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What's Holding Back Encryption? 660

nine-times writes "After many years in IT, I've been surprised to notice how much of my traffic is still unencrypted. A lot of businesses that I interact with (both business and personal) are still using unencrypted FTP, and very few people use any kind of encryption for email. Most websites are still using unencrypted HTTP. DNSSEC seems to be picking up some steam, but still doesn't seem to be widely used. I would have thought there would be a concerted effort to move toward encryption for the sake of security, but it doesn't seem to be happening. I wanted to ask the Slashdot community, what do you think the hold up is? Are the existing protocols somehow not good enough? Are the protocols fine, but not supported well enough in software? Is it too complicated to manage the various encryption protocols and keys? Is it ignorance or apathy on the part of the IT community, and that we've failed to demand it from our vendors?"
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What's Holding Back Encryption?

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  • encryption alone (Score:2, Insightful)

    is not the whole solution.
    • by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:54PM (#30809310)

      is not the whole solution.


      I'm fairly certain Blizzard uses some kind of encryption on their database. Probably doesn't send passwords in cleartext. But accounts still get compromised left and right. Not because the encryption is failing, but because people set stupid passwords and share them with friends.

      The same thing is true of banking websites, and PINs, and logins to the corporate network, and whatever else. The weakest link isn't whether your data/authentication/network/connection/whatever is encrypted... The weakest link is the person sitting in front of the terminal. And as long as you've got users who'll click on random executables and use their kid's name as a password and share their credentials with someone else, encryption isn't really going to get you very far.

      Sure, it'd help... It'd be another layer of protection. Another bit of security. I'm not saying that people shouldn't use encryption... But when you're looking at where to spend money, and what effort is going to get you the most impact, encryption isn't necessarily it.

      • VS Electronic-Arts (Score:3, Interesting)

        by phorm ( 591458 )

        I wish *EA* would use hashes or something of the sort on their databases. Last time I tried to reset my password the damn thing mailed me that actual PW in plaintext, which indicates to me that they're too stupid to realize that:

        a) Storing non-hashed passwords in a DB is a good way to get hacked and expose all your customers accounts. It's really quite dumb
        b) Email is an insecure medium for sending somebody's password down the wire

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Golddess ( 1361003 )
          Reminds me of some experiences with TigerDirect. I'd thought I'd forgotten my password, so I'd gone through the password reset process or whatever they had (it's been a few years). They sent me my password via email in plain text, and it was the exact same password I'd been trying. I tried it again anyway, and it still didn't work. I then tried explaining to them that that password did not work, but they refused to believe me and just continually sent me the same password, in plain text, over email, ove
  • Costs? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tsj5j ( 1159013 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:16PM (#30808766)
    Isn't it the case in enterprises where they would rather keep things status quo instead of adding additional layers of (potential) problems? I believe they won't convert unless there's sufficient financial (dis)incentive to do so.
    • by McNihil ( 612243 )

      Reading confidential corporate emails in plain text where it is not supposed to be is not incentive enough?


      IMHO Anyone still using FTP for material that isn't completely open nor "in-"sensitive should get a corporate slap on their foreheads and rightfully be labeled idiots.

      • Re:Costs? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:50PM (#30809264) Journal

        I am not sure I agree. We have alot files XML, and flat that get exchanged between our midrange system and serveral of our WinTel and Linux servers. They are on the same lan seqment in the same locked room. The replication to the hot site for these machines is encrypted; because I can't know my DS3 is not being spied on.

        I don't say an reason why these machines need to use encyption to talk amongst themselves. Anyone who has access to one is trusted to have access on them all; anyone who is premitted to be in the room where they would have pyasical access is trusted. All encryption would add is additional mantainance; more overhead; and more to go wrong.
        Why would we do that?

      • Re:Costs? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @01:09PM (#30809518)

        Option 1: Allow clueless customers to send sensitive data via FTP. Keep customers. Make money.

        Option 2: Require clueless customers so send sensitive data via SFTP. Lose customers. Lose money.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )

          My publisher wants me to send things to them using FTP. I refused. Their IT staff refuses to run an SFTP server (or HTTPS WebDAV, or anything else that is marginally secure) for them. They also block outgoing SSH from the corporate network. I run an SFTP server for drafts of my latest book and my editor has to download them from home and take them in to the network.

