From Pretty Good to Great: Enhancing PGP Using Bitcoin and the Blockchain

  • Duane Wilson
  • Giuseppe Ateniese
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9408)


PGP is built upon a Distributed Web of Trust in which a user’s trustworthiness is established by others who can vouch through a digital signature for that user’s identity. Preventing its wholesale adoption are a number of inherent weaknesses to include (but not limited to) the following: 1) Trust Relationships are built on a subjective honor system, 2) Only first degree relationships can be fully trusted, 3) Levels of trust are difficult to quantify with actual values, and 4) Issues with the Web of Trust itself (Certification and Endorsement). Although the security that PGP provides is proven to be reliable, it has largely failed to garner large scale adoption. In this paper, we propose several novel contributions to address the aforementioned issues with PGP and associated Web of Trust. To address the subjectivity of the Web of Trust, we provide a new certificate format based on Bitcoin which allows a user to verify a PGP certificate using Bitcoin identity-verification transactions - forming first degree trust relationships that are tied to actual values (i.e., number of Bitcoins transferred during transaction). Secondly, we present the design of a novel Distributed PGP key server that leverages the Bitcoin transaction blockchain to store and retrieve our certificates.


Trust Relationship Trusted Third Party Trust Establishment Direct Trust Cloud Storage Server 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Saarinen, J.: Yahoo to Provide PGP Encryption for Mail. ITnews for Australian Business. ITnews, August 08, 2014. Web August 26, 2014Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Froomkin, A.M.: 1996 A.Michael Froomkin: The Essential Role Of Trusted Third Parties in Electronic Commerce. 1996 A.Michael Froomkin: The Essential Role of Trusted Third Parties in Electronic Commerce. N.p., October 14, 1994. Web February 18, 2014Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Coindesk. What Is Bitcoin? CoinDesk RSS. Coindesk, March 20, 2015. Web August 13, 2015Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Maras, E.: Bitcoin Users To Approach 5 Million Mark By 2019, Juniper Research Reports - CCN: Financial Bitcoin/Cryptocurrency News. CCN Financial Bitcoin Cryptocurrency News. CCN.LA, March 17, 2015. Web August 13, 2015Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Torpey, K.: The Bitcoin Price Has Been Remarkably Stable Lately. The Bitcoin Price Has Been Remarkably Stable Lately. Inside Bitcoins, February 27, 2015. Web August 13, 2015Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Apodaca, R.: OP-RETURN and the Future of Bitcoin. Bitzuma July 29, 2014. Web April 29, 2015Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cawrey, D.: BitPay Seeks to Decentralize Digital Identification with BitAuth. CoinDesk. CoinDesk, July 01, 2014. Web July 06, 2014Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bitpay. BitAuth, for Decentralized Authentication. Bitpay, July 01, 2014. Web July 06, 2014Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Goldberg, I.: Off-the-Record Messaging. OTR Development Team (2012). Web February 25, 2014Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Goldberg, I., Borisov, N., Brewer, E.: Off-the-Record Communication or, Why Not to use PGP. Zero-Knowlege Systems and U.C. Berkely, (2012). PrintGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Thoughtcrime Labs. Convergence Details. Convergence. Thoughtcrime Labs (2011). Web May 02, 2014Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Wendlandt, D., Anderson, D.G., Perrig, A.: Perspectives: Improving SSH-style Host Authentication with Multi-Path Probing. Carnegie Mellon University (2011). PrintGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Bitcoin. Bitcoin Charts Various Bitcoin Charts and Currency Statistics. Bitcoin Charts. The Bitcoin Foundation (2009). Web. 02 May 2014Google Scholar
  14. 14. Transacations. Bitcoin. (2014). Web May 06, 2014Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    CoinDesk. How Do Bitcoin Transactions Work? CoinDesk RSS March 06, 2014. Web July 02, 2014Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Poor Decision-Making Can Lead to Cybersecurity Breaches Communications of the ACM. (n.d.) Web May 04, 2015. (Retrieved from
  17. 17.
    Bitcoin. Block Chain. Bitcoin Wiki. Bitcoin, April 21, 2014. Web July 15, 2014Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    O’Reilly. Transactions. Mastering Bitcoin. O’Reilly (2013). Web May 01, 2015Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Krohn, M.: Keybase. Keybase. Caroline Hadilaksono, n.d. Web February 10, 2015Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceSapienza University of RomeRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations