| Rick Wash  wrote:
| >There are many legitimate uses of remote attestation that I would like to
| >see.  For example, as a sysadmin, I'd love to be able to verify that my
| >servers are running the appropriate software before I trust them to access
| >my files for me.  Remote attestation is a good technical way of doing that.
|
| This is a good example, because it brings out that there are really
| two different variants of remote attestation.  Up to now, I've been
| lumping them together, but I shouldn't have been.  In particular, I'm
| thinking of owner-directed remote attestation vs. third-party-directed
| remote attestation.  The difference is who wants to receive assurance of
| what software is running on a computer; the former mechanism allows to
| convince the owner of that computer, while the latter mechanism allows
| to convince third parties....
|
| Finally, I'll come back to the topic you raised by noting that your
| example application is one that could be supported with owner-directed
| remote attestation.  You don't need third-party-directed remote
| attestation to support your desired use of remote attestation.  So, TCPA
| or Palladium could easily fall back to only owner-directed attestation
| (not third-party-attestation), and you'd still be able to verify the
| software running on your own servers without incurring new risks of DRM,
| software lock-in, or whatever....
All of this is fine as long as there is a one-to-one association between
machines and "owners" of those machines.  Consider the example I gave
earlier:  A shared machine containing the standard distribution of the
trusted computing software.  All the members of the group that maintain the
software will want to have the machine attest, to them, that it is properly
configured and operating as intended.  We can call the group the owner of the
machine, and create a single key pair that all of them know.  But this is
brittle - shared secrets always are.  Any member of the group could then
modify the machine and, using his access to the private key, fake the "all
clear" indication.  Each participant should have his own key pair, since
attestation using a particular key pair only indicates security with respect
to those who don't know the private key of the pair - and a member of a
development team for the secure kernel *should* mistrust his fellow team
members!

So, again, there are simple instances where it will prove useful to be able
to maintain multiple sets of independent key pairs.

Now, in the shared distribution machine case, on one level team members should
be mutually suspicious, but on another they *do* consider themselves joint
owners of the machine - so it doesn't bother them that there are key pairs
to which they don't have access.  After all, those key pairs are assigned to
*other* owners of the machine!  But exactly the same mechanism could be used
to assign a key pair to Virgin Records - who we *don't* want to consider an
owner of the machine.

As long as, by owner, you mean a single person, or a group of people who
completely trust each other (with respect to the security problem we are trying
to solve); and as long as each machine only has only one owner; then, yes, one
key pair will do.  But as soon as "owner" can encompass mutually suspicious
parties, you need to have mutual independent key pairs - and then how you
use them, and to whom you grant them, becomes a matter of choice and policy,
not technical possibility.

BTW, even with a single owner, multiple independent key pairs may be useful.
Suppose I have reason to suspect that my private key has been leaked.  What
can I do?  If there is only one key pair around, I have to rebuild my machine
from scratch.  But if I had the forsight to generate *two* key pairs, one of
which I use regularly - and the other of which I sealed away in a safe - then
I can go to the safe, get out my "backup" key pair, and re-certify my machine.
In fact, it would probably be prudent for me to generate a whole bunch of
such backup key pairs, just in case.

You're trying to make the argument that feature X (here, remote attestation for
multiple mutually-suspicious parties) has no significant uses.  Historically,
arguments like this are losers.  People come up with uses for all kinds of
surprising things.  In this case, it's not even very hard.

An argument that feature X has uses, but also imposes significant and non-
obvious costs, is another thing entirely.  Elucidating the costs is valuable.
But ultimately individuals will make their own analysis of the cost/benefit
ratio, and their calculations will be different from yours.  Carl Ellison, I
think, argued that TCPA will probably never have large penetration because the
dominant purchasing factor for consumers is always initial cost, and the
extra hardware will ensure that TCPA-capable machines will always be more
expensive.  Maybe he's right.

Even if he isn't, as long as people believe that they have control over the
costs associated with feature C - in this case, as long as they believe that
they can choose *not* to allow remote attestation where it isn't it their
interest - they will assign low costs.  The problem isn't with the argument up
to this point - it's in the potential future world where the weight of
concensus and standards and even law effectively removes the theoretical
choice to "opt out".

                                                        -- Jerry
                                                (one of the 10% of TV owners
                                                 who still receives his TV
                                                 signals over the air - and
                                                 no, not from a sattelite.)

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