Author Archives: Duane

Conference – What-the-hack

What-the-hack 28-31 July 2005, near Den Bosch, Netherlands Some assurers will be there. More information later here. Buy a ticket before May 10th to get a rebate. more info.

Is the UK now unsafe for encryption?

In the wake of the recent bombings in the UK, police in the UK have asked for additional powers to hold terror suspects for up to 3 months without charge if they refuse to hand over encryption keys. While on the surface this sounds like a good way to fight recent happenings it’s no doubt going to be abused like all other knee jerk power grab actions of its kind.

If you are falsely accused and have encrypted files or software to enable you to encrypt things and are in no way, shape or form involved or responsible with the recent state of affairs all I can say is be afraid, be very afraid…,16132,1533917,00.html

Real time blacklists – naming and shaming

Long time systems administrators, they tend to either love or hate RBL lists depending what side of things you’re on (or have been on), in most cases people use information returned from these in conjunction with other metrics to more finely tune their spam response rather then using these lists as a be all and end all.

From time to time administrating you will end up on the wrong side of RBL lists more and more however this has less to do with blocking spam, but because of lazy users. Not to mention one of the biggest gripes administrators have to cope with in dealing with RBLs is they are often quite difficult to get off, supposedly to make it difficult on spammers, the jury is still out on that however. You can often find yourself listed even if you weren’t at fault because a large chunk of IP space you happen to be in the middle of is suddenly black listed!

To give some background here, I receive the majority of the bounced emails from the CAcert system and I keep an eye on why emails are being bounced, and it’s quite amusing to read some of the replies, such as people end up black listing their own mail relays.

Others also tend to report emails from us as spam either by accident or because they are simply too lazy to unsubscribe from our mailing lists, or for the emails automatically sent out to verify them on sign up! This almost almost ranks up there with my pet peeve with people black listing APNIC IP ranges (Asia Pacific NIC – which Australia happens to be part of but no where near the highest source of spam, even on a per captia basis!) because “most spam comes from Asia”, which is in fact false and they should black list ARIN instead because most spam comes from the US.

In any case the latest RBL ( that has come to my attention (they actually brag on their website about how many millions of IPs they have blocked!) basically takes the cake and they should be avoided like the plague. They have blacklisted the IPs CAcert sits on, the only information given is that it’s a country black list (you read right, it’s not a company black list, but an entire country), not to mention a country with a really low spam rate in any case!

This kind of thing is normally taken care of by sending in a report and asking to be removed or exempted from the black list, but I challenge anyone to find a method to contact them via their website within the first few minutes of looking, I’m still looking.

These guys are taking a sledge hammer to break open an egg and they should NOT be used as a RBL at all EVER, in fact this is the worst RBL list I’ve ever seen, and they point you to a page disclaiming all responsibility and that someone else has blocked the emails, but they are responsible for keeping an up to date lists otherwise this is a worst abuse then the spam they claim to be trying to prevent.

Conference – Ottawa Linux Symposium

Russ Herrold will be attending the Ottawa Linux Symposium from July 20-23rd, 2005 which is being held at the Ottawa Congress Centre, Ottawa, Canada

2005 Annual General Meeting

CAcert AGM has come and gone uneventfully this year. The meeting minutes are now online

Points of Interest:

New board for the 2005-06 financial year elected unapposed due to low amount of nominations:

Duane Groth – President
Mark Lipscombe – Vice President
Tina Kubota – Secretary
Ryan Verner – Ordinary Member
Matthew Asham – Ordinary Member

The meeting was ajourned for up to next 2 weeks to have the financial summary made available due to events beyond our control.

Conference Report – Linuxtag 2005

Ralf sent in this report about his recent results from LinuxTag 2005…

LinuxTag 2005 was again a great success for CAcert. We, Philipp ‘Sourcerer’ and I, supported by Eric ‘Nox’, Michael ‘MiGri’ and some others assured approx. 700 people. First time, we wore (self-made V0.1) T-shirts to represent the CI of CAcert.

As a direct result of LT assurance the 3000 assurer barrier has been broken!

As super-assurers, Phillipp and I ‘only’ usually issued 120 points and encouraged the applicants to get to the full points by doing cross-assurances near by our booth so we could answer upcoming questions.

For applicants in ‘underdeveloped areas’ ­čśë we issued full 150 and aske to bring some friends around to be assured so they can spin the web of trust in their region.

Usually the identity was pre-checked and the form was marked by an assurer’s aid (Eric, Migri, Steffen, …) and the assured by one of the super assurers.

Now and then, Philipp vanished for hours to the other (.com-)conference hall and built contacts to ‘Them’.