          Sometimes clueless customers are the problem. Sometimes clueless admins are. If it's clueless customers, then a clueful admin can run SFT

    • Re:Costs? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:39PM (#30809082) Homepage

      It's key management and distribution, not cost. The costs are very low. Training everyone to exchange S/MIME keys, for example, is just too damn hard.

      When email clients can automatically look up other peoples' certificates using DNS, then encryption will hit the main-stream.

      (Oh, and bass-ackward companies like Apple are also holding back encryption. The iPhone can't do Secure Email after all this time? Really, Apple? Really?)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Em Ellel ( 523581 )

        It's key management and distribution, not cost. The costs are very low. Training everyone to exchange S/MIME keys, for example, is just too damn hard.

        Erm, time IS a cost, a HUGE cost, often much bigger cost than anything else.


    • It costs a nonzero amount to get a certificate at all, and a self-signed certificate is barely better than raw http.

      It also costs a nonzero amount in server CPU usage and/or dedicated hardware to do the crypto itself, especially the https sessions. For example, Google App Engine will handle the SSL for you for free, using a wildcard cert for *, but the crypto does count towards your CPU quotas.

      These two factors suggest that it makes sense for crypto to be used only where needed, rather than usin

      • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @01:03PM (#30809438) Homepage Journal

        It costs a nonzero amount to get a certificate at all, and a self-signed certificate is barely better than raw http.

        To answer the original question, the thing holding back encryption is the above mistaken attitude, that using a self-signed cert is barely better than using plaintext.

        There won't be a push for improving the cert system (e.g. by moving to an OpenPGP WoT or something) until more people are encrypting, And people won't be encrypting until they get over their foolish attitude that it's pointless to force attackers to use MitM instead of passive snooping.

        When more people start to realize that it's a good idea to force their opponents into doing expensive and risky things, then they will choose to do that and start to use (poorly-authenticated) key exchange. Once encryption with poorly-authenticated key exchange becomes more common, people will start to see a benefit to improving their authentication, so they'll attend more key-signing parties, or exert market forces within crippled single-signer systems to have cheaper CAs, or whatever.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bengie ( 1121981 )

        What is the CPU overhead for Encryption? My brother just installed Truecrypt on his 3.5ghz i7 and it says he can do ~510MB/sec of AES-256.

        Assuming a 100mbit network connection, 12.5MB/sec would be about 2.5% cpu. If it was a dual socket server, it would be about 1.25% overhead. If the 100mbit connection was shared by 10 machines, it would be 0.125% overhead per machine.

        My statement makes the assumptions of similar CPU performance to my brothers 3.5ghz i7, ignore decrypting incoming data which would be less

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wvmarle ( 1070040 )

      http (web): my e-banking is encrypted, I couldn't care less to get my slashdot feed unencrypted. Well save for sending my password when logging in maybe. https is nice there. But reading a newspaper online, no. Most of http traffic is not sensitive, it is public information that is sent to anyone who asks for it. Still if a site is going https it gets encrypted and I as user don't have to do anything. If I remotely log in to my server, I use ssh, again encrypted and fully transparent for me as user.

      Now e-m

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I couldn't care less to get my slashdot feed unencrypted.

        Coming from a reasonably-free Western country, I can understand that attitude, but there are still problems. What if, for some reason, a government with jurisdiction over you decides to start monitoring Internet activity, looking for signs of insurrection? You're fine, because you're doing nothing wrong, so there's nothing for you to hide. But wait, you were in a chat room one night at the same time as a guy on their watchlist, so now you're connected to terrorists, and they'll be watching you more close

    • I'm surprised nobody brought up -- needless encryption makes a *huge* headache for running diagnostics on any sort of server. If any sort of script is not working, there is difficulty in evaluating what is happening, and even network diagnostics is much more complicated.

      Additionally, encryption wastes a lot of CPU cycles if not needed. Although a small argument, this slows down networks and costs $$$ by burning fuel.

      Finally, you have to make sure encryption is done right to be secure. If you encrypt ever

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:17PM (#30808780)

    Maybe when getting a server cert is free/easy people will do it defacto. but right now it's either shell out for an SSL cert or greet every traveller with the "omg this site has a self-signed cert!!!oneone" browser warning.

    • by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:25PM (#30808896)


      Also I'd argue that there's no real need for the majority of HTTP traffic to be encrypted anyway. Certainly anything that's a 'two way' kind of site should use encryption (anything that allows users to post stuff, or allows/requires them to sign in) is probably wise to encrypt, but for standard 'read only' websites where anyone can just read stuff, why bother encrypting? Even Slashdot doesn't require HTTPS connections for anything other than the sign-in process - again because there's no point encrypting things that are not usernames/passwords/sensitive information.

