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What specific problem are you trying to solve with PGP? If it's "encrypting files", why are you encrypting those files? What's the end goal? I acknowledge that there are cases that boil down to "encrypt a file", but believe they are a lot narrower than people assume they are.



We encrypt files:

- For offsite backups (disaster recovery), mirroring object stores and filesystems to cheap cloud storage.

- For encrypting secrets needed for maintaining IT systems (eg. all those shared passwords we never seem to be able to get rid of)

- For encrypting sensitive documentation for transfer (email attachment, shared via filesystem, shared via HTTP, shared via pastebin even)

Despite the awful UI, GnuPG does all of that in a standard way. We have tested disaster recovery with no more instructions than 'the files are in this S3 bucket'.

And the same tool is also useful for other tasks too: - public key distribution (needs care to do it securely, but functional) - commit signing, signed tags - package signing (per Debian)

We could use custom or multiple tools for all this, but a single tool to learn is a big advantage.

I think all use cases boil down to 'encrypt and/or sign a file' for one of the stages. In the article, 'talking to people', 'sending files', 'encrypting backups' are all really just 'encrypt/sign a file' followed by transmission. And some sort of keyring management is needed for usability. A tool that can pull keys from a repository and encrypt and/or sign a file to a standard format could be used to build all sorts of higher level tools. I imagine it would be quite possible to build this on top of libsodium, and if it gained mindshare, replace uses of GnuPG.


> I think all use cases boil down to 'encrypt and/or sign a file' for one of the stages. In the article, 'talking to people', 'sending files', 'encrypting backups' are all really just 'encrypt/sign a file' followed by transmission.

But they aren't the same thing. That's the whole point the article is making. Yes, if all you have is a tool that does "encrypt+sign a file", then all crypto problems will look like "encrypt+sign a file" problems.

For backups, tools like restic provide deduplication and snapshots as well as key rotation (and restic works flawlessly with dumb S3-like storage). You can't do that with PGP without reimplementing restic on top of it. Same with TarSnap. For talking to people, you want perfect forward secrecy and (usually) deniability. PGP actively works against you on both fronts. For sending files, there are also other considerations that Wormhole handles for you (though to be honest I haven't used it in anger).

While you can "solve" these problems with one tool, the best way of solving them is to have separate tools. That's the point the article is making.


For securely talking to people, often you may want non-repudiation, which is the exact opposite of deniability and anonymity.

There are very different, incompatible needs for slightly different usecases.


Signal -- and all other OTR-like protocols -- have deniability (or if you prefer it has repudiation rather than non-repudiation). Neither conversation participant can prove to a third party that the other party said something in a conversation. Moxie wrote a blog post about this in 2013[1].

The only circumstance in which you want non-repudiation is if you are really sure that you are okay with the recipient of your message later posting cryptographic proof that you said something in a chat with them. I bet most people (if you asked them) would effectively never want that "feature" for private chats.

[1]: https://signal.org/blog/simplifying-otr-deniability/


Sure, you usually don't want that feature in private setting, but you almost always want that feature in a commercial setting, and lots of communication happens in that context.

E.g. vendor-customer helpdesk chat, internal workplace communication including "less internal" things like different subsidiaries of international companies, etc, etc. Half of financial world runs on Thompson Reuters messenger which is essentially glorified chat. What if your boss sends you a message "hey, do that risky thing right now" - do you want that (likely informal) means of communication to have deniability? Does the company want deniability in the app in which random middle-managers message their subordinates? It makes sense for companies to mandate that teams choose only communications platforms that support authentication and nonrepudiation.

As soon as money, any kind of disputes, and the smallest chance for future legal proceedings are involved, anonymity and deniability are flaws and not features - as I said above, superficially similar use cases can have opposing and incompatible requirements.

Even going back to the commonly discussed use case of Signal for journalism. Let's say a journalist interviews a whistleblower over a mobile messaging app - you'd want anonymity and deniability there. And five minutes later that same journalist asks a clarifying question to the official head of that agency, likely also using a mobile messaging app, possibly the same one. Do you want the answer of that official to have deniability, or do you want that journalist to be able to cryptographically prove that the official lied?


I think our main disagreement is the usage of the word "usually". There are chat systems that have non-repudiation that aren't PGP -- I don't think there's much more to elaborate.

For personal communications, usually people want deniability. For business-related communication, you might want non-repudiation.


Probably the point I'm trying to make is that for me the communication scenarios seem similar enough, and the line between business and consumer comunication is so blurry with people using private mobile devices in business and expecting the same set of tools to cover all their communication, that saying "oh, there's another tool that does it the opposite way" isn't really a sufficient answer - perhaps we need to treat it as essentially a "flag" in the same tool; this useraccount/chatgroup/etc is authenticated and doesn't have any deniability whatsoever, but in the same app over there I have a pseudonymous contact with a marker over it that's effectively anonymous with full deniability and OTR communications.




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