More GPG services UX problems: Keybase complication, GreenAddress and the expired key

I have expressed some doubts on Keybase last year, but I kept mostly “using” the service, as in I kept it up to date when they added new services and so on. I have honestly mostly used it to keep track of the address of the bitcoin wallet I’ve been using (more on that later).

A couple of weeks ago, I got an (unencrypted) email telling me that “chris” (the Keybase founder) “sent me a message” (more likely that they decided to do another of their rounds of adding invites to people’s account to try to gather more people. Usually these messages, being completely non-private, would be sent in the clear as email, but since Keybase has been trying to sell themselves as a secure messaging system, this time they were sent through their secure message system.

Unlike most other features of the service, that can be used by copy-pasting huge command lines that combine gpg and curl to signal out of band the requests, the secure messaging system depends on the actual keybase command line tool (written in NodeJS, if I got this right). So I installed it (from AUR since my laptop is currently running Arch Linux), and tried accessing the message. This was already more complicated than it should have been, because the previous computer that was set up to access Keybase was the laptop I replaced and gifted to a friend.

The second problem was that Keybase also decided to make encrypted file transfer easy by bundling it with messaging. Effectively making conversations a shared encrypted directory, with messages being files. This may sound a cool idea particularly for those who like efforts like Plan9, but I think this is where my patience for the service ends. Indeed, while there are sub-commands in keybase for file access, they all depend on using a FUSE (filesystem-in-userspace) module, and the same is true for the messages. So you’re now down to have to run a GPG wrapper, as well as a background NodeJS service on your computer, and a FUSE service to access files and messages.

I gave up. Even though trying to simplify the key exchange for GPG usage is definitely interesting, I have a feeling Keybase decided to feature-creep in the hope that it would attract funding so that they can keep operating. zCash first, now this whole encrypted file-share and messaging system, appear to be overly complicated for the sake of having something that you can show. As such, I explicitly said in my profile that any message sent through this service is going to be a scream into the void, as I’m not going to pay attention to it at all.

The second GPG-related problem was with GreenAddress, the bitcoin wallet I signed up for some months ago. Let me start with a note that I do not agree with bitcoin’s mission statement, with its implementation, or with any of the other cryptocurrencies existence. I found that Thomas wrote this better than me so I’m not going to spend more words on this. The reason why I even have a wallet is that some time ago, I was contacted by one of my readers (who I won’t disclose), who was trying out the Brave browser, which at the time would compensate content creators with bitcoin (they now switched to their own cryptocurrency, making it even less appealing to me and probably most other content creators who have not gotten drunk with cryptocurrencies). For full disclosure, all the money I received this way (only twice since signing up) I donated back to VideoLAN since it was barely pocket money and in a format that is not useful to me.

So GreenAddress looked like a good idea at the time, and one of the things it let you do is to provide them with your public key so that any communication from them to your mailbox is properly encrypted. This is good, particularly because you can get the one-time codes by mail encrypted, making it an actual second factor authentication, as it proves access to the GPG key (which in my case is actually a physical device). So of course I did that. And then forgot all about it until I decided to send that money to VideoLAN.

Here’s where things get messy with my own mistakes. My GPG key is, due to best practices, set to expire every year, and every year I renew it extending the expiration date. Usually I need the expired key pretty quickly, because it’s also my SSH key and I use it nearly daily. Because of my move to London I have not used my SSH key for almost a month, and missed the expiration. So when I tried logging into GreenAddress and had them send me the OTP code… I’ll get to that in a moment.

The expiration date on a GPG key is meant to ensure that the person you’re contacting has had recent access to the key, and it’s a form of self-revocation. It is a perfectly valid feature when you consider the web of trust that we’re used to. It is slightly less obvious as a feature when explicitly providing a public key for a service, be it GreenAddress, Bugzilla or Facebook. Indeed, what I would expect in these cases would be:

  • a notification that the provided public key is about to expire and you need to extend or replace it; or
  • a notification that the key has expired, and so further communication will happen in clear text; or
  • the service to ignore the expiration date altogether, just as they ignore whether the key was signed and counter-signed (preferred).

Since providing a public key directly to a service sidesteps most other trust options, including the signing and counter-signing, I would expect the expiration date to also be ignored. Indeed, if I provided a public key to a service, I expect the service to keep using it until I told it otherwise. But as I said there are other options. They are probably all bad in some ways, but ignoring the expiration date does not appear to be obviously wrong to me.

What does appear totally broken to me is sending messages that contain exactly this text:

Warning: Invalid pgp key detected

Which is exactly what GreenAddress did.

