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Wikileaks Sidesteps Publishing Public PGP Key 96

Posted by timothy
from the these-things-take-time dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Repeated requests toward the Wikileaks staff regarding their use of PGP have gone unanswered. The current public PGP key posted has been expired since November 2nd, 2007. A response on their PGP talk page notes that the 'SSL based mail submission system' will be the secure online method of document submission. At the current time, there is no method to safely encrypt any postal communications with Wikileaks or verify that any given communication actually originated from a Wikileaks staff member." Doubtless there are some complicating factors here -- but what is the best way to keep a confidentiality-centric site like Wikileaks trustworthy?
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Wikileaks Sidesteps Publishing Public PGP Key

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  • Whoo boy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @02:09PM (#23128634) Journal
    Generally we recommend against using PGP in its simplest form, since the traffic is easily detected and provides proof of intention to conceal, which depending on the context may pose a significant difficulty. - emph mine

    Gut reaction to that statement makes me feel a bit queasy.
    • Re:Whoo boy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kestasjk (933987) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @02:29PM (#23128736) Homepage
      It makes sense, really. Anything you send to WikiLeaks you intend to be told to everyone.

      I think what they mean by "provides proof of intention to conceal" is that they don't want people leaking something and then saying "aha! You just told everyone something that I meant to be kept private, I'm going to sue! Why would I have encrypted it if I had meant you to release it?"

      And that person would have a point. It's hard to think how someone could post something to WikiLeaks, so that it can be publicly posted, but desire that their information be transmitted encrypted. The assumption should always be anything you send to WikiLeaks is public, and allowing encrypted submissions may make this unclear.
      If they need to submit the information anonymously they should do it anonymously, PGP can't help with that.
      • Re:Whoo boy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DaffyDuck101 (247015) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @02:49PM (#23128882)
        Quite obviously they (the submitters) would like to be able to deny they sent the information in the first place. PGP or not is not going to help a lot with that.

        "Proof of intention to conceal" would refer to the fact that when the next scandal at ACME is published, and only one of their faithful employees ever used PGP as evidenced by their router logs, that would constitute enough proof to sue, even without being able to read the actual contents of the mail.

        So what the nice folks at wikileaks are saying is that you might as well ditch PGP and use web-based SSL forms so you can just claim you were paying your annual Playboy magazine subscription, or whatever. Or you could send all your mail with PGP and try to convince everybody else to do so as well.

        So yes, PGP isn't going to do you much good, but not for the reasons you stated.

        • Another option (Score:2, Insightful)

          by TheSpengo (1148351)
          Well, since people can't use PGP with their regular email addresses anymore to correspond with wikileaks, what's stopping them from making a dummy gmail account or something? It takes all of a couple seconds and that way you don't even have your regular email address associated with them at all.
        • Anyone dumb enough to submit information to wikileaks from their work deserves any humiliation that follows.
          Furthermore, anyone using SSL to send data to Wikileaks from work is equally stupid. The logs you speak of can just as easily identify who connected to Wikileaks over a secure connection and thus are just as easily identified as the PGP encrypted fool who does so.

          Besides, they don't seem to get much pgp tagged submissions, according to them. Or perhaps it's all someone pretending to be them, and the r
          • Furthermore, anyone using SSL to send data to Wikileaks from work is equally stupid. The logs you speak of can just as easily identify who connected to Wikileaks over a secure connection and thus are just as easily identified as the PGP encrypted fool who does so.

            Ha! That's the beauty of it!

            You see, in phase #2 of their plan for global domination, wikileaks is planning to offer annual Playboy subscriptions at 50% rate, at which point their SSL servers are going to be taking hits like there's no tomorrow ;-)

      • But it's complete BS... You can use PGP to *sign* documents. Encrypting is optional. You can do both. In some implementations you can actually do neither... odd.

        Signing a document does not conceal anything.

        • by cwebster (100824)
          yes, but when you sign a document you use your private key, not the reciever's public key, which is the issue.
          • why should that be an issue?

            This is all about the web of trust and authenticating data. Why does it matter that the sender keeps their private key private?

            Pretty sure their SSL setup will have a private key too. I suspect they'll have to conceal that too...

            • by perlchild (582235)
              The SSL Private key's is WikiLeaks, not the correspondants...
            • by cwebster (100824)

              why should that be an issue?

              This is all about the web of trust and authenticating data. Why does it matter that the sender keeps their private key private?

              because, like you say, its about trust and authentication. The only way that is possible is to sign with a private key and keep it private. If you sign with a private key and then distribute the private key, then anyone can sign the document as that person and you no longer have a signature that is meaningful.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                That's silly, you don't have to distribute the private key, that's the whole point.