      HTTPS has a significant performance overhead too, which is worth keeping in mind.

      This applies to email as well, in a way. For the average user that just wants to fire up their Thunderbird/Outlook Express/other mail client of choice, getting an cert (e.g. from Thawte) is just too difficult. It needs to be seamless and built-in before the masses will use it.

      • by schnablebg ( 678930 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:41PM (#30809132)
        Actually /. does not make it even possible to login via HTTPS, at least with Javascript turned on. The Totally Sweet Javascript popup they use for login is sent over plain HTTP, because it is not possible to POST to HTTPS via Javascript due to the same origin policy in browsers. If it is possible to get an HTTPS login page on /., I can't figure out how to do it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ritchie70 ( 860516 )

        Certainly anything that's a 'two way' kind of site should use encryption (anything that allows users to post stuff, or allows/requires them to sign in) is probably wise to encrypt...


        There are millions of sites out there that allow user posted content. Millions more that require a user login to access free content. On most of those, especially the later category, there's really no point. It's just some web guy jerking off to his ability to do so.

        Most of those, I shrug and use my standard, dictionary-atta

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Aram Fingal ( 576822 )

        What about the argument that a policy of only encrypting sensitive information draws attention to encrypted information because it must be sensitive? If you encrypt everything, an attacker doesn't know which particular piece of information is worth trying to crack (or otherwise attack with key logging, social engineering attempts, etc.)

      • by FrozenGeek ( 1219968 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:14PM (#30812632)
        There is a good reason for the majority of HTTP traffic to be encrypted: Deep Packet Inspection. If you want to stop your ISP, your government, etc, from using DPI, the most effective way to do so is to negate the value of it. HTTPS negates the value of DPI.

        Personally, I hate the idea of DPI from a matter of principle. Therefore, I like HTTPS.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by danpritts ( 54685 )

      Startcom [] offers free ssl certs and they are in all the browser roots now (although only recently added by microsoft).

      that said, encryption of web traffic adds two significant bits of overhead:

      • encryption takes CPU time. on busy web sites this really adds up.
      • by default, most browsers won't cache anything that is ssl-encrypted. This really adds up too. Browsers warn you if some elements on an encrypted page aren't encrypted, so you can't mix elements easily.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gmack ( 197796 )

        Not just that.. IE, Chrome and Safari don't have the SNI support needed to allow ssl-encrypted based websites to share IPs because Microsoft only included SNI support in it's libraries for Vista and newer OS.
        It also doesn't help that the most common web server on the internet has only recently begun to add support for it because they got suck waiting for openssl to get around to adding SNI support.

        Unless we want to use a crapload of extra ips while ISPs are getting stingy with them we need to wait a few yea

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        > by default, most browsers won't cache anything that is ssl-encrypted.

        Not quite true. They will cache it, but some only in memory, and in some cases only when you send back particularly aggressive cache directives. FireFox was particularly poor at this for a long time, but now they changed the default setting so 3.x will work a bit better.

  • ...could possibly happen to me. That's it. Perceived risk versus perceived effort.
  • by fridaynightsmoke ( 1589903 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:18PM (#30808794) Homepage

    I have encrypted this post as my contribution to making encryption more widespread.

    Here you go:
    kkjkjGHIUgibilhjGHLiubhjbiu78HVji67gfUKGHVuygjh VljhbvolygILJKbIyugIJbikhjbKJBkbvkjnfJ.a,mx jchkdjqJiufhpi9fu{ywe9f8iunsiochjaijkcs

    The fun part is that the (UK) cops can demand a decryption key for that, and lock me up when I inevitably fail to provide one....

    • by PingPongBoy ( 303994 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:34PM (#30809022)

      The fun part is that the (UK) cops can demand a decryption key for that, and lock me up when I inevitably fail to provide one

      So tell them you were not the encrypter/encoder. You downloaded it. It's the same as people circumventing other hacks, such as the hacks at preventing file sharing - band together with a group of anonymous people. Download each others encrypted data. Obfuscate who the encrypter is, and your own encrypted data can hide.

      If this isn't good enough, write a Star Trek story about Klingons. Include plenty of Klingon conversation. Key: kkjkjGHIUgibilh is Blimey! in Klingon. So is jGHLiubhjbiu78HVji67.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        So tell them you were not the encrypter/encoder. You downloaded it.

