Security Focus has an Article entitled Abandon E-Mail.
The author quickly points out the problems with SMTP:
And e-mail is a terrible mess. It’s dangerous, insecure, unreliable, mostly unwanted, and out-of-control. It’s the starting point for a myriad of criminal activity, banking scams, virus outbreaks, identity theft, extortion, stock promotion scams, and of course, the giant iceberg of spam.
The problem is, e-mail is now integral to the lives of perhaps a billion people, businesses, and critical applications around the world. It’s a victim of its own success. It’s a giant ship on a dangerous collision course. All sorts of brilliant, talented people today put far more work into fixing SMTP in various ways (with anti-virus, anti-phishing technologies, anti-spam, anti-spoofing cumbersome encryption technologies, and much more) than could have ever been foreseen in 1981. But it’s all for naught.
The main reason we will never win the e-mail war against the spammers-phishers-scammers-botnets and their assorted ilk is we’re bound by legal standards that limit the ways we can combat e-mail abuse – unlike in the early days of the Internet. The perpetrators are not bound by the law. Therefore the good guys can’t win. The only solution is to change the rules. We need to abandon our e-mail infrastructure and concede that the spamming-phishing-virus-writing scumbags have won; moving on is only inevitable.
He suggests the outline of what the successor to SMTP should look like:
The only solution is to start from scratch. Develop a new e-mail system and make it secure. Use existing, proven technologies and a few new and novel ideas – starting with the latest encoding mechanisms, a reliable hashing algorithm, fast compression, strong encryption and signatures. Build an electronic identity. Encode, hash, encrypt, compress, sign, and provide a novel way to share keys when needed, for example. I don’t know how this will all turn out, but perhaps yEnc, MD5, AES, H.264, and GPG are some potential technologies that could be used together. A new transport protocol would need to be flexible enough that any of these technologies could be replaced, transparently to the user, as better and stronger options become available. It would need to be seamless for the client – no more messy GPG or other stop-gap solutions that few people actually use. Secure e-mail should be a mandatory “secure bundle” of e-mail that is safe for sending a credit card number to a business or someone I know.
I don’t know what the successor should be. The author of the above has some good thoughts though.
The following could be the US Public Policy approach:
- Direct and fund the NSF to create and manage a “Beyond SMTP” contest
- Do not limit the submitters to only be US citizens or residents (tap into brain power around the world)
- NSF Create a predication market for secondary analysis and discussion
- NSF runs a bake-off between consolidated competing and leading ideas
- NSF funds further proofs of concepts
- Let a victor emerge
- Mandate the victor’s scheme be used by the US government in two years and by all US vendors and contractors one year later.
- Allow for-profit organizations to expense immediately any transition costs.
Filed under: Information Security, Information Technology, Public Policy | Leave a comment »