Internet Pet Peeves

Zeger reitet wieder

Um sein Geschäft mit X.509 Zertifikaten anzukurbeln, schreibt er eine Pressemeldung, die auch prompt von der Fuzo übernommen wird.

Es scheint um X.509 Zertifikate für SMTP/STARTTLS zu gehen, also die Verschlüsselung des Transportweges beim Mailversand.

Was ist da dran alles falsch?

Pet Peeves


I’m usually a quite peaceful guy, but whenever I need to interact with an A-trust product or their website, I get this urge to kick someone.


In this case I wanted to send an encrypted mail to an user of the Austrian Citizen Card. For that, I need the X.509 cert for that person.

The first obstacle was the non-graceful degradation of the a-trust website if you have disabled javascript (or, in my case, use NoScript in Firefox). Okay, once I cleared that hurdle, I got a list of 6 or 8 keys for my recipient. The list doesn’t show which keys are ECC and which are RSA, and trying to download them gave me:

a trust fail

for single certs and

a trust fail2

for chains.

Good work, folks.

Pet Peeves System Administration

Broadcom woes

The company laptop (Windows XP) of my wife came with the Broadcom software for controlling the Wifi settings.

I’ve already had so many troubles getting that box to talk WPA to my local WLAN at home (an OpenWrt Kamikaze running on an Alix box) that I switched back to WEP.

Last week I tried to get the Broadcom junk to talk WPA to the Linksys ADSL/WLAN CPE at my mother’s place. No go. Just once, for a few seconds it managed to get the TKIP key. Most of the time it failed to negotiate an AES key. Whatever.

I’m so glad I convinced her tech department to give us local admin rights. That way I finally just nuked that dysfunctional piece of sh*** and went back to the default Windows WLAN configuration tool.

That just worked.

Instantly. No hassle at all.

Pet Peeves

US social security numbers

Today, slashdot features yet another article concerning the non-security of SSN as an authenticator. A good number of comments already discussed the stupidity of basing security on the secrecy of the SSN.

Actually, I think there is just one simple solution to keep companies from relying on the SSN as a way to authenticate people:

Publish them all.

In reality, everybody who actually uses SSNs to authenticate people needs to have access to the DB of SSNs. Anybody who handles forms which contained SSN learns them. It’s a shared secret. And it’s used so widely that the circle of people who know them is so large that the secrecy is impossible to maintain.

They may be a secret, but they are a pretty open secret. That’s not security, that’s just a marginally plausible veneer of security.

In order to get something secure in place, you need to convince people that the current scheme is broken beyond repair. So just publish them. All 300 million of them. Get over it.

Austria Pet Peeves

Yeah, right

Today at the local (small) supermarket:

obst beim zielpunkt

Well, at some point in history, both Spain and (parts of) Italy were part of the Hapsburg Empire, but the rest? Give me a break.

CERT Pet Peeves

FUD, the Microsoft way

Dear Microsoft,

we all know that the “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt”-strategy worked quite well against Linux and other threats to your Monopoly business. By why do you apply the same tactic towards a Windows user that simply wants to open a zip-file?


(Translation: “This page contains an unspecified potential security risk. Do you want to continue?”)

What do you think a user should do with that information?

Internet Pet Peeves

Heise, Slashdot, Broken Records, and DNSSEC

Almost whenever a security event involving Windows is featured on Slashdot or Heise, some Linux fanboys will invariably post their cocky “that would not have happened with Linux” messages.

I start to see the same thing with DNS incidents and DNSSEC.

This is just as childish and stupid, especially as the voices writing such notes are often enough established engineers and not your average adolescent geek.

In reality most of the recent DNS hacks were not perpetrated by crafting forged DNS responses to poison caches but were successful attacks against the Registrar/Registrant interfaces. No, DNSSEC would not have helped in such a case.

The same is true for DNSSEC and the domain-based censorship which was just passed by the German government. DNSSEC will not help here. It is no panacea against meddling with DNS answers. It depends on who is doing the validation and whether the offending domains are actually signed or not (not likely these days):

  1. DNSSEC validation is done at the ISP resolver:

    DNSSEC doesn’t help the end-user here at all.

  2. DNSSEC validation in the client, ISP recursor is used:

    If the domain is signed, then the user will get a NXDOMAIN (or maybe a better error-reporting) instead of the IP address of the STOP-sign website.

    So the censuring still works, just the alerting of the user (and the logging of the STOP-sign access) does not.

  3. DNSSEC validation in the client, full recursion at the client

    Censorship is ineffective. Just the same as when the local recursor does no DNSSEC checking.

Remember: DNSSEC is not about the availability part of security, it’s only about the integrity. Censorship does not really need to attack the integrity, it’s all about availability.

Internet Pet Peeves

Bad timing,

Date: Wed, 20 May 2009 14:05:42 +0000
From: “”
Subject: Your free trial to Radio is over. Did you enjoy it?


Your free trial to Radio is about to end. If you’re enjoying it, why not
subscribe for only €3.00/month and continue listening to non-stop personalised

Best Regards,
The Team


Deny This,
by Michael Arrington on May 22, 2009

A couple of months ago Erick Schonfeld wrote a post titled “Did Just Hand Over User Listening Data To the RIAA?” based on a source that has proved to be very reliable in the past. All hell broke loose shortly thereafter.

I was inclined to pay them the 3€, partly because I’ve listened a lot to a stream from them, but after this breach of their privacy agreement?

Sorry, no deal guys.

[Update: yes, I know that LastFM is disputing this story.]

CERT Pet Peeves

Stupidity at Evanzo

Dear Evanzo,

the contact emails in the whois records for the domains you manage are there for a purpose: If there are troubles with these domains, the responsible people can be contacted in order to get the problems fixed.

And there is a good reason these whois data is not just a blob of Ascii, but structured data: Scripts can parse the records and e.g. automatically send email to the right address.

Getting back autoreplies stating basically “please use this web-form” is not going to cut it. We will not special-case our scripts to fill out web-forms just to accommodate your setup.

You, and your customers will simply not get our Mails regarding defaced Websites hosted by your service.

Your decision, your loss.

Pet Peeves

Nokia 6120 Classic and A1 Broadband

When I got my company cell-phone two years ago, I opted for a Nokia 6120. The reasoning was simple: Nokia was supposed to have a decent user-interface, the phone could act as a 3G modem for my laptop and run various simple applications like Avantgo.

Well, …