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Re: Passwords in the clear update

From: Jonathan Rees <jar@creativecommons.org>
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2008 08:56:49 -0400
Message-ID: <760bcb2a0810080556pfeea926nb3063dd4007ea56f@mail.gmail.com>
To: "David Orchard" <orchard@pacificspirit.com>
Cc: noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com, "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
Your text works for me. It fixes the grammar and is specific and definite.
Run with it.  -Jonathan

On Wed, Oct 8, 2008 at 12:11 AM, David Orchard <orchard@pacificspirit.com>wrote:

> I like where Jonathan is going on this, but I think that we aren't going to
> come up with enough caveats/explanation that will satisfy those that want a
> "MUST NOT transmit passwords in the clear".  We can try the explaining route
> without the SHOULD NOT or MUST NOT..
>
> My attempt:
>
> "Good practice: Clear text passwords are a serious security risk. Transmit
> passwords in the clear only in interactions that do not need to be secure
> and do not lead to the new vulnerabilities in other interactions."
>
> A vulnerability may be created with clear-text passwords if the same
> password in the clear text interaction is re-used in in other interactions.
> Users and administrators should take appropriate steps, such as warnings, to
> mitigate such a vulnerability if clear text passwords are used.
>
> Cheers,
> Dave
>
>
> On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 12:12 PM, Jonathan Rees <jar@creativecommons.org>wrote:
>
>> Yes, I think this is an important point, and that's why I wrote (maybe you
>> didn't see this):
>>
>> "remind developers / site administrators that users of passwords
>> transmitted in this way must (MUST?) be told in no uncertain terms that such
>> passwords should be treated as public knowledge and shouldn't be used to
>> protect anything that matters."
>>
>> This could be amplified with explicit mention of the case where someone
>> might be tempted to reuse, in an in-the-clear context, a password that
>> *already* protects something that matters. Just don't do it.
>>
>> I looked for wording like this in the draft and didn't find it, and didn't
>> see it in the IRC log, so I thought is possible that there was a reason we
>> shied away from it.
>>
>> To talk about "the risks" and "being aware of the risks" is a bit coy, I
>> think. It sounds like we're choosing not to tell readers what those risks
>> are, that it's a puzzle for them (or there users) to figure out. Better to
>> just say: It's not secure, don't let anyone think it is, do it only when
>> security doesn't matter.
>>
>> Jonathan
>>
>>
>> On Oct 7, 2008, at 1:50 PM, noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com wrote:
>>
>>  Jonathan Rees suggests:
>>>
>>>  "Good practice: Clear text passwords are a serious security risk.
>>>> Transmit passwords in the clear only in applications that do not
>>>> require any assurance of security."
>>>>
>>>
>>> I'm sympathetic to your attempt to come up with something, but I think
>>> this misses an important nuance that is mentioned in the draft minutes of
>>> our meetings.  As I understand it, one concern is with the risk that
>>> novices will use the same password for multiple applications.  So, you
>>> deploy the "birthday party registration application" for your child, and
>>> decide that pwds in the clear are just fine for that.  Unbeknownst to
>>> you,
>>> those registering for the birthday party use the same password as for
>>> their bank account.  Nefarious network sniffers pick up the pwd from the
>>> birthday login, and use it to empty the bank account.
>>>
>>> I believe we were told by the security "experts" that this sort of thing
>>> was an important concern for them, and one of the reasons they wanted to
>>> prohibit pwds in the clear entirely.  Perhaps:
>>>
>>> "Good practice: Clear text passwords are a serious security risk.
>>> Transmit
>>> passwords in the clear only in applications that do not
>>> require any assurance of security, and when users are aware of the
>>> risks."
>>>
>>> Noah
>>>
>>> --------------------------------------
>>> Noah Mendelsohn
>>> IBM Corporation
>>> One Rogers Street
>>> Cambridge, MA 02142
>>> 1-617-693-4036
>>> --------------------------------------
>>>
>>
>>
>
Received on Wednesday, 8 October 2008 12:57:24 GMT

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