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RE: ISSUE-1: Mandatory algorithms (was Re: ISSUE-3: Algorithm discovery)

From: Mike Jones <Michael.Jones@microsoft.com>
Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2012 23:34:20 +0000
To: Harry Halpin <hhalpin@w3.org>, Ryan Sleevi <sleevi@google.com>
CC: Seetharama Rao Durbha <S.Durbha@cablelabs.com>, "public-webcrypto@w3.org" <public-webcrypto@w3.org>, David Dahl <ddahl@mozilla.com>
Message-ID: <4E1F6AAD24975D4BA5B16804296739436657FA0D@TK5EX14MBXC283.redmond.corp.microsoft.com>
Just as background on the JOSE algorithms support, the recently published -03 draft of the JSON Web Algorithms (JWA) spec now includes a column in the registry for whether an algorithm is REQUIRED, RECOMMENDED, OPTIONAL, or DEPRECATED.  See the initial registry contents at http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-ietf-jose-json-web-algorithms-03#section-6.1.2.

				Best wishes,
				-- Mike

-----Original Message-----
From: Harry Halpin [mailto:hhalpin@w3.org] 
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 1:52 PM
To: Ryan Sleevi
Cc: Seetharama Rao Durbha; public-webcrypto@w3.org; David Dahl; Mike Jones
Subject: Re: ISSUE-1: Mandatory algorithms (was Re: ISSUE-3: Algorithm discovery)