        And when they make it illegal to download and view encrypted files, or files from an unverifiable source, your brilliant countermeasure will be _____ ?

    • "The fun part is that the (UK) cops can demand a decryption key for that, and lock me up when I inevitably fail to provide one"

      Yes, encryption won't stop government oppression, but it will slow it down. It's not just the fact that they can still harass one person, it's the fact that with everybody encrypting their communications the government's ability to data mine email and do covert spying on its own citizens becomes much harder.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by badzilla ( 50355 )

      I got in A LOT OF TROUBLE when I decrypted that! Next time at least have the decency to flag it NSFW.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:36PM (#30810658)

      kkjkjGHIUgibilhjGHLiubhjbiu78HVji67gfUKGHVuygjh VljhbvolygILJKbIyugIJbikhjbKJBkbvkjnfJ.a,mx jchkdjqJiufhpi9fu{ywe9f8iunsiochjaijkcs

      The fun part is that the (UK) cops can demand a decryption key for that, and lock me up when I inevitably fail to provide one....

      Like many others, you made the mistake of choosing a weak key. Here ya go:

      "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine"

  • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:19PM (#30808804) Homepage

    Signed certificates are holding up encryption. Opportunistic encryption doesn't happen if it has to be carefully pre-planned.

    Yes, unsigned encryption is vulnerable to MITM. So what? It protects against the far more common traffic sniffing and a plethora of other attacks.

    • by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['eve' in gap]> on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:41PM (#30809134) Homepage

      And there are plenty of places that MitM would not be relevant.

      For example, email and FTP and other clients where the connection is almost certainly set up manually and repeatedly used (vs. web browsing where people may never return) should be fine with unsigned encryption, as all they need to do is store the cert fingerprint and make a fuss if it changes.

      But, yes, this is exactly the point I've been making for years. All TCP/IP connections should be opportunistically encrypted, period. Including web pages. There's no reason not to. No, not even CPU. (If the server load is high enough that it matters, by all means, disable it for that server, but it should still be the default.)

      Even if it's not the default, make it easy enough to flip on, so that web designers can flip it on for their password and account pages without having to buy a damn cert and get a new IP and other nonsense.

      I just had to set up Thunderbird on a new computer, and I noticed, instead of prompting me what sort of email connection (IMAP or POP3) I had, and making me fill out info, it just asked for the server name, and tried the connection itself, prompting me with the ones it found. But the awesome thing was, it actually suggested using an _encrypted_ connection. So, yay, maybe people will actually start using them. (I wonder how many people check their email without even meaning to, via background processes, over open wifi.)

      The interesting thing about SSL is that the cert is not actually needed, at all. You can use a SSL connection without a cert on either side, just like you can use one with a cert on both sides.

      Sadly, absolutely nothing seems to support this.

    1. It's a pain in the ass to set up - do YOU want to have to configure everyone's email, etc. to use it? I didn't think so.
    2. It's not needed. If I'm sending somethig sensitive, I can just encrypt it and send it as an attachment, and give them the password over the phone.
    3. You're already leaking your sh*t all over the net - and if you use google docs, you're letting an advertising company look at all your information.
  • Apathy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by quangdog ( 1002624 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `godgnauq'> on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:20PM (#30808814)
    I think that much more often than not most folks just use the default settings on their stuff, and at this point nearly all encryption is not something that is set up by default.

    While the learning curve for using encryption in email, http, ftp, etc is not all that high, there is enough of one there for most people to just say "meh", even if they understand why they should be using encryption in the first place.

    It's like personal home protection for many people - they don't want a gun in the house until after they've been robbed the first time. I'd wager that many people using encryption are doing so because they've been bitten by a lack of encryption in the past.
    • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:26PM (#30808912) Homepage

      Really, most things which should be encrypted - are. There's no reason to push encryption everywhere; especially if it would confuse people and make them think everything is safe just because it's encrypted.

    • Telnet and Rsh are effectively dead. FTP is used primarily on cheap hosting and drop boxes. HTTP is encrypted where it is taken to count - Banking and such. POP IMAP are being encrypted by more and more Large ISP's. Some issues that are solable by encryption are solved otherways (routing and firewalls) Everything can be encrypted but most does not need to be.
  • by multipartmixed ( 163409 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:22PM (#30808842) Homepage

    ...encrypted communications are too bloody hard to debug!

