Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th Apr 2012 08:59 UTC
Internet & Networking I would honestly serve at the altar of the person that did this. Keep the debugging information, but for the love of god, make your email client do something pretty and useful with it.
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Laurence
Member since:
2007-03-26


Standard compliance is pretty good these days, even in Exchange. I can't vouch for the billion badly coded email clients but that's not an email problem, that's a code-quality problem.

Fair point there. However I still think the standard is outdated. For example, I don't see the point in transmitting everything as ASCII - in fact I personally think base64 should die. Anything that adds ~30% overhead to each and every attachment clearly isn't a sane standard for attachment encoding.


Content is encoded in exactly one way: MIME.

MIME isn't a single encoding specification, there's a few different variants (IIRC the biggest being 7bit and 8bit)


I can't think of a single modern SMTP server that doesn't support STARTTLS.

I will grant you that the biggest part of this problem isn't with SMTP server support but more mail hosts (lazy admins) not defaulting to TLS. I can't recall where I read this, but there's still a significant amount of e-mails being transmitted between mail servers without any encryption.

I can understand why most of the WWW is unsecured (viewing -for example- BBC News with SSL could be considered overkill), however e-mails often contain personal / confidential information and thus should be encrypted by default.

Reply Parent Score: 4

saso Member since:
2007-04-18

TLS transmission on SMTP between mail servers really doesn't make much sense. What's the purpose of TLS? To add confidentiality and security. Mail servers don't care about that, the end users do. OpenPGP and S/MIME serve just this purpose and are in wide usage because of it.

It's analogous to paper mail. If I want to transmit confidential data, I sure as hell don't trust my mailman and the whole mail delivery chain to keep my secrets. I encrypt my messages at home and all I require the mail service to do is deliver them.

Reply Parent Score: 3

Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

TLS transmission on SMTP between mail servers really doesn't make much sense. What's the purpose of TLS? To add confidentiality and security. Mail servers don't care about that, the end users do. OpenPGP and S/MIME serve just this purpose and are in wide usage because of it.

It's analogous to paper mail. If I want to transmit confidential data, I sure as hell don't trust my mailman and the whole mail delivery chain to keep my secrets. I encrypt my messages at home and all I require the mail service to do is deliver them.


The problem there is that confidential information is frequently transmitted via e-mail. In fact it's pretty standard for things like Passwords and user IDs to be sent this way. Let alone more confidential data sent by users who don't understand the protocol.

Furthermore, it would make a great deal more sense to encrypt as standard at the protocol level rather than add another layer of abstraction at the user level

Reply Parent Score: 2

phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

TLS transmission on SMTP between mail servers really doesn't make much sense. What's the purpose of TLS? To add confidentiality and security. Mail servers don't care about that, the end users do. OpenPGP and S/MIME serve just this purpose and are in wide usage because of it.


It's even worse in that encrypted SMTP connections only happen between SMTP clients and servers that support it. Meaning, your e-mail client may use TLS to connect to your SMTP server, and your SMTP server may use TLS to connect to the next SMTP server in the chain .. but there's no guarantee that the next SMTP server will support TLS .. meaning the message goes through unencrypted.

TLS, SASL, and other encryption/authentication methods are really only useful if you control *EVERY* SMTP client and server in the chain. Which really only makes it useful for remote workers connecting in to the corporate mail system to send internal mail.

It's analogous to paper mail. If I want to transmit confidential data, I sure as hell don't trust my mailman and the whole mail delivery chain to keep my secrets. I encrypt my messages at home and all I require the mail service to do is deliver them.


I like using the "postcard in an envelope" analogy when explaining e-mail to people. It really brings home the point that "anyone handling the message en-route can read it".

Reply Parent Score: 4