrote:

As a data point, the IETF JOSE work intentionally has only algorithm identifiers and no separate algorithm parameters.  Instead, the particular parameter choices are baked into the identifier.

So for instance, rather than having a generic RSA signature algorithm and hash functions as parameters, there are separate algorithm identifiers such as:

                RS256 - RSA signature using SHA-256 hash algorithm

                RS384 - RSA signature using SHA-384 hash algorithm

                RS512 - RSA signature using SHA-512 hash algorithm

The designers of the JOSE specs felt that it would be better, both for implementers and for interop, to specify a small set of meaningful algorithm combinations, than to face the combinatorial explosion that independently specifying each parameter causes.

See http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-ietf-jose-json-web-algorithms for the algorithm combinations specified and the identifiers for them.

I'd personally rather see the WebCrypto APIs follow this model, than allow all parameter combinations as XML DSIG and XML ENC do.  As a bonus, the WebCrypto work could then directly use the algorithm identifiers in the JWA spec, rather than inventing new ones.

                                                                Best wishes,

                                                                -- Mike


It's not clear to me how that scheme or the spec actually avoid combinatorial growth. You're still individually specifying algorithm parameters - you're just doing it symbolically via the algorithm identifier.

Even under a MUST implement scheme (which I'm still fairly opposed to), extensibility is still important. Under JWA, extensibility must be accomplished by concatenating symbols together to form an identifier. Unrecognized identifiers are rejected.

Under the above proposal, extensibility is accomplished by defining parameters. Unrecognized parameters or unsupported parameter options are rejected.

I certainly don't mean to imply that every possible hash algorithm + RSA PKCSv1.5 must be supported for an implementation to be compliant. For that matter, I don't even think an implementation needs to understand RSA to be compliant. However, it MUST have well-defined behaviour encountering unrecognized algorithm/parameters.

For example, under the current JWA specification (draft-02), there's no way to use RSA-PSS. That's specifically called out within Section 3.3. If an implementation wanted to support RSA-PSS with SHA-1/2-224,2-256,2-512, then according to Section 6.2, a new 'alg' value would be registered with IANA OR be a URI (as per 3.6).

So JWA still has a fully extensible API with full combinatorial growth, it just requests that you go through the IANA registry. I don't see how that's different than what I was proposing. Is it just a matter of difference in who operates the registry? Given that URIs can be used, even the registry isn't actually required.


From: Ryan Sleevi [mailto:sleevi@google.com<mailto:sleevi@google.com>]
Sent: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 1:17 PM
To: David Dahl
Cc: public-webcrypto@w3.org<mailto:public-webcrypto@w3.org>
Subject: Re: Strawman proposal for the low-level API

On Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 12:42 PM, David Dahl <ddahl@mozilla.com<mailto:ddahl@mozilla.com>> wrote:
----- Original Message -----
> From: "Ryan Sleevi" <sleevi@google.com<mailto:sleevi@google.com>>
> To: public-webcrypto@w3.org<mailto:public-webcrypto@w3.org>
> Sent: Monday, June 18, 2012 12:53:03 PM
> Subject: Strawman proposal for the low-level API
> Hi all,
>    While I'm still in the process of learning WebIDL [1] and the W3C
>    Manual
> of Style [2], I wanted to take a quick shot at drafting a strawman
> low-level API for discussion.
This is great, thanks for taking the time.

> First, a bit of the IDL definition, to set the stage. This is also
> using
> using ArrayBuffer from TypedArray [6], which I'm not sure if it's
> altogether appropriate, but it's been incorporated by reference into
> FileAPI [7], so it seems alright to use here.
I think so. ArrayBuffers seem a natural fit for this API.

> [interface]
> interface CryptoStream : EventTarget {
>   void processData(ArrayBuffer buffer);
>   void processData(DOMString data);
The flexibility of accepting either a string or ArrayBuffer is a good idea, with an internal, seamless conversion.

I'm not sure whether it should be a literal ArrayBuffer or if it should be an ArrayBufferView. In looking at more specs, I suspect the latter is actually more correct.

