On Wed, Oct 01, 2003 at 02:24:00PM -0400, Ian Grigg wrote:

> What is written in these posts (not just the present one)
> does derive from that viewpoint and although one can   
> quibble about the details, it does look very much from
> the outside that there is an informal "Cryptographers  
> Guild" in place [1].

I agree with that. First of all, even foolishly childish application
builders like me know that cryptography is hard to get right (that's
what we say up front in the README and manpage of tinc). And we also
know there is a group of people specialised in security, who know much
more than we can learn without spending a large amount of time.
Furthermore, the reactions of those people to our products is not very
encouraging most of the time. So yes, it looks like there is a kind of
crypto cabal or guild.

> I don't think the jury has reached an opinion on why
> the cryptography group looks like a guild as yet,
> and it may never do so.  A guild, of course, is either
> a group of well-meaning skilled people serving the
> community, or a cartel for raising prices, depending
> on who is doing the answering.

I noticed both kinds of people exist :)

> > I'd encourage the designer of the protocol who asked the original question
> > to learn the field.  Unfortunately, he's going about it a sub-optimally.
> > Instead of hoping to design a just protocol and getting others to throw
> > darts at it (or bless it), he might have better luck (and learn far
> > more) by looking at the recent literature of protocol design and analysis
> > and trying to emulate the analysis and design process of other protocols
> > when designing his own.  Then when he throws it over the wall to the rest
> > of the world, the question would be not "is my protocol any good" but
> > rather "are my arguments convincing and sufficient?"
> None of that is likely to happen.  The barrier to entry
> into serious cryptographic protocol design is too high
> for the average builder of new applications [2].  He has,
> after all, an application to build.

And, in the case of building free software, the builder cannot afford to
spend much resources (like time and money) to improve his knowledge of
crypto. In our (tinc's) case, we do it just for fun.

> What *is* going to happen is this:  builders will continue
> to ignore the guild.  They will build their application,
> and throw any old shonk crypto in there.  Then, they will
> deploy their application, in the marketplace, and they will
> prove it, in the marketplace.

Well we do try to put decent crypto in there... but sometimes we don't
know when it's decent enough.

> [2] We can argue the detail, but my point here is that the
> barrier to entry is too high, so ignoring the guild is the
> most likely result.  That said, here are some points.

Personally I'm not so scared by the barrier, but I did feel there was

> It's nice that the literature is open and available.  What
> is not nice is how much there is of it.

I guess that's unavoidable.

> It's nice that we have an open community that discusses these things.
> What is not nice is that, in trying to determine the one path, the
> advice of the community reduces to useless baubles like "use SSL" or
> "why did you do that?"  It's great that the community has standards,
> but those standards seem to be excessive in the extreme.

That's also what I feel. But then again, I can imagine that for someone
who has spent years in this field that "newcomers" or "amateurs" like us
should listen to them and stop their silly attempts at crypto. 

Met vriendelijke groet / with kind regards,
    Guus Sliepen <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

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