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

TLS with integrity protection & no encryption ( ACTION-209 & ACTION 260)

From: Luis Barriga (KI/EAB) <luis.barriga@ericsson.com>
Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2007 15:34:53 +0200
Message-ID: <1C6A13C92F510849B72272A71F9F3BCB0172EC61@esealmw105.eemea.ericsson.se>
To: <public-wsc-wg@w3.org>

TLS supports server authentication with integrity protection and no
confidentiality (NULL encryption). There is even RFC4785 that specifies
this mode for the pre-shared secret version of TLS (RFC4279).

Would such a page be considered "secure"? Which SCI should be displayed
for this case? A transparent padlock? :-)  (https is there though)

I don't have any statistics on how widely such (esotheric?) mode is used
on the Internet, but it should be.

The reason is that most users and HTTP web sites *implicitely assume
that this the the case today*, i.e. they assume that whenever users
access a certain site, they are reaching the right site and the
retrieved information has not been manipulated on the way to their
browser. But we know this is not always true and may become worse.
Confidentiality is not an issue.

This (esotheric) mode should be (and may become) the default for HTTP
sites that care about information integrity.


-----Original Message-----
From: public-wsc-wg-request@w3.org [mailto:public-wsc-wg-request@w3.org]
On Behalf Of Yngve Nysaeter Pettersen
Sent: den 7 juni 2007 01:32
To: Mary Ellen Zurko
Cc: public-wsc-wg@w3.org
Subject: Re: ACTION-209: What is a secure page?

Hello Mex,

Thanks for the comments.

On Wed, 06 Jun 2007 15:56:09 +0200, Mary Ellen Zurko
<Mary_Ellen_Zurko@notesdev.ibm.com> wrote:

> "Some clients give a warning (which can be disabled) when the 
> displayed document changes from an unsecure to a secure mode, or vice
versa, "
> It seems patently obvious to me that a "warning" is the last thing you

> want when things are getting more secure. I can't figure out how this 
> convention ever got started (except I can, it was the easy thing to do

> quickly with little thought).

"Warning" may be the wrong word in this case, "information dialog" may
be better.

Whatever you call it, most users probably disable it, and the
corresponding "leaving secure mode" dialog, the first or second time
they see it, just like the unsecure form submit dialog.

If I recall correctly this dialog was present at least 10 years ago,
probably earlier. A possible reason may have been to highlight
(advertise) secure connections at a time when they were new. We would
probably have to ask some of the people involved with the major browser
projects at the time to find out exactly why.

> "All login forms to a secure service must be served from a secure 
> server, and must not not be included inside a page containing unsecure
content. "
> For understandability and conformance, you'll need to use differenct 
> words for "secure" and "unsecure", and/or define those words. The 
> definitions you would propose may be implicit in your lead in 
> material; call them out explicitly. I need them for several other 
> proposals you make.

I am open to suggestions for alternative wordings.

Essentially (in web-context), by "secure service" I mean a (presumably
sensitive) service hosted on a ("secure") HTTPS server (Personally, I
also include encryption strength in the consideration). "Unsecure
content/service" is content/service served by a non-HTTPS, HTTP-only
server (in the particular quoted context it is intended to head off the
use of a HTTPS iframe to hold the login form in a HTTP page in order to
say "But ... the login form IS hosted on a _secure_ server" (how would
the user be able to tell?).

> "If a service require secure login,"
> I'm not a fan of insecure logins. You seem to be allowing their 
> existance.
> I think that's a bad idea.

It is more an acceptance of reality; there are many sites with login,
such as forums, that does not have a https server.

> "then all transactions/presentations based on those credentials must 
> be protected by the same level of security. "

My point is that if a site is using SSL/TLS for login to ensure
confidentiality etc., then the authorization credentials cannot be made
available to the unsecure parts of the service, and that all parts of
transactions which require those credentials also have to be performed
over SSL/TLS.

Examples of such services are online bookstores, like Amazon that know
who you are even in the unencrypted parts of the site. I haven't
checked, but I certainly hope they are not sending the one-click
authorization cookies to the unecrypted servers.

> You need to define levels of security. I need that for some of your 
> other proposals as well.
> I'm concerned that that might be out of our scope, but not certain. I 
> could see some Good Practice recommendations around how difficult it 
> is for users to understand/track varying levels of security and the 
> importance of consistency within some scope/context.

My primary point here is to not jump back and forth between encrypted
and unencrypted parts of the site just to save a few CPU cycles on the

As for scope, I would consider this a recommended (and obvious)
authoring technique.