On 07/10/2012 10:36 PM, Ryan Sleevi wrote:
> On Tue, Jul 10, 2012 at 1:16 PM, Harry Halpin <hhalpin@w3.org> wrote:
>> On 07/10/2012 10:04 PM, Ryan Sleevi wrote:
>>> On Tue, Jul 10, 2012 at 12:51 PM, Seetharama Rao Durbha 
>>> <S.Durbha@cablelabs.com> wrote:
>>>> I was not arguing against defining the exceptions. It is definitely 
>>>> a required feature, we need to define them. I agree that algorithm 
>>>> discovery is needed.
>>>> I was just commenting on the reference to ISSUE-1 - mandatory list 
>>>> (sorry for the confusion).
>>>> So, with respect to ISSUE-1...
>>>>>> When there (and there eventually will) exist two different sets 
>>>>>> of MUST-IMPLEMENT, how will the web application behave then? When 
>>>>>> SHA-1 is broken, or SHA-3 is the new MUST-IMPLEMENT, how will that be addressed?
>>>> I am not sure how there can be two (or more) MUST-IMPLEMENT sets. 
>>>> The whole point of a standard is avoiding confusion.
>>>> On the second sentence, "when SHA-1 is broken...", I would like to 
>>>> see it 'deprecated', rather than 'removed' from MUST-IMPLEMENT, for 
>>>> a period of time. In my work, I see that there are hard reasons why 
>>>> people need 'legacy'
>>>> support. When people do decide they are ready to migrate to SHA-N, 
>>>> catching the exception makes sense - because, they would have put 
>>>> in place a migration strategy for moving from SHA-1 to SHA-N, and 
>>>> that strategy is what goes into the catch block. I do not see a 
>>>> reason for any catch block logic from day 1. If we do not provide 
>>>> mandatory algorithms, what do we expect people to put in the catch 
>>>> block?
>>> Every time we modify the standard, there will be N versions of the 
>>> standard, because there will be user agents that implement version 
>>> 1, version 2, version 3, etc. Web applications that wish to work 
>>> with these user agents must be prepared for each user agent having a 
>>> different view of what "MUST-IMPLEMENT" means, which is why I don't 
>>> think there's any particular added value in MUST-IMPLEMENT.
>>> Just like web applications today cannot assume that all user agents 
>>> accessing their site support CSS4 selectors, web applications will 
>>> have to be prepared for user agents that may (no longer / not yet) 
>>> support the desired algorithm.
>>> And while I agree that it would be nice for a period of 
>>> "deprecation", I would rather not have the matter of determining 
>>> when to go from "deprecated" to "removed" be decided by committee. 
>>> Different browser vendors have different views on security, and they 
>>> have different
>>> value-tradeoffs: Some U-As may be focused on a particular market 
>>> segment where no old feature can be removed, while other U-As may be 
>>> focused on market segments where security is the most important 
>>> aspect.
>>> Having the standard dictate MUST-IMPLEMENT means that U-As will lose 
>>> the flexibility to make independent security choices while still 
>>> being a compliant implementation. For example, a U-A may decide to 
>>> go from implemented -> disabled by default, and require a user to 
>>> explicitly enable it before it's available. Under a MUST-IMPLEMENT 
>>> scenario, this would be non-compliant behaviour.
>>> Aside from theory, I think as an implementor, if we had security 
>>> concerns with an algorithm that we believed put our users at risk, 
>>> then regardless of the any MUST-IMPLEMENT language in the spec, we'd 
>>> move to disable it to protect our users. And I suspect other 
>>> browsers would do the same. So that's why I think any MUST-IMPLEMENT 
>>> language is non-binding.
>>> "Recommended" algorithms are both fine and a good thing, and I don't 
>>> think there will be much of any debate about adding new algorithms 
>>> to recommended - but must-implement feels like a reach.
>>> Cheers,
>>> Ryan
>>>> On 7/10/12 11:43 AM, "Ryan Sleevi" <sleevi@google.com> wrote:
>>>> On Tue, Jul 10, 2012 at 10:22 AM, Seetharama Rao Durbha 
>>>> <S.Durbha@cablelabs.com> wrote:
>>>>> On 7/9/12 7:26 PM, "Ryan Sleevi" <sleevi@google.com> wrote:
>>>>>>> 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.
>>>>> The difference is whether the developer needs to 'explicitly' 
>>>>> catch UnsupportedAlgorithmException and 'do something about it', 
>>>>> or 'just not bother', as the algorithm they picked is guaranteed to be available.
>>>>> Errors caused by invalid constants/strings must be caught at 
>>>>> development time.
>>>> I do not believe this is a reasonable approach, nor does it seem to 
>>>> be encouraged by the recommendations for W3C standard web APIs. [1] [2] [3].
>> I think that in general, we should have some subset (the JOSE subset 
>> seems the obvious and ideal candidate) as a SHOULD implement. If all 
>> we have is a discovery algorithm, then I can not see how we will 
>> create test-cases that are meanginful and that Web developers can 
>> rely on. We need to be able to say, for a given browser X, it 
>> supports this functionality as embodied in test-cases. Now, if a 
>> browser *only* throws errors, then obviously that is useless, but we 
>> don't want that technically passing the test-cases. We want to say that's non-conforming.
>> On the same-hand, I can see real value in having some generic 
>> extensible framework, of which I see this discovery mechanism as one 
>> way of approaching. I'm wondering if there any other alternative approaches?
> Harry,
> I'm not sure I understand why this is required. For example, how are 
> test cases for the <video> tag covered, or <object>, or <img> or any 
> of the other hyper-media tags?

Note that HTML is a bit special, due to its legacy status. However, the W3C  is working on test-cases to get HTML5 to the next level of W3C Process. In general, we have to imagine "what is that we will test"?

Again, this is a hard question. The WebApps WG is using this process [1], and now there is the WebDriver work at W3C which I suggest we use [2].
> For example, I'm not sure why we cannot detach the "API specification"
> (these are the state machines, these are the error handling routines) 
> from "Algorithm specification" (this is how RSA-OAEP behaves, this is 
> how AES-GCM behaves).

In general, with specs is better to have everything in one document unless document becomes unwieldy (for example, many people complained about XML namespaces not being part of the XML the spec). However, there are examples of W3C specs that *should* have been split into multiple documents (XML Schema Structures comes to mind).
> Test cases for the API specification can focus on the objects having 
> the correct types / methods, the exception types existing, and any 
> user interaction.

I agree with the first two, although if we have correct types/methods its generally useful to have a result we can check outside of an error message for some (possibly minimal) part of the spec. Generally, user
*interface* is outside of test-cases, but kinds of interaction may be inside test-cases if necessary to test a feature of the API.
> For algorithm specifications, it can test individual algorithm handling.
> However, for error handling, it seems like some tests will not be able 
> to be programatically simulating by a test suite, and must be 
> manually/synthetically simulated. For example, how might you test a 
> system failure between .processData() and .complete(), to ensure that 
> onerror is raised appropriately.