    With unencrypted protocols, I can whip out the packet sniffer and find out *exactly* what's going on. With encrypted protocols, I have to write reports like "we have verified our software configuration and believe it to be correct; perhaps the problem is at your end?"

    Maybe we need to come up with a standard way of encrypting things, that our packet sniffers somehow know how to decode. Maybe even with a "relax the crypto" configuration flag we can throw during debug.

    • by amorsen ( 7485 )

      Modern packet sniffers support IPSEC. Getting the keys out can be fun, but not all that difficult on e.g. Linux. Keeping up with the key changes adds a bit of fun too.

  • I know at my company a lot of it is apathy. We have an unencrypted FTP site where clients can upload/download stuff at their leisure. It's not sensitive material, so no one really cares if something happens to it or if someone gets hold of what's up there. Probably not the best attitude, but if the higher ups don't concern themselves with it, I don't concern myself with it too much either. That being said, for internal stuff and for access to project files from offsite, I did set up an SSH account on a seg
  • Most websites are still using unencrypted HTTP

    Without dedicated hardware, https is an incredible performance drain on web servers. And even the dedicated hardware at the data centre won't help the client side. Not to mention the caching rules which mean much more data traffic.

    For most web sites, I see no reason to use encryption.

  • Inertia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 ) * <> on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:23PM (#30808872) Homepage Journal

    What's Holding Back Encryption?

    Simple: INERTIA.

    Remember back in the day when the OpenBSD guys said Enough Already and pretty much dropped telnet, rsh, rcp, rlogin, etc. for the SSH suite of tools? Yeah, a bit of growing pains at the time but no one would want to go back. It took some time but finally other open source projects followed suit.

    People are lazy, if there's no push to change most won't no matter what benefit the change offers.
    • Re:Inertia (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:45PM (#30809192)

      I can second that. A few years ago I was working as a database / web programmer for a company when my boss for small intranet applications group decided that all internal applications should run over SSL/TLS. Most of the business applications didn't convey any sensitive information, but some exposed personal information as customer name, address, bank routing number, social security number, phone numbers, etc. The internal network was all switched Ethernet, of course, but just about everyone was switching over to laptops with WiFi, which does carry a certain risk of packet sniffing. We switched over to HTTPS in the test system to find out that the image server run by another group didn't support it. This meant that our users would have either had to see a lot of warning messages about "insecure" elements on the page or either turn down IE's already lax security settings so much they wouldn't ever get any meaningful warnings. Since the group that served up images didn't care at all about encryption and wouldn't budge, the initiative was scrapped.

      What should have been a nearly trivial process was shot down for lack of caring.

  • Suppliers give priority to what their customers nag about, and they nag about the problems they see and feel every day. Only those who get attacked and discover it see the threat of unencrypted traffic.
  • First big problem is you simply cannot send encrypted email to someone without a prior relationship. They aren't going to "get it" and they aren't going to be bothered to figure out why they can't read your email - just delete it.

    The second problem is that if you want to be seen doing something "real", you need to spend some money on a "real" certificate. At a corporate level it might seem to make sense to have a corporate level certificate that then signs individual certificates. But this doesn't seem t

  • It won't happen until the pain of not doing it exceeds the cost of implementing it.
  • Weeks after Google, a technology leader gets hacked by having ancient versions of IE 6 on their desktops, and you're asking why encryption isn't everywhere? Same reason IPv6 isn't everywhere, VOIP isn't everywhere, the current spam-friendly email protocols we've been living with for decades haven't been replaced with authenticated sender-based protocols, and why blacklist-based antivirus hasn't been replaced by a less "lossy" model of security. Why? Because doing nothing costs nothing. Doing something cos
    • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:40PM (#30809110) Homepage

      Ever since our company fell for all the marketdroid hype from Cisco for VOIP and dumped our old but reliable PBX system we've had one problem after another. The new system has been as unreliable as its possible to be whether its large data loads being done over the network causing the voice quality to go through the floor or a network outage killing the system dead or SIP server bugs or just bugs in the IP phones themselves.

      VOIP for the office is hype - all it does is save on some cabling and wall sockets which had already been installed and paid for anyway! Well whoop de fucking do. Talk about Emporers new clothes.

  • by spaceyhackerlady ( 462530 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:31PM (#30808974)

    What problem do we need to solve here? If it ain't broke...

    Just for the hell of it I've toyed with hooking my geiger counter up to my computer, generating a couple of DVDs full of random numbers (really random) and using them for one-time pad encryption to send email to my Mom. Which cannot be cracked, by anybody.

