learning curve like Monte Cervino

peter.segment at wronghead.com peter.segment at wronghead.com
Thu Aug 2 09:49:22 CEST 2012

On 01/08/12 23:05, Robert J. Hansen - rjh at sixdemonbag.org wrote:

 > By itself, GnuPG is useless. [...and more, much more, on steep
learning curves and cargo-cult security].

I happen to agree with most of what was writetn in your lengthy
expose. But you omit one important problem: the program like
gpg is deployed, 99% of the time, with no user specific threat
analysis. This means that it must answer all conceivable threats,
which in turn makes it so hard to use that it's adoption rate
is, well, what it is.

You are very rigorous in your views on the subject. Consequently
(at least as I read your text) you reject the most damaging canon
of the contemporary "computer security industry", the one that
demands no knowledge, no conceptual understanding and no discipline
on the part of the end user - it all has to be solved for him by
the software. For this I applaud you.

However, I would add one more thing as necessary for successful
use of any security software: *user-specific threat analysis*.
Without it, gpg - or any other piece of software - is indeed not
much different from that plane mock-up in New Guinea. If such
threat analysis was done more frequently than appears to be the
case, perhaps we would end up with specific tools, ones that do not
attempt to cover all conceivable threats but address only threats
specific to some segment of user population. What they would
loose in the width of applicability they would gain in simplicity
in code and simplicity in use - both extremely desirable security
software characteristics.

This was precisely the process that led to my post that this
discussion is an offshoot of. In other words, users from that
original thread certainly didn't "have a great idea that will
allow people to keep secure against dedicated, serious adversaries
while requiring very little training or knowledge on the part of
the user". They have performed a very thorough threat analysis
of *their circumstances*, and are looking for either an existing
software or possibility of constructing a new one, that would be
best suited to *their threat model*.

Peter M.

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