User Errors Often Compromise Encryption

This should come as no surprise: users often compromise their own security by making mistakes setting up and using their encryption apps.

Paper: "On the Security and Usability of Crypto Phones," by Maliheh Shivanian and Nitesh Saxena, Proceedings of ACSAC 2015.

Posted on December 17, 2015 at 6:46 AM • 27 Comments

Comments

CuriousDecember 17, 2015 7:14 AM

I am not familiar with this tech, though having read the first article being someone that isn't really into crypto stuff, it makes me wonder if a user has to always write some authentication code down on paper, or on the other hand, that should perhaps not be required to do so.

joncrDecember 17, 2015 8:45 AM

Broadly speaking, this is an example of why homebrew encryption managed by users is never going to be a trustworthy security or privacy tool.

Encryption is difficult for most people to understand, both in concept and in implementation. Therefore, they will not understand it. The One Percent who are technically proficient can deal with it currently. But, the 99 percent who just buy something and use it will depend on whatever that Giant Corp is marketing.

RobinDecember 17, 2015 9:03 AM

from the first link:

" ... says one reason people might accept incorrect checksums is that they consist of random words, rather than a sequence you’d see in a sentence."

But if it's anything like reading - and I'm pretty sure it is - then people will hear what they expect to hear. Most people listening to "I'm dreaming have a wide Christmas" will hear: "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas". I really wouldn't feel confident using any such verification system.

WinterDecember 17, 2015 9:08 AM

I really wonder whether these results with study subjects can be extrapolated to users who bought these phones to be more secure.

I would expect that people who care enough about their security to get a special phone to be more careful in using it.

Josh BDecember 17, 2015 9:55 AM

The envisioned follow-up study is hilarious:

"As the researchers envision it, the participants in a call would speak their words aloud. Then software would transcribe the words and compare the two transcriptions."

Good luck with that one. Unless the words come from a very limited subset, like Diceware or a list specifically tailored to be very phonologically different, the transcription correctness rate will likely be quite bad, and nonexistent in the case of an accent or background noise. Anyone who's seen the quality of transcribed voice mail knows.

Clive RobinsonDecember 17, 2015 10:21 AM

I'm actually not that suprised.

Past research into users remembering Bank Card PIN numbers, shows most people can not remember four digits when spoken to them S digits or they read off of a piece of paper immediately before trying to type it into a keypad. Things improve if as opposed to saying "three seven four three" you say "three thousand seven hundred and fourty three".

The fact that the false accept and correct reject figures both go up from two words to four says it's more likely to be a cognative issue rather than the ability to hear clearly.

I would guess that the problem is the brain trys to make sense in some way. That is "cat sat up mat" would likely as not get changed to "cat sat on mat" in the persons head.

Thus maybe rather than four randomly selected words, use a word tree and select a leaf node randomly and put in the connectives to make a more rememberable sentance to say.

This would still make sense to the brain even if the sentance was nonsense such as "Green ham with blue eggs" thus the cognative load would drop significantly making the chance of remembering the words considerably improved.

As with most HCI stuff making the human work with the way the coputer does, is a lot less effective than making the computer work the way a human does. After all the lack pf computing resources is hardly an excuse these days.

James December 17, 2015 11:32 AM

It's not the users (my) fault, it's technology's. We didn't ask to have every single aspect of our lives converted into binary. And, I shouldn't be expected to learn cryptography, or purchase a BlackPhone, just to stay safe online. Apparently it's easier for some young, bored, F-Chop to effectively bankrupt a Business and steal millions of identities / dollars through hacking, than it is for an adult to effectively use PGP for their email. We didn't ask to be made to rely upon a system that perhaps wasn't even ready to begin with either.
If push-button security doesn't exist, we can't blame Parents, Grandparents, or even ourselves for not being able to keep up with an ever changing system that isn't safe from criminal hackers who cost us something near $500,000,000,000 a year (ISIS makes the relatively paltry sum of 'only' $500 Million a year from selling Oil).
I'm no Luddite. I've kept up with and watched all the Hypponen's, your, Appelbaum & Dingledine's, Marlinspike's etc articles, debates, seminars lectures and talks over the years. I've watched too many Hacker-cons and Democracy Now for 13 years as well. I know all the arguments. But something has to change and I'm not that 'something'.
Q:
Are any of the students in the U.S. who are being taught crypto-carnage (Maths, languages, programs and protocols) in public schools, ever asked to sign a simple 'responsibility agreement', or a 'I will do no harm' type of contract? If not, they should be. Perhaps even Cryptographers with certain kinds of potentially dangerous knowledge (like you Bruce) should be Licensed to practice their craft, if they aren't already. Because if I have to get a License to:
Bury, Carry, Marry, Drive, Dive, Cast, Sell, Fly, Counsel, Cook, Operate and so much more, perhaps cryptographers and 'hackers' that have more potentially dangerous knowledge than any listed here, should too.
No, I don't want to ban, or even restrict access to Maths or knowledge. I want those who have access to potentially destructive knowledge, to be held responsible (*somehow*) if they 'choose' to use it for ill and get caught, or if it comes back to them. They should have to suffer in prison like any Doctor who commits ethical crimes, right?

