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Date: Thu, 25 Jul 2013 23:08:14 -0400
From: Daniel Kahn Gillmor <>
CC: Kurt Seifried <>, 
 Yves-Alexis Perez <>
Subject: Re: CVE Request: evolution mail client GPG key selection

On 07/25/2013 10:42 PM, Kurt Seifried wrote:
> Yeah that was why I think in some cases it's better to have the policy
> decision in the front end which would support more subtle distinctions
> than "trust" and "no trust".

but gpg doesn't offer those either (despite the abominable terminology).
 gpg can say whether a user ID is "valid" (meaning bound to a primary
key by certifications you're willing to rely on), and it can say whether
(or how much) you are willing to rely on OpenPGP certifications made by
a given key.  This last point is "ownertrust", and it says *nothing*
about trust for codesigning, etc.  It just days "are you willing to rely
on this key for OpenPGP identity certifications?"

If you want to get fancy, ownertrust is not even necessarily
black-or-white, you can choose "marginal" ownertrust for a given key,
which means "on its own i'm not willing to rely on an OpenPGP identity
certification from this key.  but if it's corroborated with two other
certifications from other marginally-trusted keys, then i'm willing to
rely on them in aggregate."  (whether this sort of policy is useful or a
good idea in an age when there are mass keysignings is a separate

> True, but as a thought experiment, an extension to GPG or perhaps a
> layer sitting on top of it that let you specify properties with the
> key like "allow signing of sandboxed apps" or "allow signing of core
> system apps" or "allow signing of documents" or "allow signing of
> legal document" and so on, allowing you to keep that policy in one
> spot rather than in your software package manager, your word
> processor, etc.

I am going to nitpick your terminology here because i think it's helpful
to clarify what we're talking about.

You surely don't actually mean "allow signing of sandboxed apps" -- you
can't prevent me from signing any apps, sandboxed or not!

I think you mean "It's OK to run any app in this sandbox if it has been
signed by dkg".

Phrased this way, it's clearer that this is an authorization policy
choice that belongs *to the sandbox* (not to the key manager) or at
least to the class of applications or tools that offer sandbox-like

The key manager can tell if i a key *is* my key, but the sandbox has to
decide whether something should be run once it knows who has signed off
on it.

Similarly, "Allow signing of core system apps" is actually "allow
installation of core system apps if signed by X".

But what about "allow document signing"?  I'm stuck what you mean here.
 If you (and your keyring tools) believe that my key belongs to me, and
there is no immediate functional consequence of my having signed a
document other than a (hopefully unspoofable) UI display to the user
that "this document was signed by dkg", why would there need to be a
separate authorization layer?  What would it protect?

If you're talking about "allow signing a build manifest (or a git tag)
that will be fed to our compile farm" that's a very specific kind of
document, and corresponds to a different sort of access
control/authorization layer.  But plain human-readable documents?

> Although realistically
> it would become hideously complicated and messy and no-one would have
> any idea what their settings were or what they meant (much like
> browser security settings back in the day).

as opposed to today, when most people still have no idea what their
browser security settings are or what they mean or even that they have
browser security settings :P

Thanks for the enlightening discussion, I hope folks don't find it too
horribly off-topic.



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