For reference, it appears that Facebook just silently disables encryption of email notifications when the key expires. I have thus uploaded the extended key now, and should probably make a good reminder a month before the expiration to keep securing my accounts. I find this particularly bothersome, because the expiration date is public information, if you use the same key for all communication. Having a service-specific key is probably the most secure option, as long as the key is not available on public keyserver, but it also complicates the securing up of your account.

What does this tell us? That once again, making things usable is an important step to make things really secure. If you have to complicate people’s lives for them to jump through hoops to be able to keep their accounts secure, they’re likely going to drop a number of security features that are meant to protect them.

GnuPG and CCID support

As many of you probably know already, I use GnuPG with OpenPGP cards not only for encryption but also for SSH access. As some or others probably noticed on Twitter, I recently decided to restore to life my old Dell Latitude laptop, but since it’s a fairly old system I decided to try running something else rather than Gentoo on it, for the first time in many years. I settled on Antergos, which is a more user friendly install option for Arch Linux. Since I know a number of current or past Arch Linux developers, it seemed fitting.

Beside the obvious problems of Arch not being Gentoo, the first biggest problem I found was being unable to use the smartcard reader in the Dell laptop. The problem is that the BCM5880 device that this laptop comes from, is not quite the most friendly CCID device out there. Actually, it might have a better firmware available but I need to figure out how to install it, since it requires a Windows install and I don’t have one on this laptop.

But why did this work fine with Gentoo and not fine with Arch? Well the answer is that the default install of GnuPG from pacman enables the GnuPG own CCID driver. In my original drawing on the matter I did not capture the fact that GnuPG has its own CCID driver — although I did capture that in a follow-up diagram. This driver is fairly minimal. The idea is that for simple devices, where they implement the standard pretty closely, the driver works fine, and it reduces the amount of dependencies needed to get a smartcard or token working. Unfortunately the number of devices that appear to implement the CCID standard correctly is fairly low in my experience, and the end result is that you still end up having to use pcsc-lite to get this to work as intended.

Luckily, Arch Linux wiki has the answer and you do not need to rebuild GnuPG for this to work. Yay.

It may be easy to say “fix GnuPG” but the list of devices that are not CCID compliant is big, and Ludovic already has workarounds for most of them in the CCID driver. So why should that list of broken devices be repeated somewhere else? There really is no need. if anything, you may ask why the CCID driver is not an interface-independent library that GnuPG can just access directly, and there are actually a few good reasons why this is not the case. The first of which is that it would be pointless to depend on the small driver but not the pcsclite package that implements the otherwise more widely available interface.

As it turns out, though, the particular Gemalto device I use as my primary card card nowadays is actually pretty much CCID compliant, so it could be used with the GnuPG’s own CCID driver, sparing me the need to install and maintain pcsclite and ccid on my other laptop. Which would also mean I could avoid maintaining the packages in Gentoo even. But here is one of the biggest catches: the devices are not by default accessible to the console user. Indeed even when I made it easier to use pcscd and ccid a whopping six years ago, I only set up the udev rules when the CCID driver was installed.

You could expect systemd to just install by default a rule that allows CCID standard devices to be accessible to the console user, and that would make it possible to use GnuPG and its CCID driver with whichever common standard-compliant devices are available. Which I hope (but I have not tested) include the YubiKey 4 (don’t care aobut the NEO, since then you need to make sure to also have the right firmware, as the older ones have a nasty PIN bypass vulnerability.

But then again, I wonder if there are any security issue I don’t really expect that may be impeding a plan like this. Also, given the much wider compatibility of pcsclite with the devices, not only for CCID but for other non-standard protocols too, I would rather be interested to know if you could run pcscd as a user directly, maybe with proper systemd integration — because if there is one good thing about systemd is the ability to run proper per-user services, in a standardised fashion rather than having to fake it the way KDE and GNOME have done for so many years.

As for maintaining the packages on Gentoo, it is not bad at all. The releases are usually good, and very rarely problems came up during packaging. Ludovic’s handling fo the one security issue with pcsc-lite in the past few years has been a bit so-so, as he did not qualify the importance of the security issue in the changelog of the new release that fixed it, but except for that it was punctual and worked fine. The main problem that I have with those tools is having to deal with Alioth, which has this silly idea of adding an unique numeric ID to each file download, and then providing you with the file with whichever name you provide it when you download. Which effectively means you need to update the ID from the Alioth website every time a new release comes up, which is actually annoying.