    There is also the issue that if you lock things down too tight you risk locking yourself out and can't get back in.


  • For me, it's mostly a tradeoff between the value of the information and the extra work/performance overheads involved in using encryption.

    I usually don't bother encrypting my email because it's mostly mundane stuff, and frankly there's more of a threat from the owner of the email server reading my stuff than there is from a MITM attack. Also, getting and using a cert is a bit of extra work.

    But if I do need to send sensitive information via email, I will use encryption. Generally by putting that sensitive in

  • I wish Thunderbird of evolution had some type of automated system for encryption, where you tagged your public key to the bottom of every e-mail. When an in coming e-mail was detected with a key at the bottom all replys were automatically encrypted. I think the problem with encryption at the moment is that people have to think about it so it does not happen.
  • One Word: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by louzerr ( 97449 )

    Verisign. Because of the ridiculous cost of THEIR certificates, and that browsers don't seem to properly recognize any certs but ones from Verisign. People either use fake certs (encrypted traffic, but no verification of trust), or simply don't bother.

    Also, because so many sites pull in images and other content from non-origin servers, webmasters do not know how to build a proper SSL site in most cases. It's tricky to do right (not impossible - just tricky), and most web designers / site administrators s

  • Outside of our industry of computers and internets, security is handled wiht a simple motto -- secure what needs securing. With the knowledge that Ethan Hunt will always be able to break in, the question is not "what is insecure" but "what is being stolen". You don't need to secure something that no one wants.

    Your home is easy to break into. Maybe you have a lock. Maybe you have a dead-bolt. Your locks can be carded, your dead-bolt can be picked.

    You wouldn't want real security at your front door, becau

  • Why? (Score:5, Funny)

    by FlyByPC ( 841016 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:38PM (#30809080) Homepage
    For most of the Web surfing that I do, full https encryption simply isn't needed. Why do I need encryption (which adds another quite significant protocol layer) to surf Slashdot or CNN or xkcd?

    OK, granted, I probably should use encryption or TOR for that last one or the 'raptors will catch on. But other than that... why?
  • by GiMP ( 10923 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:54PM (#30809306)

    First, keep in mind that name-based virtual hosting with HTTPS is very limited. With few exceptions, you're quite restricted in your ability to host multiple SSL-encrypted sites on a single IP address. Most often, one must instead assign each SSL-encrypted virtualhost to a dedicated IP address. If every website was, today, to switch to HTTPS-only operation, and if the RIRs were to allow it, we would immediately run out of IPv4 addresses. You can argue that we should instead be using IPv6, and I might agree, but we're simply not there yet.

    Secondly, performance is a major consideration for many companies. This is especially true for internet marketing & advertising efforts, for whom every millisecond matters in their ability to serve their content. Advertisers are unlikely to prefer SSL over unencrypted content. Worse, marketers are those most likely to desire poor security practices in order to gather information and track users, while also being those that provide means of financial sustainability for many sites. That is, if the marketing companies won't go for it, the companies being paid by the marketing companies won't go for it.

    Thirdly, cookies and other domain-specific security measures may not be functional via HTTPS, depending on the browser's security configuration. Some browsers provide warnings or block unencrypted content sourced by encrypted pages, or originating from another domain. These security profile of the browser may be much different for SSL-protected sites than for unencrypted pages. Ultimately, this would prevent, discourage, and limit advertising efforts which (again) drive the sustainability of many sites.

    • First, keep in mind that name-based virtual hosting with HTTPS is very limited. With few exceptions, you're quite restricted in your ability to host multiple SSL-encrypted sites on a single IP address. Most often, one must instead assign each SSL-encrypted virtualhost to a dedicated IP address. If every website was, today, to switch to HTTPS-only operation, and if the RIRs were to allow it, we would immediately run out of IPv4 addresses.

      This is effectively true, but it gives the impression that the problem is inherent to the protocol. The main obstacle to secure name-based virtual hosting is that Microsoft won't implement Server Name Indication for Windows XP.

  • Business email (Score:3, Insightful)

    by freedumb2000 ( 966222 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:54PM (#30809308)
    In the case of email I am not using encryption because none of my business contacts are. It is kind of like with MS Word. I would love to use something different and I never mail out doc files, only PDF, but if everyone else is doing it's hard to stand your ground.
  • by daveywest ( 937112 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:54PM (#30809320)

    How often do you speak out loud in a public place?

