Commit 4be34bd3 authored by Tails developers's avatar Tails developers Committed by Andres Gomez

Add more information to the randomness seeding blueprint.

parent 2e544563
# /dev/random and /dev/urandom radomness seeding in Tails
/dev/random and /dev/urandom are especial Linux devices that provide access from user land
to the Linux kernel Pseudo Random Number Generator (PRNG). This generator is used for almost
every security protocol, like TLS/SSL key generation, choosing TCP sequence and file system and email
encryption [1]. Such PRNG requires a a "good" source of randomness on initialization,
that is a seed. In order to this seed to be secure, a source of entropy should be used. The
Linux kernel collects entropy from several sources, for example keyboard typing, mouse movement,
among others.
## Problem
Because of the Tails nature of being amnesic, and run from a live device,
the seed file is public and the same each boot for a given Tails release,
this may make the output of /dev/urandom predictable.
The urandom initscript makes it clear that the assumption for this file is that its content
is "unique to this machine and not known to attackers"... which is not the case when we
ship that file in our ISO images. If that file doesn't exist, the initscript seeds urandom
with the output of date +%s.%N only. The same initscript says that "re-using a seed compromises
security". Only /dev/urandom is at risk here. /dev/random is not.
Read [2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7] and [8] for more information.
## Proposed solutions
### Persist entropy pool seeds [[!tails_ticket 7675]]
Generating entropy on a live distribution is a tough problem. And this has impact to securely
generate cryptographic keys, like for example for Pidgin-OTR, using SSH or generating a PGP key.
We hope to improve this situation for users who enable the persistence storage option using some
randomness from the previous session to help bootstrap with some "well" generated randomness.
However this option is only useful for users with persistence enabled, and does not solve the
problem for the first time Tails is booted.
### Use a stronger entropy collector library [[!tails_ticket 5650]]
We could try haveged as well as other entropy collection daemons. It would be nice to
have study (read: a survey of packages, etc) of all the useful entropy gathering daemons
that might be of use on a Tails system.
### Use the Tails installer to create a better seed
Tails installer can be used on Debian and Ubuntu, and in the future on
Windows and OSX, we could use their PRNG to generate a presumably better
seed file on every new Tails installation. Of course this should be a post installation
mechanism, after verifying the ISO/disk image hash/signature.
This would at least provide a better escenario than the one with the same known
and constant seed file, which provides entropy zero.
This solution is partial since it only works for Tails Installer+USB stick, and doesn't
provide persistence by itself, but might be a complementary solution for [[!tails_ticket 7675]].
## Current workaround
Tails has stopped shipping /var/lib/urandom/random-seed, since it is a fixed known value
for every Tails installation which means its entropy contribution is zero.
On Tails 2.x we ship /var/lib/urandom/random-seed, that would be used by the urandom initscript...
except that initscript is masked by urandom.service, so what matters now is how
/lib/systemd/systemd-random-seed load behaves in the absence of any /var/lib/systemd/random-seed
(Tails 2.0.1 ships no such file).
Systemd-random-seed load won't write anything to /dev/urandom (so we rely purely on the kernel and
current system entropy to get /dev/urandom). This new behavior can't be much worse, and the fact it's
the new debootstrap and systemd default behavior tends to reassure me somewhat.
## Related tickets
This is about [[!tails_ticket 7642]], [[!tails_ticket 7675]],
[[!tails_ticket 6116]], and friends.
# Resources
## References
* <>
* <>
* <!msg/qubes-devel/Q65boPAbqbE/9ZOZUInQCgAJ>
* <!topic/qubes-devel/5wI8ygbaohk>
* <>
* <>
* [1] <>
* [2] <>
* [3] <>
* [4] <>
* [5] <!msg/qubes-devel/Q65boPAbqbE/9ZOZUInQCgAJ>
* [6] <!topic/qubes-devel/5wI8ygbaohk>
* [7] <>
* [8] <>
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