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RE: ACTION-182 - SSL error anti patterns

From: <michael.mccormick@wellsfargo.com>
Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2007 15:12:52 -0500
Message-ID: <8A794A6D6932D146B2949441ECFC9D6802B4D3D8@msgswbmnmsp17.wellsfargo.com>
To: <Mary_Ellen_Zurko@notesdev.ibm.com>
Cc: <public-wsc-wg@w3.org>
I've taken the liberty of adding this to the Recommendation Display
Proposals, as item #10 under "To Be Discussed".
I'll make a special effort to attend the next call, and I would be happy
to facilitate discussion of this recommendation as well as the one on
favicons (#4).
Have a good weekend all... Mike


From: Mary Ellen Zurko [mailto:Mary_Ellen_Zurko@notesdev.ibm.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 7:58 AM
To: McCormick, Mike
Cc: public-wsc-wg@w3.org
Subject: RE: ACTION-182 - SSL error anti patterns

I like all these. They each need more explanation, and some examples. 

1. Use of technical jargon containing terms with which the average
layperson is not familiar.

That this level, this is a "no brainer". But of course, there must be
reasons that this happens today. It's within our goals to lay out terms,
indicators and metaphors that are usable. Can we start with some
examples of technical jargon currently in use that is unfamiliar to the
average layperson? Here are some examples from your email:
*                 What is a certificate?
*                 What does CA mean?
*                 What is a thumbprint?  Does it have something to do
with my thumb?  Should place my thumb on my laptop's finger sensor?
*                 What does SHA1 stand for?
*                 How should I interpret the mysterious code 8FBF6185
1D390508 F04BA0CB 31F4C4C E5310DAE?

Since it's about SSL, it's all about the PKI. Does anyone have any good
ideas or references on what to do in this space? What about the use of
PKI might a user understand? Identification and shielding/enveloping
seem like the minimal set. Certificates are like identity cards. CAs are
identity authorities. The thumbprint idea is a travesty; everyone
ignores that (see Xia and Brustoloni for an alternative approach). 

What better messages do other browsers already have for?
"You are about to install a certificate from a CA claiming to represent
www.x9.org.  Windows cannot validate that the certificate is actually
from www.x9.org.  You should confirm its origin by contacting
www.x9.org.  The following number will assist you in this process:
Thumbprint (sha1): 8FBF6185 1D390508 F04BA0CB 31F4C4C E5310DAE.
                "Installing a certificate with an unconfirmed thumbprint
is a security risk.  If you click Yes you acknowledge this risk.  Do you
want to install this certificate?"

What better ideas do we have?

2. Providing a web site's URL as the only contact info for it. (creates
"catch-22" dilemma for user)

I agree (again, see Xia and Brustolonig). What alternatives are
currently available? I'm afraid I can't think of what that would be. 

3. Actions suggested can't really be carried out.

Or, turning it around, every error has instructions that are clear and
actionable to the user. They tell the user exactly what to do. If they
don't, then the user can't do it. They do not rely on the user having
contextual knowledge (such as contact information or administrative
help) that they may or may not have. 

Can anyone say more? I think I know what we mean by this, but I fear
it's still abstract. 

4. Consequences or risks of user actions not explained.

Or, turning it around, primary or secondary information should explain
the consequences and risks of both the user action recommended, and any
others (like inaction). Is that clear enough?  Flinn and Stoyles,  in
"Omnivore: Risk Management Through Bidirectional Transparency", have a
good set of structuring questions for what information the user

What could go wrong?
How likely is it, and what damage would it cause to me or to others if
it did?
How would I know if something went wrong?
What reason do I have to believe that it won't?
Who is responsible to ensure that it doesn't, and what recourse do I
have if it does? 


Mary Ellen Zurko, STSM, IBM Lotus CTO Office       (t/l 333-6389)
Lotus/WPLC Security Strategy and Patent Innovation Architect


04/23/2007 06:41 PM



After review of the 4-4-07 minutes, it's clear to me now that I cannot
satisfy ACTION-182 with the FSTC recommendations.  Nonetheless, Dan
Schutzer has kindly agreed to submit the subset of FSTC's suggested
browser enhancements that are most applicable to WSC.
It appears ACTION-182 stems from my Lightning Discussion on 4 April
about the cryptic IE6 browser errors that I received when I encountered
a self-signed SSL certificate at the www.x9.org <http://www.x9.org/> web
site.  According to my notes, as well as the official meeting notes from
Thomas, we had a lively discussion about the security anti patterns
implied by such browser error messages.  In particular I captured the
following possible anti patterns in my notes:
1. Use of technical jargon containing terms with which the average
layperson is not familiar.
2. Providing a web site's URL as the only contact info for it. (creates
"catch-22" dilemma for user)
3. Actions suggested can't really be carried out.
4. Consequences or risks of user actions not explained.
These are the [anti-]recommendations I propose we adopt.  Anticipating
comment, I haven't yet updated the wiki.  Cheers Mike

Received on Friday, 27 April 2007 20:13:15 UTC

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