dboz Annotations

What are the objects of our investigation? How can they be described?

Monday, January 13, 2020 - 6:45pm

Computer vulnerabilities compromising a digital system or service – may allow unauthorized access to digital systems. When they are exploitable, these vulnerabilities can compromise the security of operations and transactions, the confidentiality of data, the privacy of our (digital) lives, the credibility of a company and many more.

A vuln is not an unitary object across the intl. infosec arena. Like in the case of EFAIL (cf. art Tsantsa): a vuln is/might be a series of debates, tech issues, an academic interest, of activism importance, etc. i.e. a lot of very different things, groups, concerns, utility, etc. Therefore, when we met people interested about the vuln X, we always have to start asking about which instance are they talking about.

A vuln like EFAIL is found in every instance or piece of software or library that is implementing OPENPGP and SMIME; at least until a patch is shiped. then, it depends if the user patch its software. by nature this is patchy. but the vuln exist before it is known as a vuln, with a shiny website and a logo following a more or less orchestrated public disclosure. It exists before the researchers found it. at least in the potentiality of a vulnerable code. a risk, an acknowledgment that every piece of code is and will remain vulnerable. security is never acheived, it is not a state, it is a process. the researchers, with the help of the research process itself, bring to a certain existence this potentiality, that takes shape in a particular form, a PoC, a call, a vuln report, ect. (and sometimes that particular existence is only one form taken by the potentiality as it happen that few weeks or months after disclosure another team find another similar attack in the remediated code, re-opening again, so to say, the same wound).

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How spatiality and temporatity can be conceptualized on our field?

Monday, January 13, 2020 - 6:33pm

Plane was the concept we found to describe the locations of our ethnography. The idea of logical planes lead us to consider that planes were not locations but modes of existence of the vuln EFAIL and ultimately this lead us to reconsider the uniformity of what we follows (vulns). The questions of locations of the ethnography became less relevant but at the same time the uniformity of what we tried to describe too. The planes were in that sense an indicator that EFAIL was a multiplicity. Each plane was coalescing and constructing a version or instance of EFAIL (organizing people, practices, ideas around the vuln (and therefore making a certain version or instance of it). We decided to toss the idea of planes and instead to refer to instances refering to the vuln itself.

Perhaps our first attention and focus on field-sites and our spatial ethnographic imagination are the direct cause of our difficulty to grasp the multiplicity of the EFAIL instances we eventually identified. In a way, facing the dead-end of spatiality helped us to see a more complex and diverse object (the numerous EFAIL instances).

In our experience, the difficulty we had to think in spatial terms about our object and our ethnography, helped us to eventually identify the multiplicity of EFAIL instances. In other words, the four vignettes we defined firstly as sites of ethnography revealed to be four instances of what we were observing.

Hence, the processes we are observing includes not only a multiplicity of heterogeneous spaces but also various types of manifestations of EFAIL with their specific temporalities.

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