My thoughts on Keybase

Keybase is one of a series of new services that appear to have come up in the wake of the publication of Snowden’s document, and the desire for more and simpler crypto technologies. I may disagree with the overall message attached to the Church of Snowden (Jürgen phrases it much better than me), easier crypto is something I’m generally happy with.

Unfortunately I’m not sure if Keybase’s promise of making GnuPG easier and at the same time keep it safer is actually being maintained. It appears to make it easier, at least under certain conditions, but I disagree with it staying just as secure, particularly if you follow their “default flow.”

The first problem that comes to mind is that they even suggest you to upload your private key to their system so that you can use the browser for interacting with it! I hoped they were kidding me, but no, it seems like that’s an option, actually the first of three options when you try to do anything at all with the website.

The second is the fact that for a lot of the features to make even remote sense you have to use the command line at that point, either through their tool or through a combination of curl and gnupg. It might seem strange that I’m complaining at both ends, but it’s because I would have preferred for them to provide, say, a Chrome extension that interfaces with gnupg, than a command line tool. Even more so when you realize that the command line tool depends on NodeJS, and it includes a TSR background service.

The command line tool is also not great. Indeed when you try to log in with it, by default it’ll use pinentry, which, if started with a DISPLAY environment set, will use the graphical version (in my case, Qt.) The graphical version do not allow you to paste, which makes sense for the passphrase of a private key, or the PIN of a smartcard (if you save those in a password manager in the same system, there is very little protection provided anyway, you can leave them unkeyed.) But if you’re trying to access a service… significantly less so. I worked this around by unsetting the DISPLAY environment variable and using the console Pinentry, and just paste the password in Konsole.

But it goes more interesting when you start noticing things that are significantly broken. Keybase requires you prove access to the key you want to mark as yours, which is the obvious thing to do, and that’s good. Unfortunately they don’t seem to cope well with the idea of key expiration. From what I read in various related issues the reason is that they think key expiration is an useless concept thanks to Keybase. That may be the case if you have no other environment, but I’d think this is a myopic point of view. By the way it doesn’t matter if you extend your expiration date in time, you still have to re-prove it to Keybase because you don’t seem to be able to provide them with an updated copy of the key (like you would with a normal keyserver.)

Once I got access to my account back I managed to re-prove my website; this was needed because I moved providers (long story) for the blog and everything, and so the proof (which for whatever reason I forgot to add to the git repository I store my website on) went… poof. Unfortunately it was a bit more involved than just generating a new proof. Mostly because the fetcher that should verify said proof does not actually respect the HTTP standard requirements and provide no Accept header, which meant ModSecurity kicked it out. You’d expect that a service that is all about security and trust would at least be able to implement the protocol correctly.

To finish this off, I really dislike the “limited invites” options in general. I understand why that’s needed, but it just feels a bit useless to me, particularly when, just because I logged back in, the system granted me more invites — with the “cute and whimsical” notion that it’s the founder of the service to “grant” you those invites. Heh.

All in all, I don’t have much real use out of this system. I signed up because it was suggested it’s a nice way to prove my identity but I don’t feel it’s any better than the Web of Trust, and I’m not saying the WoT is good.

Oh well, if it takes off I’ll be there, if not, I have only spent a minimum amount of time on it.

GnuPG Agent Forwarding with OpenPGP cards

Finally, after many months (a year?) absence, I’m officially back as a Gentoo Linux developer with proper tree access. I have not used my powers much yet, but I wanted to at least point out why it took me so long to make it possible for me to come back.

There are two main obstacles that I was facing, the first was that the manifest signing key needed to be replaced for a number of reasons, and I had no easy access to the smartcard with my main key which I’ve been using since 2010. Instead I set myself up with a separate key on a “token”: a SIM-sized OpenPGP card installed into a Gemalto fixed-card reader (IDBridge K30.) Unfortunately this key was not cross-signed (and still isn’t, but we’re fixing that.)

The other problem is that for many (yet not all) packages I worked on, I would work on a remote system, one of the containers in my “testing server”, which also host(ed) the tinderbox. This means that the signing needs to happen on the remote host, although the key cannot leave the smartcard on the local laptop. GPG forwarding is not very simple but it has sort-of-recently become possible without too much intrusion.

The first thing to know is that you really want GnuPG 2.1; this is because it makes your life significantly easier as the key management is handed over to the Agent in all cases, which means there is no need for the “stubs” of the private key to be generated in the remote home. The other improvement in GnuPG 2.1 is that there is better sockets’ handling: on systemd it uses the /run/user path, and in general it uses a standard named socket with no way to opt-out. It also allows you to define an extra socket that is allowed to issue signature requests, but not modify the card or secret keys, which is part of the defence in depth when allowing remote access to the key.