> "Cookies on unsecure connections are vulnerable to interception, and 
> can be used for replay attacks even if they were set by a secure 
> server, and servers should not set credential cookies from secure 
> servers that can be sent unencrypted. "
> I personally wholeheartedly agree, but am almost sure this is out of 
> scope. I encourage you to put anything that seems to be out of scope 
> in http://www.w3.org/2006/WSC/wiki/FuturesAndOnePluses

It is meant as part explanation for why jumping back and forth between
secure and unsecure servers is not a good idea (information leakage).
The specific point about how to set the cookies is probably out of
scope, though.

> "Change from and unsecure to secure parts of a service should be done 
> by direct links, and not redirects. If unsecure->secure redirects are 
> needed then the redirect should be immediate, and not multistep. "
> I can't quite tell how this is in scope. How does it relate to SCIs 
> and helping users with trust decisions?

The initial implementaion of Opera's padlock was that if even the first
load of a redirect sequence was from an unsecure server then we
displayed an open padlock.

Presently, we have been forced by the extensive use of "Sign in" buttons
that do an unecrypted HTTP 302 redirect to https to permit the security
level to be reset to Level 3 if the user initiated the action.

My point is that for a page to be considered secure all elements of the
page, even the initial redirects should be secure.

Or to put it in terms of RFC 2965 (Cookies) sec 3.3.6

    A transaction is
    verifiable if the user, or a user-designated agent, has the option
    review the request-URI prior to its use in the transaction.  A
    transaction is unverifiable if the user does not have that option.
    Unverifiable transactions typically arise when a user agent
    automatically requests inlined or embedded entities or when it
    resolves redirection (3xx) responses from an origin server.
    Typically the origin transaction, the transaction that the user
    initiates, is verifiable, and that transaction may directly or
    indirectly induce the user agent to make unverifiable transactions.

IMO the transition HTTP->HTTPS from a redirect is an unverifiable
transaction. The user cannot inspect the frontpage URL and find that it
goes to a secure server, and therefore do not know where he will end up.

> "Do not POST passwords from an unsecure page (even if the form is in a

> "secure" frame) to a secure server."
> This does seem out of scope. In fact, it seems like the TAG password 
> finding that has stalled:
> http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/doc/passwordsInTheClear-52.html

Authoring techniques are part of the charter (in fact, secure login
forms is mentioned), although I am not sure active methods to enforce it

In this case we are talking about examples like the Chase bank <URL:  
http://www.chase.com/ > having a login form for their netbanking on
their unsecure homepage (with a padlock on top).

In this particular use-case no client is, currently, displaying any SCI
that indicates, before or after the submission, that the action is

One possible way the SCI could be used in this case (if we do not
mandate clientside blocking) could be to not display a padlock for the
server, or any servers it references, at anytime in that run of the
client. Using cookie tainting it might even be possible to make it
persistent (Opera has a similar feature that marks all apparently login
protected pages  as such and deletes them on exit, and does not register
them in the history).

A problem with this type of forms is that the sites are saying 1)
"everybody is doing it" and 2) "the credentials are sent encryption"
never stopping to think that the form could have been infected with a
trojan en route to the user and that the password could have been stolen
before the user hit submit.

I prefer a full block of such forms, because that reduces the chance
that a site will say "Ignore the missing padlock" or put up their own,
and warnings are of course just irritating speedbumps. A block would
however require a coordinated launch effort from the vendors to have

> "Should not display a padlock if (at least) one of the resources 
> required user interaction to accept the certificate of the server "
> I disagree that self signed certificates are inherently less secure 
> than CA generated ones. My enterprise runs on them. I do continually 
> find it frustrating that there's not some administrative way to push 
> down certificates, so that this use case can be differentiated from 
> the "random prompt and accept" use case. I would rather think through 
> recommendations around the user trust decision to accept a 
> certificate. It clearly violates safe staging the way it is presented 
> today (what basis does the user have to accept such a certificate?). 
> Why not use the certificate for the encryption but not the 
> authentication (until the user has some reason to make an 
> authentication decision)?

Selfsigned certificates are just part of the area this is covering, and
selfsigned certificates can be installed as roots (even though I would
want to move selfsigned server certificates into a non-CA section)

Other problems are:

   - Missing CA certificates (roots excepted, those can be installed)
   - Mismatch of hostname
   - Expired certificates
   - Weak encryption

These are the primary target for this particular proposal.

Yngve N. Pettersen

Senior Developer		             Email: yngve@opera.com
Opera Software ASA                   http://www.opera.com/
Phone:  +47 24 16 42 60              Fax:    +47 24 16 40 01
Received on Wednesday, 25 July 2007 13:35:07 UTC

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