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2016, Tuesday October 18

Cheat Mode for Private Keys

In order to follow best practice, our .private key files are always protected by a password.  A random value with enough length and entropy is always proposed by the ECC tool when a key pair is generated, and could be used directly.
It is always preferred to trust a computer to create true randomness (and SynCrypto.pas's secure TAESPRNG was designed to be the best possible seed, using hardware entropy if available), than using our human brain, which could be defeated by dictionary-based password attacks.
Brute force cracking would be almost impossible, since PBKDF2_HMAC_SHA256 Password-Based Key Derivation Function with 60,000 rounds is used, so rainbow tables (i.e. pre-computed passwords list) will be inoperative, and each password trial would take more time than with a regular Key Derivation Function.

The issue with strong passwords is that they are difficult to remember. If you use not pure random passwords, but some easier to remember values with good entropy, you may try some tools like https://xkpasswd.net/s which returns values like $$19*wrong*DRIVE*read*61$$.
But even then, you will be able to remember only a dozen of such passwords. In a typical public key infrastructure, you may create hundredths of keys, so remembering all passwords is no option for an average human being as (you and) me.

At the end, you end up with using a tool to store all your passwords (last trend is to use an online service with browser integration), or - admit it - store them in an Excel document protected by a password. Most IT people - and even security specialists - end with using such a mean of storage, just because they need it.
The weaknesses of such solutions can be listed:

  • How could we trust closed source software and third-party online services?
  • Even open source like http://keepass.info/help/base/security.html may appear weak (no PBKDF, no AFSplit, managed C#, SHA as PRNG);
  • The storage is as safe as the "master password" is safe;
  • If the "master password" is compromised, all your passwords are published;
  • You need to know the master password to add a new item to the store.

The ECC tool is able to work in "cheat mode", storing all .private key files generated passwords in an associated .cheat local file, encrypted using a cheat.public key.

As a result:

  • Each key pair will have its own associated .cheat file, so you only unleash one key at a time;
  • The .cheat file content is meaningless without the cheat.private key and its master password, so you can manage and store them together with your .private files;
  • Only the cheat.public key is needed when creating a key pair, so you won't leak your master password, and even could generate keys in an automated way, on a distant server;
  • The cheat.private key will be safely stored in a separated place, only needed when you need to recover a password;
  • It uses strong File Encryption, with proven PBKDF, AFSplit, AES-PRNG, and ECDH/ECIES algorithms.

Continue reading...

2016, Saturday September 24

Public-key Asymmetric Cryptography via SynECC

After weeks of implementation and testing, we introduce today a new feature of our mORMot Open-Source Framework.

Asymmetric encryption, also known as public-key cryptography, uses pairs of keys:

  • Public keys that may be disseminated widely;
  • Paired with private keys which are known only to the owner.

The framework SynEcc unit features a full asymmetric encryption system, based on Elliptic curve cryptography (ECC), which may be used at application level (i.e. to protect your application data, by signing or encrypting it), or at transmission level (to enhance communication safety).
A full set of high-level features, including certificates and command line tool, offers a stand-alone but complete public-key infrastructure (PKI).

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2016, Saturday May 14

Anti-forensic, safe storage of private keys

In any modern application, especially on Client/Server nTier architecture as our little mORMot offers, we often have to persist some private keys in a safe way.
Problem with such keys is that they consist in small amount of bytes (typically 16 or 32 bytes), easy to be left somewhere in disk or memory.
Given the abilities of recent forensic data recovery methods, data can't be destroyed on magnetic or flash storage media reliably.

We have just added to our SynCrypto OpenSource library the Anti-forensic Information Splitter algorithm, as proposed in TKS1, and implemented in the LUKS standard.
LUKS is the de-facto standard of platform-independent standard on-disk format for use in various tools.

Continue reading...

2016, Saturday April 9

AES-256 based Cryptographically Secure Pseudo-Random Number Generator (CSPRNG)

Everyone knows about the pascal random() function.
It returns some numbers, using a linear congruential generator, with a multiplier of 134775813, in its Delphi implementation.
It is fast, but not really secure. Output is very predictable, especially if you forgot to execute the RandSeed() procedure.

In real world scenarios, safety always requires random numbers, e.g. for key/nonce/IV/salt/challenge generation.
The less predictable, the better.
We just included a Cryptographically Secure Pseudo-Random Number Generator (CSPRNG) into our SynCrypto.pas unit.
The TAESPRNG class would use real system entropy to generate a sequence of pseudorandom bytes, using AES-256, so returning highly unpredictable content.

Continue reading...

2015, Monday April 6

Asynchronous Service - WebSockets, Callbacks and Publish-Subscribe

When publishing SOA services, most of them are defined as stateless, in a typical query/answer pattern - see Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).
This fits exactly with the RESTful approach of Client-Server services via interfaces, as proposed by the framework.

But it may happen that a client application (or service) needs to know the state of a given service. In a pure stateless implementation, it will have to query the server for any state change, i.e. for any pending notification - this is called polling.

Polling may take place for instance:

  • When a time consuming work is to be processed on the server side. In this case, the client could not wait for it to be finished, without raising a timeout on the HTTP connection: as a workaround, the client may start the work, then ask for its progress status regularly using a timer and a dedicated method call;
  • When an unpredictable event is to be notified from the server side. In this case, the client should ask regularly (using a timer, e.g. every second), for any pending event, then react on purpose.

It may therefore sounds preferred, and in some case necessary, to have the ability to let the server notify one or several clients without any prior query, nor having the requirement of a client-side timer:

  • Polling may be pretty resource consuming on both client and server sides, and add some unwanted latency;
  • If immediate notification is needed, some kind of "long polling" algorithm may take place, i.e. the server will wait for a long time before returning the notification state if no event did happen: in this case, a dedicated connection is required, in addition to the REST one;
  • In an event-driven systems, a lot of messages are sent to the clients: a proper publish/subscribe mechanism is preferred, otherwise the complexity of polling methods may increase and become inefficient and unmaintainable;
  • Explicit push notifications may be necessary, e.g. when a lot of potential events, associated with a complex set of parameters, are likely to be sent by the client.

Our mORMot framework is therefore able to easily implement asynchronous callbacks over WebSockets, defining the callbacks as interface parameters in service method definitions - see Available types for methods parameters.

Continue reading...

2015, Thursday January 15

AES-NI enabled for SynCrypto

Today, we committed a new patch to enable AES-NI hardware acceleration to our SynCrypto.pas unit.

Intel® AES-NI is a new encryption instruction set that improves on the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm and accelerates the encryption of data on newer processors.

Of course, all this is available in the Delphi unit, from Delphi 6 to XE7: no external dll nor OS update is needed.
And it will work also on Linux, so could help encrypting the mORMot transmission with no power loss.

You have nothing to do: just upgrade your mORMot source code, then AES-NI instructions will be used, if the CPU offers it.
We have seen performance boost of more than 5x, depending on the size of the data to be encrypted.

Enjoy!