There are instructions which should make it easier to set up, but they don’t quite work the way I read them, in particular because they require a separate wrapper to set up the connection. Instead, together with Robin we managed to figure out how to make this work correctly with GnuPG 2.0. Of course, since that Sunday, GnuPG 2.1 was made stable, and so it stopped working, too.

So, without further ado, let’s see what is needed to get this to work correctly. In the following example we assume we have two hosts, “local” and “remote”; we’ll have to change ~/.gnupg/gpg-agent.conf and ~/.ssh/config on “local”, and /etc/ssh/sshd_config on “remote”.

The first step is to ask GPG Agent to listen to an “extra socket”, which is the restricted socket that we want to forward. We also want for it to keep the display information in memory, I’ll get to explain that towards the end.

# local:~/.gnupg/gpg-agent.conf

extra-socket ~/.gnupg/S.gpg-agent.remote

This is particularly important for systemd users because the normal sockets would be in /run and so it’s a bit more complicated to forward them correctly.

Secondly, we need to ask OpenSSH to forward this Unix socket to the remote host; for this to work you need at least OpenSSH 6.7, but since that’s now quite old, we can be mostly safe to assume you are using that. Unlike GnuPG, SSH does not correctly expand tilde for home, so you’ll have to know the actual paths we want to write the unix at the right path.

# local:~/.ssh/config

Host remote
RemoteForward /home/remote-user/.gnupg/S.gpg-agent /home/local-user/.gnupg/S.gpg-agent.remote
ExitOnForwardFailure yes

Note that the paths need to be fully qualified and are in the order remote, local. The ExitOnForwardFailure option ensures that you don’t get a silent failure to listen to the socket and fight for an hour trying to figure out what’s going on. Yes, I had that problem. By the way, you can combine this just fine with the now not so unknown SSH tricks I spoke about nearly six years ago.

Now is the slightly trickier part. Unlike the original gpg-agent, OpenSSH will not clean up the socket when it’s closed, which means you need to make sure it gets overwritten. This is indeed the main logic behind the remote-gpg script that I linked earlier, and the reason for that is that the StreamLocalBindUnlink option, which seems like the most obvious parameter to set, does not behave like most people would expect it to.

The explanation for that is actually simple: as the name of the option says, this only works for local sockets. So if you’re using the LocalForward it works exactly as intended, but if you’re using RemoteForward (as we need in this case), the one on the client side is just going to be thoroughly ignored. Which means you need to do this instead:

# remote:/etc/sshd/config

StreamLocalBindUnlink yes

Note that this applies to all the requests. You could reduce the possibility of bugs by using the Match directive to reduce them to the single user you care about, but that’s left up to you as an exercise.

At this point, things should just work: GnuPG 2.1 will notice there is a socket already so it will not start up a new gpg-agent process, and it will still start up every other project that is needed. And since as I said the stubs are not needed, there is no need to use --card-edit or --card-status (which, by the way, would not be working anyway as they are forbidden by the extra socket.)

However, if you try at this point to sign anything, it’ll just fail because it does not know anything about the key; so before you use it, you need to fetch a copy of the public key for the key id you want to use:

gpg --recv-key ${yourkeyid}
gpg -u ${yourkeyid} --clearsign --stdin

(It will also work without -u if that’s the only key it knows about.)

So what is about keep-display in local:~/.gnupg/gpg-agent.conf? One of the issues I faced with Robin was gpg failing saying something about “file not found”, though obviously the file I was using was found. A bit of fiddling later found these problems:

  • before GnuPG 2.1 I would start up gpg-agent with the wrapper script I wrote, and so it would usually be started by one of my Konsole session;
  • most of the time the Konsole session with the agent would be dead by the time I went to SSH;
  • the PIN for the card has to be typed on the local machine, not remote, so the pinentry binary should always be started locally; but it would get (some of) the environment variables from the session in which gpg is running, which means the shell on “remote”;
  • using DISPLAY=:0 gpg would make it work fine as pinentry would be told to open the local display.

A bit of sniffing around the source code brought up that keep-display option, which essentially tells pinentry to ignore the session where gpg is running and only consider the DISPLAY variable when gpg-agent is started. This works for me, but it has a few drawbacks. It would not work correctly if you tried to use GnuPG out of the X11 session, and it would not work correctly if you have multiple X11 sessions (say through X11 forwarding.) I think this is fine.

