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GnuPG's ElGamal signing keys compromised
Phong Nguyen identified a severe bug in the way GnuPG creates and uses ElGamal keys for signing. This is a significant security failure which can lead to a compromise of almost all ElGamal keys used for signing. Note that this is a real world vulnerability which will reveal your private key within a few seconds.. . .
Phong Nguyen identified a severe bug in the way GnuPG creates and uses ElGamal keys for signing. This is a significant security failure which can lead to a compromise of almost all ElGamal keys used for signing. Note that this is a real world vulnerability which will reveal your private key within a few seconds.
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE----- Hash: SHA1 GnuPG's ElGamal signing keys compromised ========================================== Summary ======= Phong Nguyen identified a severe bug in the way GnuPG creates and uses ElGamal keys for signing. This is a significant security failure which can lead to a compromise of almost all ElGamal keys used for signing. Note that this is a real world vulnerability which will reveal your private key within a few seconds. Please *take immediate action and revoke your ElGamal signing keys*. Furthermore you should take whatever measures necessary to limit the damage done for signed or encrypted documents using that key. Please do not send private mail in response to this message as I won't have the time to catch up with all the messages. The mailing list gnupg-users at gnupg.org is the best place to discuss this problem (please subscribe first so you don't need moderator approval ). Note that the standard keys as generated by GnuPG (DSA and ElGamal encryption) as well as RSA keys are NOT vulnerable. Note also that ElGamal signing keys cannot be generated without the use of a special flag to enable hidden options and even then overriding a warning message about this key type. See below for details on how to identify vulnerable keys. This message is signed using the usual GnuPG distribution key. I apologize for this severe bug and all the problems resulting from it. Background: =========== For historic reasons , GnuPG permits creating ElGamal keys which are usable for both encryption and signing. It is even possible to have one key (the primary one) used for both operations. This is not considered good cryptographic practice, but is permitted by the OpenPGP standard. It was not anticipated that these keys would still be used for signing because they have several disadvantages: The signature is much larger than a RSA or DSA signature, verification and creation takes far longer and the use of ElGamal for signing has always been problematic due to a couple of cryptographic weaknesses when not done properly. Thus I have always dissuaded people from using ElGamal keys for signing; however they are still used and about 200 keys per year are generated and uploaded to the keyservers. In January 2000, as part of version 1.0.2, the GnuPG code was changed to create ElGamal keys which work more efficiently for encryption (selecting a smaller x secret exponent and using a smaller k for encryption). While making this change the problem with signing keys was accidentally introduced: the same small k for encryption was also used for signing. This can be used for a cryptographic attack to reveal the private key (i.e. the secret exponent x) if a signature made using that key is available. Such a signature is always available for primary ElGamal keys because signatures created with that key are used to bind the user ID and other material to the primary key (self-signatures). Even if the key was never used for signing documents it should be considered compromised. Note that this weakness does not apply to the far more common encrypt-only (type 16) ElGamal key as GnuPG does not permit signatures to be issued by this key type. Only the ElGamal sign+encrypt key (type 20) is affected and then only when used to make a signature with a GnuPG version 1.0.2 or later. Impact: ======= All ElGamal sign+encrypt keys (type 20) generated with GnuPG 1.0.2 or later must be considered compromised. Keys generated and used only with prior versions might still be safe but should ideally be revoked too. Note that even if an ElGamal sign+encrypt key was generated before GnuPG 1.0.2, using that key in GnuPG 1.0.2 or later to issue signatures will still compromise the key. Again, ElGamal encrypt-only keys (type 16) from any version of GnuPG are *not* affected. Solution: ========= Do not use *ElGamal sign+encrypt keys (type 20)*. Revoke all those keys immediately. Consider all material signed or encrypted with such a key as compromised. Forthcoming GnuPG versions will remove the ability to create such keys and the ability create ElGamal signatures. How to detect ElGamal type 20 keys: =================================== We have to distinguish between two cases: The primary key is ElGamal sign+encrypt versus just a subkey is ElGamal sign+encrypt. The first case requires immediate attention, like this one: $ gpg --list-keys xxxxxxxx pub 2048G/xxxxxxxx 2001-xx-xx Mallory
