W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-webcrypto@w3.org > July 2012

ISSUE-3: Algorithm discovery

From: Ryan Sleevi <sleevi@google.com>
Date: Mon, 9 Jul 2012 18:26:47 -0700
Message-ID: <CACvaWvbWMh0q++eAnZb3_17Dh2qHXzO+q-2hOXOG20ZWmq4qvw@mail.gmail.com>
To: public-webcrypto@w3.org
Cc: David Dahl <ddahl@mozilla.com>, Michael Jones <Michael.Jones@microsoft.com>
In the original straw-man and current draft, I proposed an API

bool supports(Algorithm algorithm, optional Key key);

This was to allow determining whether or not a given algorithm was
supported, without having to actually create a CryptoStream object. The
intent was to provide a way to discover whether the necessary complete set
of ciphers was available for an application, before beginning potentially
expensive operations (key generation, data download, key discovery that may
result in user interaction, etc).

However, as some have pointed out, there are implicit facilities for
algorithm discovery, by virtue of the fact that
.encrypt/.decrypt/.sign/.verify need to have some well-defined behaviour
for handling invalid or unsupported Algorithms. It has also been raised
that whether or not a given algorithm is supported is dependent upon the
key being used, although I believe I addressed that point via the optional
"Key" parameter, since it allows a user optionally to determine if a
particular key supports the algorithm, rather than just whether or not an
implementation exists.

However, I'm now thinking that the currently defined synchronous interface
is neither desirable nor sufficient. It seems to me that, for at least some
key storage types, determining whether or not a particular algorithm is
supported may involve some form of user interaction or, in the case where
key storage is backed by hardware, some form of hardware communication. For
example, if using PKCS#11, this may involve calls to C_GetMechanismInfo,
which may involve talking to a token/slot.

These calls may be slow - especially if other programs are using the token
or key storage mechanism (including software storage systems that need to
have locks) - so it would seem like this should be an asynchronous call. It
would also seem that my straw man proposal fails to distinguish the uses of
a particular algorithm - for example, a key may only support verification,
but not signatures. These sorts of scenario arises even if raw keying
material is exposed and implementations are fully software, I believe,
since there are still limitations on how a key may be used.

Ultimately, this means that the current proposed synchronous API is likely

Based on what was proposed in the strawman-now-draft, this would seem to
imply that the error/exception for an invalid Algorithm would not be able
to be raised until the first call to .processData on the CryptoStream.

try {
  var stream = window.crypto.encrypt("RS256", key);
} catch (err) {
  if (err instanceof InvalidAlgorithmException) {
    // "RS256" does not parse as a valid Algorithm
stream.onerror = function(err) {
  if (err instanceof UnsupportedAlgorithmException) {
    // "RS256" is parsed, but either the key or the underlying
implementation doesn't support it.
// Until this is called, it's unknown whether or not "stream" will actually
work. If it ends up failing, stream.onerror will be called.

Note that none of the above semantics would necessarily be altered by a
MUST-IMPLEMENT registry (ISSUE-1), since there would still need to be some
form of error handling for invalid constants/strings and for unsupported
key+algorithm+operation tuples.

Further, attempting to discover an algorithm by sending 'junk' data
(constants or random) may result in user agents having to interact with the
user, since there may be security concerns about even calling
.processData() on an object (regardless of .complete()), which is some of
what ISSUE-2 may be related to.

As an implementer, the above semantics look both undesirable and limiting
to potential consumers. How do others in the WG feel? Should there be an
explicitly asynchronous call to determine whether or not an
algorithm/algorithm+key pair/algorithm+key+operation tuple is supported,
without requiring .processBytes()? Are there alternate proposals that would
simplify or could replace the above API?

Received on Tuesday, 10 July 2012 01:27:15 UTC

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