The Case for Strip-ing

2009-07-14 20:00:00 -0400


When people ask us if we have any iPhone apps in the iTunes App Store1 and we tell them, “yes,” they invariably get excited. Their expectations of some cool, new, game-changing technology seem to dampen when we tell them about Strip (unless they are cryptography enthusiasts). However, we often hear back from many of these same folks a few months later, telling us that they use Strip all the time, and can’t live without it.

Our friends and colleagues are starting to get worried about the bazillion sites on which they’ve set the same password. Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here, but we all do it from time to time. There’s just too many to track: car insurance websites, bank accounts, social networks,newspaper site, some online community where you registered to leave comments, some new online tool you want to try out, a thing here, a thing there. You probably sign up for something new on the Inter-tubes at least once a day.

As far as settings passwords go, you really have two options:

  1. Set something different for each one and actually remember them all (good luck with that).
  2. Use some clever ‘p4ssw0rd123’ or variant for all of them (e.g. p4assw0rd-facebook).

Choosing option 1 is the most secure, and the most difficult. Option 2 leaves you exposed to massive risk – one good guess, a password cracker, or a break-in on a site that didn’t hash your non-unique password could allow an attacker to get into your online bank account. Many sites e-mail your password back to you – then your ‘p4ssw0rd123’ has gone through quite a few tubes and machines in clear text by the time it arrives in your inbox. Which is also on someone else’s computers, isn’t it?

The basic work-flow of Strip was designed to fix this very problem, and it seems to get people hooked. Say you want to sign up for some new web service to try it out, but you don’t want to use that bank account or email account password. You hit the sign-up screen, you get to the password field and you fire up your iPhone (or Palm, for the Old School-ers), open up Strip, create a new entry, and generate a random password. Save it in Strip, set it on the site, and you’re done. Sure, it introduces an extra step, but now your brain isn’t filling up with garbage and you’ve drastically reduced the risk to your online information and identity.

Obviously, Strip itself could be a point of potential failure. If you left your iPhone (or Treo) in a taxi like many of our customers have done, you wouldn’t want the cabby or the next occupant to have access to private networks and mail servers. To mitigate this we use high-grade, peer-reviewed open source cryptography to make it very unlikely that anyone will ever unlock your copy of Strip before the heat death of the universe (so long as you set a strong password!) At this point we’ve got 12 years of experience under our belt, and the code is out there for anyone to see, improve, and criticize. We will continue to update Strip’s encryption engine, SQLCipher, to stay on top of the latest encryption updates, protocols, and techniques. We’ve even strengthened SQLCipher since we launched Strip in the App Store. Don’t take our word for it, have a look yourself.

1 Overheard snark last week at FutureRuby: “They managed to build an App Store without actually building an App Store.”


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