The only response I received about our proposal to try to get certified was
from Andreas who said he'd send it off to the Croquet board. After reading
this article I really believe that we should try to get certified, if for no
other reason then to help the open source community in general.
Is there still an interest in this group to go through this process? If so
I will undertake the process of screening all certified labs to find the
strongest lab that understands the difficulty and intricacies of open
Please respond back and let me know your support for the project and your
willingness to participate, or any other comments.
I really think the process will be very beneficial and the challenge you
have to admit is a good one.
Security validation of OpenSSL encryption tool uncertain
July 19, 2006 (Computerworld) A joint U.S. and Canadian organization that
certifies encryption tools for use by federal government agencies has
suspended its validation of OpenSSL cryptographic technology for the second
time in less than six months.
The decision means that government agencies can't purchase the open-source
tool for the time being, although those that have already done so will still
be allowed to use it. OpenSSL is an open-source implementation of the Secure
Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer security protocols. It is widely
used to encrypt and decrypt data on the Internet.
The decision to suspend validation of the tool came just two days after the
group doing the validation, the Cryptographic Module Validation Program
(CMVP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), had
taken the harsher step of revoking the tool entirely. It backed away from
that decision and opted for a suspension of the process instead.
News of the rapid changes to the validation effort drew criticism from the
Hattiesburg, Miss.-based Open Source Software Institute (OSSI), a nonprofit
group trying to get the OpenSSL encryption module validated for use in
government. John Weathersby, OSSI's executive director, today alleged that
the move appears to have been influenced by vendors of proprietary
technologies that stand to lose a lucrative market if an open-source
alternative is certified.
"There are some vendors fighting like hell to make this die, and I can see
why," said Weathersby. "What's going on is the question of the day. This is
not a technology issue; this is a political issue."
OpenSSL is supported on several major operating systems, including many
flavors of Unix, Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS X and Microsoft Corp.'s
OpenSSL received its precedent-setting validation in January from the CMVP,
which is charged with validating and certifying that cryptographic tools
sold to government agencies meet the requirements of the Federal Information
Processing Standard (FIPS) Publication 140-2. The CMVP was established by
NIST in the U.S. and the Communications Security Establishment of the
A validated OpenSSL tool would allow vendors of operating systems, Web
browsers and other software products such as e-mail to include a free FIPS
140-compliant cryptographic module. The OpenSSL FIPS 140-2 validation effort
is sponsored by the Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support (DMLSS)
program, which provides medical logistics support to the U.S. Department of
Currently, agencies looking for encryption capabilities spend hundreds of
thousands of dollars -- and in some cases, millions of dollars -- licensing
proprietary cryptographic tools that are certified according to FIPS 140.
Since January, however, the validation for Open SSL has been revoked and
reinstated twice, Weathersby said. The first revocation happened in January,
barely four days after OpenSSL was first validated by CMVP. It was awarded a
FIPS 140-2 validation again in March after some changes were made to the
On Friday, OSSI was told that the validation had again been revoked,
Weathersby said. That changed yesterday, when the organization learned that
the OpenSSL certificate had been incorrectly "revoked" and is now instead
"not available," he said. That means that the OpenSSL cryptographic module
can no longer be bought by government agencies, although it can be used by
those that already have it.
NIST, in an e-mailed statement, confirmed the "not-available" status but
offered no reasons for it. "However, if noncompliance is discovered in a
module after it has been validated, and based on a risk assessment it is
deemed to be critical, the CMVP will advise all federal agencies to cease
using the affected module," NIST said.
A representative for Domus IT Security Laboratory, the Ottawa-based company
that is evaluating products for FIPS 140 compliance, referred all questions
to the CMVP.
The continuing uncertainly about the status of OpenSSL is sure to prolong
what has been a multiyear effort to certify the tool. Much of the delay
resulted from a continuing series of tweaks OSSI was required to make to the
cryptographic module at the request of the CMVP, said Steve Marquess,
validation project manager at OSSI.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that the FIPS requirements were
written for hardware-based encryption tools while OpenSSL is software-based.
As a result, mapping FIPS' requirements to OpenSSL has been challenging,
Vendors of commercial products have also raised a constant stream of
technology-related questions that have proved time-consuming to address.
"There have been some commercial interests who are unhappy with open-source
validation like this," Marquess said. "One of them has been working for
several years to challenge multiple aspects of what we are trying to do," he
said without naming the vendor.
One of the results is that the requirements for OpenSSL to get FIPS 140-2
validation has keeps changing, he said. "One of our frustrations through
this whole ordeal is pinning down the requirements in concrete technical
terms," he said. "The requirements keep changing on us all the time."
George Adams, the president and CEO of SSH Communications Security Inc., a
Wellesley, Mass.-based vendor of encryption products, said that concerns
about the use of OpenSSL in government environments are valid. As an
open-source tool, OpenSSL is subject to constant changes that would
invalidate its certification on a regular basis, he said.
For instance, any changes made to the source or linked library in the
cryptographic module will create a nonvalidated module, he said. Similarly,
any additional cryptography outside of the validated module would need to be
tested and validated.
Marquess dismissed such concerns. He said that the security policy
associated with OpenSSL guarantees that the source code used to generate the
cryptographic module is unmodified at all times.