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Yves-Alexis Perez: OpenPGP smartcard transition (part 1)

October 10, 2017 20:44 , by Planet Debian - 0no comments yet | No one following this article yet.
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A long time ago, I switched my GnuPG setup to a smartcard based one. I kept using the same master key, but:

  • copied the rsa4096 master key to a “master” smartcard, for when I need to sign (certify) other keys;
  • created rsa2048 subkeys (for signature, encryption and authentication) and moved them to an OpenPGP smartcard for daily usage.

I've been working with that setup for a few years now and it is working perfectly fine. The signature counter on the OpenPGP basic card is a bit north of 5000 which is large but not that huge, all considered (and not counting authentication and decryption key usage).

One very nice feature of using a smartcard is that my laptop (or other machines I work on) never manipulates the private key directly but only sends request to the card, which is a really huge improvement, in my opinion. But it's also not the perfect solution for me: the OpenPGP card uses a proprietary platform from ZeitControl, named BasicCard. We have very few information on the smartcard, besides the fact that Werner Koch trust ZeistControl to not mess up. One caveat for me is that the card does not use a certified secure microcontroler like you would find in smartcard chips found in debit card or electronic IDs. That means it's not really been audited by a competent hardware lab, and thus can't be considered secure against physical attacks. The cardOS software and the application implementing the OpenPGP specification are not public either and have not been audited either, to the best of my knowledge.

At one point I was interested in the Yubikey Neo, especially since the architecture Yubico used was common: a (supposedly) certified platform (secure microcontroler, card OS) and a GlobalPlatform / JavaCard virtual machine. The applet used in the Yubikey Neo is open-source, too, so you could take a look at it and identify any issue.

Unfortunately, Yubico transitioned to a less common and more proprietary infrastructure for Yubikey 4: it's not longer Javacard based, and they don't provide the applet source anymore. This was not really seen as a good move by a lot of people, including Konstantin Ryabitsev (kernel.org administrator). Also, it wasn't possible  even for the Yubico Neo to actually build the applet yourself and inject it on the card: when the Yubikey leaves the facility, the applet is already installed and the smartcard is locked (for obvious security reason). I've tried asking about getting naked/empty Yubikey with developers keys to load the applet myself, but it' was apparently not possible or would have required signing an NDA with NXP (the chip maker), which is not really possible as an individual (not that I really want to anyway).

In the meantime, a coworker actually wrote an OpenPGP javacard applet, with the intention to support latest version of the OpenPGP specification, and especially elliptic curve cryptography. The applet is called SmartPGP and has been released on ANSSI github repository. I investigated a bit, and found a smartcard with correct specification: certified (in France or Germany), and supporting Javacard 3.0.4 (required for ECC). The card can do RSA2048 (unfortunately not RSA4096) and EC with NIST (secp256r1, secp384r1, secp521r1) and Brainpool (P256, P384, P512) curves.

I've ordered some cards, and when they arrived started playing. I've built the SmartPGP applet and pushed it to a smartcard, then generated some keys and tried with GnuPG. I'm right now in the process of migrating to a new smartcard based on that setup, which seems to work just fine after few days.

Part two of this serie will describe how to build the applet and inject it in the smartcard. The process is already documented here and there, but there are few things not to forget, like how to lock the card after provisionning, so I guess having the complete process somewhere might be useful in case some people want to reproduce it.

Source: http://www.corsac.net/?rub=blog&post=1588

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