pagesign - A Python wrapper for age and minisign

pagesign - A Python wrapper for age and minisign

pagesign - A Python wrapper for age and minisign

Release: 0.1.1.dev0
Date: May 07, 2022

The pagesign (for ‘Python-age-sign’) module allows Python programs to make use of the functionality provided by age and minisign. Using this module, Python programs can encrypt and decrypt data, digitally sign documents and verify digital signatures, manage (generate, list and delete) encryption and signing keys.

This module is expected to be used with Python versions >= 3.6. Install this module using pip install pagesign. You can then use this module in your own code by doing import pagesign or similar.

Deployment Requirements

Apart from a recent-enough version of Python, in order to use this module you need to have access to a compatible versions of age-keygen, age and minisign executables. The system has been tested with age v1.0.0 and minisign v0.8 on Windows, macOS and Ubuntu.

Acknowledgements

The pagesign module follows a similar approach to python-gnupg (by the same author), and uses Python’s subprocess module to communicate with the age-keygen, age and minisign executables, which it uses to spawn subprocesses to do the real work of encryption, decryption, signing and verification.

Of course this module wouldn’t exist without the great work by the age and minisign developers.

Installation

Installing from PyPI

You can install this package from the Python Package Index (pyPI) by running:

pip install pagesign

Installing from a source distribution archive

To install this package from a source distribution archive, do the following:

  1. Extract all the files in the distribution archive to some directory on your system.
  2. In that directory, run python setup.py install.
  3. Optionally, run python test_pagesign.py to ensure that the package is working as expected.

Installing age

You can get binary releases of the latest version of age for Linux, macOS and Windows from here. Alternatively, you might be able to use package managers such as your distro package manager (Linux), MacPorts or Homebrew (macOS) or Chocolatey (Windows).

Installing minisign

You can get binary releases of the latest version of minisign for Linux, macOS and Windows from here. Alternatively, you might be able to use package managers such as your distro package manager (Linux), MacPorts or Homebrew (macOS) or Chocolatey (Windows).

Before you Start

pagesign works on the basis of a “home directory” which is used to store public and secret key data. (Whereas age and minisign will save created keys in files for you, but nothing beyond that, pagesign will allow you to refer to identities using simple names). The directory on POSIX systems is ~/.pagesign and on Windows is %LOCALAPPDATA%\pagesign. If this directory doesn’t exist, it is created. On POSIX, its permissions are set so only the owner has full access, and everyone else has no access (permission mask of octal 0700).

This directory will contain an identity store (called keystore from now on, as it mainly holds keys). On POSIX, its permissions are set so only the owner has full access, and everyone else has no access (permission mask of octal 0600).

Although identity names could be email addresses (as used with GnuPG, for example) but they could equally be things like ‘project-X-signing’ or similar, reflecting their function rather than a person or organisation. However, keys that are exported for sharing and then imported should be saved with a name that indicates unambiguously what they are / where they’re from.

Getting Started

You interface to the age and minisign functionality through the following items in the pagesign module:

  • The Identity class.
  • The encrypt, decrypt, sign and verify functions. (There are other functions you can use, but those are the main ones.)

Identity Management

The Identity class represents an identity, which can either be a local identity (which has access to secret keys and passphrases in order to decrypt and sign things) or a remote identity (which only has public keys, so it can only be used to encrypt and verify things).

A remote identity consists of:

  • A string indicating the creation time of the identity in YYYY-mm-ddTHH:MM:SSZ format.
  • A public key (from age) for encrypting files.
  • A public key (from minisign) for verifying file signatures.
  • A signature ID (from minisign) - this is not currently used.

A local identity, in addition to the above, contains:

  • A secret key (from age) for decrypting files.
  • A secret key (from minisign) for signing files.
  • A passphrase (created automatically by pagesign and used for signing). This is needed to use minisign’s secret key.

These are stored in attributes of an Identity instance named created, crypt_public, sign_public, sign_id, crypt_secret, sign_secret and sign_pass. Creation of a local identity generates four keys - two secret and two public, two for encryption/decryption and two for signing/verification. The following table illustrates what they’re for.

Attribute Used for …
crypt_public (from age) Encrypting data
crypt_secret (from age) Decrypting data
sign_public (from minisign) Verifying signatures
sign_secret (from minisign) Signing data

Generating identities

To create a new local identity, you simply call

from pagesign import Identity
identity = Identity()

Once you’ve called this, the identity is in memory, but not saved anywhere. To save it, you call its save() method with a name - just a string you choose. It could be a simple identifier like alice or bob, or an email address.

identity.save('bob')

This saves the identity under the name bob. To get it back at a later time, pass it to the Identity constructor:

bob = Identity('bob')

The save() method saves the local identity in a keystore which is stored in the pagesign home directory mentioned earlier. Passing that name to the constructor just retrieves it from the store. If you pass a name that’s not in the keystore, you will get an error.

