[whatwg] Proposal for secure key-value data stores

Jeremy Orlow jorlow at chromium.org
Thu Apr 8 07:48:34 PDT 2010

This is getting fairly tiresome.  If you're interested in continuing this
thread, please actually read the replies thus far and directly respond to
the points rather than re-stating what's already been rebutted.

On Thu, Apr 8, 2010 at 3:17 PM, Paul Kinlan <paulkinlan at google.com> wrote:

> Hi,
> I have a specific use-case where encryption is required, and currently the
> only solution is to find a JS library that can encrypt the data on the way
> in or way out of storage.
> The main cases I have:
>    1. Storage needs to be encrypted on disk, device etc.
>    2. Data needs to be in decrypted form for the shortest amount of time
>    possible while in use in an application.
> These are not use cases.  Can you please describe some specific examples
applications and their requirements for encrypted data?  To be honest, I'm
pretty certain you're not going to come up with any that aren't solved by
what you can do today with JS, made better with a JS crypto API, and made
easier on the developer by integrating crypto into the storage APIs.
 (Though as I explain below, the last part is pretty much a non-goal.)

> My gut, general feeling is that encryption of information to and from
> storage is moot, because introspection of a running app is
> so unbelievably easy.  However, on disk storage *must* be encrypted and
> sandboxed.  i.e, data needs to be only available to the domain running the
> code, and it cannot be peaked at by examining the disk.
> I have only followed this thread a little while, and as dev who uses JS a
> lot, explicitly having to encrypt data is bad and a pain and open to
> mistakes.

Then someone should make a library to do this.  Expanding the surface areas
of APIs should not be taken lightly.  As I've explained, we only expand API
surface areas when something is impossible to accomplish or when there are
performance reasons.  And then we still try to keep things minimal.  Dirk
explained well why a generic JS crypto library would solve more use cases
than adding crypto to a particular storage API.  I really don't know why
we're still discussing this.

> I don't want to be handling encryption of my data, I don't do anything
> special to communicate over https, and I look at storage the same way.

What's been proposed so far will NOT work as seamlessly as HTTPS.

If you want it to happen magically, then the UA should encrypt all data
transparently to the user or web developer.  I actually think this is ideal,
but the problem is that it's not clear where the key should come from.
 After all, if you store it on disk, then you're still at the mercy of the
file system/OS keeping you secure.  If you store it remotely (as has been
mentioned in this thread) then we need to come up with an API to pass that
key in or we need to somehow add the key to HTTPS connections.

Maybe what we should really be doing is looking at adding a HTML attribute,
HTTP header, or something like that that gives the browser a private key to
be used to encrypt _everything_ associated with the web page.  Including
history, any storage APIs, etc.  I suppose the file API would need some way
to opt-out (per what Jonas pointed out).

In summary, this is something I expect of the UA and not any specific JS
> API.

Although ease of use of JS APIs is great and should be a goal, it is not the
primary goal by any stretch of the imagination.  Keeping API surface area
down is much more important.

On Thu, Apr 8, 2010 at 11:13 AM, Jeremy Orlow <jorlow at chromium.org> wrote:
>> On Thu, Apr 8, 2010 at 2:10 AM, Jonas Sicking <jonas at sicking.cc> wrote:
>>> On Wed, Apr 7, 2010 at 5:44 PM, Jeremy Orlow <jorlow at chromium.org>
>>> wrote:
>>> >> I don't think this is enough of a
>>> >> problem to kill the feature though.
>>> >
>>> > I think this is a good feature to try and integrate into existing APIs
>>> if
>>> > it's possible to do so cleanly.  I don't think it's worth creating yet
>>> > another persistent storage API over, though.
>>> ...
>>> > For
>>> > localStorage, we could add a origin-wide setting or add an optional
>>> param to
>>> > setItem.
>>> Well, it seems harsh to require that *all* data on a domain is either
>>> security sensitive, and thus need expiration, or not security
>>> sensitive and thus need none. I think it makes a lot of sense to be
>>> able to let the page have several storage areas, some which expire and
>>> some which don't.
>>> Think mail.google.com where storing my emails would count as sensitive
>>> and should have expiration, but storing my drafts might be worth doing
>>> longer to prevent dataloss.
>> Local storage is not a good API for more complex applications like gmail.
>>  That's why I suggested integrating into IndexedDB and WebSQLDatabase (which
>> is what I meant when I said "databases").  Note that I also suggested that
>> it could be an optional parameter to setItem which would make it a per-item
>> setting and still be backwards compatible with LocalStorage.  (Like I said,
>> creating another LocalStorage-like API just for this feature is really not
>> an option.)
>> I just thought of an alternative approach to this whole situation
>>> though. We could add crypto and expiration functionality to IndexDB. I
>>> know the crypto stuff has come up before and there was some hesitation
>>> though. (Though I guess the same thing could be said for
>>> crypto+localStorage)
>> Nikunj has already said no more major features for v1 of IndexedDB.  I
>> think we might be able to sneak in an expiration parameter, but encryption
>> 1) is not practical for v1 and  2) we're really jumping the gun on this
>> encryption thing.  One person proposed it.  We haven't seen any evidence
>> this is a widely sought after feature.  If _anything_ the right way to go is
>> to make encryption fast and allow developers and authors of libraries to
>> layer the two.  If there's compelling demand, THEN we should talk about
>> adding it to individual APIs.
>>> > It seems as though expiration policies could be added to the creation
>>> of
>>> > databases and the new FileWriter/FileSystem APIs pretty easily.
>>> I don't understand the usecase of expiring files. Isn't the whole
>>> point of saving to the file system so that the user gets better access
>>> to it and so that things like iPhoto can index any stored images?
>>> > But still....we need some use cases.  :-)
>>> I'm all for use cases. Though Nicholas did say that he'd want
>>> encryption and expiration on essentially all privacy sensitive
>>> information stored. Which I think I can understand.
>> As stated, a more general purpose crypto API should be enough to satisfy
>> this use case and others (like someone wanting to encrypt it client side
>> before sending it to the server).  That is the direction these discussions
>> should be headed, not taking one particular persistent storage API
>> and finding a way to tack encryption onto it.
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