Use of public key servers

Atom 'Smasher' atom-gpg at
Fri Apr 9 05:03:42 CEST 2004

Hash: SHA1

> 1) You can't prove a key from the public key server is really that
> persons public key, you still have to validate it some way. So you can
> get the key personally from that person in some way and at that time
> validate the key. Instead of using the key even thought it might not be his.

if me and you know and trust each other, we can sign each others keys
(after properly validating them).

from then on, if i download a key from a key-server that's signed by you,
i can reasonably assume that the key belongs to the person who claims to
own that key: if you download a key that's signed by me, you can
reasonably assume the same.

getting around that requires forging a signature, which is generally
considered to be infeasible.

type "web of trust" into your favorite search engine.

> 2) It allows evil people get to get data from the public key servers and
> do malicious things with it (Such as spammers with email addresses, or
> possibly know a username for a account on some server that hosts the email.)

the only information they would get is an email address, user name,
comment, and *public* key information....

* email address: there has been no evidence of spammers harvesting email
from key servers. it might seem like a hot target, but it's really not.
in any case, install a spam filter.

* user name: this is (typically) the user name associated with that
address, so there are easier ways to find out that i'm "Atom Smasher".

* comment: this optional field can include anything you want, but some
common sense will tell you what not to put in it (like a password, or
social security number {in the US}).

* public key: a big part of public key cryptography depends on making the
public key widely available. if you can gain information about one's
private key by having access to their public key, we'd all like to know
about it.


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Comment: What is this gibberish?  -


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