Using the SHA2 hash family with OpenPGPv2 cards and GnuPG

I’m sure I said this before, but I don’t remember when or to who, but most of the time it feels to me like GnuPG only works out of sheer luck, or sometimes fails to work just for my disgrace. Which is why I end up writing stuff down whenever I come to actually coerce it into behaving as I wish.

Anyway, let’s start with a bit of background; a bit of time ago, the SHA1 algorithm has been deemed by most experts to be insecure, which means that relying on it for Really Important Stuff was a bad idea; I still remember reading this entry by dkg that provided a good start to set up your system to use the SHA2 family (SHA256 in particular).

Unfortunately, when I actually got the FSFe smartcard and created the new key I noticed (and noted in the post) that only SHA1-signature worked; I set up the card to use SHA1 signatures, and forgot about it, to be honest. Today though, I went to sign an email and … it didn’t work, it reported me that the created signature was invalid.

A quick check around and it turns out that for some reason GnuPG started caring about the ~/.gnupg/gpg.conf file rather than the key preferences; maybe it was because I had to reset the PIN on the card when I mistyped it on the laptop too many times (I haven’t turned off the backlight since!). The configuration file was already set to use SHA256, so that failed because the card was set to use SHA1.

A quick googling around brought me to an interesting post from earlier this year. The problem as painted there seemed to exist only with GnuPG 1.4 (so not the 2.0 version I’m using) and was reportedly fixed. But the code in the actual sources of 2.0.16 tell a different story: the bug is the same there as it was in 1.4 back in January. What about 1.4? Well it’s also not fixed in the last release, but it is on the Subversion branch — I noticed that only afterwards, though, so you’ll see why that solution differs from mine.

Anyway, the problem is the same, in the new source file: gpg does not ask the agent (and thus scdaemon) to use any particular encoding if not RMD160, which was correct for the old cards but it definitely is not for the OpenPGP v2 that FSFE is now providing its fellows with. If you want to fix the problem, and you’re a Gentoo user, you can simply install gnupg-2.0.16-r1 from my overlay while if you’re not using Gentoo but building it by hand, or you want to forward it to other distributions’ packages, the patch is also available…

And obviously I sent it upstream and I’m now waiting on their response to see if it’s okay to get it applied in Gentoo (with a -r2). Also remember that you have to edit your ~/.gnupg/gpg.conf to have these lines if you want to use the SHA2 family (SHA256 in this particular case):

personal-digest-preferences SHA256
cert-digest-algo SHA256
default-preference-list SHA512 SHA384 SHA256 SHA224 AES256 AES192 AES CAST5 ZLIB BZIP2 ZIP Uncompressed

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