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To prevent this problem, the company could enforce a policy in which everyone uses the same system parameters. It could create some system parameters and distribute them to all employees, each of whom would create individual public and private key pairs. This is generally not a security problem; sharing system parameters does not weaken the math. Some cryptographers warn that if too many people share system parameters (good luck getting one of those cryptographers to quantify too many ), it might be possible to introduce weaknesses, but for the most part, sharing parameters does not aid an attacker. In such a situation, Satomi could not replace the system parameters on Pao-Chi s machine because he would know what the true parameters were; they re his. Presumably, Pao-Chi will have those parameters protected in such a way that Satomi could not alter them without his knowledge. This parameters policy could work for communications among all the employees at Pao-Chi s company, but how could people outside the company guarantee a public key s authenticity Everyone else would also need the system parameters. Suppose the company created a second certificate, this one for the parameters. That would mean two certificates would be required to verify one public key, defeating the purpose of saving space. The best way to distribute DH, ECDH, DSA, and ECDSA keys is to include the system parameters in the certificate.
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Problems with Using SSL to Protect Credit Cards
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7 describes the Secure Socket Layer (SSL), the latest version of which is known as Transport Layer Security (TLS). Many companies use SSL exclusively to protect credit card transactions. Unfortunately, that may not be a wise policy. SSL encrypts data while in transit, so if someone runs a sniffer program on the Internet checking traffic to see whether any credit card numbers are sent in the clear SSL will protect the transaction. However, credit card numbers sent over the Internet usually are not stolen in transit; instead, they are stolen while in storage. Rather than eavesdropping on Internet messages, thieves break into servers storing sensitive material. When you operate a Web site, you re essentially making your local files available for the world to see. Recall the discussion of permissions in 1. You can set the permissions on your files so that only certain
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Further Technical Details
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users have read or write access to them. A Web server has, in effect, set the read permission on many of its files to the entire world. One mistake made by companies is to store the credit card numbers on the Web server. In fact, an MSNBC reporter discovered that on January 13, 2000, when he was able to view nearly 2,500 credit card numbers stored by seven small e-commerce Web sites within a few minutes, using elementary instructions provided by a source. In all cases, a list of customers and all their personal information was connected to the Internet and either was not password-protected or the password was viewable directly from the Web site. (source: www.msnbc.com) The companies may set the permissions of the files containing the numbers to exclude the world, or they may not. It doesn t matter. As you saw in 1, simple OS permissions are no real deterrent to the majority of hackers and crackers. The best policy is to store credit card numbers encrypted. Another possibility is to use a protocol, such as SET, in which credit cards numbers are transmitted using a digital envelope, the public key creating the envelope belonging to the issuing bank. Hence, a merchant never sees the credit card in the clear and can never store it unsecurely. Because SET has not been widely adopted, the credit card companies and banks may devise a new protocol. One way consumers can protect themselves is to read the security policies of the e-commerce companies from which they might wish to make purchases. The following quotations indicate policies that are less than secure: . . . uses SSL, an advanced encryption technology that protects your credit card information. We use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to protect the security of your online order information. The point is not that SSL has no value but rather that SSL does not address the storage issue. It is not a silver bullet that solves all security problems. Here is a policy that is starting to get the right idea: To ensure that your information is even more secure, once we receive your credit card information, we store it on a server that isn t accessible from the Internet. Finally, here are quotes from a couple of security policies of Web sites that are truly interested in security.
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