Shared-Secrets: Cryptography Reloaded

17.12.2019 yahe code linux security

About 3 years ago I wrote about a tool called Shared-Secrets that I had written. It had the purpose of sharing secrets through encrypted links which should only be retrievable once. Back then I made the decision to base the application on the GnuPG encryption but over the last couple of years I had to learn that this was not the best of all choices. Here are some of the problems that I have found in the meantime:

  • The application started by using the ASCII-armoring of GnuPG to get human-readable outputs for the URL generation. Unfortunately, the ASCII-armoring introduced many possibilities to alter links and thus retrieve secrets more that once.
  • To clean up the interface to GnuPG the application was rewritten to use the GnuPG PECL extension. Unfortunately, this introduced integrity problems and was removed again shortly afterwards.
  • In 2018 the world had to learn through EFail that the integrity protection of GnuPG is actually optional. Thus, the application had to be enhanced to prevent unprotected messages from being decrypted.
  • After this problem I started to poke around GnuPG and the OpenPGP standard and learned that the message format does not support integrity protection for the actual message structure. This means that message packets can be added, moved around or removed. All of these modifications made it possible to alter links and thus retrieve secrets more than once.

As this last issue is a problem with the GnuPG message format itself its solution required to either change or completely replace the cryptographic basis of Shared-Secrets. After thinking about the possible alternatives I decided to design simple message formats and completely rewrite the cryptographic foundation. This new version has been published a few weeks ago and a running instance is also available at secrets.syseleven.de.

This new implementation should solve the previous problems for good and will in future allow me to implement fundamental improvements when they become necessary as I now have a much deeper insight into the used cryptographic algorithms and the design of the message formats.


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