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Critical PGP Security Issue

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  • Attention PGP Users: New Vulnerabilities Require You To Take Action Now

    A group of European security researchers have released a warning about a set of vulnerabilities affecting users of PGP and S/MIME. EFF has been in communication with the research team, and can confirm that these vulnerabilities pose an immediate risk to those using these tools for email communication, including the potential exposure of the contents of past messages.

    The full details will be published in a paper on Tuesday at 07:00 AM UTC (3:00 AM Eastern, midnight Pacific). In order to reduce the short-term risk, we and the researchers have agreed to warn the wider PGP user community in advance of its full publication.

    Our advice, which mirrors that of the researchers, is to immediately disable and/or uninstall tools that automatically decrypt PGP-encrypted email. Until the flaws described in the paper are more widely understood and fixed, users should arrange for the use of alternative end-to-end secure channels, such as Signal, and temporarily stop sending and especially reading PGP-encrypted email.

  • Disabling PGP in Thunderbird with Enigmail

Response from Werner Koch

Subject: Efail or OpenPGP is safer than S/MIME
Date: Mon, 14 May 2018 09:45:51 +0200
From: Werner Koch


Some may have noticed that the EFF has warnings about the use of PGP out
which I consider pretty overblown. The GnuPG team was not contacted by
the researchers but I got access to version of the paper related to
KMail. It seems to be the complete paper with just the names of the
other MUAs redacted.

Given that the EFF suggests to deinstall GpgOL, we know tha it is not
vulnerable; see see

Here is a response I wrote on the weekend to a reporter who inquired on
this problem.

The topic of that paper is that HTML is used as a back channel to create
an oracle for modified encrypted mails. It is long known that HTML
mails and in particular external links like
are evil if the MUA actually honors them (which many meanwhile seem to
do again; see all these newsletters). Due to broken MIME parsers a
bunch of MUAs seem to concatenate decrypted HTML mime parts which makes
it easy to plant such HTML snippets.

There are two ways to mitigate this attack

- Don't use HTML mails. Or if you really need to read them use a
proper MIME parser and disallow any access to external links.

- Use authenticated encryption.

The latter is actually easy for OpenPGP because we started to use
authenticated encryption (AE) since 2000 or 2001. Our AE is called MDC
(Modification detection code) and was back then introduced for a very
similar attack. Unfortunately some OpenPGP implementations were late to
introduce MDC and thus GPG could not fail hard on receiving a mail
without an MDC. However, an error is returned during decrypting and no
MDC is used:

gpg: encrypted with 256-bit ECDH key, ID 7F3B7ED4319BCCA8, created 2017-01-01
"Werner Koch "
There is more to life than increasing its speed.
-- Mahatma Gandhi
gpg: WARNING: message was not integrity protected

When giving a filename on the command line an output file is even not
created. This can't be done in pipe mode because gpg allows to process
huge amounts of data. MUAs are advised to consider the DECRYPTION_FAILED
status code and not to show the data or at least use a proper way to
display the possible corrupted mail without creating an oracle and to
inform the user that the mail is fishy.

For S/MIME authenticated encryption is not used or implemented in
practice and thus there is no short term way to fix this in S/MIME
except for not using HTML mails.

The upshot of this is that OpenPGP messages are way better protected
against such kind of attacks than S/MIME messages. Unless, well, the
MUAs are correctly implemented and check error codes!



Some cryptographers turn up their nose at the OpenPGP MDC which is an
ad-hoc AE mode from a time before AE received much research. However,
it does it job and protects reliable against this and other attacks.
The next OpenPGP revision will bring a real AE mode (EAX or OCB
depending on key preferences) which has other benefits (early detection
of corrupted messages, speed) but it will takes years before it will be
widely deployed and can can actually be used to create messages.

# Please read: Daniel Ellsberg - The Doomsday Machine #
Die Gedanken sind frei. Ausnahmen regelt ein Bundesgesetz.

Alarmist articles

Subject: Re: [Enigmail] FYI disable enigmail now
Date: Mon, 14 May 2018 03:14:12 -0400
From: Robert J. Hansen
Reply-To: Enigmail user discussion list

We saw a preview of that paper. It's under embargo so it would be
inappropriate for us to comment on it until it's released. It was also
inappropriate for the EFF to comment on it. You can expect us to have
an official statement on it once the paper is published.

I will say this is a tempest in a teapot. Patrick, Werner, and I have
all seen it. We are not in the least bit worried. We wish the EFF had
reached out to us before running with an alarmist article.

tl;dr: as always, please use the latest Enigmail version, and do so with

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