Well, no, it's not necessarily a seamless conversion :-) DOMString is UTF-16, so the conversion into a byte sequence is problematic if underspecified (eg: as I've unfortunately done here)

Representation of binary data via DOMString is a known problematic area (eg: see WHATWG's work on StringEncoding via the TextEncoder/TextDecoder interface).

Within the W3C, I understand this is part of ongoing discussions in public-webapps.

>   void complete();
>   readonly attribute (DOMString or ArrayBuffer)? result;
>   attribute [TreatNonCallableAsNull] Function? onerror;
>   attribute [TreatNonCallableAsNull] Function? onprogress;
>   attribute [TreatNonCallableAsNull] Function? oncomplete;
> };
> dictionary AlgorithmParams {
> };
> dictionary Algorithm {
>   DOMString name;
>   AlgorithmParams? params;
> };
> [NoInterfaceObject]
> interface Crypto {
>   CryptoStream encrypt(Algorithm algorithm, Key key);
>   CryptoStream decrypt(Algorithm algorithm, Key key);
>   // Also handles MACs
>   CryptoStream sign(Algorithm algorithm, Key key);
>   CryptoStream verify(Algorithm algorithm, Key key, ArrayBuffer
>   signature);
>   CryptoStream digest(Algorithm algorithm);
>   // This interface TBD. See discussion below.
>   bool supports(Algorithm algorithm, optional Key key);
>   // Interfaces for key derivation/generation TBD.
> };
> As you can see, CryptoStream is used for all of the actual crypto
> operations. That's because, in looking at the operations, I think all
> of
> them will work on a series of calls to provide input, and the result
> of
> which is either: error, some data output, or operation complete.
> The real challenge, I think, lies in the AlgorithmParams structure,
> which
> is where all of the algorithm-specific magic happens. My belief is
> that we
> can/should be able to define this API independent of any specific
> AlgorithmParams - that is, we can define the generic state machine,
> error
> handling, discovery. Then, as a supplemental work (still within the
> scope
> of the primary goal), we define and enumerate how exactly specific
> algorithms are implemented within this state machine.
> To show how different AlgorithmParams might be implemented, here's
> some
> varies definitions:
> // For the 'RSA-PSS' algorithm.
> dictionary RsaPssParams : AlgorithmParams {
>   // The hashing function to apply to the message (eg: SHA1).
>   AlgorithmParams hash;
>   // The mask generation function (eg: MGF1-SHA1)
>    AlgorithmParams mgf;
>   // The desired length of the random salt.
>   unsigned long saltLength;
> };
> // For the 'RSA-OAEP' algorithm.
> dictionary RsaOaepParams : AlgorithmParams {
>   // The hash function to apply to the message (eg: SHA1).
>    AlgorithmParams hash;
>   // The mask generation function (eg: MGF1-SHA1).
>    AlgorithmParams mgf;
>   // The optional label/application data to associate with the
>   signature.
>   DOMString? label = null;
> };
> // For the 'AES-GCM' algorithm.
> dictionary AesGcmParams : AlgorithmParams {
>   ArrayBufferView? iv;
>   ArrayBufferView? additional;
>   unsigned long tagLength;
> };
> // For the 'AES-CCM' algorithm.
> dictionary AesCcmParams : AlgorithmParams {
>   ArrayBufferView? nonce;
>   ArrayBufferView? additional;
>   unsigned long macLength;
> };
> // For the 'HMAC' algorithm.
> dictionary HmacParams : AlgorithmParams {
>   // The hash function to use (eg: SHA1).
>   AlgorithmParams hash;
> };
> The API behaviour is this:
> - If encrypt/decrypt/sign/verify/digest is called with an unsupported
> algorithm, throw InvalidAlgorithmError.
> - If " is called with an invalid key, throw InvalidKeyError.
> - If " is called with an invalid key/algorithm combination, throw
> UnsupportedAlgorithmError.
> - Otherwise, return a CryptoStream.
> For encrypt/decrypt
> - The caller calls processData() as data is available.
> - If the data can be en/decrypted, it will raise an onprogress event
> (event
> type TBD).
>   - If new (plaintext, ciphertext) data is available, .result will be
> updated. [This is similar to the FileStream API behaviour]
> - If the data cannot be en/decrypted, raise the onMGF1-SHA1error with an
> appropriate
> error
> - The caller calls .complete() once all data has been processed.
>   - If the final block validates (eg: no padding errors), call
>   onprocess
> then oncomplete.
>   - If the final block does not validate, call onerror with an
>   appropriate
> error.
> For authenticated encryption modes, for example, the .result may not
> contain any data until .complete has been called (with the result
> data).
> For sign/verify, it behaves similarly.
> - The caller calls processData() as data is available.
> - [No onprogress is called/needs to be called?]
> - The caller calls .complete() once all data has been processed
> - For sign, once .complete() is called, the signature is generated,
> and
> either onprogress+oncomplete or onerror is called. If successful, the
> resultant signature is in .result.
> - For verify, once .complete() is called, the signature is compared,
> and
> either onprogress+oncomplete or onerror is called. If the signatures
> successfully matched, .result will contain the input signature (eg:
> the
> constant-time comparison happens within the library). If the
> signatures
> don't match, .result will be null and the error handler will have
> been
> called.
> Finally, for digesting, it behaves like .sign/.verify in that no data
> is
> available until .complete() is called, and once .compete() is called,
> the
> resultant digest is in .result.
The final result of any of these operations would have all result data passed into the oncomplete event handler, correct?

