Author: Neil Madden
When a KEM is not enough
In my previous post, I described the KEM/DEM paradigm for hybrid encryption. The key encapsulation mechanism is given the recipient’s public key and outputs a fresh AES key and an encapsulation of that key that the recipient can decapsulate to recover the AES key. In this post I want to talk about several ways that the KEM interface falls short and what to do about it:
- As I’ve discussed before, the standard definition of public key encryption lacks any authentication of the sender, and the KEM-DEM paradigm is no exception. You often want to have some idea of where a message came from before you process it, so how can we add sender authentication?
- If you want to send the same message to multiple recipients, a natural approach would be to encrypt the message once with a fresh AES key and then encrypt the AES key for each recipient. With the KEM approach though we’ll end up with a separate AES key for each recipient. How can we send the same message to multiple recipients without encrypting the whole thing separately for each one?
- Finally, the definition of public key encryption used in the KEM/DEM paradigm doesn’t provide forward secrecy. If an attacker ever compromises the recipient’s long-term private key, they can decrypt every message ever sent to that recipient. Can we prevent this?
In this article I’ll tackle the first two issues and show how the KEM/DEM abstractions can be adjusted to cope with each. In a follow-up post I’ll then show how to tackle forward secrecy, along with replay attacks and other issues. Warning: this post is longer and has more technical details than the previous post. It’s really meant for people who already have some experience with cryptographic algorithms.Continue reading “When a KEM is not enough”
Hybrid encryption and the KEM/DEM paradigm
If you know a bit about public key cryptography, you probably know that you don’t directly encrypt a message with a public key encryption algorithm like RSA. This is for many reasons, one of which being that it is incredibly slow. Instead you do what’s called hybrid encryption: first you generate a random AES key (*) and encrypt the message with that (using a suitable authenticated encryption mode), then you encrypt the AES key with the RSA public key. The recipient uses their RSA private key to decrypt the AES key and then uses that to decrypt the rest of the message. This is much faster than trying to encrypt a large message directly with RSA, so pretty much all sane implementations of RSA encryption do this.Continue reading “Hybrid encryption and the KEM/DEM paradigm”
I made my daughter a toy tree house thing for Christmas out of old firewood (and a slice of cedar donated by a neighbour). It’s a bit clunky in places — “rustic” shall we say? But I probably enjoyed making this, over a few weeks of lunchtimes and evenings, more than anything I’ve done for a long time.
I don’t think I’ll give up the day job just yet, and I think I’ll replace the top platforms at some point (the wood is not in good condition, made more obvious by the oil finish). But it’s been a huge hit – so far it’s been played with every day. I can’t ask more than that.
XSS doesn’t have to be game over
There’s a persistent belief among web security people that cross-site scripting (XSS) is a “game over” event for defence: there is no effective way to recover if an attacker can inject code into your site. Brian Campbell refers to this as “XSS Nihilism”, which is a great description. But is this bleak assessment actually true? For the most part yes, but in this post I want to talk about a faint glimmer on the horizon that might just be a ray of sunshine after all.Continue reading “XSS doesn’t have to be game over”
Parse, don’t type-check
There’s a fantastic article from last year titled Parse, don’t validate. I’d highly recommend it to any programmer (along with the more recent follow up Names are not type safety). The basic idea is that there are two ways to check that some input to a function is valid:
- A validator checks that the input is valid and throws an error if not. It doesn’t return anything. For example, checking that a list is not empty.
- A parser does the same as a validator, but returns a more specific representation of the input that ensures that the required property is satisfied. For example, checking that a list is not empty and returning a NonEmptyList type.
The thesis of the article is that parsers are preferable to validators. If you’ve not read the original article, please do so – it’s very well written and makes the case much better than I can summarise it. The essential message is to make illegal states unrepresentable. In the article, this is done by making use of the type system. This is a philosophy I entirely agree with, but I want to point out and expand upon one ironic aspect of the argument:
A type checker is a paradigmatic example of a validator!Continue reading “Parse, don’t type-check”
API Security in Action is published!
I wasn’t expecting it so quickly, so it caught me a little off guard, but API Security in Action is now finally published. PDF copies are available now, with printed copies shipping by the end of the month. Kindle/ePub take a little bit longer but should be out in a few weeks time.
My own print copies will take a few weeks to ship to the UK, and I can’t wait to finally hold it in my hands. That’s a brighter ending to 2020.
At some point I’ll try and collect some thoughts about the process of writing it and my feelings with the finished product. But tonight I’ll settle for a glass (or two) of a nice red. Cheers!
Some incomplete thoughts about Gödel
I saw another article on Gödel’s incompleteness theorems linked from Reddit today. It’s a topic I’ve wanted to write about for some time. Although many articles do a decent job in giving an idea of what the big deal is (and this one is pretty good), they can sometimes give a misleading impression of what the theorems actually imply. I’m by no means an expert, but hopefully these notes are useful.Continue reading “Some incomplete thoughts about Gödel”
Macaroon access tokens for OAuth: Part 2 – transactional auth
In part 1, I showed how Macaroon access tokens in ForgeRock Access Management 7.0 can be used as a lightweight and easy-to-deploy alternative to proof of possession (PoP) schemes for securing tokens in browser-based apps. The same techniques can be adapted to secure tokens in microservice architectures and IoT applications, and I hope to expand on some of the patterns they enable in future blog posts. But in this post, I want to look at third-party caveats and their application to transactional authorization.Continue reading “Macaroon access tokens for OAuth: Part 2 – transactional auth”
API Security in Action handed over to production
After a flurry of last-minute corrections and updates in response to review feedback, my book has now been handed over to Manning’s production team. That means a few weeks of copy editing and graphics polish, then indexing and typesetting to produce the final version around October time at a guess. I’m not sure how long it then takes to print and ship, but it’s getting close!
The latest edits will be pushed out to the online early-access (MEAP) copy in the next few days, so you can read essentially the finished book online if you wish. Use the code fccmadden at checkout to get 37% off if you want to check it out. The revised material includes improving the presentation of some of the longer chapters. The material on capabilities and macaroons in chapter 9 has been significantly improved, as has chapter 11 on service-to-service API calls. Chapter 12 has been improved after expert feedback from Jean-Philippe Aumasson and his colleagues at Teserakt. Exercises have been added to chapters 6, 7, 12, and 13 too. I think these changes have really made the book much better. I hope you agree.