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imgs/0fclogo.png

end-to-end discreet web chat with strong cryptography

0fc enables you to run a secure in-browser group chat with isolated chatrooms, having some special features:

  • end-to-end for specific chat room: server cannot do better than DoS attack
  • server is considered minimal trusted zone, all important operations happen on client side:
    • ephemeral keys used to protect chat room traffic are generated within room owner's browser and propagated to the rest
    • secret tokens, used to give access to chatroom, are generated on client side (although part of the verification happen on server side)
  • during key sharing every service message is protected by keys, derived from random data of more than one party
  • outgoing messages are encrypted and sent only once (all room members share the same symmetric key)
  • secret access token is used once (deleted after key confirmation)

0fc was started as testing playground for some sophisticated use-cases of Themis/WebThemis, but became interesting enough to release it as a separate blob of code.

IMPORTANT: To be considered really secure, 0fc should be validated by third parties and deployed properly. No cryptographic tool should be trusted without third-party audit. Before that happens (if it ever does), there's a protocol description at the end of this document, which allows you to take a look at the inner workings of 0fc and make your own judgement. We ourselves are aware of a few rarely possible threats unrelated to cryptography, but rather to the way browser works (see Threat model section of blog post).

0fc backend is written in Python, front-end is WebThemis-based, so it works in Google Chrome-based browsers only (yet).

0fc is licensed via Apache 2 license. We would be happy if you build something based on this code and 0fc's protocol; if you'd like any help with this, get in touch.

Read the blog post to learn more about 0fc and underlying technologies.

Installing and using

0fc consists of two components: a server and client.

0fc server

0fc server requires:

First, you will need to install python dependencies:

pip install -r requirements.txt

Having done so, you can run the server:

python3 server.py

by default server will listen to port 5103. To change the port add -p <port>:

python3 server.py -port 333

0fc client

0fc client already comes compiled in /static/ folder. Bear in mind that it has server keys hardcoded; if you regenerate the keys, you will need to rebuilt the client (see below).

Using 0fc

... is quite self-explanatory. You may create new room, generate tokens and invite people to join, or enter existing token to enter the room.

Rebuilding 0fc client

If you'd like to recompile 0fc client (PNaCl object) yourself, here's what you have to do:

  1. To build PNaCl object you need to install NaCl SDK and create enviromant variable PNACL_ROOT with path to installed SDK files.
  2. Clone 0fc repository with submodules from github:
git clone https://github.com/cossacklabs/0fc
cd 0fc
git submodules update --init --recursive
  1. Build webthemis:
cd webthemis
make
  1. Build 0fc PNaCl module:
cd ..
make

You're done!

Architecture

imgs/0fclogo.png

0fc consists of 2 classical components: client and server.

Clients are responsible for:

  • showing UI to the user
  • all cryptographic and trust management functions
  • communication with relay server

Server is responsible for:

  • serving UI + PEXE (PNaCl module) to clients via HTTP GET
  • running websocket relay service, which receives messages and relays them to everyone.

Over websocket link, clients talk to server via SecureSession Themis object, which provides high-level transport security. Server keys are hardcoded into clients, so trust is established based on correlation between real server key and server key fed to client in binaries.

Within this SecureSession link, SecureCell-encrypted messages are transmitted.

Protocol & scheme

imgs/0fc_prot.png

Room creation

  • Room owner generates a key pair [client]
  • Room owner generates room key (which will be used to encrypt messages in the room) [client]
  • Room owner requests the server to create the room, receiving room id in response [client]+[server]

Inviting others (key sharing)

  • Room owner generates a random (one-time) invite token [client]
  • Room owner sends an invite by some out-of-band channel (like email), which includes invite token, his public key and room id [client]
  • User receives the invite token [client]
  • User generates a key pair [client]
  • User generates random joining key [client]
  • User sends a secure message to room owner through server with encrypted joining key [client]
  • Server may check through ACL whether this invite is valid and pass the message to room owner [server]
  • Room owner unwraps joining key [client]
  • Room owner sends sealed room key to user through server using joining key as master key and invite token as context [client]
  • Server may check through ACL whether this response is valid and pass the message to the user [server]
  • User unseals the room key [client]
  • User sends confirmation sealed message to the room owner. [client]
  • Owner, upon checking users confirmation message signs his public key and sends to server [client]+[server]
  • Server checks the signature and considers user as added to the chatroom [server]
  • Once invite token been used, it is discarded by the room owner [server]

Message exchange

  • Room members exchange messages sealing them with room key. Server just forwards encrypted messages without having access to their contents. [server]

Key management

  • Keypair is generated for every room [client]
  • Keypair is stored in browser persistent storage [client]
  • Browser persistent storage is encrypted with Secure Cell (seal mode), key derived from user's password, inputs when joining the chat [client]

Server communication

  • clients communicate with server using Themis secure session [server]
  • server's trusted public key is hardcoded in the clients [client]
  • server does not perform client authentication, automatically trusts every SS client key (this is first obvious step to harden if security is more important than ubiquity and anonymity) [server]

Key rotation

  • every 100 (configurable) messages sent and received, room owner generates new key, encrypts it with old key and sends special message [client]
  • server enforces such messages may come only from room owner [server]

Room orchestration

  • a list of members is maintained for every room as a list of public keys (+indication who is room owner) [server]
  • every room has a room owner (originally, room creator) [server]
  • room owner is responsible for key rotation [client]

Chat history

  • server enables clients to fetch chat history since their last departure for members who have been online and know keys before rotation [server]
  • server enables clients to fetch chat history since last key rotation for new members [server]

Want to know more?

Read our blog post with some background on 0fc development and various security considerations.