Is this concept of a License to drive on the CyWay, completely off the table? If so, why?

I'm sure many will think this is an absolutely 1984 idea, but we passed 1984 a long time ago, it came even before 1984 with Telegrams and Bell Telephone. There's cameras everywhere (at least 2 or more in your home right now) and microphones that you choose to have along with you all the time (each can be hacked), all the apps you give 'permissions' to, satellites, quantum teleportation, drones, virtual & augmented realities, genetics, IOT, the internet itself, armed robots of all sizes and capabilities, 3D-printed exoskeletons and 'Iron-Man' type Limbs and life extension technologies that to someone like my Parents and myself, it's not just the future we're living in, but a time that seems like Magic (Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Like Arthur C. Clark explains). All of this and more, is right here at home too, if you have the money. But what comes with it are ill-intentions. It all comes back to *borders* and security for yourself, your immediate family and neighbors does it not?
I mean, we better think of something, because if we (specifically technologists) don't help curb the destructiveness of the internet, something far worse than what I've proposed will be *forced on all of us* before we can even react. If all the people using Tor for good (Human rights Lawyers, you etc), were asked to put in a PIN that was issued by someone you trust just to access it, all the Child Pornographers, Gun-Runners, Thieves, Junkies and Kids attempting to ruin as many lives as possible on purpose (who we claim to empower in the name of free-speech) would poke out like a sore thumb.
No, I don't know all the technical jargon to argue my point down to the statute or theory. I just know something has to change because the simple fact is: Hackers are more financially (and morally) damaging to America and the world, than the most well armed, well funded terrorist group in history.
Actually, I hope the FBI continues to use hacker's own tools to catch 'em before their techno-boredom steals my identity and uses it to commit a horrible crime.
Finally, I just want to ponder out-loud:
--Has the internet necessarily made our lives better in general, or worse? Is it actually the scientific breakthroughs that don't require the internet for their success (just to share results like it's original purpose), or is it the internet itself that has brought us all the wonders we now see and expect from the future? If it's honestly the science and not the internet itself that has bettered our lives, defending the internet becomes that much harder.
And no, I don't want to ban the internet because I ponder this question. I'm simply asking for an honest look at comparing our successes & failures. Perhaps our file sharing device is broken, not us. I've never written in and I just want to play 'Devil's advocate' to see how far this can go. I expect to be ignored, or trampled and that's fine. I think it's an important debate and worth it. Sadly though, I risk getting hacked for even proposing this idea. Likely in the name of free speech to boot.
Thanks for the time. And Bruce, thank you so much for all the hard work you do.
Cheers.

DanielDecember 17, 2015 11:45 AM

Yes, there is a way in which I have come to see encryption itself as one huge honeypot. Those who understand encryption are normally smart enough that they understand encryption is just one of the many things they need to do to protect their privacy and/or security. And as often as not it is those other actions that do in fact protect them, not encryption. On the other hand, many people are attracted to encryption precisely because they do not know what else to do to protect themselves. They expect encryption to work like a magic formula--just throw some math at the problem. since these people don't know what else to do besides encryption they often get violated by weaknesses in all the other stuff, not encryption.

So in the end, encryption makes a difference only in edge cases, yet it sure does attract people. Mmmmmm, honey. I've long wondered if Tor actually has resulted in more arrests, deaths, prosecutions, etc than it has prevented for precisely this reason.

Clive RobinsonDecember 17, 2015 12:27 PM

@ James,

I'm simply asking for an honest look at comparing our successes & failures.

The simple answer is we have no metrics to measure with maningfully and similarly it's dificult to find something to compare it to (ie apples with apples, not bananas or grapefruit).

There is a book "The Death of Distance" that tried to do some of this, but it's not a great read.

