A postmortem on Efail

Mark Rousell markr at signal100.com
Tue May 22 02:42:07 CEST 2018

On 21/05/2018 15:17, Mark H. Wood wrote:
>> Break backwards compatibility already: it’s time. Ignore the haters. I
>> trust you.
> (I understand that that's a quote of a discussion-opener from the write-up.)
> I'd like to first see how many haters can be won over by selling the
> necessary changes.
> By "selling" I mean addressing the concerns of those who aren't
> convinced that they want something:
> o  Why this is important *to you*, even though its importance was not
>    immediately obvious.

To my mind it is at the outset counter-productive to refer to "haters".
To use the term "haters" implies that anyone who does not share one's
own view is somehow wrong and/or that their arguments can potentially be
dismissed on the grounds or emotionalism rather than rationality.

In practice, those like myself who recognise that the ability to decrypt
legacy-encrypted data is a basic requirement for many users with
archival needs do not "hate" anything. We just recognise that decryption
of legacy-encrypted data is a real world requirement right now and will
continue to be for many years, and so I think it is right and proper for
this project to continue to support this activity with maintained
software (albeit with a requirement for users to make some changes to
support such activity).

> o  What we have done, and are doing, to keep *your* cost down.

If the aim is to keep end-users' costs down then do not completely
remove legacy features that are still needed in the real world.
Decryption of legacy-encrypted data is one of those features, like it or

> o  What else would we need to do, to make this something *you* want?

Go back in time and change history! What is now archived is archived and
cannot be changed. Like it or not, it will need to be decrypted for a
very long time to come. Ideally this should be achievable with
maintained, current-version software. By all means, if that software
needs to be a special-use, decrypt-only, program that is hardly ever
updated except to patch code vulnerabilities then so be it.

But do not throw your long-time users or their data under the bus for
the sake of eliminating backwards compatibility. Stability and
compatibility really do matter to many classes of users.

Mark Rousell

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