Holistic Approach to OpenPGP Security

Improving the security of OpenPGP users requires more than a new implementation. Therefore, we are taking a holistic approach and are improving the ecosystem.

Our efforts in this regards always start with users. We have talked extensively with users to find out what their needs are, what their workflows are, what tools they currently use, and what problems they have. We spoke to application developers, digital security trainers, administrators, people in charge of operational security, and end users. We build tools based on what we learn from our discussions with them. In fact, we involve our users closely in the development process.

For example, we are developing OpenPGP CA with OCCRP. OpenPGP CA is a tool for managing OpenPGP keys within an organization. Extensive discussions helped us understand OCCRP’s current workflows and the challenges they face, and by now they have deployed OpenPGP CA on their test infrastructure and are providing vital feedback.

Other projects developed in close cooperation with users are Hagrid, Umschlagend, and sqv. We reached out to Schleuder and are looking forward to working with them. Since Schleuder is written in Ruby, we started working on Ruby bindings for Sequoia.

Having a specific use case and people who actually want to use the end product is a great way to develop a project.

Looking at Sequoia, we want to make it usable for all existing projects. To that end, we worked hard to make it easy-to-use from different languages and environments. Sequoia-OpenPGP is a very complete and faithful implementation of RFC4880 (and some extensions). It is a versatile toolkit for building OpenPGP-enabled applications.

Experience has shown that imposing opinions on how downstream projects ought to use OpenPGP leads to friction and inevitably the users working around the imposed policy. Therefore, we designed Sequoia to be policy free and let downstream decide on the semantics they want.

Finally, OpenPGP is about securing communications, and communication requires a party to communicate with. Said party could use a different implementation of OpenPGP. Therefore, it is in our best interest to also improve other implementations. To this end we created the OpenPGP interoperability test suite. This test suite has been very successful in identifying problems in many OpenPGP implementations. If you want to see your implementation included in these results, please get in touch.

Read more about how we make Sequoia secure and robust yet at the same time easy to use.