One fundemental proplem is how we measure societal success or improvment. Traditionaly it has been via economics but the whole notion is flawed baddly when it comes to anything other than traditional physical goods consumer markets.

A fundemental but usually unstated assumption in economics is "distance has cost" and therefore markets have limited geographical coverage. As the likes of Google, Facebook et al have shown unless there is an applied impediment --like the Great Firewall of China-- then there is but one global market with no distance cost, in which the first player who can scale is "winner takes all". Further they have turned the usual supply and demand effect on cost on it's head by making the service effectivly free to users, instead using user activity to raise revenue, the users have thus effectivly given themselves up as product, not consumers.

Coming to terms with this new radicaly different economy is a new and emerging field of endevor, Ross J. Anderson over at the UK Cambridge labs is one of the founders of the field.

One of the reasons that internet crime apparently costs so much is that after development there is usually zero cost to the attackers to deploy their attack tools. Further they can also be at as many points on the internet attacking simultaneously as chose to be so can be "an instant overwhelming force" a true army of one, who defeats you before you can even register you've been attacted.

The reason this can happen is the cost of duplicating the tools has little cost, and that which there is is payed for not by the attacker but by the defender, likewise the cost in running the attack.

The most important thing though is the lack of locality and simultanious attack capability. Locality is important in our physical world, not in the information world. Thus much in the way of probability and statistics that we take for granted, nolonger applies, which makes traditional markets such as insurance nolonger predictable.

One thing is clear, if we want to return to traditional exonomic markets, it can only be done by political will, by making distance cost in some way, that is putting up boarders and raising tarrifs on information crossing, such that each home market has a competative edge over those from other regions and can thus develope in different ways. Not doing so will lead eventually to stagnation where you get what the monopoly organisation decides to give you, even though that may not be what you want.

I hope that gives you a little more to think on.

Nick PDecember 17, 2015 12:31 PM

@ James

So, what you're saying is that many of you know the risks of the tech and continue depending on it in various ways? And your dependence on it isn't the problem that needs to change?

The problem is a combo of human nature and economics. The first, real, business machines were Burroughs B5000 and IBM System/360. Burrough's had inherently safe, readable architecture that got stuff done. IBM System/360 had unsafe architecture that was a bit faster and backward compatible with prior garbage. Both kept improving their architectures with Burroughs trying to maintain the good qualities and IBM focusing just on price per raw speed. Guess which one dominates around 90% of the mainframe market and which is in legacy mode with most safety removed for price/performance its customers demand?

Likewise, all kinds of vendors in the 80's and later developed solutions with better security while still usable. There were even banks and tech incubators that differentiated on that. For some, there was no difference to the user except it having less features (avoiding complexity) and higher price (added security/quality). Even those failed to get sales because people could get more features and performance for their money in insecure competition. Intel made three, different attempts to replace their insecure architecture with losses probably over a billion dollars. Only a handful of companies in high security market still exist, mostly selling to defence sector. Even there, the preferrence is for insecure stuff due to features and cost.

So, if people won't buy it, why should suppliers build it? If users don't want it or refuse the tradeoffs, why should developers build it with necessary tradeoffs? I mean, even the highly usable and supposedly secure Threema app is barely a blip on the market at a price of *two dollars*. For hardware, Intel and Burroughs already lost billions delivering something better. It seems the only common denominator here is the user or more specifically the buyer. They won't demand or buy secure products outside a tiny niche that barely funds the R&D costs. So, companies give them the insecure stuff they want. It's their fault.

Note: Those who actually do try to buy better stuff but get defrauded or slammed due to others' failures fall outside my blame analysis. They're doing what they can at least. I doubt I'd find even one of them in a conference room, though, at the ratio they exist in the general population.

Nick PDecember 17, 2015 12:47 PM

@ James

"Has the internet necessarily made our lives better in general, or worse? Is it actually the scientific breakthroughs that don't require the internet for their success (just to share results like it's original purpose), or is it the internet itself that has brought us all the wonders we now see and expect from the future?"

I forgot to answer that. Truth is, I have no answer except to say it's improved us on knowledge and capabilities but possibly hurt us on the social side. People seem more connected online while less connected to each other. Deep, rural living, big city, and overwork seemed to have that effect, too. I think that disconnect is fueling major problems and will create more over time.

Far as information, Internet provides a partial solution to that. So many of society's misconceptions about so many topics can now be countered by people who can gather evidence and deliver it at nearly no cost. Bullshit spreads even easier with only a percentage of it countered. So, there's a dynamic there. Yet, before the Internet, people heard only what people around them said about many key topics (esp politics or business). Now, they can hear anyone. It's a nice break from the echo chambers the mainstream media create to keep attention of target demographics.

