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This plugin adds support for using (multiple) smartcards as second factor to unlock KeePass databases. This is implemented in a manner, that is fully compatibly with built-in key files: Keeping a plaintext backup of the encrypted key file, it is possible to unlock the database using built-in key file feature without any plugins.

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Smartcard Encrypted Key File Provider Plugin for KeePass

This plugin adds support for using (multiple) smartcards as second factor to unlock KeePass databases. This is implemented in a manner, that is fully compatibly with built-in key files: An existing or newly created key file is encrypted using public keys of one or many rsa smartcards. The encrypted key file is saved next to the database file, while the user is given the possibility to save the corresponding plaintext key file in a safe location. When unlocking a database using the Smartcard Encrypted Key File Provider, the user is asked to insert/connect and unlock an authorized smartcard. As alternative the user can also unlock the database using the plaintext key file without need for the corresponding plugin to be installed. Hence, access to the database is granted reliably, even if this plugin should not available.

Supported smartcards

In theory, this plugin supports any PIV (Personal Identity Verification) compatible smartcard. YubiKey 5 series has been tested successfully. Other smartcards have not been tested yet.

Is this safe?

This plugin uses the EnvelopedCms .net framework class for encrypting the plaintext KeePass key file content. EnvelopedCms is the framework provided implementation of RFC 5652 Cryptographic Message Syntax (CMS): It permits encryption of arbitrary content to be decrypted by any authorized recipient. A random content encryption key is used to protect the enveloped data (here: KeePass plaintext key). The single content encryption key is again encrypted using the public keys belonging to the list of authorized smartcards (recipients). Thus any authorized smartcard can decrypt the content encryption key and in turn permits decryption of the plaintext KeePass key. This plugin selects AES-256-CBC as content encryption algorithm to be used by EnvelopedCms. The intermediate encryption of the payload using a random content encryption is generally needed to support arbitrary length content. It's not strictly needed for the purpose of this plugin, but assuming EnvelopedCms was properly implemented by Microsoft, it should be of no harm. Most smartcards implement weaker asymmetric encryption (used to encrypt the content encryption key) compared with the intermediate encryption using AES-256-CBC. Thus the weakest point of the chain will usually be on the smartcard side and not the intermediate symmetric encryption.

Usage

Installation

Just copy the pre-built plgx file into the KeePass plugin folder. Downloads available as github release.

Copying a database file

Remember to copy the .ekf-file along with the .kdbx KeePass database.

Unlock database using smartcard

  1. Open database for the first time or unlock workspace
  2. Enter Master Password, if any
  3. Tick Key File option and select Smartcard Encrypted Key File Provider from the drop down menu
    Unlock database using smartcard: Choose ekf provider
  4. Click OK. If no authorized smartcard or more than one authorized smartcard are connected to the computer, a selection dialog will appear:
    Unlock database using smartcard: Smartcard required
  5. Connect an authorized smartcard to the computer. The dialog will close automatically once the smartcard is recognized. If more than one authorized smartcard is already connected, select the smartcard to be used and confirm the dialog.
  6. The previously chosen smartcard is used to decrypt the key file. Depending on the actual smartcard being used, this is likely to require user interaction and/or may take a few moments. Feel free to abort, else confirm the operation.
    Unlock database using smartcard: Waiting for smartcard
    1. It is likely that a PIN must be entered to unlock the smartcard. Therefore the following dialog might popup on your main screen:
      Unlock database using smartcard: PIN input
    2. When using a YubiKey or similiar device, it might be necessary to confirm the private key operation by pressing a hardware button. YubiKeys like the one shown below will blink when the device is waiting for confirmation.
      Unlock database using smartcard: YubiKey button
  7. All done: Assuming the correct Master Password was entered, the database has finally been unlocked!