There is another general drawback on this solution: if two clients connect to the same SSH server with the same user, the last one connecting is the one that actually gets to provide its gpg-agent. The other one will be silently overruled. I”m afraid there is no obvious way to fix this. The way OpenSSH itself handles this for the SSH Agent forwarding is to provide a randomly-named socket in /tmp, and set the environment variable to point at it. This would not work for GnuPG anymore because it now standardised the socket name, and removed support for passing it in environment variables.

Xfce4, ssh-agent, and smartcards

This is more of a note for myself to not forget this again.

As I said the other day I’m not liking Gnome 3 so much; while the “fallback mode” looks more usable than the shell itself, the fact that to get to the tweaker tool I have to install shell anyway is a bit bothersome. I set up the desktop already, as I said, to use part of Gnome3 stuff, mostly because of a bug in Evolution 2, but now it’s the turn of the laptop, as Gnome 3 has been unmasked

Incidentally, my desktop, and thus my main work environment, is currently unavailable; after the outages of the other day I found out that one of my two UPSes had a fried board, and it couldn’t work without mains running.. given they are doing heavy work on the power line, and the fact that I had to clean up my home office already as new furniture is scheduled to arrive next week, I decided to simply put it away until the new desks are in. Why do the job twice?

At any rate, I decided to go with Xfce4 on the laptop as well, even though this seems to have a slightly different configuration and that spells trouble with Gtk3 for now – in particular fonts are huge, and I don’t know yet why; xdpyinfo reports the correct DPI value for the monitor, and the correct size in millimetres – it still is better than Gnome3. Interestingly enough, the way Xfce4 handles ssh-agent and gpg-agent is quite nice: indeed it actually relies on using gpg-agent with ssh support instead of both of them separately, which is generally compatible with using OpenPGP cards for SSH authentication, but it is a bit incompatible with my suggested script (which I should actually update, at another time, since I modified it a bit since last time).

It is true that I could probably just suggest a few changes to Xfce’s handling code and get it to behave exactly like mine, or at least in a compatible way (the startxfce4 code is very neat, and very hackable!), but for now I wanted to sidestep the issue altogether. I just need for the session script not to override what I set myself. So how do you do that? Simple enough it seems:

% xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /startup/ssh-agent/enabled -t bool -s false -n
% xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -p /startup/gpg-agent/enabled -t bool -s false -n

By the way, the reason why I’m not going to spend time trying to fix the compatibility issue between my script and the original code is actually quite simple: the only difference I see is the placement of the agent sockets: my current script uses the standard socket locations (~/.gnupg/S.gpg-agent and ~/.gnupg/S.gpg-agent.ssh), while Xfce4 says nothing and gets the random, temporary locations instead. In the next GnuPG minor version, the default will be changed to use the standard location, so Xfce4 session will be automagically fixed.. that’s about the only reason why I don’t want to spend time on it now.

At least by blogging this I’ll remember how to get back to Xfce4-handled agents, and adapt my script to integrate with that.

Smartcards again

People seem to know by now that I have a particular passion for the security devices called smartcards. I’m not sure why myself, to be honest, but a few years ago I decided to look more into this, and nowadays I have three smartcard readers at home connected to the three main computers I use, and I use a FSFe card to store my GnuPG keys and to login to local and remote SSH services.

In Gentoo, unfortunately, most of the smartcard-related software has been vastly ignored for years, or was and still is only considered for the small use cases of developers and users, rather than in the general picture of it all. I have been trying to improve the situation ever since I first experimented with token-based login over one year and a half ago, but even my results are not really good.

The last hard work I did on the subject has been directed toward pcsc-lite improvements which brought me to hack at the code to improve support for two of the three devices I have here: the blutronics bludrive II CCID – which has a firmware quirk, requiring to look up the CCID description in the “wrong place” – and a Broadcom BCM5880 security device that provides dual-interface access to standard smartcards and for contact-less cards as well — I have to thank my trip to London two years ago for having a RFID card available at home to try it out!

Since my personal smartcard setup has been mostly complete and working fine for a while now, I wasn’t planning on working hard on anything in particular for a while, unless, like OpenCryptoki a couple of months ago, my job required me to. On the other hand, after my complaining about stable testing from last week, I started wondering if I couldn’t leverage the work I’ve been doing on OpenCryptoki to allow an easy way to test PKCS#11 software for people without the required hardware devices. Between that and a messed-up bump of OpenSC (0.12.0) in tree, I have been looking hard at the situation again.

