William Arbaugh writes:

> If that is the case, then strong authentication provides the same 
> degree of control over your computer. With remote attestation, the 
> distant end determines if they wish to communicate with you based on 
> the fingerprint of your configuration. With strong authentication, the 
> distant end determines if they wish to communicate with you based on 
> your identity.

I'm a little confused about why you consider these similar.  They seem
very different to me, particularly in the context of mass-market
transactions, where a service provider is likely to want to deal with
"the general public".

While it's true that service providers could try to use some demand
some sort of PKI credential as a way of getting the true name of those
they deal with, the particular things they can do with a true name are
much more limited than the things they could do with proof of
someone's software configuration.  Also, in the future, the cost of
demanding a true name could be much higher than the cost of demanding
a proof of software identity.

To give a trivial example, I've signed this paragraph using a PGP
clear signature made by my key 0167ca38.  You'll note that the Version
header claims to be "PGP 17.0", but in fact I don't have a copy of PGP
17.0.  I simply modified that header with my text editor.  You can tell
that this paragraph was written by me, but not what software I used to
write it.

As a result, you can't usefully expect to take any action based on my
choice of software -- but you can take some action based on whether
you trust me (or the key 0167ca38).  You can adopt a policy that you
will only read signed mail -- or only mail signed by a key that Phil
Zimmermann has signed, or a key that Bruce Lehman has signed -- but
you can't adopt a policy that you will only read mail written by mutt
users.  In the present environment, it's somewhat difficult to use
technical means to increase or diminish others' incentive to use
particular software (at least if there are programmers actively
working to preserve interoperability).

Sure, attestation for platform identity and integrity has some things
in common with authentication of human identity.  (They both use
public-key cryptography, they can both use a PKI, they both attempt to
prove things to a challenger based on establishing that some entity
has access to a relevant secret key.)  But it also has important
differences.  One of those differences has to do with whether trust is
reposed in people or in devices!  I think your suggestion is tantamount
to saying that an electrocardiogram and a seismograph have the same
medical utility because they are both devices for measuring and
recording waveforms.

> I just don't see remote attestation as providing control over your 
> computer provided the user/owner has control over when and if remote 
> attestation is used. Further, I can think of several instances where 
> remote attestation is a good thing. For example, a privacy P2P file 
> sharing network. You wouldn't want to share your files with an RIAA 
> modified version of the program that's designed to break the anonymity 
> of the network.

This application is described in some detail at


I haven't seen a more detailed analysis of how attestation would
benefit particular designs for anonymous communication networks
against particular attacks.  But it's definitely true that there are
some applications of attestation to third parties that many computer
owners might want.  (The two that first come to mind are distributed
computing projects like [EMAIL PROTECTED] and network games like Quake,
although I have a certain caution about the latter which I will
describe when the video game software interoperability litigation I'm
working on is over.)

It's interesting to note that in this case you benefit because you
received an attestation, not because you gave one (although the
network is so structured that giving an attestation is arranged to be
the price of receiving one: "Give me your name, horse-master, and I
shall give you mine!").

The other thing that end-users might like is if _non-peer-to-peer_
services they interacted with could prove properties about themselves
-- that is, end-users might like to receive rather than to give
attestations.  An anonymous remailer could give an attestation to
prove that it is really running the official Mixmaster and the
official Exim and not a modified Mixmaster or modified Exim that
try to break anonymity.  Apple could give an attestation proving that
it didn't have the ability to alter or to access the contents of
your data while it was stored by its "Internet hard drive" service.

One interesting question is how to characterize on-line services where
users would be asked for attestation (typically to their detriment, by
way of taking away their choice of software) as opposed to on-line
services where users would be able to ask for attestation (typically
to their benefit, by way of showing that the service had certain
desirable properties, at least in some future TC technology where the
cost to the service provider of making a false attestation could be
made substantial, which it is not now).  I'm not sure exactly what
things separate these.

Seth David Schoen <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> | Very frankly, I am opposed to people
     http://www.loyalty.org/~schoen/   | being programmed by others.
     http://vitanuova.loyalty.org/     |     -- Fred Rogers (1928-2003),
                                       |        464 U.S. 417, 445 (1984)

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