The keystore is currently just a plaintext file in JSON format. It relies on directory and file permissions for keeping your secret keys secret.

Performance Issues

Key generation requires the system to work with a source of random numbers. Systems which are better at generating random numbers than others are said to have higher entropy. This is typically obtained from the system hardware; keys should usually be generated only on a local machine (i.e. not one being accessed across a network), and that keyboard, mouse and disk activity be maximised during key generation to increase the entropy of the system.

Unfortunately, there are some scenarios - for example, on virtual machines which don’t have real hardware - where insufficient entropy can cause key generation to be slow. If you come across this problem, you should investigate means of increasing the system entropy. On virtualised Linux systems, this can often be achieved by installing the rng-tools package. This is available at least on RPM-based and APT-based systems (Red Hat/Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu and derivative distributions).

Exporting identities

You can export the public parts of an identity to send to someone. To do this, you call the export() method of an instance:

exported = identity.export()

This returns a dictionary which contains the public attributes of the identity, whose keys are the attribute names mentioned earlier.

Importing identities

If you receive a dictonary representing an exported identity from someone, you can import it into your local keystore by calling the class method Identity.imported():

alice = Identity.imported(sent_by_alice, 'alice')

This saves the remote identity in the keystore with the given name. You (bob, say) can use this when exchanging information with alice.

Deleting identities

If you want to completely get rid of an identity, you can call the remove_identities() function. To remove all identities from the keystore, the clear_identities() function is used.

from pagesign import remove_identities, clear_identities

remove_identities('bob', 'alice')  # removes just these two
clear_identities()  # removes everything

There is no way to undo these operations, so be careful!

Listing identities

Now that we’ve seen how to create, import and export identities, let’s move on to finding which identities we have in our keystore. This is fairly straightforward:

from pagesign import list_identities

identities = list_identities()

This returns an iterable of (name, info) tuples in random order. The name is the identity name, and the info is a dictionary of all the identity attributes for that identity.

The Identity class

The Identity class API is here:

class Identity[source]

Attributes

Identity.created : str

This attribute is a string indicating when the identity was created.

Identity.crypt_public : str

This attribute is the public key used for encryption.

Identity.sign_public : str

This attribute is the public key used for signature verification.

Identity.sign_id : str

This attribute is a key ID which is generated by minisign but not currently used in pagesign.

Identity.sign_pass : str

This attribute is a passphrase automatically generated by pagesign and used for signing. It should not be shared with the wrong people, else they could impersonate you when signing stuff.

Identity.crypt_secret : str

This attribute is the secret key used for decryption. It should not be shared with the wrong people, else they can decrypt stuff meant only for you.

Identity.sign_secret : str

This attribute is the secret key used for signing. It should not be shared with the wrong people, else they could impersonate you when signing stuff.

Methods

__init__(name : Optional[str] = None) → Identity[source]

If name is specified, create an instance populated from data in the keystore associated with that name. Otherwise, create a new instance with autogenerated keys for signing and encryption (the key generation takes half a second). To persist such an instance, call its save() method with a name of your choice.

export() → dict[str, str][source]

Rrturn the public elements of this instance as a dictionary. The dictionary keys match the attribute names listed earlier.

save(name : str) → None[source]

Save this instance as a dictionary in the keystore against name, overwriting any existing data under that name.

classmethod imported(public_data : dict[str, str]) → Identity[source]

This is a factory method which generates an Identity instance from the dictionary public_data. The instance isn’t saved in your keystore until you call its save() method with a name of your choice.

Encryption and Decryption

Data intended for some particular recipients is encrypted with the public keys of those recipients. Each recipient can decrypt the encrypted data using the corresponding secret key. A recipient is denoted by a local or remote identity.

Encryption

To encrypt a message, use the encrypt function:

encrypt(path: str, recipients: Union[str, list[str]], outpath: Optional[str] = None, armor: bool = False) → str[source]

Encrypt a file at path to outpath. If outpath isn’t specified, the value of path with ‘.age’ appended is used. If armor is True, the output file is PEM encoded. The recipients can be a single identity name or a list or tuple of identity names. The encrypted file will be decryptable by any of the recipient identities.

The function returns outpath if successful and raises an exception if not.

Note

Although age supports encryption and decryption using passphrases, that is currently not supported here because there is currently no way to pass in a passphrase to age using a subprocess pipe.

Decryption

To decrypt a message, use the decrypt function:

decrypt(path: str, identities: Union[str, list[str]], outpath: Optional[str] = None) → str[source]

Decrypt a file at path to outpath. If outpath isn’t specified, then if path ends with .age, it is stripped to compute outpath - otherwise it has ‘.dec’ appended to determine outpath. The identities can be a single identity name or a list or tuple of identity names.

The function returns outpath if successful and raises an exception if not.

