Experts Warn New Bugs Could Expose PGP Emails

EFF Discovers Email Encryption Flaws

Earlier on Monday, the researchers issued an advisory recommending PGP and S/MIME users disable the encryption in their e-mail clients but had planned to wait until Tuesday to provide technical details of the vulnerabilities.

The warning comes from a group of security researchers in Europe, from Münster University, Ruhr-University, and KU Leuven University, and its members have previously revealed the Drown attack that affected some 11 million HTTPS sites back in 2016. There's now no fix, researchers said. They also warned that nation state agencies are known to eavesdrop on email communications.

PGP is a type of email encryption.

Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is an encryption tool used to sign emails, documents, directories, and even full hard disks.

Academics from the Electronic Frontier Foundation have discovered critical vulnerabilities in two email encryption protocols.

"Our advice, which mirrors that of the researchers, is to immediately disable and/or uninstall tools that automatically decrypt PGP-encrypted email", the EFF said. The victim's email client then decrypts the email and loads any external content, thereby allowing the attacker to view the message.

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If you use Thunderbird with Enigmail, Apple Mail with GPGTools or Outlook with Gpg4win the EFF has step-by-step tutorials to temporarily disable their PGP plug-ins.

The use of PGP for secure communications has been advocated, among others, by Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on pervasive electronic surveillance at the US National Security Agency before fleeing to Russian Federation.

It added, however, that it considered the encryption standards themselves to be safe if correctly implemented and configured.

PGP, for example, works using an algorithm to generate a "hash", or mathematical summary, of a user's name and other information. The attacks assume that an attacker has possession of the encrypted e-mails and can trick either the original sender or one of the recipients to open an invisible snippet of one of the intercepted messages in a new e-mail.

To exploit the weakness, a hacker would need to have access to an email server or the mailbox of a recipient.

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