Unlock database using (backup) key file

Nothing special here, doesn't require the plugin to be installed at all:

Unlock database using backup key file

Create new database with encrypted key file

  1. Open New wizzard as usual and choose a file name & location. Eventually the Create Composite Master Key dialog will show:
    Create new database with encrypted key file: Create Composite Master Key
  2. Activate Show expert options and select at least Key file / provider and choose Smartcard Encrypted Key File Provider
  3. Click OK to continue. The dialog shown below will appear:
    Create new database with encrypted key file: EKF editor
    1. At least one compatible smartcard must be selected / authorized.
    2. A randomly generated key must be exported before the dialog can finally be created.
    3. A randomly generated key file corresponds to a 256bit key in binary representation. Explicitly generate a random key via the drop down menu next to the Export button to provide additional entropy.
    4. The drop down menu next to the Export button provides further options like importing an existing plaintext key file.
  4. Finish creation of the new database file by clicking OK. No private key operation is needed for this, therefor no prompt to unlock the smartcard will be shown.
  5. Confirm that the exported backup key file can be used to unlock the database.

Add encrypted key file to existing database

Note: If the current database already uses a plaintext key file in addition to the master password, it is also possible to proceed as described in section change authorization. Using the Change Master Key dialog as described below will always work.

  1. Open Change Master Key... dialog from File menu
    Add encrypted key file to existing database: Create Composite Master Key
  2. Activate Show expert options and select at least Key file / provider and choose Smartcard Encrypted Key File Provider
  3. The dialog shown below appears:
    Add encrypted key file to existing database: EKF editor
    1. At least one compatible smartcard must be selected / authorized.
    2. If a key file was already used for the current database, the same key will be stored in the encrypted key file by default. Else an randomly generated key will be the default.
    3. A randomly generated key file corresponds to a 256bit key in binary representation. Explicitly generate a random key via the drop down menu next to the Export button to provide additional entropy.
    4. A randomly generated key must be exported before the dialog can finally be created.
    5. The drop down menu next to the Export button provides further options like importing an existing plaintext key file.
  4. Finish creation of the new database file by clicking OK. No private key operation is needed for this, therefor no prompt to unlock the smartcard will be shown.
  5. Confirm that the exported backup key file or the previously used key file can be used to unlock the database.

Change authorization

  1. Open and unlock a database using an encrypted or plaintext key file
  2. Within Tools menu select Edit Encrypted Key File. A dialog like below shows up:
    Change authorization: EKF editor
    1. All currently authorized smartcards are preselected.
    2. Smartcards that are currently authorized, but not known to the current computer, are reported as having unknown / EKF provider. Authorization of these smartcards will be preserved by default.
    3. Smartcards known to the current computer, that are not yet authorized, are available for manual selection.
    4. Uncheck entries to revoke authorization for the corresponding smartcards.
    5. Check previously unchecked entries to grant authorization.
    6. Use the export button to export the encrypted key to a plaintext backup key file.
    7. The encrypted key itself cannot be changed from within this dialog (extended features provided by the drop down menu next to the Export button are disabled) - use Change Master Key... from File menu instead to change the encrypted key.

YubiKey 5 PIV setup

Activate PIV interface of YubiKey 5 series tokens

Prerequisites: single YubiKey connected to your computer; YubiKey Manager (graphical interface); no need to install YubiKey Smart Card Minidriver

  1. Start YubiKey Manager application
  2. Go to tab Interfaces
  3. Tick PIV for either USB, NFC or both interfaces
  4. Click Save Interfaces

Basic setup using graphical tools

Prerequisites: single YubiKey connected to your computer; PIV interface has been activated (see above); YubiKey Manager (graphical interface); no need to install YubiKey Smart Card Minidriver

Basic setup is possible using graphical tools only. Yubico default configuration to unlock the token is used (e.g. PIN for slot 9a; multiple operations only require single pin input).

  1. Start YubiKey Manager application
  2. Click tab Applications and select PIV
  3. Click PIN Management and follow wizzard to change well-known default PIN, PUK and Management Key; further information about pin and management key are available from yubico
  4. Leave PIN Management wizzard by clicking Back
  5. Click Certificatesto open PIV certificate wizzard
  6. Select tab Authentication (smartcard slot 9a for authentication certificates); futher information about PIV slots and their default configuration is available from yubico
  7. Generate self signed certificate or import certificate; Important: currently this plugin only supports RSA encryption! Therefore choose RSA!