                Take the wikileak's SSL key. How do you know that's their private key and it's not a MiM attack? You know that because verisign (or someone) signed the public key. They did that with a private key -- and wikileak doesn't have it!! Oh nos!!!

                There's always a private key you don't have. That's the whole point of asymetric cryptography. PGP is no different.

                So this argument is all very silly.

                • by cwebster (100824)
                  forgive me if i'm mistaken, but SSL is used to encrypt and the post i replied to was specifically in reference to signing a document. I recognize your argument with wikileaks and agree that in that context it is stupid. At the same time i stand by my point that distributing a private key pretty much negates being able to sign a document with the purpose of trust.
                  • The only problem I have with what you said is that that it's either false or willfully ignorant. It's otherwise ok.

                    You can use a private key to create a signature that was verifiable created with that private key using the public key that's paired with it. If that public key was signed by other private keys and those are signed by other private keys, then using that web of trust you can confirm the sender is who they claim to be.

                    That is the other purpose of asymmetric crypto. You can use it to encrypt an
    • Re:Whoo boy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @03:03PM (#23128968) Homepage Journal
      I think you're misunderstanding them.

      I read it as "the Chinese or other totalitarian governments might punish you solely for using PGP".
    • by RKBA (622932)

      ... the traffic is easily detected and provides proof of intention to conceal, which depending on the context may pose a significant difficulty.
      All the more reason why EVERYONE should use PGP or some variant thereof ALL THE TIME for ALL email, even if you're only encrypting your favorite cookie receipt.
  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @02:11PM (#23128646) Homepage

    A decade ago, every geek had a PGP key, keysigning parties were a great way to spend a Friday night, and everyone was raving about Schneier's eggheaded but useful tome Applied Cryptography [amazon.com] . Now when I ask otherwise normal geeks if they have a PGP key, they just look at me like I'm from Mars. I don't understand, PGP has gotten only easier to use, there's a great Firefox extension for it, but it has faded in popularity.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The thing is, there is no point to PGP/GPG these days. S/MIME and SSL are real standards and integrated with practically every browser and e-mail package out there.

      PGP was and still is just a hack.
      • by Sloppy (14984)
        A hack?! WTF? PGP has the WoT and multiple certifiers per key. It's better. S/MIME and SSL are the ones that reek of hackishness; they are stopgaps until more people start using the Real Thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      There is the problem of webmail.

      I know there are extensions to firefox to get s/mime support, PGP and a few other (proprietary) methods of encrypting emails, but you don't always have ontrol over the browser you're using.

      I'd love to use encryption on my email, but if I can't read it, there's no point.
      • by RKBA (622932) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @05:45PM (#23130106)
        You don't need any special web client, browser plug-in, or anything else to use PGP. Although I do sometimes use a GnuPgp extension to Thunderbird, I mostly just use the older versions of PGP that let you encrypt/decrypt, sign/verify, etc., either the contents of the clipboard or a text file. I then simply copy/paste the encrypted/signed message text file into the email I'm sending. The encryption/decryption can be totally separate from the email client.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kestasjk (933987)
      Not easy enough though; why isn't it automatic? Why isn't it just a basic part of e-mail by now? How can Flash and JavaScript in e-mail be supported but not encryption?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 19, 2008 @02:47PM (#23128872)

        why isn't it automatic?
        Because the most bothersome part of all cryptographic systems is also the most important part: key management. Both trust architectures, web of trust and hierarchic trust, require that trust relations are established by verifying keys/certificates. Hierarchic trust centralizes the verification. The certificate authorities do all the work, so they want compensation. The web of trust distributes the work among its participants. Consequently it's usually free, but you have to do work. That's why it's not automatic.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      There was a time that I used PGP/GnuPG for all my e-mails. But at some point I realized that this only gave me the impression that I had real privacy. Most of the recipients run Windows and they open those e-mails and files on their insecure machines.
      Also, what has changed is that nowadays the reason I want more privacy is because of the government and not because of regular people/crooks. And there are various ways in which the government could still read my files even when I use encryption, both by checki
      • by pwizard2 (920421)
        If I'm ever downright paranoid about keeping something really important secure, I prepare several GPG keys (4096 bit) and encrypt the data, and then encrypt the encrypted text, again and again. I then keep the different keys in different places, so to read my message someone would have to acquire multiple private keys and passwords.
      • by buanzo (542591)
        I use GnuPG to sign my outgoing eMail. I also use it to encrypt files for me and other friends. From time to time, to transfer sensitive information like passwords.

        Also, I mixed OpenPGP with HTTP and created Enigform (firefox extension) and mod_openpgp (apache module, formerly known as mod_auth_openpgp).

        There you go, more things to use pgp with.
      • by Beetle B. (516615)

        Also, what has changed is that nowadays the reason I want more privacy is because of the government and not because of regular people/crooks. And there are various ways in which the government could still read my files even when I use encryption, both by checking my screen and what I type.

        That's the same as saying, "Why lock my door? The lock can be picked anyway."

        And some would say it's the same as, "Why try to hide any secrets? They've probably figured out how to read my mind anyway."

    • It's because of proliferation of Web mail, and, for geeks in particular, GMail.
    • by fuego451 (958976)

      "there's a great Firefox extension for it"

      I've used gpg for Icedove and I considered it for Iceweasel but I'll be damned if I will 'register' with mozilla.org, now required, just to download it. When did they start that crap?

    • by Haeleth (414428)

      Now when I ask otherwise normal geeks if they have a PGP key, they just look at me like I'm from Mars. I don't understand, PGP has gotten only easier to use, there's a great Firefox extension for it, but it has faded in popularity.

      Of course it has; it's a solution looking for a problem. Sorry to say, but most of us don't have anything to hide, and that does mean that there's not much point hiding it.

      What's happened is that we have, in general, grown up a bit and realised that encrypting everything is not "

  • There isn't (Score:4, Insightful)

    by binaryspiral (784263) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @02:18PM (#23128682)

    Doubtless there are some complicating factors here -- but what is the best way to keep a confidentiality-centric site like Wikileaks trustworthy?


    Unfortunately, there isn't - information is only as trustworthy as the source.
    • by iminplaya (723125)
      ...information is only as trustworthy as the source.

      I believe the saying goes, "Trust no one but yourself."
  • Once documents have been leaked, organizations know they can't put the cat back in the bag but they want to close the bag to prevent further escapes. Sure they sue but they sue to get the names of submitters (i.e. Apple vs. Think Secret, or Craig what's his name at Microsoft threatening to find the leaker of the Halloween documents via secret Exchange magic)

    Wikileaks appears to want to provide a way for submitters to deny they even submitted anything to Wikileaks. Sending an e-mail to wikileaks with the contents encrypted is a clear indication that you're sending something to them. By the time the leaks are made public all they want to do is find the person, searching for something that sent pgp encrypted mail, even without being able to decrypt the actual contents, is going to be good enough for them.

    An ssl page, especially if wikileaks sets up some sort of drop system with other domains so you aren't obviously submitting to wikileaks, is much harder to track because people use ssl pages all over the internet all the time. If PGP were used more frequently then they could probably use that with a drop system as well, but it's just too rarely used.
    • by syzler (748241) <david AT syzdek DOT net> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @02:45PM (#23128852)
      An ssl page, especially if wikileaks sets up some sort of drop system with other domains so you aren't obviously submitting to wikileaks, is much harder to track because people use ssl pages all over the internet all the time.

      Why would you submit something to Wikileaks from your organization's network or through your organization's mail servers? I would think that act alone would scream, "Fire me," at the top of its figurative lungs to your soon to be ex-employers.
      • Because it's the only way to get the info out the door?
        • by syzler (748241) <david AT syzdek DOT net> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @03:32PM (#23129160)
          If an organization has security so tight that an individual is unable to carry a medium such as a sheet of paper, a thumb drive, digital camera, mp3 player, or cell phone off the premise, I seriously doubt the organization would allow the individual unrestricted access to the public Internet from within the organization's network.
          • Yeah, good point.
            • It's a good point, but not complete. You may not have a thumb drive at the moment, or access to a printer where the jobs are unobserved, or may not have the technical skills to transfer the data in a more subtle way. But web access is pretty common place, even inside allegedly 'secure' environments.
          • From the wording ("intent to conceal") it sounds as if they're primarily interested in legal action taken against leakers. PGP throws up big flags if you're looking for it, and there are undoubtedly governments that look for it as well as businesses.

            The real problem is that it sounds as if they intend to trust SSL, which is a mistake. I know (and apply URL filtering policy on) any SSL connections made at my job site. If I wanted to, I could MITM the SSL as well, but I don't have a policy to back me up no
          • I can neither confirm nor deny that I have sat in a classified lab with info controls that has a non-trivil number of points of access to the unrestricted internet. The labs may or may not have restricted the movement of cell phones, thumb drives, CD ROMS, etc.

            When push comes to shove, "the individual persons" are both the weakest and most important of a security plan. Plans based on having "no bad actors" inside the security ring is important and everyday useful.

            One of the major reasons to restrict the a
      • by Kevinv (21462)
        Why would this have to go through the company's servers? Organizations with leaks, hell the RIAA does it all the time, has been known to ask for ISP's logs and ISPs are pretty willing to roll over for just about anyone.

        DNS logs, e-mail logs, etc.... then back track the trail looking for a server that keeps copies of e-mail as it passes through (how many ISP's now require you use their SMTP server instead being able to send your own e-mail straight to another server?) or starts keeping copies of your mail w
    • by beeblebrox (16781)

      An ssl page, especially if wikileaks sets up some sort of drop system with other domains so you aren't obviously submitting to wikileaks, is much harder to track because people use ssl pages all over the internet all the time.

      The problem with SSL, as implemented in browsers, is that there is a crapload of root certification authorities that are blindly trusted by default. On my Firefox browser for example I can see:

      - AOL
      OK, I might trust them for something like an online forum login page, but not for online banking.

      - TurkTrust
      Seems to be a Turkish quasi-government entity related to international trade. Since I'm not trading with any Turkish entities right now, this one went bye bye from the list.

      - GoDaddy: Holy Fucking Shite

    • Here's the thing though, while PGP sort of lets the cat out of the bag that you're hiding something, the same thing happens over an SSL page on wikileaks IP, it doesn't give you any protection because instead of just searching for "PGP" in packet logs(if they're being kept), you're searching for 88.80.13.160 or "wikileaks"(which would come up in a DNS request). The only real solution is transmitting the materials over an anonymous link(such as wifi across town). If I was leaking something, I wouldn't even u
  • Have a video run at 3 in the morning on PBS or something. Have a recognizable figure say what the key is while it is displaying on the screen.
    I suppose he could also sign it while he talks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by perlchild (582235)
      The private key you mean?
      If you mean the public key, that proves nothing, if you mean the private key, anyone who uses it in the future can attribute documents to you. I know 3am PBS isn't popular, but I still wouldn't broadcast it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    hmm.. no encryption and no answers. I smell an FBI national security letter and gag order.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      hmm.. no encryption and no answers. I smell an FBI national security letter and gag order.
      I see hats.

      Tinfoil hats.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Indeed - or a UK member of staff has been forced to turn the old key over under the terms of RIPA, and Wikileaks are interpreting RIPA's provisions in such a way as to be sure to keep that staff member out of prison.

    • by number11 (129686) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @03:54PM (#23129290)
      no encryption and no answers. I smell an FBI national security letter and gag order.

      And why should wikileaks care about that? The domain is registered to an address in Kenya, and the web server appears to be in Sweden.
    • by noz (253073)

      hmm.. no encryption and no answers. I smell an FBI national security letter and gag order.
      They should have leaked them to Wikileaks. Wait...
  • I don't understand one thing: If someone performs a man-in-the-middle attack, isn't it likely that they are also able to mangle other traffic between Wikileaks and the submitter, i.e they can present a different PGP key to the submitter? So doesn't this go back to the old "The system is as secure as its key" ?
  • there isn't (Score:2, Insightful)

    Doubtless there are some complicating factors here -- but what is the best way to keep a confidentiality-centric site like Wikileaks trustworthy?

    There isn't. By verifying that anyone is anyone the cover is blown. Regardless the best use of it is still to post anonymously and link as many people as humanly possible. Then even if your cover is blown, the message still gets out. If you're a whistleblower, this is something you should have accepted long before you blew the whistle

  • - Wikileaks Changes Headings to Times New Roman
    - Wikileaks Director Recommends Ivory Soap
    - Wikileaks to Sponsor Next Super Bowl
    - Wikileaks leaks Wikileaks' Wikileaks leaks
    - Wikileaks wikileaks wikileaks, Wikileaks wikileaks
  • This is a bit offtop, apologies, but it's not a terrible place to ask a mail security/signature related question.

    I'm in a situation where I need to *prove* that someone has opened/read an email. I know there are paid "registered email" services, but they seem a bit overkill to me. And return receipts are jokes, since they aren't widely supported.

    Is there *any* service out there that can post a letter to a person, send them the link (presumably) information (via email) to read that note, and log when they
    • by WuphonsReach (684551) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @05:32PM (#23130000)
      I'm in a situation where I need to *prove* that someone has opened/read an email. I know there are paid "registered email" services, but they seem a bit overkill to me. And return receipts are jokes, since they aren't widely supported.

      The short answer is "don't try to make SMTP do something that it wasn't designed to do".

      The long answer - send people unique links to a web server that you control.

    • Well, you could setup a system with sftp, one-time login/password to access the document in question, log when the document was accessed, but even so, access does not prove that it was read.

  • But thats so early 90's. Still might be useful, although I don't think there any left that will anonymously send the recipient plain text.
  • ssl provides an encrypted layer which is secure enough to transmit credit card information over the internet on a regular basis. it should be plenty sufficient.

    what i don't think is sufficient is how the info is distributed. the thing can be shut down / censored too easily. to make the information distribution resiluant, it needs to be decentralized. that's why i think the website should provide an rss feed that can serve new leaks as torrents. torrent clients equiped with rss scanners can automatic

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