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Re: POP3 password in plaintext?

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: POP3 password in plaintext?
Date: Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:00:56 +0900

Richard Stallman writes:

 > These points seem to conflict.  First, there is no protection.
 > Second, there is protection: use TLS for this communication.

Not at all.  If the server provides TLS, there is protection, and both
modern servers and Emacs (at least Gnus and probably RMail according
to larsi, but I don't think VM does) are able to use STARTTLS to
convert an unencrypted channel to an encrypted one, *before* the
password is sent.

But even today not all servers provide TLS, and of those that do, some
accept unencrypted connections but don't use STARTTLS.  The user can
do nothing about that; it requires reconfiguration and possibly
upgrading software on the server.  All Emacs can do is warn the user.

I liked Ted's suggestion about providing modeline indicators.
However, a lot of HCI research shows that users don't notice such
indicators and often misinterpret them.  While Emacs users are
generally more aware of such indicators and of their correct
interpretation, I think something like the "novice" feature to provide
an easily disabled "in your face" warning about unencrypted channels
should be considered.

It's not clear to me that there's a good way to do it.  Perhaps having
the `password-read' function (and any other functions that are used to
read passwords) check for unencrypted connections and warn the user
would work.


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