[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Netscape & Fortessa

Michael G. Reed <[email protected]> writes:

>	I remember there was some talk about Netscape adding Fortessa support
>on here a couple of days ago, so I thought I'd share this.  Marc Andreessen
>(president of technology for Netscape Communications) made a presentation
>today at the 18th National Information Systems Security Conference about
>Fortessa support within Netscape 2.0 to be shipping Beta Q2 '96 and final
>the second half of '96 (I haven't seen an official press release, but he more
>or less said they were announcing it today).  From his description, it looks
>like they are going to place the Fortessa drivers right in the SSL layer
>bypassing the software subsystem that currently exists in favor of the
>hardware (the software subsystem would still be utilized for non-Fortessa
>sessions).  He also commented that this was possibly a lead-in to other
>hardware subsystems in the future.  General reaction (at least in my
>immediate vicinity in the lecture hall) was quite positive -- looks like
>Fortessa is gaining even more momentum (Oracle had a talk about Fortessa
>support immediately after Netscape).  I wonder when Microsoft & company will
>jump on the bandwagon? :-)

There seems to be a convergence on this approach to a hardware
solution.  HP has been pushing for a model in which software with hooks
for hardware encryption will be allowed to get exported.  Then you can
plug in whatever level of encryption you are able to have in the
form of a card token.  Traditionally NSA has opposed export of software
with hooks but there are some indications that this method could be
accepted eventually.

Conceivably we could get to a situation where most encryption is done in
hardware, with the big, ubiquitous software packages like Netscape and
Word and their descendants just having hooks.  This would have some
advantages but overall I think it would be detrimental to cypherpunk
goals.  One of the biggest problems faced by those who want to restrict
access to encryption is how easy it is to do.  PGP and other programs are
virtually impossible to control.  They are easy to write and people can
spread them around trivially.

But hardware is not so simple.  If the only effective way to get
convenient communications with your net access software became to use a
hardware token, then it would be a lot easier to put on restrictions.  An
underground effort to manufacture and distribute tokens would be much
less practical than one to do the same thing for secure software.

I would like to see companies which add hooks for hardware also begin
adding hooks for software packages as well, at least in their domestic
versions.  In the case of Windows, for example, a DLL interface to
provide encryption functions should not be hard to add using a similar
API as for the hardware crypto card.  Similar interfaces should be
possible on other OS's.  Companies which do this will demonstrate their
commitment to making good quality cryptography available to their
customers.  A system which is "open" only to the extent that a hardware
card can be added is not sufficient.  A truly open system will allow
software add-ons as well.  Let's keep an eye on how this develops and let
the companies know how we feel.