Portable Symmetric Key Container (PSKC) Library

For the past weeks I have been working on implementing RFC 6030, also known as Portable Symmetric Key Container (PSKC). So what is PSKC? The Portable Symmetric Key Container (PSKC) format is used to transport and provision symmetric keys to cryptographic devices or software.

My PSKC Library allows you to parse, validate and generate PSKC data. The PSKC Library is written in C, uses LibXML, and is licensed under LGPLv2+. In practice, PSKC is most commonly used to transport secret keys for OATH HOTP/TOTP devices (and other OTP devices) between the personalization machine and the OTP validation server. Yesterday I released version 2.0.0 of OATH Toolkit with the new PSKC Library. See my earlier introduction to OATH Toolkit for background. OATH Toolkit is packaged for Debian/Ubuntu and I hope to refresh the package to include libpskc/pskctool soon.

To get a feeling for the PSKC data format, consider the most minimal valid PSKC data:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<KeyContainer xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:keyprov:pskc" Version="1.0">
  <KeyPackage/>
</KeyContainer>

The library can easily be used to export PSKC data into a comma-separated value (CSV) format, in fact the PSKC library tutorial concludes with that as an example. There is complete API documentation for the library. The command line tool is more useful for end-users and allows you to parse and inspect PSKC data. Below is an illustration of how you would use it to parse some PSKC data, first we show the content of a file “pskc-figure2.xml”:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<KeyContainer Version="1.0"
	      Id="exampleID1"
	      xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:keyprov:pskc">
  <KeyPackage>
    <Key Id="12345678"
         Algorithm="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:keyprov:pskc:hotp">
      <Issuer>Issuer-A</Issuer>
      <Data>
        <Secret>
          <PlainValue>MTIzNA==
          </PlainValue>
        </Secret>
      </Data>
    </Key>
  </KeyPackage>
</KeyContainer>

Here is how you would parse and pretty print that PSKC data:

jas@latte:~$ pskctool -c pskc-figure2.xml 
Portable Symmetric Key Container (PSKC):
	Version: 1.0
	Id: exampleID1
	KeyPackage 0:
		DeviceInfo:
		Key:
			Id: 12345678
			Issuer: Issuer-A
			Algorithm: urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:keyprov:pskc:hotp
			Key Secret (base64): MTIzNA==

jas@latte:~$

For more information, see the OATH Toolkit website and the PSKC Library Manual.

Using OATH Toolkit with Dropbox

Today there was an announcement that Dropbox supports two-factor authentication. On their page with detailed instructions there is (at the bottom) a link to the man page of the OATH Toolkit command line utility oathtool. OATH Toolkit is available in Ubuntu 12.04 and Debian Wheezy. (Note that the 1.10.4 version in Ubuntu does not support the base32 features.) There is not a lot of details in the documentation on Dropbox’s site on how to use oathtool, but I have experimented a bit with the setup and I’d like to share my findings. I assume you are somewhat familiar with the OATH Toolkit; if not I suggest reading my earlier introduction to OATH Toolkit.

To use OATH Toolkit’s command line utility to generate OTPs that are accepted by Dropbox, here is how you proceed. When you enable two-factor authentication on Dropbox’s site, you must select “Use a mobile app” and on the next screen with the QR code image, click the “enter your secret key manually” link. You will then be presented with a code that looks like this: gr6d 5br7 25s6 vnck v4vl hlao re

Now this code is actually space-delimitted base32 encoded data, without any padding. Since version 1.12.0, oathtool can read base32 encoded keys. However, parsing the raw string fails, so to make it work, you need to remove the spaces and add padding characters. I have yet to see any documentation on the Dropbox implementation, but I assume they always generate 16 binary octets that are base32 encoded into 26 characters like the codes that I have seen. The code is the cryptographic key used for the HMAC-SHA1 computation described in the RFC 6238 that specify OATH TOTP. If you study the base32 encoding you discover that 26 characters needs six pad characters. So converted into proper base32, the string would be gr6d5br725s6vnckv4vlhlaore======. Now generating OTPs are easy, see below.

jas@latte:~$ oathtool --verbose --totp --base32 "gr6d5br725s6vnckv4vlhlaore======"
Hex secret: 347c3e863fd765eab44aaf2ab3ac0e89
Base32 secret: GR6D5BR725S6VNCKV4VLHLAORE======
Digits: 6
Window size: 0
Step size (seconds): 30
Start time: 1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC (0)
Current time: 2012-08-27 21:22:54 UTC (1346102574)
Counter: 0x2ACA9C5 (44870085)

125860
jas@latte:~$

Dropbox’s implementation is robust in that it requests a valid OTP from me, generated using the secret they just displayed, before proceeding. This verifies that the user was able to import the key correctly, and that the users’ OATH TOTP implementation appears to work. If I type in the OTP generated from oathtool this way, it allowed me to enable two-factor authentication and I agreed. From that point, signing into the Dropbox service will require a OTP. I invoke the tool, using the same arguments as above, and the tool will use the current time to compute a fresh OTP.

