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ISRL. Internet Security Research Lab. http://isrl.cs.byu.edu. Easy To Use Secure Mail. Tim van der Horst Kent Seamons [email protected] Email is a postcard. Almost all email is sent in the clear Email provider can access stored messages

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Easy to use secure mail l.jpg

ISRL

Internet Security Research Lab

http://isrl.cs.byu.edu

Easy To Use Secure Mail

Tim van der Horst

Kent Seamons

[email protected]


Email is a postcard l.jpg
Email is a postcard

  • Almost all email is sentin the clear

  • Email provider can access stored messages

  • Users increasingly trust online service providers to store their email

    • Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.


Encrypted email l.jpg
Encrypted email

  • Encrypted email solves the postcard problem

  • Current solutions

    • PGP

    • S/MIME

  • No widespread adoption

    • Hard to get keys for self and recipients

    • Many users don’t know what encryption is, or how to use it



Sender l.jpg
Sender

  • Download and install an email plug-in

  • Prove her identity to the key server

    • Receive an email message from the key server

    • Happens once per email address

  • No more interaction required with key server to send secure messages to any recipient

  • Simply specify the email address of the recipient and send secure email messages

  • The email contents are encrypted and sent to the recipient as an attachment, along with plain-text instructions in the body of the message indicating where to obtain software to decrypt the message


Recipient l.jpg
Recipient

  • First-time receipt of encrypted message

    • The sender and subject line of the message are in plain text

    • The plaintext body informs the recipient that the message attachment is encrypted and refers the user to a plug-in needed to decrypt the message

    • The recipient installs the plug-in

    • Recipient proves her identity to the key server

      • Receive an email message from the key server

      • Happens once per email address

  • Decrypt a secure email messages

    • Click on the message in the inbox to read the messages

    • Client software obtains decryption key from the key server based on sender’s and recipient’s email address. The key can be cached at the client.

    • Message is decrypted and displayed to the user.



Security analysis l.jpg
Security analysis

  • Trust model

    • Key escrow

      • Key server can derive all keys

    • Messages don’t pass through the key server

    • Business can host their own key server

  • Threats

    • Basic model thwarts passive observation

    • Vulnerable to some impersonation attacks

      • Due to how key server authenticates a user’s ability to receive an email message

      • Use of a stronger authentication mechanism eliminates this weakness

      • The design supports a dial for convenience/security


Prototypes l.jpg
Prototypes

  • 3rd party key server

    • Crypto card to protect master key

  • Clients

    • Firefox extension for Gmail

      • Web mail

    • Thunderbird extension

      • Standard email client

    • Java applet

      • Loosely coupled with any email client

      • Available to a user for any client that does not have a plug-in available for secure email


Future plans l.jpg
Future plans

  • Host a key server for public use

  • Popular email clients

    • Web: Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL

    • Traditional: Thunderbird, Outlook, Lotus Notes

  • User studies

    • Obtain feedback from users to guide design decisions


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