Failure of PKI in messaging

John Levine johnl at
Tue Feb 13 23:32:53 EST 2007

>Banks [use] a web interface, after the user logs in to their account.

>So, what's missing in the email PKI model is two-sidedness.

Not really.  What's missing is, if you'll pardon the phrase, a central
point of failure.

If you can persuade everyone to use a single system, it's not hard to
make communication adequately secure.  Look at Hushmail; if you
believe that their internal processes are OK, you can set up an
account and communicate quite securely with other Hushmail users on
their web site, or for the more nerdy, you can use SSL IMAP and PGP to
communicate with their central site.  It's been limping along since
1999, I don't know anyone who uses it which says something about its
actual utility.

But that's not e-mail.  The great thing about Internet e-mail is that
vast numbers of different mail systems that do not know or trust each
other can communicate without prearrangement.  And of couse the awful
thing about Internet e-mail is the same thing.  It's hard to see any
successful e-mail system in the future, secure or otherwise, that
doesn't do that, since Internet mail killed all of the closed systems
that preceded it.

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