Reflecting on how things could work smoother, I suppose oathtool could be more permissive when it performs the base32 decoding so that the user doesn’t have to fix the base32 spacing/padding manually. I’ll consider this for future releases.

Unattended SSH with Smartcard

I have several backup servers that run the excellent rsnapshot software, which uses Secure Shell (SSH) for remote access. The SSH private key of the backup server can be a weak link in the overall security. To see how it can be a problem, consider if someone breaks into your backup server and manages to copy your SSH private key, they will now have the ability to login to all machines that you take backups off (and that should be all of your machines, right?).

The traditional way to mitigate SSH private key theft is by password protecting the private key. This works poorly in an unattended server environment because either the decryption password needs to be stored in disk (where the attacker can read it) or the decrypted private key has to be available in decrypted form in memory (where attacker can read it).

A better way to deal with the problem is to move the SSH private key to a smartcard. The idea is that the private key cannot be copied by an attacker who roots your backup server. (Careful readers may have spotted a flaw here, and I need to explain one weakness with my solution: an attacker will still be able to login to all your systems by going through your backup server, however it will require an open inbound network connection to your backup server and the attacker will never know what your private key is. What this does is to allow you to more easily do damage control by removing the smartcard from the backup server.)

In this writeup, I’ll explain how to accomplish all this on a Debian/Ubuntu-system using a OpenPGP smartcard, a Gemalto USB Shell Token v2 with gpg-agent/scdaemon from GnuPG together with OpenSSH.

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Introducing the OATH Toolkit

I am happy to announce a project that I have been working quietly on for about a year: the OATH Toolkit. OATH stands for Open AuTHentication and is an organization that specify standards around authentication. That is a pretty broad focus, but practically it has translated into work on specifying standards around deploying and using electronic token based user authentication such as the YubiKey.

YubiKey

OATH’s most visible specification has been the HOTP algorithm which is a way to generate event-based one-time passwords from a shared secret using HMAC-SHA1. HOTP has been published through the IETF as RFC 4226. Built on top of HOTP is the time-based variant called TOTP, which requires a clock in the token. OATH do some other work too, like specifying a data format for transferring the token configuration data (e.g., serial number and shared secret) called PSKC.
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On Password Hashing and RFC 6070

The RFC Editor has announced a new document, RFC 6070, with test vectors for PKCS5 PBKDF2. The document grow out of my implementation of SCRAM for GNU SASL. During interop testing, more than one other implementation turned out to have mistakes in the PBKDF2 implementation. It didn’t help that there weren’t any stable test vectors for PBKDF2, so that we could do black-box testing of our PBKDF2 implementations against well-known and stable test vectors. Debugging this was time consuming. The document addresses this problem.

So what is PBKDF2?
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GNU SASL with SCRAM-SHA-1-PLUS

I have finished the SCRAM implementation in GNU SASL. The remaining feature to be added were support for the “enhanced” SCRAM-SHA-1-PLUS variant instead of just the normal SCRAM-SHA-1 mechanism. The difference is that the latter supports channel bindings to TLS, which makes it possible to detect man-in-the-middle attacks even if TLS is not used with server authentication. In GnuTLS we recently added an API for applications to extract channel bindings, which you will need to use in order to use SCRAM-SHA-1-PLUS. I announced the experimental version 1.5.4 release together with a writeup on how to test it. With this, our support for SCRAM should be complete.

GS2-KRB5 using GNU SASL and MIT Kerberos for Windows

I have blogged about GNU SASL and GS2-KRB5 with the native Kerberos on Mac OS X before, so the next logical step has been to support GS2-KRB5 on Windows through MIT Kerberos for Windows (KfW). With the latest release of GNU SASL 1.5.2 I have added support for the KfW GSS-API library. There were several issues in completing this due to problems with KfW, but I won’t bore you with those details.

What is important is to demonstrate how GNU SASL can now talk IMAP authenticated with GS2-KRB5 using KfW on native Windows. Continue reading

Bridging SASL and GSS-API: GS2

Yesterday (12th July 2010) the RFC editor announced the publication of RFC 5801, which I’m co-author of. The GS2 document has taken 5 years to reach this status, see my page on GS2 status.

So what is GS2? Continue reading

GS2-KRB5 in GNU SASL 1.5.0

I have worked in the IETF on the specification for the next generation GSSAPI-to-SASL bridge called GS2 (see my status page for background) for a couple of years now. The specification is (finally!) in the RFC editor’s queue, and is supposed to be stable and final although we are still tuning some details. The next step is to implement the protocol and do interop testing. A couple of months of implementation and testing work culminated in tonight’s release of GNU SASL 1.5.0 (see announcement here). Or should I say that the work can now begin…
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Storing OpenPGP keys in the DNS

Many years ago, for my master’s thesis, I worked on evaluating using the DNS to store certificates. I eventually ended up fixing several problems in RFC 2538 in a document that became RFC 4398. Using CERT records to store certificates haven’t really taken off, but now I’m happy to see work in this area: Dan Mahoney has blogged about How to publish PGP keys in DNS. Nice work!