Sta­tus cryp­to cards HOWTO: prob­lems with the card read­er (sup­port could be bet­ter)

After hours (spread over weeks) I come to the con­clu­sion that there is a lot of poten­tial to improve the doc­u­men­ta­tion of card read­ers (but I doubt the card read­er ven­dors will do it) and of the pcsc doc­u­men­ta­tion. It is not easy to arrive at a point where you under­stand every­thing. The com­pat­i­bil­i­ty list does not help much, as the card read­ers are part­ly past their end of life and the mod­els which replace them are not list­ed. Respec­tive­ly the one I bought does not sup­port all the fea­tures I need. I even port­ed the dri­ver to FreeB­SD (not com­mit­ted, I want­ed to test every­thing first) and a lot of stuff works, but one crit­i­cal part is that I can not store a cer­tifi­cate on the cryp­to card as the card read­er or the dri­ver  does not sup­port extend­ed APDUs (need­ed to trans­fer more than 255 bytes to the card read­er).

Well, the sta­tus so far:

  • I have a HOWTO what to install to use cryp­to cards in FreeB­SD
  • I have a HOWOT what to install / con­fig­ure in Win­dows
  • I have a HOWTO regard­ing cre­at­ing keys on a openpgp v2 card and how to use this key with ssh on FreeB­SD (or any oth­er unix-like OS which can run pcsc)
  • I have a card read­er which does not sup­port extend­ed APDUs
  • I want to make sure what I write in the HOW­TOs is also suit­able for the use with Win­dows / PuT­TY
  • it seems Win­dows needs a cer­tifi­cate and not only a key when using the Win­dows CAPI (using the ven­dor sup­plied card read­er dri­ver) in PuTTY-CSC (works at work with a USB token)
  • the pcsc pkcs11 Win­dows DLL is not suit­able yet for use on Win­dows 8 64bit
  • I con­tact­ed the card read­er ven­dor if the card read­er or the dri­ver is the prob­lem regard­ing the extend­ed APDUs
  • I found prob­lems in gpg4win / pcsc on Win­dows 8
  • I have send some mon­ey to the devel­op­ers of gpg4win to sup­port their work (if you use gnupg on Win­dows, try to send a few units of mon­ey to them, the work stag­nat­ed as they need to spend their time for paid work)

So either I need a new card read­er, or have to wait for an update of the lin­ux dri­ver of the ven­dor… which prob­a­bly means it may be a lot faster to buy a new card read­er. When look­ing for one with at least a PIN pad, I either do not find any­thing which is list­ed as sup­port­ed by pcsc on the ven­dor pages (it is incred­i­ble how hard it is to nav­i­gate the web­sites of some com­pa­nies… a lot of buzz­words but no way to get to the real prod­ucts), or they only list updat­ed mod­els where I do not know if they will work.

When I have some­thing which works with FreeB­SD and Win­dows, I will pub­lish all the HOW­TOs here at once.

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OpenPGP cryp­to cards ordered

I wrote in a pre­vi­ous blog post that I want to switch to cryp­to cards for use with ssh and GnuPG. After some research I set­tled on the OpenPGP cry­to cards. I ordered them from ker­nel­con­cepts. As soon as they arrive (and I have some free time), I will start to use them and write down how to work with them with FreeB­SD.

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Which cryp­to card to use with FreeB­SD (ssh/gpg)

The recent secu­ri­ty inci­dent trig­gered a dis­cus­sion how to secure ssh/gpg keys.

One way I want to focus on here (because it is the way I want to use at home), is to store the keys on a cryp­to card. I did some research for suit­able cryp­to cards and found one which is called Feit­ian PKI Smart­card, and one which is called OpenPGP card. The OpenPGP card also exists in a USB ver­sion (basi­cal­ly a small ver­sion of the card is already inte­grat­ed into a small USB card read­er).

The Feit­ian card is report­ed to be able to han­dle RSA keys upto 2048 bits. They do not seem to han­dle DSA (or ECDSA) keys. The smart­card quick starter guide they have  (the Tun­ing smart­card file sys­tem part) tells how to change the para­me­ters of the card to store upto 9 keys on it.

The spec of the OpenPGP card tells that it sup­ports RSA keys upto 3072 bits, but there are reports that it is able to han­dle RSA keys upto 4096 bits (you need to have at least GPG 2.0.18 to han­dle that big keys on the cryp­to card). It looks to me like the card is not han­dle DSA (or ECDSA) cards. There are only slots for upto 3 keys on it.

