A "serious" flaw has been found in PGP and S/MIME email encryption

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More details are to be published by the researchers on May 15 who recommend not using the two encryption tools until they are fixed. "However, the very goal of PGP or S/MIME encryption is the protection against this kind of attacker".

In a 21-page academic paper, the researchers from Munster University, Ruhr University Bochum and KU Leuven detail Efail, which could potentially enable an attacker to read emails that have been encrypted with the OpenPGP and S/MIME standards. He later added that "There are now no reliable fixes for the vulnerability". "There are now no reliable fixes for the vulnerability".

Beyond short-term mitigations, there are longer-term efforts needed to fully secure S/MIME and OpenPGP based email encryption as well.

On Tuesday, a team of researchers are planning to release details of a critical vulnerability which they claim could have serious consequences for internet users who use PGP/GPG to encrypt and decrypt their sensitive email communications. The attacker would have to have access to the encrypted emails to begin with, meaning that the victim's account would need to be compromised as a starting point.

In a statement, U.S. digital rights group, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), confirmed that the standards posed an "immediate risk" to email communication including the potential exposure of the contents of past messages.

The foundation has created guides for disabling PGP in Outlook using Gpg4win, Thunderbird and Enigmail, and Apple Mail with GPGTools. The program also sees implementation in desktop programs for data encryption. Specifically, if they handle MDC (modification detection code) errors correctly, Koch's colleague Robert J. Hansen said, and the above-named clients appear to be some of those that are vulnerable. (S/MIME is more typically used to protect corporate emails, which means its use is up to the IT department, not individual workers.) We're still in the "knee-jerk reaction" phase of the response cycle.

PGP, for example, works using an algorithm to generate a "hash", or mathematical summary, of a user's name and other information. "This is then encrypted with the sender's private 'key" and decrypted by the receiver using a separate public key. Mozilla referred questions to the Thunderbird Council, the third-party open-source software group that maintains the Thunderbird email app. Ryan Sipes, a Thunderbird community manager, said in a statement that a patch is being developed and will be distributed as an update by the end of the week.

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