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Cloud security experts at Hornetsecurity dispute headlines questioning email encryption standards
By: PR Newswire
May. 16, 2018 03:22 PM
PITTSBURGH, May 16, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Hornetsecurity, a German-based cloud security solutions company that recently opened its first United States base of operations in Pittsburgh, vehemently disagrees with a recent study that calls into question the security of PGP and S/MIME encryption standards widely used by businesses for their corporate email communications.
On May 14, researchers from Münster University of Applied Sciences (Germany), Ruhr University Bochum (Germany) and Leuven University (Belgium) published a paper that questioned the safety of common encryption standards, creating a worldwide panic within the technology community.
The recent attacks, commonly referred to as eFail, are technically complex and require several steps. However, as Hornetsecurity experts point out, the vulnerabilities discovered do not impact the security protocols themselves but use already known weaknesses in recipients' email clients to make them decrypt an encrypted email and deliver it to the attacker, thereby bypassing encryption protocols.
To get access to the content of an intercepted encrypted email, one of the attacks works by building a new email consisting of a corrupted HTML part, followed by the encrypted content. The recipient's email client is then tricked by the corrupted HTML part to decrypt the encrypted message and send the decrypted message back to the attacker.
"This kind of unsubstantiated exaggeration doesn't help the cause of increasing the wider use of encryption and providing better overall security," Hornetsecurity CEO Oliver Dehning said. "Individuals and institutions that claim to want to improve IT security have done a disservice in this case by creating hysteria in numerous misleading articles and in other unsubstantiated headlines related to eFail."
Emails encrypted by Hornetsecurity are protected against attacks of this kind because Hornetsecurity does not allow the different content types (multipart/mixed) required for an attack. In addition, the Hornetsecurity Encryption Service does not require any client plug-ins. Encryption and decryption are fully automated by Hornetsecurity in the cloud – no installation, maintenance or user interaction is required. To further improve security of its clients who are not using Hornetsecurity Encryption Service, Hornetsecurity has included a new filter into its Spam Filter service that recognizes and puts into quarantine emails exploiting eFail by scanning for suspicious HTML manipulations.
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