If I go this way, I would also need a card read­er. It seems a class 3 one (hard­ware PIN pad and dis­play) would be the most “future-proof” way to go ahead. I found a Rein­er SCT cyber­Jack sec­oder card read­er, which is believed to be sup­port­ed by Open­SC and seems to be a good bal­ance between cost and fea­tures of the Rein­er SCT card read­ers.

If any­one read­ing this can sug­gest a bet­ter cryp­to card (keys upto 4096 bits, more than 3 slots, and/or DSA/ECDSA  sup­port), or a bet­ter card read­er, or has any prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence with any of those com­po­nents on FreeB­SD, please add a com­ment.

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Good Ener­max sup­port in Ger­many

The pow­er sup­ply of my serv­er at home failed at the end of last month. As I was busy with ren­o­va­tion at home, it took me a while to check if it is real­ly the PSU or some­thing else. When I was sure about the failed piece, I have sent the PSU to the RMA address the Ener­max sup­port gave me (the PSU has a 5 year war­ran­ty, and I have it since one year). Due to hol­i­days it took a while to get the repaired unit back, but I want to say thank you to the Ener­max sup­port:

  • Thank you for hand writ­ten respons­es, I did not get obvi­ous auto­mat­ic respons­es or canned respons­es (well, maybe they did some copy&paste for the RMA address and such, but each mail had at least a part which was not com­ing from copy&paste).
  • Thank you for get­ting back to me with­in a rea­son­able time.
  • Thank you for polite­ly answer­ing all my sup­port requests.
  • Thank you for being hon­est in your com­mu­ni­ca­tion (slow han­dling of the repair due to peo­ple being in hol­i­day, not because of miss­ing pieces from sup­pli­ers or oth­er excus­es out­side Ener­max).

This is how the sup­port shall be, unfor­tu­nate­ly this is not always the case, but at least here it was. Thank you!

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A smart­watch I would buy

After read­ing an arti­cle about smart watch­es, I tried to come up with a spec of a smart watch I would buy:

  • It needs to look like a nor­mal watch (I wear a stain­less steel ana­log one, about two thumbs wide with the strap being one thumb wide) and needs to be thin (or at least give the impres­sion it is thin, even if it is not).
  • It needs to be an exten­sion to my smart­phone, but being able to dis­play date and time with­out it.
  • It needs to have an open pro­to­col, so that peo­ple can write smart­phone apps which are able to dis­play any­thing they want.
  • It would be nice if the vendor-supplied app would dis­play incom­ing calls/SMS and at least cal­en­dar noti­fi­ca­tions (addi­tion­al noti­fi­ca­tions should be con­fig­urable, I do not want to see “you are roam­ing now” mes­sages, but email mes­sages could be nice when you are wait­ing for an impor­tant one) from the smart­phone. I am not sure how many columns/rows for char­ac­ters there need to be or if it shall be a pixel-display with a spe­cif­ic min­i­mum amount of DPI.
  • There needs to be at least one easy to use by intend but hard to use by mis­take but­ton which switch­es back to the date/time dis­play (and/or switch­es between sev­er­al default dis­plays like weath­er, date/time, agen­da… when con­nect­ed to the smart­phone – again, ide­al­ly this is con­fig­urable in the app). Bonus points for an addi­tion­al con­text sen­si­tive but­ton (e.g. “snooze 5 min­utes” or “dis­miss” for cal­en­dar noti­fi­ca­tions, ide­al­ly this can be con­fig­ured in the app).
  • The bat­tery needs to last long and be easy to replace (like with my cur­rent watch, so it needs to last years). While I would pre­fer a recharge­able way of han­dling this, the cur­rent tech­nol­o­gy is clum­sy (stan­dard­ized con­nec­tors like micro-USB to charge are too big… non-standard con­nec­tors are not an option) and does not last enough (I would be OK if one charge would last near­ly a year).
  • I do not need col­ors, but a good con­trast even in full sun­light is manda­to­ry.
  • Med­ical or life-style sen­sors (com­pass, gyro­scope, blood pres­sure, accelerom­e­ters, radi­a­tion, air qual­i­ty, …) are not nec­es­sary, but as long as they come for free (read: do not make the watch much thick­er), I would not mind.
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