    None of that is encrypted. Someone might overhear you. Break out the tin foil hats!!!!

  • Expertise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Abalamahalamatandra ( 639919 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:58PM (#30809366)

    Until a couple of years ago, I was a consultant for a large three-letter firm (not IBM) that got a project to implement an internal certificate authority that would be trusted by external partners, in support of email encryption.

    Some other projects came up that I needed to do and we started searching for someone else within this 20,000+ employee technology company that could do the project and had at least some familiarity with PKI issues.

    There was noone.

    Couple that with the fact that we were getting the CA signed by an internal division of the company with a globally-trusted root CA, and that division had precisely two employees. To run a public root CA.

    I've been in IT for over 15 years, and I think the number of people I've met in that time who see PKI as anything other than a magical black box can be counted on one hand with fingers left over.

  • by samjam ( 256347 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @01:02PM (#30809422) Homepage Journal

    Encryption is a big problem to handle.

    You are more likely to lose your keys than your privacy; there's just so many ways to get it wrong, even on the lowly USB memory stick, and end up losing your own data.

  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @01:11PM (#30809542)

    But I'm not really using encryption because

    1- I don't have much of value to encrypt. Clearly, that's not the case for everyone, but encrypting my to-do list, address book, birthday list, and pathetic attempts at programming seem very much overkill.
    2- I don't feel confident I would do encryption right. I COULD encrypt my password list, but right now it's on a piece of paper hidden somewhere. If it were on my PC or cellphone, even encrypted, I'm not confident that i would be using a secure encryption method, nor that it wouldn't be short-circuited by a trojan/keylogger
    3- I'm afraid I'll get encrypted out of my data. A few times a year, I have to clean up my HD and recover broken files. What happens when the files are encrypted on top of it ? Any way to recover them ?
    4- Is encryption reliable ? what if I can't recover my data after I encrypted it ?
    5- I'm not sure what programs I should use. Windows has some basic stuff, then there's PGP, Truecrypt...

  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @01:11PM (#30809544)
    Email has traditionally been ignored because obtaining a S/MIME key cost money, the keys expired too quickly, encryption was slow and bloated the message, and the crypto experience in most email clients was positively user hostile. PGP / GPG solves some of the issues (hooray we don't have to pay $$$ to a CA for worthless trust and an expiring cert) but integration in email apps relies on plugins (e.g. Enigmail).

    Put simply encrypting content is just too much effort for most people. I've only ever had dealings with one company that preferred to use crypto. No one else cares.

    The only way crypto is going to see wider adoption is if its turned on by default and virtually a no-brainer to use. It has to be virtually transparent. I think it's well past the point of ever happening, although it might gain some traction if a major mail provider such as Google issued all users with a keypair, made it the default to sign outgoing messages.

    The question is why Google or any other provider would bother to do that.

  • by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @01:14PM (#30809576)
    Among the myriad reasons... Those that bother with encryption on anything other than a shopping cart are generally perceived to have nefarious intentions. As the old saying goes... "what do you have to hide if you're not doing anything wrong?" Beyond that:
    • Government arms can compel you to produce the key or face obstruction what the point. Espionage business or personal isn't really on peoples minds. Survey people around you and see how many know anything about the Google-China deal.
    • Encryption technology was/is banned from export. Distribution of software with out of the gate support while satisfying relevant laws is a pain/expensive [].
    • [En/de]cryption is processor intensive. Servers have to have significantly more power to handle the same number of people.
    • People are oblivious to the information they're making available and the ramifications there of. Take Facebook/MySpace for example, both are a dataminer's/identity thief's candy store.
    • Authority signed security certificates are expensive. Self-signed certificates produce wonderfully scary messages in web browsers and are vulnerable to MIM attack. No certificate (unencrypted) sites are displayed in the browser as if everything was perfectly alright, safe, and secure.
  • HTTPS (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Monday January 18, 2010 @01:23PM (#30809700) Homepage

    What's holding back HTTPS is the lack of IP addresses combined with the lack of support for modern versions of TLS...
    As it stands, you need 1 IP address per HTTPS site.

    What's holding back SSH and causing people to continue using telnet is a number of factors:
    1, windows doesn't have an ssh client by default, only telnet
    2, some networking vendors (eg cisco) charge extra for ssh support on their devices
    3, lots of lower end networking devices only support telnet

    What's holding back FTPS and the like is much the same, lack of client support and lack of user knowledge, FTP as a protocol pretty much needs to die anyway, it doesn't work well with NAT... Encrypted FTP is even more broken on NAT because the nat device cannot watch for the ftp commands and open up the appropriate data ports.
    When you offer hosting, customers demand to use FTP and often refuse to even consider more secure alternatives.