Far as business, the Internet and tech is great for the consumer. So many benefits it's hard to name them all. Most of the downsides, like lost jobs, can be countered in politics or startups but most people in my country at least are too apathetic to do shit. The enablers for the abuses of Internet and capital remain solidified in law that primarily benefits big companies and the rich. Once again, our system and the Internet provide the opportunity to counter that to a degree that never existed. Apathy remains, though.

So, it's a big, mixed bag. It's resilient, cheap, and effective enough that it worked with more benefits than we imagine. It has definite downsides that magnify when combined with problems that already existed. The final tally on what it delivers remains to be seen but tech and Internet have a huge, net benefit I'd argue.

dragonfrogDecember 17, 2015 2:55 PM

@Robin

But if it's anything like reading - and I'm pretty sure it is - then people will hear what they expect to hear. Most people listening to "I'm dreaming have a wide Christmas" will hear: "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas". I really wouldn't feel confident using any such verification system.

The words though are specifically selected for verbal confirmation, to have enough difference between them that they can't be easily confused. Think of the NATO phonetic alphabet - there's a reason the word for 'S' is 'Sierra' not 'Steamer', because 'Lima' is already used for 'L' and the two could be confused due to different accents and bad connections. These verification systems are similar.

JamesDecember 17, 2015 3:11 PM

I have to get going and I hope the following makes sense and is w/o too many errors. I do wish I had more time to chat on this machine that does link ides and concepts and allows us to communicate like this, but also just ruins people's lives on a daily basis.
@Nick P & @Clive Robinson
Thanks for the answers. It's the kind of respectful dialogue to some fringe ideas that I ws looking for. I only wanted to present my frustrations to encourage the kind of responses I've gotten so far:)
I just got done watching another short Schneier video after my initial post that you can also watch here: http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/video/Bruce-Schneier-Time-for-society-to-decide-on-Internet-surveillance if you like.
He addresses the knife edge here, where we have to both take sides, and use trust, but also try and force encryption by endlessly challenge the government, that he claims he sees as an "enemy", to make it too expensive for them anymore by doing the impossible like fighting court battles we know we'll lose and want's us to "...use more encryption, as much as possible", because "cryptography frustrates the NSA" and expects every business owner to challenge every NSL "even though there's literally nothing you can do there" and "...you have no choice but to comply".
I agree when he says: "...better the U.S. spy on you than the Russians or the Chinese". But for 'everyone' to have encryption, I would think that either has to be put into the physical cables, or just implemented from the source and we can't just 'make' them do it. Shouldn't it just be lobbied for like anything else? As a Nation or Planet, there is too much else going on in the world for all the People with their individual lives, who don't have the time or the money for us to expect them to help 'demonstrate' or 'protest' for a 'critical mass' of consumers to use encryption in order to have it 'decreed' if you know what i mean...

@Nick P - This: "...Truth is, I have no answer except to say it's improved us on knowledge and capabilities but possibly hurt us on the social side. People seem more connected online while less connected to each other. Deep, rural living, big city, and overwork seemed to have that effect, too. I think that disconnect is fueling major problems and will create more over time", and what follows, like what you said about 'Apathy' and how the addressed the subject here:
"So, it's a big, mixed bag. It's resilient, cheap, and effective enough that it worked with more benefits than we imagine. It has definite downsides that magnify when combined with problems that already existed. The final tally on what it delivers remains to be seen but tech and Internet have a huge, net benefit I'd argue.", is great. Thanks for that.


@Clive Robinson
I honestly do appreciate your answer in full. But when I asked:

I'm simply asking for an honest look at comparing our successes & failures.
... I really was just asking for your personal opinion or 'take' on the whole thing. Just your personal opinion really on the internet and it's successes Vs. it's failures. "Has it all been worth it" I suppose and why or how... I know its huge and I certainly recognize the benefits (and recognize the fact there's much more to appreciate than I even know of, just n the medical field for example), I remember the birth of the internet. I'm in my 40's so I also remember what it was like beforehand. And the internet for so many people, is just a giant phone-book with answers to virtually any question. Awesome! But also Leaving us in an Alpha-state of always seeing new things, but never really learning them. I see people just flipping, flipping, flipping, with an inverted halo on their faces as they nearly walk into a pole or forget about their child (just wait for all the VR addict jokes to come) and know that we weren't loosing $20 Trillion a decade to chumps with anonymity.
There's pros-n-cons of all kinds but I was just asking for your views. Thanks for the input that you gave. Cheers

In the end, I don't think we should compare the virtual world with real one anymore. Too many differences. You can't break down my physical door with any amount of encryption, and we can't arm every person by making or 'asking' them do it either. It must be invisible & ubiquitous, woven into the fabric of the internet at the source.
Thanks for hearing me out and responding so well.
Cheers again!

