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Re: True Names and Webs of Trust


> Key signatures exist for one reason and one reason only: To thwart
> man-in-the-middle attacks.  Whether your "persistent persona" is a
> True Name (tm) or a pseudonym is irrelevant.


> Zimmermann clearly understood all of this, but I don't think he
> documented it properly.  In my opinion, everyone should always think
> in terms of man-in-the-middle attacks when signing a public key.
> Mandating "True Names" is just an overconservative approach suitable
> for people who don't fully understand the issue.

My point exactly.  My post "Stop Fixating on True Names" was an attempt to
clarify things to said people.

Look at it this way:  leaving aside the fact that a Man-In-The-Middle has to
do a little more fast footwork than a normal old eavesdropper does, public
key cryptography does not actually give you *any* advantage over symmetric-key
cryptography except for this one fact:

You can ask George what Alice's public key is, but you can't ask him what
her-and-your shared (symmetric) secret key is!

- From this perspective, the Web of Trust is the soul of public-key
cryptography.  From the other perspective ("Never ever sign a key which you
got off of a bulletin board!" warns "pgpdoc1.txt") it is a cute anachronism.

By the way, you mentioned "people who don't fully understand the issue"--
a brief survey of e-mail and posts I have seen on this subject indicates to
me that even knowledgeable people like the cypherpunks are about evenly split
on whether they appreciate this concept or not.

[note:  I've been cc:'ing messages to c'punks accidentally after I upgraded
to mh.  My apologies.  At least they weren't completely without

Announcement: I have had technical difficulties.  If you sent me e-mail
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signatures follow:
    public key on keyservers     /.       island Life in a chaos sea         
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