[linux-elitists] GPG luser rant

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Sun Apr 15 10:40:27 PDT 2001

on Fri, Apr 13, 2001 at 12:58:01PM -0700, Seth David Schoen (schoen@loyalty.org) wrote:
> Karsten M. Self writes:
> > on Fri, Apr 13, 2001 at 11:50:11AM -0700, Rick Moen (rick@linuxmafia.com) wrote:
> > > begin  Karsten M. Self quotation:
> > > 
> > > > Better yet, if folks actually *do* get GPG installed on their systems,
> > > > when there comes a need to send private mail, the option to go encrypted
> > > > exists.  We're shooting for a baseline state in which a presumption of
> > > > the presence of cryptographic infrastructure is valid, and the ability
> > > > to originate, receive, and validate such communications exists.
> > > 
> > > Yes, I certainly see the point.  
> > > 
> > > I wish it were not the case, but there are not yet very workable
> > > real-world systems for distributing, managing, and revoking keys --
> > > PKI/certificate authority or web-of-trust models are both problematic
> > > in those areas if you aim for both day-to-day practicality and
> > > meaningful authentication.  Much as I would like to hope that these 
> > > are early implementation issues that will be ironed out, the worst of
> > > them appear essential to the authentication models concerned.
> > 
> > There is a distributed public keyserver network.  This seems to work
> > reasonably well from a data distribution standpoint.  I'd be interested
> > in knowing what specific problems exist with it.
> > 
> > Revocation seems to be the real nit.  There isn't an analog, AFAIK, in
> > the PGP model to a "revokation signature".  That is, signing a key to
> > say "I know this key and it is false, invalid, or revoked".
> How about a revocation certificate?
> gpg --gen-revoke
> They used to be called "key compromise certificates" in some
> connections.  You generate one for yourself, and then you keep it
> somewhere where you can get it if your key is lost or compromised.  In
> that case, you send it out.

One of the problems with this concept is that, given poor key management
practices (and what other kind is there), the same events which lead to
the loss or destruction of a private key might also destroy the
revocation key.  And a revocation key is something of the worst sort of
poison-pill there is.  You need it.  You need to keep it.  You need it
available in the event of a loss of your key.  But you'd best not
release it early or you'll destroy a perfectly good key.  I would like
to think there's a better way.

> Keyservers can deal with distributing key compromise certificates.
> But (as with much else in the PGP world) most users don't understand
> them or what they mean.

Granted, this is another problem.  However, it can be addressed to an
extent by a combination of training/education, and programmatic support.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>    http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?       There is no K5 cabal
  http://gestalt-system.sourceforge.net/         http://www.kuro5hin.org
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