[Dovecot] Support for PolarSSL?

Professa Dementia professa at dementianati.com
Fri Mar 1 03:34:53 EET 2013

On 2/28/2013 4:09 PM, Reindl Harald wrote:
> Am 01.03.2013 01:02, schrieb Jerry:
>> On Thu, 28 Feb 2013 23:26:43 +0000
>> Ed W articulated:
>>> I believe the high profile user of polarssl is the Dutch government
>>> who have approved OpenVPN + PolarSSL for use. (The point being that
>>> openssl is just too huge to audit for security)
>> Just because a program has a large footprint does not equate to it
>> being a security risk. In fact, that might be one of the dumber
>> statements I have heard in awhile. Unless you have proof of a specific
>> and reproducible security exploit, your statement is pointless
> you did not understand the statement or refuse to understand
> what auditing means - a code audit is the seek for UNKNOWN
> implementation weakness and bugs - you can guess which is
> easier to audit: 1000 LOC, 10000 LOC or 1000000 LOC.....
> there are common known statistics of hidden errors in a
> defined count of codelines - the statistic remains always
> the same: having 3 times more code means mostly 3 times
> more of unknown bugs
> and NO this DOES NOT say anyhting about the quality of
> OpenSSL, these are only statistics and facts for audits
> not more and not less

There are two statements, which apply here.  They appear to be 
contradictory, but they are not.

1) You can never prove something is secure, only that it is insecure. 
Proving something is insecure is easy; find an insecure case.  Q.E.D. 
Proving something is secure involves finding no cases that are insecure, 
but that could mean it is secure, or that it is not secure and you have 
not looked hard enough for the insecure case.  This cannot be done in 
finite time and thus cannot be done in the real world.

2) Programs *can*, in fact be proven correct.  There is a whole area of 
computer science dedicated to it, and has been for several decades now.

The reason that these two statements are not contradictory is that the 
second one states you can prove a program correct; that given a set of 
parameters and criteria that it must meet, that the program meets these. 
  However, "secure" can never be one of the criteria, since it is 

Enough theoretical discussion.  In the real world, most coders do not 
have the background to prove programs, thus it is generally not done. 
What is done, rather, is use good programming techniques and extensive 
testing.  After that, it is subjected to attacks.  The longer it resists 
the attacks, the more confidence is placed in its security.

Both OpenSSL and PolarSSL can be proven correct (or not).  This is not 
dependent on the size of the code.  It is merely a function of 
mathematics and logic.

However, OpenSSL has been in use much longer and has withstood more 
attacks.  Confidence in it, then, is higher than for PolarSSL.  If both 
were the same age and had the same number of attacks, then it would 
appear that the smaller code base would have less hiding places for 
bugs, but if both were "proven" correct by the same set of standards, 
then neither could be considered more secure than the other.

In regards to the Dutch government, unless they have gone through the 
process of proving PolarSSL, which I suspect they have not, they are 
merely saying that due to sheer size, they suspect less bugs could be 
hiding in the smaller code base.

I cannot say that I disagree with this method, but I do fault it.  It is 
the wrong approach.  Both code bases need to be proven before you can 
really do a comparison of which might have more security flaws.  If both 
can be proven to the same set of criteria, then any flaws would be due 
to the underlying algorithms involved (MD5, SHA, Diffie-Hellman, etc) 
and would exist in both equally.


More information about the dovecot mailing list