Advanced setup using command line tools

Prerequisites: single YubiKey connected to your computer; YubiKey PIV Tool (command line); no need to install YubiKey Smart Card Minidriver

Advanced setup requires using command line tools provided by yubico. Compared with basic setup, advanced configuration permits more variants for unlocking the YubiKey (pin-policy, touch-policy). E.g. the token can be configured for unlocking with PIN+button press, only button, and more. Yubico provides an outdated pdf guide to the YubiKey PIV Tool, that gives a good overview over available configuration options. Most recent information is available from source code of the piv tool.

Below are example commands to replace the certificate in slot 9a with a newly created self-signed certificate and custom unlock configuration (pin-policy, touch-policy). Note however, that pin-policy is currently not honored by windows builtin drivers and yubikey's minidriver. Pin will always be asked when performing the first private key operation. Touch-operations are fully supported, though.

  1. Delete existing key pair and securely create new one (private key exclusively stored inside hardware)
    $ yubico-piv-tool.exe -s9a -k -adelete-certificate -agenerate --pin-policy=<pin-policy> --touch-policy=<touch-policy> --output=c:\temp\yubi_pub.tmp
    - Possible values for pin-policy are: never (private key operations are always permitted without PIN), once (private key operations require pin to be entered once per session), always (any private key operation must be confirmed with PIN input)
    - Possible values for touch-policy are: never (private key operations are always permitted without button press), cached (private key operations require the hardware button to be pressed once per session), always (any private key operation must be confirmed by a hardware button press)
    - Any combination of pin-policy and touch-policy is supported. Piv tool uses builtin default configuration if these parameters are omitted. Built-in configuration depends on the slot chosen and is equal to the one used by the graphical tool.
  2. Create self-signed certificate using key pair from step above
    $ yubico-piv-tool.exe -s9a -averify -aselfsign-certificate -S"<subject>" --valid-days=<valid-days> --input=c:\temp\yubi_pub.tmp --output=c:\temp\yubi_cert.tmp
    subject is a distinguished name following x.509 certificate rules. OSF-Syntax (/ is separator) can be used. E.g.: /CN=YourName/DC=domain/DC=example/DC=com/L=Yubikey#42424242 (replace with apropriate values, such as your name, domain and serial number of your YubiKey)
    valid-days controls validity of the certificate. E.g. 18250 is roughly equal to 50 years.
    Note: This step must be confirmed by pressing the YubiKey button when it starts blinking!
  3. Import certificate into YubiKey and renew chuid (required for windows to pick up the new certificate)
    $ yubico-piv-tool.exe -k -s9a -aimport-certificate --input=c:\temp\yubi_cert.tmp -aset-chuid -astatus
  4. Disconnect and reconnect YubiKey

Build

This project is best built using JetBrains Rider, but plain msbuild or Visual Studio should work as well. For debug builds, only the plugin dll is built. When using release configuration, a plgx plugin file with improved compatibility is built as well. Pre-built plgx builds are available as github releases.

Build plgx without devtools

Building the plgx plugin file is possible using powershell only. No development tools needed:

$ cd <project dir containing .csproj>
$ .\build-plgx-project.ps1 -csproj .\SmartcardEncryptedKeyFile.csproj -outdir .\bin\Release\Plugins -objdir .\obj\Release\plgx -plgxArgs "--plgx-prereq-kp:2.44,--plgx-prereq-net:4.7,--plgx-prereq-os:Windows"

Important warning: This script cleans outdir and objdir without asking for confirmation! Carefully choose the paths you enter here!

Known Issues & Limitations

  1. The PIN prompt for unlocking a PIV smartcard is always shown in the center of the main screen, not on top of KeePass.
  2. Currently only RSA smartcards are supported.
  3. Non-Local databases have not been tested, but might work as well.
  4. KeePass builtin synchronization won't synchronize changes related to the encrypted key file (e.g. access granted to additional smartcard).

About

This plugin adds support for using (multiple) smartcards as second factor to unlock KeePass databases. This is implemented in a manner, that is fully compatibly with built-in key files: Keeping a plaintext backup of the encrypted key file, it is possible to unlock the database using built-in key file feature without any plugins.

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