W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-wsc-wg@w3.org > January 2007

Safe surfing

From: Dan Schutzer <dan.schutzer@fstc.org>
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2007 09:48:26 -0500
To: <public-wsc-wg@w3.org>, <beltzner@mozilla.com>
Cc: "'Dan Schutzer'" <dan.schutzer@fstc.org>
Message-ID: <012301c73334$111e68b0$6500a8c0@dschutzer>
I wouldn't completely push off the idea of a safe mode, where one can be
assured that only certain (user selected websites) can come through and not
others. There are certain tasks that a security conscious user which wish to
only do in a safe mode. The idea of a ritual where, such as
Control.Alt.Delete, which a user can simple invoke to ensure increased
safety is not necessarily a bad or dangerous thing if done right and can
make some of the things we wish to do in terms of greater security and user
comfort more practically achieved without crippling all the functionality
that users have grown accustomed to. I think it is an idea worth pursuing
and discussing and not so quickly dismissing.





From: public-wsc-wg-request@w3.org [mailto:public-wsc-wg-request@w3.org] On
Behalf Of Mary Ellen Zurko
Sent: Monday, January 08, 2007 9:02 AM
To: beltzner@mozilla.com
Cc: public-wsc-wg@w3.org
Subject: Re: Safe surfing


I agree; it cannot work if the user must put themselves into the mode during
potentially dangerous tasks. I can imagine it working if it is triggered by,
say, a total lack of security context information, or is the default in
general (for a subset of the population). 


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

"Mike Beltzner" <beltzner@mozilla.com> 
Sent by: public-wsc-wg-request@w3.org

01/08/2007 08:51 AM


"Mary Ellen Zurko" <Mary_Ellen_Zurko@notesdev.ibm.com>, wdoyle@mitre.org




Re: Safe surfing




It depends what it means, of course, but my forecast on this is
freezing-to-cold with high chance of skepticism. 

Modality, as a rule, is to be avoided, and I twitch at the idea of a mode
that the user must manually enter to be safe - especially since evidence
shows us that phishing works by getting a user to think about the end-goal
("update my banking info so my account isn't cancelled OMG OMG!") and thus
the idea of "I must first be safe to do this" is often discarded. Modality a
la CardSpace, where the mode is automatically initiated and becomes part of
accomplishing the task is something that warms me on the idea, somewhat.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Mary Ellen Zurko" <Mary_Ellen_Zurko@notesdev.ibm.com>
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2007 08:46:12 
Subject: Safe surfing

I blow hot and cold on the notion of a safe browsing mode being useful. This
morning, I'm warm-to-hot. There would be a lot of issues; how would it be
enterred and exited, what would it allow, what would be determined safe and
unsafe (or more levels), and how would sites transition between those
levels. It could go a bit like IE's security levels. It could provide a
structure for safe staging principles applied to things like SSL (no need to
prompt before the user is ready; take them to an unsafe/protected mode). It
could borrow much from the training wheels reaserach in CHI. It could act a
bit like sandboxing (but of course, that begins to push the boundaries of
the charter in terms of only targetting display of security context
information). An overall safe mode probably would be desirable for a non
trivial percentage of the web using population; my mom, Ches' dad: 


Where are other members of the wg on the notion of a safe mode in web
browsing? If you're active on the wg, please ring in on this question, even
if you have not yet formed an opinion. Thanks. 


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

"Doyle, Bill" <wdoyle@mitre.org> 
Sent by: public-wsc-wg-request@w3.org
12/28/2006 11:25 AM



SubjectRE: Browser security warning

The point about self signed certs that I was thinking about is that
self-signed mechanisms do not have a "trusted" 3rd party involved. I
feel that this places the burden of "trust" on the user, the user needs
to verify that trust should continue to be extended and the user should
be aware of this. Is this site still the same site that I trusted when
I allowed it? Lacking a 3rd party to decline the connection the
connection is made.

I don't expect that users are going to remember to re-certify sites
because I won't. I don't remember what sites I have configured to use
self-signed certs unless I own it. For me, a browser with "grandma
mode" that blocks sites with self-signed certs could be useful...

Bill D.

-----Original Message-----
From: public-wsc-wg-request@w3.org
[mailto:public-wsc-wg-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of
Sent: Thursday, December 28, 2006 1:11 AM
To: public-wsc-wg@w3.org
Subject: RE: Browser security warning

Just a nit, but there's a subtle yet important distinction between a
self-signed cert versus a cert issued by a self-signed root authority.
My example was of the latter type.  There are legitimate reasons to
create one's own self-signed RCA, and there's no reason why it would
necessarily be incapable of publishing a CRL and/or supporting OCSP.

-----Original Message-----
From: public-wsc-wg-request@w3.org
On Behalf Of Doyle, Bill
Sent: Wednesday, December 27, 2006 1:53 PM
To: public-wsc-wg@w3.org
Subject: RE: Browser security warning

I feel that a self signed cert is a trust between the user and the
The self signed cert may not be able to make use of programmatic
mechanisms that support trust of a CA issued cert like CRLs. Continued
trust of a site that uses a self-signed cert places the burden of trust
on the user.

Turning off security indicators (padlock - url color) is one way to
remind the user to keep tabs on the site and to verify that trust
continue to be extended.

It may also generate more calls to the sites help desk and maybe the
site will buy a CA cert because it is less of a hassle than continued
use of a self signed cert. If this happens this raises the level of
security for all involved.

I agree that self-signed certs should be viable, but because they may
not be supported by programmatic mechanisms to revoke the cert they are
not in the same category as a CA generated cert.

Bill D.

-----Original Message-----
From: public-wsc-wg-request@w3.org
[mailto:public-wsc-wg-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of Stephen Farrell
Sent: Wednesday, December 27, 2006 12:21 PM
To: Stuart E. Schechter
Cc: public-wsc-wg@w3.org
Subject: Re: Browser security warning

Stuart E. Schechter wrote:

>    I don't think there is a large set of sites that can't afford a CA
> (category 2) and actually require the security offered by HTTPS.

I don't know of any evidence for that, but would be interested if there
were some. (Technically, I could also quibble a bit with your
since we're discussing server-authentication, so I guess you meant an
SSL-server cert above and HTTPS can also be used with D-H, without
providing server authentication, though that doesn't get much use.)

(At least in the developed world,) the point is not the actual amount,
but whether or not to increase the existing bias towards getting people
to pay commercial CAs for certs or not. Commercial CAs have their
purpose, but should not IMO be required in order to create a perception
of security for HTTP traffic. Sometimes they are appropriate, sometimes
they just add a burden that arguably could cause less use of SSL - if
its too much hassle to turn it on.

>  I think the safest default behavior for a browser that receives a
self-signed cert is to show an error page.  The message should tell  >
the user to contact the site's administrator to ask them to fix the  >

I don't agree that self-signed certs are a problem and would really not
like to see such browser behaviour encouraged.

The main point is that naively differentiating between a "secure"
state (padlock) and an insecure one (no padlock) isn't very effective.
I don't believe that changing from that binary approach to an N-ary
where the N options map to TLS state-machine states will be any more
effective. We need a subtler mix...


Received on Monday, 8 January 2007 14:48:56 UTC

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