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Hackermom, you sound confused about the downvotes. To provide a bit of background: Colin Percival has a doctorate in computer science from Oxford, has won the Putnam, has been FreeBSD's security officer for years, and discovered the hyperthreading leak noted in this presentation. Most people who've been on Hacker News for a while trust his judgement.

I'd like to think we would all--cperciva included--welcome specific criticisms or errors, but by claiming they exist without naming them, you're asking us to take your word over his. Your score reflects the fact that you haven't earned that.




Careful. Colin Percival isn't David Wagner or Dan Boneh or even Daniel Bernstein. He wrote a paper on a side channel attack during a window of time when everyone was writing papers on microarchitectural side channel attacks, wrote a pretty cool paper on a password derivation function, and, like the authors of SSH, Tor, and DESLogin (none of them professional cryptographers), built a bunch of cryptography into a well-understood Unix networking problem.

I very much respect Colin and fully expect him to kick my ass in arguments, but, in particular, I find a good portion of his advice does not square with my professional experience; in other words: he's saying things that lay developers have already heard, and, empirically, lay developers produce very bad crypto.


It's funny you'd say that, because you're one of three-ish people on HN I weight equally with cperciva on security issues. But my explanation doesn't depend on his being one of the top 10 security guys in the world; just on his being orders of magnitude more reliable than an average Hacker News reader, like the one who I responded to.

Even that is more than required by the fundamental message I'd hoped to convey; which is "making something and sharing it can be useful; giving non-specific criticisms from a noncommitted, unassailable position is not useful." Reputation is simply bayesian evidence with which one can weight an otherwise-unsupported claim.


Separately, though, I agree that you've earned your more cynical view of the average developer. You believe Colin commits something similar to the Planning Fallacy[1] by looking at the details of a secure system and his own ability to convey the details of cryptography, instead of looking at the reference class[2] of "developers who have been taught about crypto," which in your experience still gets worse results than developers who just use ssl and gpg.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_fallacy [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reference_class_forecasting




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