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FW: Draft W3C TAG Finding "Passwords in the Clear" available for review

From: David Orchard <dorchard@bea.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2008 10:48:13 -0800
Message-ID: <BEBB9CBE66B372469E93FFDE3EDC493E016720FE@repbex01.amer.bea.com>
To: <www-tag@w3.org>


-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Drake [mailto:christopher@pobox.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 11:21 PM
To: David Orchard
Cc: public-usable-authentication@w3.org; Ed.Rice@hp.com
Subject: Re: Draft W3C TAG Finding "Passwords in the Clear" available for review

Hi David,

Thanks for the "review solicitation" on:-

In general - that entire document is horribly misleading.  You are advocating that password exchange over non-encrypted mediums is acceptable (albeit after obscuring the password itself).

This is never acceptable, because - in the absence of suitable session-key protection, there is no way you can obscure a plaintext password safely.

The "passwords" you propose to protect are short alphanumeric ascii tokens, usually based on human-recognizable things like words.  The "keyspace" of these make it trivial on modern PCs to test every possible combination against whatever hash or obscuring method you choose, in a very short time.  Using either Rainbow tables, or google, cracking hashed passwords more often than not takes only a few seconds nowdays.


Given that obscuring/hashing passwords makes people erroneously believe they are now secure - it could well be making things worse by doing this, rather than by sending via plain text:  at least when they were in plaintext, every uneducated person who could observe them passing by was able to understand it's not secure.  Hashing merely serves to deceive the people building and operating the insecure system, all while handing hackers and crackers free access to the original plaintext passwords.

If any recommendation should be included at all - it should be this:-

  Always use SSL or some equivalent security - there is no provision
  in web browsers that allows passwords to be exchanged securely
  without SSL.  Not even hashing.

Kind Regards,
Chris Drake

Thursday, February 14, 2008, 11:48:12 AM, you wrote:

DO> Dear Web Security Context WG,
DO> On behalf of the W3C TAG, I would like to solicit your review of the 
DO> Draft TAG finding "Passwords in the Clear" [1].  Comments on this 
DO> draft should be posted to www-tag@w3.org and are appreciated.  We do 
DO> not have a firm deadline but I'd like to suggest March 7th 2008 as a 
DO> rough timeframe for comments.
DO> Cheers,
DO> Dave Orchard

DO> [1] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/doc/passwordsInTheClear-52
Received on Thursday, 14 February 2008 18:48:32 UTC

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