Before moving on to describe the recent developments on the topic, though, I’d like to give an insight on why you cannot blame it on anyone in particular if the whole handling of smartcards in Gentoo. The following UML diagram is a schematic, vastly simplified component view of the software (and, very selectively, hardware) involved in smartcard access:

Smartcard Components UML diagram

In this diagram, the deep-green interfaces (circles) are those that are standardized by multiple organisations:

  • CCID is defined by the USB Forum;
  • CT-API is defined by a number of German organisations;
  • PC/SC is specified by its own workgroup which also defines the IFD interface;
  • PKCS#11 is defined by RSA.

The red components are implement as long-running services (daemons) on your Linux (or other Unix) system, the white ones are hardware devices, the blue ones are software libraries and finally the green ones are the applications the users use directly! Almost each one of those components is a standalone package (only package split in two components is GnuPG, and that’s just because Alon’s alternative SCD implementation makes it necessary to explicit the interface providers/consumers there.

This whole complexity not only makes it very difficult for distributions to manage software correctly, but also introduces a number of sensitive points of contacts between the software components, much more than one would like to have in a security-sensitive context such as Smartcards handling. Sometimes I wonder if they are really secure at all.

Back to what I have been doing in Gentoo, though. My first desire was to leverage The tpm-emulator and OpenCryptoki combo to allow arch testers to test PKCS#11 packages, such as pam_pkcs11 and pam_p11 (both of which are not part of the component diagram above by choice: to add those to the diagram, I would have had to add another indirection layer – libpam – to reach an user-accessible application like login) without the need of rare, and expensive, hardware devices. I’ve been working on OpenCryptoki’s ebuild and build system for a while, rewriting its build system and doing other general improvements — unfortunately it seems to me like it still doesn’t work as it is supposed to. I thought it could have been a problem with the software token emulation implementation, so I thought it might have been better to use the emulated TPM device, but even that method is not viable: even the latest version of the package does not seem to build properly against the current 2.6.38 Linux version, let alone the ancient version we have in the tree right now. I have a possibly-working ebuild for the 0.7 series (which uses cmake as basic build system), but since I can’t get the module to build, I haven’t committed it yet. This is likely one good candidate for the Character Device in UserSpace (CUSE) interfaces.

With the emulator being unbuildable, and the software-emulated token seemingly not working, using OpenCryptoki was thus slated for later review. I then switched my focus from that to OpenSC: version 0.12.0 was a major change, but in Gentoo it seems to have been bumped without proper consideration: for instance, the ebuild was committed with an optional pcsc-lite support, but without switches for any other alternative interface, and without any more support for the OpenCT interface that for some devices – including the iKey 3000 device that Gilles provided me with – is the only viable solution. Thanks to Alon (who’s a former Gentoo developer and an upstream developer for OpenCT/OpenSC), I was able to fix this up, and now OpenSC should be properly working in Gentoo — what is not currently implemented is support for non-OpenCT implementations of the CT-API interface; since I don’t know of other software that implements it that are available in Portage; if you know any of those, let me know and I’ll see to add support.

Now, for whatever reason, last time I worked on this, I ended up using pcsc-lite as my main hardware access provider – possibly because it is the easiest way to set it up for GnuPG and OpenPGP – and I didn’t want to throw it off right now, especially since I have a relatively good relationship with Ludovic (upstream) and I had already spent time fixing support for two of my three readers, as I said before. Thankfully, as the diagram suggests, OpenCT not only provides a CT-API interface, but also an IFD one, that can be used with pcsc-lite, providing a layered access to OpenCT-supported readers, including the ikey3k that I have here. Support for that in Gentoo, though, was not really sufficient: OpenCT didn’t install a bundle file for pcscd to discover, and the recent changes to pcscd to run without privileges disallowed the service from accessing the OpenCT sockets — I wouldn’t mind at some point moving all of the daemons to run under the same privileges, but that might not be so good an idea, and definitely not an easy one: while I can easily change the user and group settings that pcscd runs through – thanks to the Gentoo deviation I set the privileges just once, in the pcsc-lite udev rules file – it would probably require a bit of work to make sure that OpenCT and the other smartcard-enabled services didn’t step over each other’s toes. In the ~arch version of the two packages these issues are all solved, and indeed I can access the ikey3k device with pcsc_scan just fine, and from OpenSC as well.

I am unfortunately quite far from making use of the keys stored on the PKCS#11 devices in any other software than the PAM modules I have already written about. Alon’s alternative SCD implementation should make it possible to use any PKCS#11-compatible device (token or smartcard) to handle signatures for GnuPG and keys for SSH. What I’d be interested in, though, would be providing PKCS#11 interface to the OpenPGP card I have already, so to be able to mix devices. This should have been possible with OpenSC, as it implements an interface for openpgp applications and should expose it with PKCS#11 compatibility; reality, though, tends to disagree; I’m not sure whether it is simply a bug in the current code, or OpenPGPv2 cards not being supported by the project. I don’t think I’ll have enough time to work on that code anytime soon.

Alon suggested an alternative approach, by using “Scute’: — a project that aims at adding PKCS#11 interfaces to OpenPGP cards to be usable with Mozilla products. Unfortunately a quick check shows that the package does not build with the current version of its dependencies. And this is another task that would require me more time than I have, as I ”noted before“: and thus will be simply slated for an undefined ”later”.

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

Smart Cards and Secret Agents

Update, 2016-11: The following information is fairly out of date, six years later, as now GnuPG uses stable socket names, which is good. Please see this newer post which includes some information on setting up agent forwarding.

I’ve been meaning to write about my adventure to properly set up authentication using the Fellowship of FSFe smartcard for quite a while, and since Markos actually brought the subject up earlier tonight I guess today is the right time. Incidentally, earlier in my “morning” I had to fight with getting it working correctly on Yamato so it might be useful after all…

First of all, what is the card and what is needed to use it… the FSFe Fellowship card is a smartcard with the OpenPGP application on it; smartcards can have different applications installed, quite a few are designed to support PKCS#11 and PKCS#15, but those are used by the S/MIME signature and encryption framework; the OpenPGP application instead is designed to work with GnuPG. When I went to FOSDEM, I set up my new key using the card itself.

The card provides three keys: a signing key, an encryption key, and an authentication key; the first two are used for GnuPG, as usual; the third instead is something that you usually don’t handle with GnuPG… SSH authentication. The gpg-agent program can actually handle your standard RSA/DSA keys for SSH, but that’s generally not very useful; if combined with the OpenPGP smartcard, this comes very useful.

So first of all you need a compatible smartcard reader; thankfully the CCID protocol is pretty standard and should work fine; I’ve got luck and three out of three smartcard readers I have work fine; one is from an Italian brand (but most likely built in Taiwan or China), the other is a GemAlto PinPad, and the third is the one integrated in my Dell laptop, Broadcom BCM5880v3. The last one requires an updated firmware and a ccid package capable of recognizing it… the one in Gentoo ~arch is already patched so that it works out of the box. I got mine at Cryptoshop which seems a decent place to get them in Europe.

Out of experience, at least GnuPG seems to have problems dealing with pinpads, and quite a few pinpad-provided readers seem to have driver problems; so get a cheaper, but just as valid, non-pinpad reader.

On the software side, there isn’t much to need: GnuPG itself could use the CCID readers directly, but my best luck has been using pcsc-lite; just make sure your pcsc-lite does not use HAL but rather has libusb support directly, by setting -hal usb as USE flags for it. GnuPG has to be built with the smartcard USE flag; pcsc-lite USE flag will give you the dependency as well, but it does not change the build at all. Update: Matija noted that there is also the need to install app-crypt/ccid (which is the userspace driver of the CCID-based smartcard readers); for whatever reason I assumed it was already a dependency of the whole set but that is not the case.

Make sure the pcscd service is started with the system, you’re gonna need it.

To actually make use of the key properly you’re going to need to replace ssh-agent with gnupg-agent…. more interesting, GNOME-Keyring also replaces ssh-agent, but if you let it do so, it won’t handler your OpenPGP card auth key! So you’re going to override that. Since using keyring with this setup seem to be impossible, my solution is to use a simple wrapper which I now release under CC-BY license.

You got run this script on every shell and your X session as well, for this to work as intended (it is needed in X session so that it works with libvirt over SSH otherwise virt-manager will still try to get the key from gnome-keyring). To do so I added a source of that script from both my ~/.shrc file and my ~/.xsession file, and make sure the latter is called; to do so I have this:

# in both ~/.shrc and ~/.xsession:
. /path/to/gpg-agent-wrapper

# in /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d/01-xsession
[ -f ${HOME}/.xsession ] && . ${HOME}/.xsession

The trick of the script is making sure that gpg-agent is not already running, that it does not collide with the current information, but also it takes care of overriding gnome-keyring (it could be also done by changing the priority of ~/.xsession to be higher than gnome-keyring), and ensures that the SSH Agent Forwarding works… and yes it works even if on the client there is gpg-agent used for SSH, which means it can forward the card’s authentication credentials over a network connection.

So here it is, should be easy enough to set up for anybody interested.

FOSDEM 2010 Recap

So, for the first time in my life, if we exclude the local Linux Day events, I attended a conference! FOSDEM 2010 has been my first time properly meeting other developers out there. It actually was a bit more travel than just Bruxelles, for me; I actually took a long way to get there. Since I was still afraid of planes, I didn’t want to go up there alone. Add to that, the fact that I’m neither used to Bruxelles area, nor I speak any decent French any more (I studied it in middle-school, so I could at least ask for, and listen to, directions, but in over ten years not using it, it really just went away), so I got there with Luca who lives in Turin (in the other side of Italy).

The end result looks something like this: I left Mestre (the Venice inland city, which is where I actually live) by train, I changed in Milan, then arrived in Turin; I went to dinner with some friends I only met online before (colleagues and fellow Ultima OnLine players), and slept at Alessandro’s – from lscube – flat. In the morning me and Luca took the plane for Rome, then changed to the one for Bruxelles. Our luggage decided to take a later plane (d’oh!). The same travel (minus the luggage nuisance, fortunately) applied to the way back. This resulted in something like five trains (one from the Bruxelles Airport to the Gare du Nord — we took a cab to go back), and four planes. I think my fear of planes was totally cured this time.

FOSDEM itself was lots fun! I finally met lots of other Gentoo developers (including Luca for the first time), the other FFmpeg guys, some of the VLC guys, and quite a few users who knew me, even though I didn’t know them before, which I have to say has a nice feeling to it. And I even met with a Mono team delegation, and with the one guy that I had a rough start with – Jo Shields, “directhex” – I should report every misunderstanding is cleared. I was also able to (very briefly) meet Lennart, but that was when me and Luca really had to hurry to catch our plane back.

I really would have liked to stay the whole Sunday and leave on Monday, but Luca was actually due to be back in Turin for other reasons, so we had to live early on Sunday to get back to Italy before all planes stopped flying.

Now, during FOSDEM I picked up a few extra tasks other than all the stuff that I’ve had already planned, and this means that the next few days will get me almost no time to breath, to take a break, or to go out with friends. That’s fine, I had four days that relaxed me quite a bit, so this is not too bad to do. Just so I can name some of the tasks that I’m looking forward for, beside the key signing (that was a “cool” party… even though it was maybe too cold), is writing something more about release notifications as it seems like I’m not the only person having a problem with that, trying to write some more about upstreaming patches, and packaging SIP Communicator – a demo of which was available next to the FFmpeg stand in the AW building… looked very promising, and getting an hash table implementation in libavutil for FFmpeg, so that we can use it on feng and libnemesi and thus get a good parser, finally!

Anyway this is enough for today, hope the other people at FOSDEM found it at least as fun, for me is time to hit (finally, my) bed.

New OpenPGP key

After seven years of “service”, I finally decided to discard my old OpenPGP key. I was already planning on doing so for a while (especially since it was still a 1024-bit DSA key), but the tipping point was reached today for two reasons: the first is that I received the FSFe Fellowship smartcard (as “Lefty” put it, FSFe seem to be concerned with matters more at hand than those the main FSF is concerned with, so I feel much more at ease to help FSFe rather than FSF itself), the second is that this year I should finally be able to attend FOSDEM (thanks to the fact I can finally board a plane without risking a heart attack; on the other hand I’m not going to board a plane alone so I’m going to take a train to Turin and then move with Luca).

FOSDEM here is a key reason for my switching key: my current key has no web of trust, the only signatures are those from the PGP Directory (automated non-human signatures), so it’s almost impossible to be sure I really exist. Finally being able to meet friends and colleagues is going to be helpful to fix that as well, and at this point starting from a new, clean key (which does not list outdated user IDs, nor my “old”
name) sounded like a good plan.

Anyway, I’d like to thank Daniel Kahn Gillmor (dkg from Debian) for his howto on key migration (although it still is signing with SHA1 — I wonder if it’s because of the card not supporting other digests?), and for his template for replacing the old key, in my case it’s available here and is signed with both my old and new keys for verification.

I’m currently uncertain on whether to replace my Gentoo manifest signing key with a sub-key of the new key after I got it signed, so that it also gets to be part of the web of trust.

Anyway, to finish it off, my new new key details are these:

pub   2048R/BB592443 2010-01-16
      Key fingerprint = F204 568C 03BD FD49 60EC  2DCC 1A82 AD57 BB59 2443