JanDecember 17, 2015 3:22 PM

True story: *twice* last month I got sent a "certificate in .P12 format" (which is a private key of course) that I could "convert" to a certificate to set up a connection.
In one case, the password was right there with it in the same message.
I told them to go talk to a cryptographer before trying again.
The scary thing is that it is really easy to Google a recipe for this "conversion".

Sancho_PDecember 17, 2015 3:38 PM


@Clive Robinson

¡All the best! I wish you’d take it as a short vacation from the Net.

“One thing is clear, if we want to return to traditional economic markets, it can only be done by political will, by making distance cost in some way, that is putting up boarders and raising tariffs on information crossing, such that each home market has a competitive edge over those from other regions and can thus develop in different ways.” (@Clive, my emph added)

Err, that’s a (twofold) no go, as eternal growth can’t have any borders.
The other way (monopolism) is already fact.
However, I guess collapse will prevent us from stagnation.

WinterDecember 18, 2015 2:17 AM

@ James
"Has the internet necessarily made our lives better in general, or worse? Is it actually the scientific breakthroughs that don't require the internet for their success (just to share results like it's original purpose), or is it the internet itself that has brought us all the wonders we now see and expect from the future?"

It is fair to say that almost all economic growth in human history has come from trade. The wider the trade connections, the more growth. The two defining innovations in the past decades have been container transport and electronic communication, aka, the internet.

Remove the electronic networks/ICT and you will have to cut 10-50% of the global economy.

On the social side, THE primary occupation of human beings is chatting and gossiping. Almost all media (social or not) cover these, which includes broadcast news and politics. The internet is an innovation that is bigger than the printing press. It might come to rival writing itself.

Yes, our lives have become much better due to the internet because we can now chat and gossip with people who do not live around the corner.

The above is not a joke.

And surveillance and security? It is a myth that you can protect yourself agains your fellow humans, be it the state or predating bands, by personal force. The only viable solutions are political: Organize your community.

PacDecember 18, 2015 2:54 AM

A study on a sample of 128 subjects recruited on Amazon Mechanical Turk ? Grouped into two sets ? We could probably get more significant statistics on "users" with a single dice.

PacDecember 18, 2015 3:09 AM

Moreover, that study is related to an authentification protocol that does not itself involve encryption.

That is a strange qualitative extrapolation made by Bruce on the basis of a quite surprising quantitative extrapolation made by the researchers.

CallMeLateForSupperDecember 18, 2015 9:55 AM

Am I to understand that this handshake dance - verify a checksum; identify a voice as belonging to the person with whom I want to converse - is required to be done for each and every call? Absurd. Not unlike reverting to 1930-1940 technology and procedure: lift earpiece; spin a crank; ask "central" to connect you to Annabelle. Encrypting email is "too hard", but this pre-conversation conversation is a viable modus? Not ready for prime-time, IMO.

Then there is the issue of the quality of cellphone audio. It sucks. And the lower the volume of a speaker's voice, the worse it sounds - all the way down to to unintelligible. Data compression at work. I theorize that this explains why people speak loudly into their cell, often significantly louder than polite, face-to-face conversation. Cellfonies probably do it out of habit, long ago tired of constant "Huh? WHAT?". "So quiet you can hear a pin drop"[1] but so garbled you sound like you're submedged. This is progress?

The 12-inch monitor gave way to the 15-inch; the 19-inch and larger followed. That for the sake of legibility. Then, major digression: the "smart" phone cum tiny display. Couldn't read the darned thing but at least the phone could easily nest in a pocket. Definitely too small a display, so enter the 2nd-generation smartie, then "pad", "tablet" and "phablet". Displays have improved, but hey!... these things are billed as *phones*.


[1] AT&T television ad,; early 1980's, IIRC. Fiberoptic cable really did greatly improve audio quality. Chatting with my brother - I in New York, he in Guam - I clearly heard him shuffle papers on his desk, click his ballpoint pen.