Encryption and Decryption in memory

You can encrypt and decrypt in memory using the following functions:

encrypt_mem(data: Union[str, bytes] , recipients: Union[str, list[str]], armor: bool = False) → bytes[source]

Encrypt data in data and return the encrypted value as a bytestring. If data is a string, it is encoded to binary using UTF-8 encoding. If armor is True, the output is PEM encoded. The recipients can be a single identity name or a list or tuple of identity names. The encrypted result will be decryptable by any of the recipient identities.

New in version 0.1.1.

decrypt_mem(data: Union[str, bytes] , identities: Union[str, list[str]]) → bytes[source]

Decrypt data in data and return the decrypted value as a bytestring. If data is a string, it is encoded to binary using UTF-8 encoding. (This really only makes sense if the encrypted data is in PEM format.) The identities can be a single identity name or a list or tuple of identity names.

New in version 0.1.1.

Signing and Verification

Data intended for digital signing is signed with the secret key of the signer. Each recipient can verify the signed data using the corresponding public key.

Signatures are always stored ‘detached’, i.e. in separate files from what they are signing.

Note that although encryption and decryption can be performed in memory, there is no analoguous in-memory API for signing and verification, because minisign only signs and verifies signature files against source files and identities.

Signing

To sign a message, use the sign() function:

sign(path: str, identity: str, outpath: Optional[str] = None) → str[source]

Sign the file at path using identity as the signer. Write the signature to outpath. If outpath isn’t specified, it is computed by appending ‘.sig’ to path.

The function returns outpath if successful and raises an exception if not.

Verification

To verify some data which you’ve received, use the verify() function:

verify(path: str, identity: str, sigpath: Optional[str] = None)[source]

Verify that the file at path was signed by identity using the signature in sigpath. If sigpath isn’t specified, it is computed by appending ‘.sig’ to path.

The function raises an exception if verification fails.

Combining operations

Often, you may want to combine encryption and signing, or verification before decryption. However, please note the caveats listed in Problems with naïve combination of signing and encryption.

Using signing and encryption together

If you want to use signing and encryption together, use encrypt_and_sign():

encrypt_and_sign(path: str, recipients: Union[str, list[str]], signer: str, armor: bool = False, outpath: Optional[str] = None, sigpath: Optional[str] = None) → [str, str][source]

Encrypt and sign the file at path for recipients and sign with identity signer. Place the encrypted output at outpath and the signature in sigpath.

If armor is True, the encrypted output is PEM encoded.

If outpath isn’t specified, it is computed by appending ‘.age’ to path. If sigpath isn’t specified, it is computed by appending ‘.sig’ to outpath.

The function returns (outpath, sigpath)` if successful and raises an exception if not.

Changed in version 0.1.1.

The algorithm has changed from a naïve encrypt and sign operation to:

  1. Sign the plaintext.
  2. Construct a JSON object of the base64-encoded plaintext and signature.
  3. Encrypt that.
  4. Compute the SHA-256 hashes of all recipients’ public keys into an array.
  5. Construct a JSON object of the encrypted data and hashes.
  6. Sign that and save it and its signature.

This corresponds to Section 5.2 of the Davis paper.

Using verification and decryption together

As a counterpart to encrypt_and_sign(), there’s also verify_and_decrypt():

verify_and_decrypt(path: str, recipients: Union[str, list[str]], signer: str, outpath: Optional[str] = None, sigpath: Optional[str] = None) → str[source]

Verify and decrypt the file at path for recipients and signed with identity signer. Place the decrypted output at outpath and use the signature in sigpath.

If sigpath isn’t specified, it is computed by appending ‘.sig’ to path. If outpath isn’t specified, it is computed as in decrypt().

The function returns outpath if successful and raises an exception if not.

Changed in version 0.1.1.

The files passed to this function must have been produced by encrypt_and_sign(), as we need to reverse the algoritm which is applied there.

Problems with naïve combination of signing and encryption

Naïvely combining encryption and signing can lead to problems. These are described in some depth in Don Davis’ paper on the subject. While pagesign provides access to encryption and signing primitives and allows a relatively easy means of combining them, the actual data to be encrypted and signed needs to be constructed with care. The solutions proposed in Section 5 of Davis’ paper involve combining data with identities during signing and encryption.

The question of key distribution in a trustworthy way is currently out of scope for pagesign - you are expected to get exported keys securely to people you need to exchange data with, and they are expected to get their public keys to you securely.

Logging

The module makes use of the facilities provided by Python’s logging package. A single logger is created with the module’s __name__, hence pagesign unless you rename the module.

Test Harness

The distribution includes a test harness, test_pagesign.py, which contains unit tests covering the functionality described above.

Note

If you run the test harness, it will create a log file test_pagesign.log in a logs subdirectory under your home directory.

Download

The latest version is available from the PyPI page.

Status and Further Work

The pagesign module is quite usable, though in its early stages and with the API still a little fluid. How this module evolves will be determined by feedback from its user community.

If you find bugs and want to raise issues, or want to suggest improvements, please do so here. All feedback will be gratefully received.

The source code repository is here.