such a key might be followed with additional "uid", "sig" or "sub" lines. Here an ElGamal sign+encrypt key is used and very likely created with GnuPG >= 1.0.2. The capital letter "G" indicates a ElGamal sign+encrypt key. REVOKE such a key immediately. The second case is about subkeys. Here is an example: $ gpg --list-keys 621CC013 pub 1024D/621CC013 1998-07-07 Werner Koch uid Werner Koch uid Werner Koch sub 1536g/ADF6A6E1 1999-02-20 [expires: 2002-11-01] sub 1536G/B5A18FF4 1998-07-07 [expires: 2002-07-06] sub 1536R/23D2A63D 2002-07-30 [expires: 2003-12-31] This my usual working key, which is a standard GnuPG key with some additional subkeys added over time. It is a good example because one subkey was created as type 20 signing and encrypt ElGamal key. It is the second subkey: sub 1536G/B5A18FF4 1998-07-07 [expires: 2002-07-06] The capital letter "G" denotes such an possible compromised subkey whereas the first subkey: sub 1536g/ADF6A6E1 1999-02-20 [expires: 2002-11-01] is a standard encryption-only subkey as indicated by the small letter "g". That key is not affected. The keys denoted with this capital letter "G" should be REVOKED unless you are definitely sure those subkeys were never used to create a signatures with GnuPG >= 1.0.2. How to revoke a key: ==================== To create a revocation certificate for the entire key (primary and all subkeys), you do: gpg --gen-revoke your_keyid >foo.rev If you have lost access to your passphrase, hopefully you have a pre-manufactured revocation certificate (either on a floppy or printed on a sheet of paper) which you may the use instead of the above command. This revocation certificate should then be imported into GnuPG using: gpg --import mykey.asc gpg --keyserver subkeys.pgp.net --send-keys your_keyid If your primary key is not an ElGamal key, you might need to revoke a subkey. Note again that only type 20 ElGamal keys (denoted by a capital letter "G") require revocation - the standard ElGamal encrypt-only key (small g) is perfectly fine. Use gpg's edit command like this: $ gpg --edit-key xyzxyzxy The key listing will be shown. Select the subkey you want to revoke, using the command "key 2" (or whatever subkey it is) and then enter the command "revkey" and follow the prompts. Continue then with an export as described above. How many keys are affected? =========================== I can't tell for sure. According to the keyserver statistics, there are 848 primary ElGamal signing keys which are affected. These are a mere 0.04 percent of all primary keys on the keyservers. There are 324 vulnerable subkeys on the keyservers, too. Some of the subkeys might have never been used for signing because for some time in the past GnuPG created the encryption subkey as type 20 but didn't used it for signing because the DSA primary key was used instead. It is better to revoke such keys nevertheless. Note again that the standard configuration of GnuPG does not allow creating the vulnerable sign+encrypt ElGamal keys and that neither DSA (type 17), RSA (type 1) nor ElGamal encrypt-only keys (type 16) are affected. Thanks ====== Phong Nguyen  analyzed the implementation of GnuPG's cryptographic parts and found this vulnerability. He also developed actual code to mount the attack and was so kind to give me enough time to have a look at his paper and to gather a list of known type 20 keys owners. I am really sorry for this, Werner  To get a fresh key you might want to consult the keyservers or get it from using "finger wk at g10code.com" or "finger dd9jn at gnu.org".  See https://lists.gnupg.org/mailman/listinfo/gnupg-users .  The patent status of DSA was not clear when I started to write GnuPG back in 1997.  Working at the French National Center for Scientific Research and the Ecole normale superieure: https://www.di.ens.fr/~pnguyen/ . -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE----- Version: GnuPG v1.2.3 (GNU/Linux) iD8DBQE/xavwaLeriVdUjc0RAquhAJ9crSJ2j8EbqaAnbJGoXBsgERPLaACePwcP 70laYWsyhXkzVgqL2X4ELVk= =xGWG -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----