No. The oncomplete event handler follows the DOMCore event handling semantics. Since I didn't define a custom event type (eg: one that would curry the result), it would be expected that callers obtain the result via evt.target.result. evt.target is bound to an EventTarget, which the CryptoStream inherits from, and is naturally the target of the events it raises.

This is shown in the pseudo-code example of how evt.target.result is read.

But yes, for all successful operations (eg: no onerror callback), evt.target.result contains the data available. In the case of operations which yield "good" or "bad" (eg: MAC & Signature verification), the .result contains the verified data.

Note that I didn't spec Verify+Recovery, since I'm still mulling that one over, but if implemented, I would imagine verifyRecover would presumably have the recovered PT (rather than the original signature) in .result.

> What I haven't fully worked out is how key derivation/agreement will
> work -
> particularly if the result of some result of key agreement results in
> multiple keys (eg: how SSL/TLS key derivation works in PKCS#11). This
> is
> somewhat dependent on how we treat keys.
> Note that I left the Key type unspecified. It's not clear if this
> will be
> something like (Key or DOMString), indicating some either/or of
> handle /
> id, if it might be a dictionary type (with different naming
> specifiers,
> such as 'id' or 'uuid'), or if it will be a concrete type obtained
> via some
> other call (eg: .queryKeys()). I think that will be borne out over
> the next
> week or two as we continue to discuss key management/lifecycle.
> For a pseudo-code example:
> var stream = window.crypto.sign({ name: 'RSA-PSS', params: { hash: {
> name:
> 'sha1' }, mgf: { name: 'mgf-sha1' }, saltLength: 32 }}, key);
> stream.oncomplete = function(evt) { window.alert('The signature is '
> +
> e.target.result); };
> stream.onerror = function(evt) { window.alert('Signing caused an
> error: ' +
> e.error); };
> var filereader = FileReader();
> reader.onload = function(evt) {
> stream.processData(evt.target.result);
> stream.complete(); }
> filereader.readAsArrayBuffer(someFile);
> The FileAPI is probably not the best example of why the iterative API
> (.processData() + .complete()) is used, since FileReader has the
> FileReader.result containing all of the processed data, but it's
> similar
> than demonstrating a streaming operation that may be using WebSockets
> [8]
> or PeerConnection [9].
> Note that I think during the process of algorithm specification, we
> can
> probably get away with also defining well-known shorthand. eg:
> 'RSA-PSS-SHA256' would mean that the hash is SHA-256, the mgf is
> MGF1-SHA256, and only the saltLength needs to be specified (or should
> it be
> implied?)
Since this is a low-level API, perhaps we imply a sensible default, with the ability to override for properties like saltLength?

