At 11:19 PM 9/15/2004, Ed Gerck wrote:
Yes, PKC provides a workable solution for key distribution... when you
look at servers. For email, the PKC solution is not workable (hasn't been)
and gives a false impression of security. For example, the sender has no
way of knowing if the recipient's key is weak (in spite of its length)
or has some "key-access" feature. Nonetheless, the sender has to use that

the issue then is what level do you trust the recipient, what is the threat model, and what are the countermeasures.

if there is a general trust issue with the recipient (not just their key generating capability) ... then a classified document compromise could happen after it has been transmitted. you may have to do a complete audit & background check of the recipient before any distribution of classified document.

if the threat model is purely the document transmission, and you worry only about the recipient's key generating capability being up to the task of protecting the document transmission ... but you otherwise aren't worried about other trust issues with the recipient ... then go for 3rd party secure transmission service ... say where the encrypted package is delivered to the recipient and the recipient has to do some sort of real-time retrieval from the 3rd party of the package encryption key.

in the physical world ... there still could be the issue that the delivery address for the recipient (to be used by the 3rd party delivery service) might not be trusted.

part of the problem with introducing trust issues involving any specific recipient issue starts a real slippery slope .... since the security of the system is all of the infrastructure .... and just addressing a single recipient trust issue (like key generation strength) .... still leaves open all sorts of other recipient trust issues.

say you have 3rd party encryption and secure delivery ... with the possibility that the electronic package might be evesdropped (copied but not decoded). the issue then is how does the 3rd party know that the correct recipient is the only one that obtains the correct decryption key. there has to be some trust at some point that the correct recipient and only the correct recipient can decode any encrypted electronic package. at some point there has to be some flavor of trusting some sort of recipient authentication mechanism.

either the sender has it before hand (like the recipient's public key) or there is some sort of post-transmission authentication of the recipient. eliminating the requirement for strong authentication of the recipient before the transmission doesn't really eliminate the problem, it just moves it to some point.

Anne & Lynn Wheeler

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