To applicant’s with an existing account the points were issued right at the booth (I had an OpenVPN tunnel to my home based network, of course secured by CAcert certificates) and all the others were asked to create their account as soon as possible.

By today, the pile of unprocessed forms is reduced to approx. 40, all of these got more than 3 reminder emails. Maybe thos mails get lost as false positives in a spam filter or thos applicants changed their mind.

So this is the end of my first entry to the blog. Please excuse typos or strange phrases. This is NOT my native language and school was ages ago ­čśë



P.S. Good news! For Europe, I mangaged to persuade Petra from to offer high-quality CAcert T-shirts at a good price ( evend reduced if you order by CAcert-cert signed mail ­čśë plus shipping. See details at

Mozilla drops Open in favour of Smoke Filled Rooms

Things are slowly coming out about what happened a month ago in New York city, and my initial questions still go unanswered, many excuses are being spun but very few answers are given freely, and this is really disappointing coming from the Mozilla guys.

Mozilla touts, like many open source projects that being open and free is a major benefit to society, yet they then have the hide to turn round and conspire with commercial interests behind close door for what we’re being told will be the benefit of the internet.

I’m not sure about anyone else but my memory isn’t that bad that I’ve forgotten how US commercial interests don’t do anything unless it will effect their bottom line, either for increased profits, or due to regulatory disputes planning to inflict fines or other restrictions that will hurt their bottom line. This is highlighted only too well in the current SPF vs Sender ID debate, Microsoft as usual came in late to the game thinking, “we’ve missed another boat, what the hell do we do now?”. What they came up with, was a small variation of SPF then turned round and requested a patent on their “innovation”!

Microsoft then did what Microsoft always does, turned round and tried to inflict their “invention” on us, but it was no olive branch, it was a thorny stem with no rose on the end, basically they have and are still trying to take control of email via a patented invention that does very little more then what SPF does, in fact they are still trying to push through their “invention” by brute force. Since the MADRID task force collapsed due to lack of consensus, Microsoft has a solution lacking mass adoption, so they are planning to mark any email being sent to their domains as junk that don’t support (or properly support) Sender ID.

So anyway back to the current story, basically Mozilla hasn’t learnt from history and they actually think they will be able to do more good then harm from closed door talks then what happened with MADRID. I doubt anyone will claim the internet could be where it is without open standards, and open discussions preceding before that, hell CAcert thrives based on open discussions, there are a lot of smart people out there with a lot of good ideas and we’d be mad to simply ignore them.

However this is exactly what the Mozilla guys have done, and in the process alienated a lot of smart specialists in the area they are trying to define, the end result will be that we all suffer, and a very good example of where this has happened in the past is with Wifi security (this is after all how CAcert begun, bad Wifi security needing something else to protect information), basically cryptography experts weren’t consulted openly and we ended up with something basically a waste of time that can be cracked in minutes, so tell me how those closed door talks helped society exactly.

Ian from FinancialCryptography has some more information on the topic on his blog as well, which is well worth the read.

Conference – Linuxtag 2005 June 22-25, Karlsruhe, Germany. There will be a booth in the “Community” area where you can be assured.

Up coming trip…

For anyone in the San Francisco area I’ll be stuck at the San Francisco airport from when I clear customs on the 8th of July (some time about 8pm or 9 depending on how late/early the flight is), until I need to board/clear security for the connecting flight at about 11:30pm (flight isn’t till 12:30am), so if anyone wants to be assured/have coffee/whatever I’m guessing I’ll be pretty bored by that point and welcome anyone wanting a chat, as I’ll have been on planes/in airports for about 24 hours prior… Feel free to Contact Me

Yet another high profile data leak

Hot on the heals of last weeks package loss in transit by Citibank, comes the announcement that 40 MILLION credit card numbers have been leaked by a cracker getting into CardSystems Solutions, a third party processing company of credit cards.

So I must ask once more, why do supposedly open source browser vendors keep spreading FUD that we are such a risk, when clearly 6 weeks running the US banking industry has gotten black eye after black eye with horrifically escalating breaches of private and financial information.

I’ll propose my question again, how can any CA breach be even on par with a major browser security breach. Bugs are patched and people are encouraged to upgrade, and life goes on every day, why are SSL certificates treated in such religious and completely incorrect notions of the real world we live in. Fair enough things may have started out much differently but that isn’t the reality we live in today or for the next 5 years to come.

The short version is SSL started out as a solution looking for a problem, and along came a few commercial CAs thinking they could rake in millions if not billions by doing annual ID checks, in the end they had to settle for protecting link layer security and selling snake oil about what was really being protected, after all the latest example proves time and time again the biggest risk and problem is protecting end points, and NOT the link layer.

So please tell me again why are we such a threat!?