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On Oct 27, 2016, at 1:29 AM, Peter Goldstein <peter(_at_)valimail(_dot_)com>
Those guidelines ... specify that receivers MUST validate signatures of 512
to 2048 bits, but are not required to validate signatures with longer keys -
may be worth revisiting given advances in computing power, the increasing
importance of DKIM as an element of email authentication, and the reuse of
these guidelines in other proposals (i.e. ARC).
I'd like to suggest that it may be a good idea to increase the upper value to
4096 or even 8192, to ensure that the standard is compatible with best
practices going forward.
I don't object to increasing it in the standard, but operationally I don't
think it's a good idea. Per-message processing cost is one reason, but the
larger one is the semantic value of a DKIM signature, and what it is trying to
DKIM is a conversation between two administrative domains, and a signature only
states that an administrative domain is taking responsibility for placing the
message in the message stream. Nothing more.
That assurance comes at a cost of whatever integrity that assigns to a message
that might have been unintended. That message integrity is a privacy loss by
The real-world case in point is the leaked Podesta emails, where some people
have asserted that authenticity can be checked via the DKIM signatures. I've
raised an eyebrow on that, and the bottom line is that you're presuming that
attackers were sophisticated enough to steal the email, yet unsophisticated
enough that stealing the DKIM key from an MTA is out of the question.
The full discussion is pretty nuanced, and I think the relevant part here is
that if an administrative domain wants to protect the privacy of its users, it
should be using *smaller* DKIM keys, not larger ones. I think I could
convincingly argue that a privacy-friendly email provider is better off using
512 bit keys (where there's a chance of spam forgery) than 4K keys (where
there's a chance of ruining the privacy of the customers). Now actually, I
think the sweet spot for key size is above 512, but it's lower than 768. For
maximum balance, you want the key to take longer than a week to crack, but less
than a year, and change it every month. Or something like that. You get the
In any event, I don't object to changing it, but I do think that if someone's
going to implement long keys, they're going to get criticism about enabling
surveillance of their users.
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