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I have a curious question. Is Identity-based encryption used in the wild?

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  • $\begingroup$ "Wild" meaning "public", correct? $\endgroup$ – AleksanderRas Mar 12 '19 at 9:29
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    $\begingroup$ Presumably evidence for it should be publicly available for an answer on this site to cite, but one might imagine, say, a university using it only for affiliates of the university, which might not be exactly public but would be in the wild. $\endgroup$ – Squeamish Ossifrage Mar 12 '19 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ In answers to this question, it would be worthwhile to note: In deployments of identity-based cryptography in the wild, which party gains unilateral power over all the users of the deployment to efficiently forge and decrypt conversations, by virtue of issuing the keys, and what users are affected by this? $\endgroup$ – Squeamish Ossifrage Mar 14 '19 at 0:18
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In addition to the cases mentioned by Jack Lloyd and Bob Wall, the British government also seems to be deploying identity-based encryption, namely the MIKEY-SAKKE RFC standard. You can see for example this introduction, this page, and this FAQ on the government's website. Note that the key escrow feature of MIKEY-SAKKE (which is inherent to all IBEs) has been pictured by some as a backdoor (see e.g. here), which in my humble opinion is a bit unfair since the two notions are "close" but clearly distinct.

MIKEY-SAKKE seems to have been deployed at least in the context of emergency services, see this white paper. This makes sense, since this is a typical example where IBE can be helpful to simplify the PKI of an organisation and where the presence of a key escrow is not an issue.

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  • $\begingroup$ What is a back door for key agreement, if not key escrow? $\endgroup$ – Squeamish Ossifrage Mar 14 '19 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that backdoors can somehow be seen as key escrow, but not the other way around. For example if the UK government asks organisation X to put a key escrow mechanism in their PKI, then this would not be a backdoor except if UK gov asks to be in charge of the key escrow. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Prest Mar 14 '19 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ So a backdoor with a "Do not enter" sign? Well, even if that backdoor is locked, it's still a backdoor. A promise from someone not to abuse, lose, or share the door key isn't necessarily worth much. To those who don't think that promise will or could be kept, drawing a distinction just looks like rebranding the same product. $\endgroup$ – Future Security Mar 14 '19 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ @ThomasPrest Is the distinction you're drawing whether the UK government formally operates it? When two parties hold a conversation, there is a third party who has the power to retroactively eavesdrop on it—or comply with a government demand to retroactively eavesdrop on it without the knowledge, let alone consent, of the participants. If the UK government operates it, it's a back door; if a bureaucratic surrogate operates it, it's just key escrow? $\endgroup$ – Squeamish Ossifrage Mar 14 '19 at 3:09
  • $\begingroup$ If you don't trust the third party which helds the master keys in escrow, then I agree that key escrow = backdoor. But in this case it is completely insecure to deploy IBE; given the context of this question (IBE) I was assuming that this third party is trusted to some extent. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Prest Mar 14 '19 at 10:21
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SM9 (GM/T 0044.5‐2016) is an IBE scheme widely used in China. Unfortunately most of the documents are in Chinese with no English translations available. But a description of basic SM9 scheme is available on eprint and an open source implementation is in the OpenSSL fork GmSSL

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There was a company called Voltage Security (founded in 2002) that offered an Identity-Based Encryption product. The company was purchased by HP in 2015 and subsequently sold to Micro Focus. It looks like Micro Focus' SecureMail product still uses IBE.

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