    Also, most email being sent is still completely unencrypted.

  • FTP would be dead (Score:3, Insightful)

    by randallman ( 605329 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @01:36PM (#30809892)

    FTP would be dead if Microsoft would adopt the SSH suite, since SSH has the exact same capabilities as FTP. SSH is the swiss army knife of encrypted networking. Port tunneling is very useful. Less known, but also very nice is the ability to use pipes like this:

    echo "hello" | ssh remote_host "cat > hello.txt"

    You could use it to make a large backup without consuming disk space on the local machine.

    tar -zc directory_to_backup | ssh remote_host "cat > backup.tar.gz"

    It also works very well with rsync. Combine with hard links for a great backup strategy [].

    I like to see the surprise from Microsoft centric developers when they discover what SSH can do. They seem to all have this false assumption that it's just for getting a shell on a remote UNIX system.

    Though I haven't kept up with SSH development on Windows, two applications I've used on Windows are: WinSCP [] and PUTTY [] sshwindows [] also looks interesting as I use cygwin + SSH

  • managers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:00PM (#30810218) Homepage Journal

    You asked a simple question, you deserve a simple answer: Managers.

    Over my years in IT, I have seen too many decisions being made by people who haven't updated their IT knowledge for 10 years or so. People who think that "FTP" doesn't stand for "Fuck This Protocol" and to whom SSH is "this new encrypted remote login tool". In addition, crypto is inherently difficult to understand, and a lot (I can't emphasize that enough) managers simply don't support anything they don't understand.

    Cisco had the right idea of VPNs and making the whole encryption "thingy" become invisible. Unfortunately, that too required some managers to make decisions.

    The only places I've ever seen where encryption is used a) consistently and b) well is where someone very high up understood at least enough about the issue to roll out a general policy or put a security officer in place and gave him authority over such decisions. And then proceeded to fire at least one high-ranking middle-management idiot for violating the policy.

  • by cenc ( 1310167 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:16PM (#30810398) Homepage

    I keep hearing everyone bitch about how hard it is to do wide scale encryption with so many user computers to configure, but I have found things like ssh port forwarding between offices to be an incredibly easy and secure solution to much of my encryption needs. Yea, it does not solve all the problems, but it is sure makes life as a systems admin much easier than trying to keep track of all the various possible protocols and their potential faults. It is possible to just about encrypt anything with a high level of transparency to the end user.

  • by vanyel ( 28049 ) * on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:19PM (#30810454) Journal

    Hash: SHA1

    I've been digitally signing all my email for about 15 years; I *tried* to encrypt all my mail, but I've run into two problems: inertia on the part of other people, and poor application support. Thunderbird in particular has had a bug report for "encrypt when possible" for years, complete with a detailed operation to address some of the issues, and no one who has development expertise in Thunderbird will implement it. With that, the people who have keys can start using it regularly and then there's a good reason to get other people to get keys and start using them. Without it, it's "ok, does this person have a key or not" and it's just too much bother for most. Thunderbird isn't the only one: I've looked at other mail programs, and it's always all or nothing. That should be a *choice* (it does have its place), but without a "when possible", there's no graceful transition option.

    Then there's DNSSEC, which I've tried to implement. It's a voracious consumer of random numbers because of the vast number of keys you need (if you're hosting a large number of domains, as we do). I bought a usb dongle that is a hardware random number generator, and it *still* takes forever (days) to re-sign our domains, something you are supposed to do monthly.

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.9 (Darwin)

    -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

  • by Lazy Jones ( 8403 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:02PM (#30810966) Homepage Journal
    SSL and predecessory try to prevent forged messages in addition to providing encrypted communication, adding the unacceptable overhead of handling a key infrastructure, purchasing certificates etc. where for most uses encrypted communication alone would be sufficient and could be achieved in a much simpler, cheaper way (especially when authentication is achieved with passwords anyway). So we're not encrypting traffic and not preventing eavesdropping because preventing forged messages is too hard/costly - congratulations! On the other hand, one should consider the implications of the false sense of security for the layman with only encrypted traffic - which is similar to what we have now with SSL being broken (MD5 etc.)

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain