Jul 28, 2013

My design to implement PGP in commercial email system

PGP is great for privacy but rather hard to use for common users. I came up with a simple design that can be implement in main-string email system while preserving the usability. 
Take Gmail for example.
First Google should adopt zero-knowledge password proof for its account while asking users to choose recovery questions. To recover password, users will answer 3 secret questions and the password is encrypted with the answers. This ensures that users can recover password and get old emails back without letting Google know the password.
Then when users first log into Gmail, the browser will generate the keypair using JavaScript locally and encrypt the secret key with login password(with PBKDF2, etc). Then the user will upload the encrypted secret key and plain public key to Google. Because Google doesn't know your password, Google cannot server you a fake secret key, even though you download your encrypted secret key from Google every time you login.
When the users tries to send an email to another Gmail user B for the first time, B's public key will be downloaded from Google and signed by A. Any subsequent times when A tries to send email to B, A will not only download B's key from Google but also verifies the authenticity of B's key. This prevents MITM attack if Google is hacked or forced by law enforcement. (For advanced users, Google can present the option to manually verify the public key for the first email. )
To send email between Gmail and Hotmail, Google should be able to request a Hotmail user's public key from Microsoft server. To prevent spam, Microsoft should return some random public key for non-exist account and perhaps always return this fake public key for this non-exist account to prevent cross reference.
The only downside of this approach is that email providers are not able to filter spam or provide related Ads based on email content. Even this might be solved in the future because of private outsourced computation.


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