Users Warned of Critical Email Encryption Security Flaw


The warning comes from a group of security researchers in Europe, from Münster University, Ruhr-University, and KU Leuven University, and its members have previously revealed the Drown attack that affected some 11 million HTTPS sites back in 2016.

He warned on Twitter that "there are now no reliable fixes for the vulnerability".

The team's leader researcher, Sebastien Schinzel, admitted that: "E-mail is no longer a secure communication medium". "We use CBC/CFB gadgets to inject malicious plaintext snippets into encrypted emails that abuse existing and standard-conforming backchannels, for example, in HTML, CSS, or x509 functionality, to exfiltrate the full plaintext after decryption".

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Encryption used by most email software - from Outlook and Windows Mail to Thunderbird and Apple Mail - can be intercepted by hackers who can read at least parts of the written text, a German-led research team announced on Monday.

The Efail report lists additional steps users can take to reduce the likelihood of falling prey to encryption attacks - namely, decrypting S/Mime and PGP outside email clients in a separate application and disabling HTML rendering altogether.

"Our advice, which mirrors that of the researchers, is to immediately disable and/or uninstall tools that automatically decrypt PGP-encrypted email", EFF said.

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If you use Thunderbird with Enigmail, Apple Mail with GPGTools or Outlook with Gpg4win the EFF has step-by-step tutorials to temporarily disable their PGP plug-ins.

In a tweet, the Foundation especially warned users not to decrypt PGP-encrypted messages in mail clients. The expert said that the attackers using these programs can "access" not only to intercepted letters, but all are ever sent.

It added, however, that it considered the encryption standards themselves to be safe if correctly implemented and configured.

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PGP uses an algorithm to generate a "hash", or mathematical summary, of a user's name and other information. Then the emails are changed in a particular way and sent to a victim. To prevent a breach, the BSI said that users needed to secure access to their mailboxes and prevent their email clients from loading HTML code from external websites.