Re: Agenda: <keygen> being destroyed when we need it

On 11 Sep 2015 7:29 pm, "Anders Rundgren" <>
> On 2015-09-12 03:20, Alex Russell wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> Apologies for the late response to this thread. I'm not sure that the
> > conversation has created much mutual understanding.
> No, it has not and that is because <keygen> only represents the tip of an
> The real issue is that Google have unilaterally decided that that
> X.509 client certificates are incompatible with the Web for privacy,
security, and
> usability reasons.

That seems an unwarranted extrapolation. Chrome continues to support client
certs. To the extent that <keygen> has overlap with client cert usecases,
this is only about provision, not use. And there are many ways to provision

Provision directly from an origin to a non-origin-based keystore indeed
raises privacy concerns.

> This position is (for example) in conflict with the eID (electronic ID)
already used
> by millions of people in the EU.

It's unclear to me how you've come to that view. Can you elaborate?

> If the problem was limited to <keygen> I'm sure it could and would be

Fixing <keygen> is likely to cause it to stop doing the set of things may
seem to want it to do.

> In all fairness, is worth mentioning that Microsoft have already removed
> counterpart to <keygen> in their "Edge" browser.
> Anders
> > Perhaps it's worth trying to consider to following aspects separately:
>>   * The implementer consensus regarding <keygen>
>>   * Questions regarding the origin model and global modification of user
systems without user interaction
>>   * User and developer needs for key generation and storage
>> Given the current proposal to deprecate <keygen> in Blink [1], it seems
worth reiterating the broad consensus that <keygen>'s use of MD5 is
fundamentally broken [2]. Some in the thread seem to misunderstand the
impact of this brokenness, but rest assured, the only value a
<keygen>-created challenge could provide is fundamentally suspect. This is
in addition to long-standing objections by Microsoft that <keygen> isn't
fit for purpose for other reasons [3]. Implementers have also identified
core issues with <keygen>'s behavior that mean compatibility will suffer as
issues are fixed.
>> These concerns have reached a head with the proposal to deprecate. One
might imagine repairing <keygen>, but this works against the extensibility
principles the TAG encourages [4].
>> A more extensible solution would be an API form of key generation.
Interestingly, this now exists via Web Crypto (as was pointed out in the
original Blink thread by Ryan [1]). These keys are not directly generated
in the same key store used for client certificates, but page authors can
work with generated keys, even allowing users to import them into keystores.
>> Developers who want to persistent keys to the local system should
acknowledge that this is an operation that lives outside the Same Origin
Model. The inability to scope the use of keys added via <keygen> (via
addition to the effective keychain) creates a major hole in our one
workable security primitive. It's true that this isn't part of the <keygen>
spec, but compatibility requirements have caused this to be true in
practice. >From an architectural perspective, this alone should be enough
to cause the TAG to recommend removal of <keygen> and replacement with a
better, origin-scoped alternative.
>> Lastly, I think it's important for us to take the need to generate keys
seriously. We can do this without holding onto poorly designed and
constructed features, however. I'd like to understand more deeply why key
generation via Web Crypto isn't functional. Perhaps we can discuss that
next week?
>> Regards
>> [1]!topic/blink-dev/pX5NbX0Xack
>> [2]
>> [3]
>> [4]
>> On Sat, Sep 5, 2015 at 5:05 AM, Henry Story
< <>>
>>      > On 4 Sep 2015, at 14:54, Henry Story
<> wrote:
>>      >
>>      >>
>>      >> On 2 Sep 2015, at 14:15, Wendy Seltzer < <mailto:>> wrote:
>>      >>
>>      >> On 09/02/2015 04:06 AM, Melvin Carvalho wrote:
>>      >>> On 1 September 2015 at 16:08, Tim Berners-Lee <
<>> wrote:
>>      >>>
>>      >>>> Folks
>>      >>>>
>>      >>>> There is a strong move my Google chrome team followed by
Firefox to remove
>>      >>>> the <keygen> tag from HTML5.   This has been done without an
issue being
>>      >>>> raised in the WHATWG  or HTMLWG apparently.
>>      >>>>
>>      >>>> <keygen> is important because it allows authentication systems
to be build
>>      >>>> in a distributed manner. It allows any Mom and Pop shop place
to share
>>      >>>> public keys for people they trust.    For example, MIT uses it
to create
>>      >>>> secure relationship with faculty and staff, and I use it for
friends and
>>      >>>> family.
>>      >>>>
>>      >>>> Public key asymmetric crypto is generally so much stronger
than the
>>      >>>> password-based authentication.  It requires certificate
management code to
>>      >>>> be written.
>>      >>>>
>>      >>>
>>      >>> IMHO we need an area of the browser under a user's control
>>      >>
>>      >> That seems like a different, and more interesting requirement
>>      >> "keygen."
>>      >>
>>      >> Keygen was a poorly designed, inconsistently implemented
feature, that
>>      >> many sophisticated users and developers found confusing. If we
>>      >> instead define what features we want to be able to build, and
what they
>>      >> depend on that's not provided by WebCrypto, and think about how
we can
>>      >> enable users to access these features without opening themselves
up to
>>      >> be phished or tracked, that feels like a more productive avenue
>>      >> discussion than "bring back keygen".
>>      >
>>      > I think this is much too harsh on keygen btw. What is happening
may be
>>      > that the documentation in the HTML5 was not good enough at
explaining how
>>      > it worked. After a discussion on the WhatWG where one key
argument against
>>      > keygen turned out that it was insecure because of its use of MD5,
and after an off
>>      > list pointer to what the aleged reason of the problem was I wrote
a detailed
>>      > response to the WHATWG showing that MD5 has no effect on keygen,
>>      > ansuggesting that improved wording of the spec may help diffuse
>>      > misunderstanding.
>>      >
>>      >
>>      >
>>      > This did not stop the issue being closed within 15 minutes of my
opening the
>>      > issue. ( and I seem to be filterd now on the WHATWG mailing list
>>     So yes the mail that referenced issue 102 linked to above was
filtered and
>>     censored for reasons of "security". This is surreal. A decision for
>>     strong security from browsers is made on a mistaken understanding of
how the
>>     feature works. Then showing that the alleged security hole is
illusory is
>>     considered a potential security risk and is filtered. Here is the
link to the
>>     mail:
>>     I am sorry to mention it, but how can this not make one think of
secret courts using secret evidence ( and even secret laws ) ? This
requires everyone to completely trust the cryptography experts and makes it
then impossible to bring to light the implicit assumptions that are guiding
their thinking, and that would perhaps when brought out in the open allow
new possibilities to emerge.
>>     Henry
>>     PS. I verified my position on the irrelevance of MD5 in keygen
generated spkac with cryptography experts from openssl. It would be nice if
some cryptography experts could at least confirm this here.
>>      >
>>      > Henry
>>      >
>>      >
>>      >>
>>      >> --Wendy
>>      >>
>>      >>
>>      >> --
>>      >> Wendy Seltzer -- <>
+1.617.715.4883 <tel:%2B1.617.715.4883> (office)
>>      >> Policy Counsel and Domain Lead, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
>>      >> +1.617.863.0613
<tel:%2B1.617.863.0613> (mobile)

Received on Saturday, 12 September 2015 07:06:59 UTC