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OpenPGP keys and SHA-1

As you may know, Thunderbird offers email encryption and digital email signatures using the OpenPGP technology and uses Ribose’s RNP library that provides the underlying functionality.

To strengthen the security of the OpenPGP implementation, a recent update of the RNP library had included changes to refuse the use of several unsafe algorithms, such as MD5 and SHA-1. The Thunderbird team had delivered RNP version 0.16.0 as part of the Thunderbird 91.8.0 update.

Unfortunately, this change resulted in some users no longer being able to use their OpenPGP keys. We learned that the affected users still depend on keys that were created or modified with OpenPGP software that used SHA-1 for the signatures that are part of OpenPGP keys.

After analyzing and discussing the issue, it was decided to continue to allow SHA-1 for this use of signatures, also known as binding signatures. This matches the behavior of other popular OpenPGP software like GnuPG. Thunderbird 91.9.0 includes this fix, and will be released today.

While some attacks on SHA-1 are possible, the currently known attacks are difficult to apply on OpenPGP binding signatures. In addition, RNP 0.16.0 includes an improvement that provides SHA-1 collision detection code, and it is assumed it makes it even more difficult for an attacker to abuse the fact that Thunderbird accepts SHA-1 in binding signatures.

More details on the background, on the affected and future versions, and considerations for other OpenPGP software, can be found in the following knowledge base article:


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1 responses

Lothar Weidl-Walther wrote on

it would be nice to have the Thunderbird E-Mail client on my Android tablet. In the moment I use another client from the German Telecom, but this offers no password barrier when downloading new mails. So I have to secure my complete tablet against unauthorized use all the time.

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