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INTERNET-DRAFT                                        Steven M. Bellovin
draft-ymbk-obscurity-00.txt                           Randy Bush
2002.02.28                                            AT&T Research


            Security Through Obscurity Considered Dangerous


    Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2002).  All Rights Reserved.

   This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with
   all provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups.  Note that
   other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-
   Drafts.

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at
   http://www.ietf.org/ietf/1id-abstracts.txt

   The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at
   http://www.ietf.org/shadow.html.

0. Abstract

   Hiding security vulnerabilities in algorithms, software, and/or
   hardware decreases the likelihood they will be repaired and increases
   the likelihood that they can and will be exploited by evil-doers.
   Discouraging or outlawing discussion of weaknesses and
   vulnerabilities is extremely dangerous and deleterious to the
   security of computer systems, the network, and its citizens.

1. Open Discussion Encourages Better Security

   The long history of cryptography and cryptoanalysis has shown time
   and time again that open discussion and analysis of algorithms
   exposes weaknesses not thought of by the original authors, and
   thereby leads to better and more secure algorithms.  As Kerckhoff
   noted about cipher systems in 1883 [Kerc83], "Il faut qu'il n'exige
   pas le secret, et qu'il puisse sans inconv'enient tomer entre les
   mains de l'ennemi."  (Roughly, "the system must not require secrecy
   and can be stolen by the enemy without causing trouble.")



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   It is also against the ethos and laws of a number of countries to
   disallow open discussion of science and technology.

   Within the IETF, frank discussion of the flaws of proposed and actual
   protocols has led to improvement versions.  Hence, the IETF does not
   discourage open discussion and analysis of cryptographic or security
   methods, and enthusiastically encourages open and frank technical
   discussion thereof in its research, working groups, mailing lists,
   and all other discussion venues.

2. Revealing Vulnerabilities is Useful

   Revealing and discussing vulnerabilities in hardware and software
   products allows the users to protect themselves, and encourages
   general protection and repair strategies.

   On the other hand, there is a well-established culture of giving the
   manufacturer of the vulnerable product a short but reasonable early
   warning of discovered vulnerabilities so that they have an
   opportunity to repair them and or prepare to distribute patches or
   work-arounds.  Furthermore, it is better if developers have time to
   test their patches; much of the current mess comes from inadequate
   software testing.

   The IETF supports and encourages the open but prudent discussion of
   vulnerabilities in hardware and software in all appropriate IETF
   venues.

3. The Culture of Sharing

   In parts of the hacker subculture, information is currency.  That is,
   by disclosing vulnerabilities or by providing exploit code, the
   purveyor gains status.  As a consequence, knowledge of security holes
   tends to spread rapidly.

   By contrast, when security professionals withhold such information
   from the community, the broader community does not have an
   opportunity to find solutions.  In extreme cases, such as that
   described in [Bell95], the result can be that the bad guys know about
   the problem long before most defenders do.  That, in turn, likely
   delayed the development of cryptographic security mechanisms for the
   DNS [RFC2065].









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3. Security Considerations

   This document is about security, and specifically warns about
   increased vulnerability if weakness in algorithms and products are
   not able to be openly discussed.

4. Acknowledgments

   I dunno

5. References


[Bell95]
     S..M. Bellovin, "Using the Domain Name System for System Break-
     Ins", Proc. Fifth Usenix Security Symposium, 1995.


[Kerc83]
     A. Kerckhoffs.  "La Cryptographie Militaire".  1883.
     <http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~fapp2/kerckhoffs/>


[RFC2065]
     D. Eastlake and C. Kaufman.  "Domain Name System Security Exten-
     sions".  RFC 2065, 1997.

6. Authors' Addresses

   Steven M Bellovin
   AT&T Labs Research
   Shannon Laboratory
   180 Park Avenue
   Florham Park, NJ 07932
   Phone: +1 973-360-8656
   email: bellovin@acm.org

   Randy Bush
   5147 Crystal Springs
   Bainbridge Island, WA US-98110
   +1 206 780 0431
   randy@psg.com









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7. Full Copyright Statement

    Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2001).  All Rights Reserved.

    This document and translations of it may be copied and furnished to
    others, and derivative works that comment on or otherwise explain it
    or assist in its implementation may be prepared, copied, published
    and distributed, in whole or in part, without restriction of any
    kind, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph
    are included on all such copies and derivative works.  However, this
    document itself may not be modified in any way, such as by removing
    the copyright notice or references to the Internet Society or other
    Internet organizations, except as needed for the purpose of develop-
    ing Internet standards in which case the procedures for copyrights
    defined in the Internet Standards process must be followed, or as
    required to translate it into languages other than English.

    The limited permissions granted above are perpetual and will not be
    revoked by the Internet Society or its successors or assigns.

    This document and the information contained herein is provided on an
    "AS IS" basis and THE INTERNET SOCIETY AND THE INTERNET ENGINEERING
    TASK FORCE DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING
    BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANY WARRANTY THAT THE USE OF THE INFORMATION
    HEREIN WILL NOT INFRINGE ANY RIGHTS OR ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF
    MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

























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