encrypting to expired certificates

Robert J. Hansen rjh at sixdemonbag.org
Tue Sep 16 16:31:23 CEST 2014

> I wanted to encrypt a document to myself on an offline system[1].
> However, that copy of my own key was expired, and it wouldn't do it. I
> was in a bit of a hurry, trying to get things done. Now, I had to get a
> USB drive, start another computer, export my updated key, and import it
> on the offline system. If I had --expert followed by yes to an "Are you
> sure?" prompt, I would have done that and updated the copy when I had
> more time.

And how much impact did this really have on you?  What was to prevent
you from using symmetric encryption?  It's not as if you don't have a
secure communication channel with yourself over which a symmetric key
can be negotiated.

I've had the exact same situation before.  My solution was to use
symmetric encryption using a strong passphrase -- a few lines of "The
God Forsakes Antony" by Cavafy, if memory serves.[1]

> Together with Hauke and his correspondent with the offline main key, you
> now already have two actual cases, taken from real situations that
> actually happened. At this rate, we'll be done this week.

We have one person who has had minimal impact and for whom an easy
workaround exists, and we have Hauke's case.

I'm not asking to see six real users who are really impacted for no
reason, Peter.  I'm asking because this dramatically cuts down on
bikeshedding and lets us prioritize things.  If encryption with Elgamal
keys suddenly breaks, okay, thousands of users are affected in a
critical way for which no easy mitigation exists: that's something that
should be fixed immediately.

But the lack of a flag to allow people to ignore the expiration date?
I'm not seeing a large number of users who are facing serious impacts
because of this.

> I was slightly baffled by this comment as Hauke actually gave an example
> that happened in real life. That is a lot more than I usually see when
> people argue for or against a feature.

And I am overwhelmingly against those feature requests, too.

> You can't argue that these aren't real users. You can't argue it's not a
> real impact.

Sure I can.  You weren't really impacted by it.  You had easy
mitigations available to you.

[1] A particularly beautiful poem by the Greek poet Constantin Cavafy,
inspired by the legend of Mark Antony realizing he was destined to lose
the city of Alexandria when he saw Bacchus and his entourage depart the
city.  It's not particularly germane to this discussion, but -- well.
It is beautiful, and what the hell: beauty ought be shared.  :)

If unexpectedly, in middle night,
an unseen company be heard to pass,
with music and with voices exquisite --
turn not away and uselessly lament
your fortune that is giving in, your work
that came to nothing, the projects of your life
that proved illusory from first to last.
As one prepared long since, as fits the brave,
bid now farewell to the departing city,
farewell to the Alexandria you love.
And above all, do not deceive yourself:
say not that your impression was a dream,
that, it may be, your hearing played you false:
to futile hopes like these never descend.
As one prepared long since, as fits the brave,
as most fits you who gained so great a city,
approach the open window steadily,
and with emotion, but without the plaints
and supplications of the timorous,
listen -- knowing it to be your last delight --
listen to the Elysian sounds, the exquisite
instruments of the mystic company;
and bid farewell to the city you are losing,
farewell to the Alexandria you love.

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