WaelDecember 18, 2015 10:17 AM

@CallMeLateForSupper,

I in New York, he in Guam - I clearly heard him shuffle papers on his desk, click his ballpoint pen

I'm afraid that wasn't your brother in Guam! That was the sound of a rat spook in Germany[1] taking notes ;)

[1] Ask @Benny, he'll tell you all about it.

Tony H.December 18, 2015 10:31 AM

@CallMeLateForSupper:
"So quiet you can hear a pin drop"[1]
[...]
[1] AT&T television ad,; early 1980's, IIRC.

It was SPRINT. And yeah, good luck with that these days. Neither mobile nor even typical VOIP service today is anything like as good in this sense as analogue phone service in, say, the 1940s.

Tony H.December 18, 2015 3:04 PM

Clive says:
I would guess that the problem is the brain trys to make sense in some way. That is "cat sat up mat" would likely as not get changed to "cat sat on mat" in the persons head.

Thus maybe rather than four randomly selected words, use a word tree and select a leaf node randomly and put in the connectives to make a more rememberable sentance to say.

This would still make sense to the brain even if the sentance was nonsense such as "Green ham with blue eggs" thus the cognative load would drop significantly making the chance of remembering the words considerably improved.

Heh...
YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF TWISTY LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.
YOU ARE IN A LITTLE MAZE OF TWISTING PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.
YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF TWISTING LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.
YOU ARE IN A LITTLE MAZE OF TWISTY PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.
YOU ARE IN A TWISTING MAZE OF LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.
YOU ARE IN A TWISTING LITTLE MAZE OF PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.
YOU ARE IN A TWISTY LITTLE MAZE OF PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.
YOU ARE IN A TWISTY MAZE OF LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.
YOU ARE IN A LITTLE TWISTY MAZE OF PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.
YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF LITTLE TWISTING PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.
YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF LITTLE TWISTY PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT.

Simon WDecember 23, 2015 12:40 AM

User error? This is designer error.

Check out The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman for many wonderful examples of bad design causing "user error" — my favorite is the huge numbers of "pull handles" on the "push" side of doors in public places, necessitating the "Push" and "Pull" signs we see on doors everywhere.

The designers of RedPhone and similar apps should have tried out what the study authors tried, and then come up with a better system for authentication.

Nick PDecember 23, 2015 12:47 PM

Great paper on usable, PKI implementation

Paper here. Even I was shocked that getting on secure wireless network and cert setup was a twenty-something step process even Ph.D.'s couldn't understand. They narrowed it down to a few, intuitive steps with rest automated. Excellent example of improving security in a way people can use. More thinking like this needs to be applied to each product category and the apps that manage them.

JoaoDecember 23, 2015 4:28 PM

Threema App seems the best on the authentication part!

Show the QR code to the other smartphone video camera with Threema installed and the user is added and authenticated. If you have doubts, in the user profile you can see the 32 alphanumeric characters key fingerprint.

Levels of trust:
1) No trust at all (RED sign);
2) Appears in the list of the Threema server associated to some phone number and/ or e-mail address (YELLOW sign);
3) The program sees a QR Code that contains the necessary information to make sure is the correct Threema ID and public key information (GREEN sign).
Should be shown directly from the phone it self... but you can take a photo and put in a business card, web site, magazine, video, newspaper...

The user has as little or as much authentication it wants.

The user only needs to verify once the Threema ID. But once it verifies he/ she can go to the user profile and verify the key fingerprint value at any time! It's 32 alphanumeric characters... but the user can, if it really wants.

The user doesn't need to give his/ her phone and/ or e-mail to the server... just need the other user QR code to make it go directly Green sign (complete verified authentication).

The only problem is that the Threema App doesn't currently support direct voice calls, but only send/ receive audio files... not bad, but supporting direct calls would be nicer and useful if using the same system of encryption/ authentication.

Bong-Smoking Primitive Monkey-Brained ZombieDecember 23, 2015 8:32 PM

@Nick P,

Even I was shocked that getting on secure wireless network and cert setup was a twenty-something step process even Ph.D.'s couldn't understand.

Not surprising! Ph.D.'s are overrated. A Ph.D. is an academic degree in a highly specialized subject. Slave for 5 to 7 years under an advisor, then you get a piece of paper to hang on your wall :) The known exceptions produced good work because they chiefly had the mental capacity and desire. Going through research required for the degree facilitated the environment for them to advance further. a Ph.D. on some holders is about just as useful as "tits on a boar" ;)

[1] Sour grapes :)

You may address me as BS-PMBZ...

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of IBM Resilient.