Transitioning to a 4096-bit RSA OpenPGP key

I created a new GnuPG key two months ago (see key ID 0x4A456FBA). Now is a good a time as any to publicly announce it. Information for the key:

pub   4096R/4A456FBA 2009-05-08 [expires: 2015-01-01]
      Key fingerprint = E95D 7465 5B35 C5F6 B3B6  68CC 20C6 F0A6 4A45 6FBA
uid                  Samat K Jain 
uid                  Samat K Jain 
uid                  Samat K Jain 
uid                  Samat K Jain 
sub   4096R/8D18D72F 2009-05-15 [expires: 2015-01-01]

All this information (as well as the downloadable public key itself) is available on my CryptoKeys wiki page.

The new key uses 4096-bit RSA keys for both digital signatures and encryption. The change is prompted by questions regarding SHA-1’s viability, detailed by Daniel Gillmore. The concern is not new, as Bruce Schneier reported SHA-1 weaknesses back in 2005. The concerns have simply become worse, and they’re likely to become worse. So much so that the US government’s NIST has recommended the phasing out of SHA-1 by the end of 2010. GnuPG’s maintainers don’t trust SHA-1 either, as upstream GnuPG now defaults to RSA as well.

In this space was a paragraph (or four) describing a little bit more in detail the interaction between encryption algorithms (e.g. RSA, DSA), encryption keys, and hash algorithms (e.g. SHA-1/SHA-160, SHA-512), etc. But as an end-user, I don’t care, and I don’t think other end users need to care either. With encryption, I follow the mantra: use the defaults; more than likely you don’t have a clue what you’re doing if you stray. If you use OpenPGP and use an older DSA-based key (2048-bit RSA is safe), keep in mind there may be issues soon regarding it’s security, and you should switch to DSA-2 or RSA (the new default) instead.

Since SHA-1 hasn’t actually been broken yet, I’ve decided to set an expiration date on my old key (0x1A1993D3), rather than outright revoke it.


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