The Brexit agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union has just been signed, after long discussions and changes of all kinds. Among the many measures adopted, there is one that makes you smile: it mentions software dating from the 90s and which it describes as “modern”.
The signatories of the Brexit agreement obviously did not read the entire document they had in their hands. In a chapter on “protocols and standards for encryption mechanisms”, we find a reference to two softwares over 20 years old, and which are no longer maintained by their publishers.
And the icing on the cake, Netscape Communicator and Mozilla Mail, since they are the two programs in question, are described there as software of last generation: “the functionality s / MIME is integrated in the great majority of the software of modern messaging, including Outlook, Mozilla Mail as well as Netscape Communicator 4.x, and interacts with all major email software ”read the document in question.
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The Brexit deal calls for the use of outdated encryption methods
These two programs are obviously nothing modern and disappeared from computers a good fifteen years ago. For the little story, the Netscape Communicator 4.0 browser, which succeeded Netscape Navigator 3.0, was released in June 1997. Less than a year later, Mozilla.org had the difficult task of developing a version 5.0, a project that ultimately never came to fruition. The very last version of Netscape therefore dates back to August 2002, at a time when Chrome was not born, while Firefox 0.1 had barely pointed out. As for Mozilla Mail, this is also an obsolete complete software suite, which SeaMonkey succeeded a long time ago.
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This passage also mentions RSA key encryption on 256 and 1024 bits, as well as the SHA-1 data hashing method. Protection methods now decried, even obsolete (SHA-1 certificates were abandoned by Microsoft, Google and Mozilla in 2017). As the BBC reports, we find this part of the Brexit text in another document, which dates from 2008. It remains to be seen how all this came to be in the Brexit agreement, and why no signatory spotted such errors before the signing.
Netscape Communicator is mentioned in Brexit document… Almost feels like it is 40 years old… 1K RSA and SHA-1… one day we will build a digital world fit for the 21st Century… pic.twitter.com/1cg6uX3clw
– Prof B Buchanan OBE (@billatnapier) December 26, 2020