Draft of nine new FAQ questions

reynt0 reynt0 at cs.albany.edu
Thu May 24 00:50:41 CEST 2012

On Wed, 23 May 2012, Robert J. Hansen wrote:
  . . .
> I have a draft version of nine frequently asked questions ready for
> community review:
> 	http://keyservers.org/gnupgfaq.xhtml
> Any and all feedback (save for visual design, layout, etc.) will be
> gratefully accepted.  Thank you!

Here FWIW are some kindof stylistic suggestions, following
some standard types of phrasings I have found useful to
minimize confusion when communicating with people from
varied or unknown linguistic backgrounds.  Changes are
identified by "*** <foo> ***".

Interestingly, good rather than loose grammar often seems
to be more understandable by people who learned English in
non-USA schools, since they often learned by a book which
taught by grammar.  (Cf eg my "***ever to be***" below.)
Also, just to mention, best to avoid smart apostrophes/quotes
in the final version, naturally, right?  And maybe most

---re #1:  Why does GnuPG use 2048-bit RSA by default?
***This question can be separated into two questions:  Why ... by 
default?; and Why ... by default?"***
This is actually two separate questions in one: why does GnuPG use 
2048-bit keys by default, and why does GnuPG use the RSA algorithm by 

***The answer to the first question is that GnuPG .... NIST's current 
position (as of May 2012) is that software providing 112***
With respect to the first question, GnuPG uses 2048-bit keys in order to 
comply with the current (as of Spring 2012) recommendations of the United
  . . .
***The answer to the second question is that GPS uses RSA rather
than DSA mostly***
With respect to the second question, GnuPG uses RSA over DSA mostly
  . . .

---re #3:  Why doesn't GnuPG default to 4096-bit RSA?
  . . .
***If a 2048-bit key were ever to be ... to advocate that RSA be .... 
Against what we assume would take a breakthrough of great significance, 
["magnitude" is a size word, might confuse someone roughing out a 
translation about key size]***
If a 2048-bit key were to ever be successfully attacked, that would be 
enough to advocate RSA be abandoned completely. Against a breakthrough of 
that magnitude another few thousand bits of key would likely make no 
  . . .
the shift to 3072-bit keys gives little additional resistance, and 
4096-bit keys ***give*** an even smaller addition

***GnuPG is not for only desktop or laptop computers.***
GnuPG is not just for desktops. It has been successfully ported
  . . .

2048-bit RSA is believed safe until 2030, which exceeds the
needs of most GnuPG users. If for some reason a longer duration
is needed***,*** a 4096-bit key may certainly be generated and
used,  ***.  But***but the defaults are meant to be appropriate
for the majority of users ***and*** not for specialized or
niche security needs.

---re #5:  Is RSA-2048 really enough?

***start 2nd sentence : And other organizations to whom encryption
is important (such as RSA...***  [The world changes, and maybe
an explicit endorsement might not be so appropriate tomorrow,
but embarassing or similar to change then.  Just mentioning them
is an implicit endorsement, IMHO of course]
According to NIST, yes. Further, other well-respected organizations (such 
as RSA Security) have publicly supported NIST's recommendations.

  . . .
key recommendations have been superseded by those in Practical 
Cryptography, which, to repeat, says ***replace "says" with
"estimates"*** RSA-2048 will be sufficient until the mid-2020s.

---re #6:  Can any of the ciphers in GnuPG be brute-forced?
  . . .
***In terms of current scientific understandings, the symmetric
ciphers used in GnuPG are utterly***
The symmetric ciphers used in GnuPG are utterly immune to
brute forcing.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics places strict
  . . .

--re #7:  Has GnuPG ever been successfully attacked?

We are unaware of any successful cryptanalytic attacks against
GnuPG. However, it is still susceptible to non-cryptanalytic
attacks such as malware, unauthorized physical access,
***social engineering attacks,*** and other such things.

---re #8:  Should I use PGP/MIME or inline OpenPGP for my emails?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer.

***move "for instance" from the end to the start of the 2nd
PGP/MIME has some distinct advantages over inline email. It
handles attachments automatically, for instance. It also separates
the signature from the document, which many people prefer over
  . . .

***Mail servers further confound things.  As a general tactic
against malware, any mail servers will strip off, alter, ..."
{and delete "as an anti-malware measure" from end of sentence]***
Mail servers further confound things. Many mail servers will
strip off, alter, or quarantine attachments as an anti-malware
measure. This has the effect of breaking PGP/MIME.

For many years GNU Mailman mailing-list software mangled PGP/MIME 
attachments in ways that broke signatures. These ***replace
"these" with "Some"*** old Mailman installations ***like that***
still exist today.
Cheers.  HTH FWIW

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