Usually the test-cases are not as rigorous as say, production test-cases or full-scale state simulations done in a formal manner. W3C test-cases assume a normal operating environment without systems failures. We will likely not to simulations.
> Beyond ensuring IDL conformance, I would think all tests can belong to 
> the algorithms - that is, IF a user agent implements RSA, here's tests 
> 1-15, to ensure it implements the "correct" form of RSA. IF a user 
> agent does not, it automatically passes that test suite/that suite is 
> not-applicable.

I still am worried a browser can implement basically nothing and still pass the test-cases. The conformance is judged as regards the entire spec. However, we can clearly delineate which parts of the spec are SHOULD implement and which parts are OPTIONAL. That is quite useful. I am worried about all algorithms being OPTIONAL in theory, even if that seems to be an extremer. Again, I think having a subset of guaranteed algorithms (with *perhaps* a well-agreed upon deprecation method) and an extensible framework (of which the discovery algorithm the only proposal standing so far) makes sense.
> I was also hoping you could explain the statement: " Now, if a browser
> *only* throws errors, then obviously that is useless, but we don't 
> want that technically passing the test-cases. We want to say that's 
> non-conforming."
> Why?

As that browser would have no functionality that a web developer could use as regards this API other than produce the correct "not supported" 
errors. Its an edge-case, but could happen!

[1] http://www.w3.org/2008/webapps/wiki/Harness
[2] http://www.w3.org/TR/webdriver/
> What if a U-A wanted to only implement custom algorithms (for example, 
> using Netflix's user authentication use case). If their U-A wanted to 
> only implement those algorithms, why is that a bad thing? Yes, it 
> means their U-A is not compatible with sites X, Y, and Z that expect 
> RSA, but isn't that already true if I use <img> with webm or apng in 
> various UAs, if I use mp4 audio with <audio> elements, or if I include 
> <a href=""> links with some-custom-scheme:// ?
>>>> My comment was reflecting a the need to have the error handling 
>>>> state machine fully defined in the spec. Failing to specify what 
>>>> happens when an invalid constant/string is provided means the API 
>>>> is incomplete, and developers have no way of knowing what will 
>>>> happen. Will the U-A just crash?
>>>> Will the API ever call the onerror callback? If not, what happens 
>>>> if the user keeps calling processData() and supplying more data? 
>>>> Will it cause a syntax error that causes all JavaScript to fail executing on the page?
>>>> When there (and there eventually will) exist two different sets of 
>>>> MUST-IMPLEMENT, how will the web application behave then? When 
>>>> SHA-1 is broken, or SHA-3 is the new MUST-IMPLEMENT, how will that be addressed?
>>>> If we update the specification, and say "SHA-1 is no longer 
>>>> MUST-IMPLEMENT because it was broken", what does that mean for web 
>>>> applications that were using SHA-1? What will their execution 
>>>> environments be like? Will it break all script on that page?
>>>> For interop testing and for reference implementations, I do not 
>>>> believe we will be able to escape the need to specify error 
>>>> handling. Which is why I believe that these concerns remain wholly 
>>>> independent of the discussion of MUST-IMPLEMENT question. Because 
>>>> we MUST have error handling, we implicitly have discovery. The only 
>>>> question is whether we want to use error handling as the /only/ 
>>>> form of discovery.
>> We will need to implement error handling to go to the next stage of 
>> W3C process after Draft, BTW, as otherwise we won't have consistent test-cases.
>> That could be 'not bother' I assume, but I could also see a good case 
>> for giving more informative error messages. Whether or not that 
>> requires discovery is still I think a bit up in the air, I think 
>> there may be some cross-wired as regards what discovery means.
>>>> [1]
>>>> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-device-apis/2011Nov/0058
>>>> .html
>>>> [2]
>>>> http://scriptlib-cg.github.com/api-design-cookbook/#don-t-use-numer
>>>> ical-constants
>>>> [3]
>>>> http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/doc/privacy-by-design-in-apis#privacy-en
>>>> hancing-api-patterns
Received on Tuesday, 10 July 2012 23:34:55 UTC

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