Computers & Security, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 167 - 179, 2010. DOI (I.F.: 0.889)
Certified electronic mail is an added value to traditional electronic mail. In the definition of this service some differences arise: a message in exchange for a reception proof, a message and a non repudiation of origin token in exchange for a reception proof, etc. It greatly depends on whether we want to emulate the courier service or improve the service in the electronic world. If the definition of the service seems conflictive, the definition of the properties and requirements of a good certified electronic mail protocol is even more difficult. The more consensuated features are the need of a fair exchange and the existence of a trusted third party (TTP). Each author chooses the properties that considers the most important, and many times the list is conditioned by the proposal. Which kind of TTP must be used? Must it be verifiable, transparent and/or stateless? Which features must the communication channel fulfil? Which temporal requirements must be established? What kind of fairness is desired? What efficiency level is required? Are confidentiality or transferability of the proofs compulsory properties? In this paper we collect the definitions, properties and requirements related with certified electronic mail. The aim of the paper is to create a clearer situation and analyze how some properties cannot be achieved simultaneously. Each protocol designer will have to decide which properties are the most important in the environment in where the service is to be deployed.