How special PAM supports gets added to Gentoo

You might wonder why the PAM support for special authentication method is somewhat lacking in Gentoo; the reason is that, mostly, I maintain PAM alone, which means that you get to use whatever I use myself most of the time. One of the things that I was very upset we didn’t support properly was the Smartcard/Token based authentication; unfortunately, while I got two smartcard readers in the past months to do some work, I hadn’t fetched a smartcard yet, and tokens seem to be quite difficult to find for end users like me.

Thanks to Gilles (Eva), I now have a token to play with, and that means I’m looking to write up proper support for token-based authentication (and thus, smartcard-based as well). This already started well, because I was able to get one patch (split in three) merged in pam_pkcs11 upstream (available in the gentoo 0.6.1-r1 ebuild), as well as cleaning up the ebuild to work just like it’s supposed to as a PAM ebuild (for instance not installing the .la files which are not used at all).

But since this is not yet ready to use, it’s easier if I show you how it works after a day or two of tweaking:

Yes today I was quite bored.

Please note that this is not really “production ready” in my opinion:

  • the pam_pkcs11 module uses the /etc/pam_pkcs11 directory for configuration, but almost all PAM modules use /etc/security for their configuration;
  • the pkcs11_eventmgr daemon has to be started by the user manually, but it uses a single, system-wide configuration file (/etc/pam_pkcs11/pkcs11_eventmgr.conf), this does not really seem to be the right way to handle it for me, but I’ll have to discuss that with upstream;
  • most likely we want to provide, based on USE flag or in a different ebuild, some scripts to handle the event manager more easily, for instance making it start on each X and console login, and making sure that the login is locked as soon as the key is removed;
  • the event manager polls for the card, which is using CPU and power for no real good reason; a proper way to handle this would require for udev to send signals on plug and remove so that the event manager can handle that; since the exact key needed is unlikely to be known at rules-generation time, this might require adding a central daemon monitoring all the smartcards and tokens and passing the information to registered event managers.

This mostly means that there’s going to be a long way to go before this is ready, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have to write a complete documentation on how to set it up, rather than just a blog post with a video, but at least it’s going to be feasible, at one point.

Please feel free to comment on whether the video is useful at all or not; I’m trying to experiment with less boring methods of explaining stuff related to Gentoo and free software in general, but I have no clue whether it’s working or not, yet.