I think "sensible default" is actually quite appropriate for high-level, but not for low-level.

One of my biggest concerns with "sensible default" is that, once spec'd, you cannot ever change the defaults. This creates potential problems when we talk about deprecating or removing support for algorithms.

This is why I proposed the short-hand notation as an algorithm name, rather than being default/optional values on the Dictionary type.

For example, rewind ten years ago (or lets go 20, to be fair), and a sensible default for RSA signatures would be RSA-PKCSv1.5 + MD5 for the message digest function.

So applications get written using window.crypto.sign({'name': 'RSA' }, RsaKey);

Now, as we move forward in time, we discover that MD5 isn't all that great, and really people should be using SHA-1. However, we can not change the default for { 'name': 'RSA' }, because that would be a semantic break for all applications expecting it to mean MD5.

Further, as we continue moving forward in time, we discover that PKCSv1.5 isn't all that great, and PSS is much better. However, again, we cannot change the defaults, because it would break existing applications.

The result of being unable to change the defaults is that when /new/ applications are written, because they're not required to specify values (eg: there are defaults), they don't. The result is that new applications can end up using insecure mechanisms without ever being aware of it. By forcing the app developer to consider their parameters, whether explicitly via AlgorithmParams or implicitly via the algorithm 'name', it at least encourages 'best practice' whenever a new application is being written.

The argument for default arguments is very compelling - there is no doubt about it. The less boiler plate, arguably the better. However, for a low-level API, particularly one whose functionality is inherently security relevant, defaults tend to end up on the short-end of the security stick over time, and that does more harm than good.

That's why I provided the 'escape hatch' of defaults by using the algorithm name as a short-hand for the more tedious AlgorithmParams portion.

> Anyways, hopefully this straw-man is able to spark some discussion,
> and
> hopefully if it's not fatally flawed, I'll be able to finish adopting
> it to
> the W3C template for proper and ongoing discussions.
I like what you have here. I think this interface is elegant in the central concept of the CryptoStream being able to handle any operation possible for the algorithm. This interface is simpler to work with than my proposal.

Like Wan-Teh said in the meeting this week,  we should figure out how key generation works, the structure of the key handle, or,  extracted key data properties look like.

With the Algorithm and its AlgorithmParams are we headed down the path of maintaining a cipher suite for this API?

So, as I mentioned on the phone and the preamble, I think as a WG we can/should first focus on defining the practical parts of the API - eg: without defining any ciphers (MUST or SHOULD) - and what the semantic behaviours are for consumers of this API.

Following that, I think the WG can supplementally extend the spec to talk about different algorithms, modes, etc - eg: AES, RSA, HMAC, etc.

I think part of this is pragmatic - while we can talk about all the 'popular' suites of today (AES, RSA, SHA-1/2), there's no guarantees they'll be secure 'tomorrow' (ECC, SHA-3, SomeNewKDF), and putting those as MUST-IMPLEMENT imposes a real security cost going forward. Further, as we look across the space of devices that might implement this API - from beefy desktops, to resource constrained mobile devices, to game consoles, to who knows what - it seems we must also recognize that the ability to reasonably support some algorithms is simply not going to exist. Whether this is being unable to AES in cipher-text-stealing mode or DSA/DSA2, a lack of support for ECC or MD5, mandating algorithms won't do much to help adoption of the core API, I believe.

Yes, extensibility carries risks - vendor-specific encryption schemes may be added that aren't implemented by other user agents. However, this risk exists with just about any generic and usable web API defined by the W3C - we've seen it with custom HTML tags, custom CSS prefixes, <video> and <audio> algorithm support. I see the Algorithm/AlgorithmParams operating within that same space - something that can be (independently) standardized without changing this core API.

Note: I do think the Core API can define sensible values for the algorithms we know/care about, I just don't think it's a function of the core API to dictate what must be implemented, just how it will behave if it is implemented.


Thanks again for putting this together, I think we should begin nailing down the hand wavy 'Keys' for this proposal.


Received on Monday, 2 July 2012 16:17:35 UTC

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