Title: Gentoo OpenPGP Authority Keys
Author: Michał Górny <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Type: Standards Track
This GLEP proposes using Authority Keys to provide developer key
validity proofs that are compatible with web of trust. The signatures
on ``@gentoo.org`` UIDs are automatically maintained, and user can
follow the current set of valid keys by importing and trusting a single
Authority Key. The system operates within standard features of GnuPG
and requires only minimal setup from the user.
All the recent efforts on improving OpenPGP usage in Gentoo were focused
on internal usage and distribution. The existing policies and tooling
are sufficient to account for verify specific usage, including commit
signing (with both internal and user-oriented verification via custom
tools) or release media verification. However, they do not provide
for rapid OpenPGP deployment for secure communications usage.
The Gentoo webservers distribute both convenient key bundles
and individual keys via Web Key Directory. While in both cases
the transfer is secured via HTTPS, providing authenticity verification
via PKI/DNSSEC, those channels are meant to *distribute* the keys
and not provide implicit guarantees on their *validity*. For example,
they provide no guarantees that the user identifiers on the keys are
Internally, Gentoo's LDAP directory serves as the canonical source
of information on key validity. It stores a list of key fingerprints
for each Gentoo developers, and therefore allows the system to establish
which keys are acceptable in context of a specific developer. However,
the LDAP directory is not available to the public and therefore is only
suitable for internal infrastructure use. [#LDAP-GUIDE]_
The Gentoo website is focused on service keys and not individual
developer keys. While it could easily be amended with full fingerprints
of all developer keys, the necessity of manually verifying such a large
number of keys would be inconvenient to the end user.
The key package provided in the Gentoo repository is also focused
on service keys, and has limited value in verifying key validity
(currently, it assumes all UIDs on all keys in the keyring are valid).
Providing a package with developer keys would both require frequent
semi-manual updates, and establishing a more precise validity model.
Gentoo-keys project provides so-called seed files that carry enough
information to establish key validity, and are authenticated via HTTPS.
However, they rely on installing custom software that does not integrate
well with regular use of GnuPG e.g. in mail clients, and that is not
easily usable in other systems. [#GENTOO-KEYS]_
The Authority Key proposal aims to provide a more standard way of
establishing validity of Gentoo developer keys. It builds upon the web
of trust model, requiring no special software and minimal setup from end
Purpose and usage
The purpose of the Authority Keys is to provide an automatically issued
signatures on Gentoo developer OpenPGP keys, based on the information
provided internally in the Gentoo LDAP directory. The service
is provided for all active Gentoo developers, from the moment of their
Whenever a developer account is created, reactivated, renamed or has
a new key fingerprint added, a signature is automatically created
on the appropriate ``@gentoo.org`` UIDs and pushed to the keyservers.
Whenever an old signature is about to expire, a new one is automatically
created. Whenever a developer account is disabled, renamed or has
a fingerprint removed, the signatures from obsolete UIDs are
The signatures are issued only on the UIDs matching the Gentoo
developer's ``@gentoo.org`` mailbox address, on keys whose primary key
fingerprints are listed in Gentoo LDAP ``gpgfingerprint`` records. Keys
missing such an UID are ignored. *Names on the relevant user
identifiers are not being verified*. The signatures are issued with
an expiration date of 1 year from being issued.
L1 and L2 keys
The Authority Keys are issued in two layers, appropriately called L1
The single L1 Authority Key is used only to (manually) certify the L2
Keys, and is kept securely offline following the Infrastructure policies
on protecting primary keys. The fingerprint of this key is published
on the Gentoo website and users are requested to sign this key to enable
key validity via Authority Keys.
The L2 Authority Keys are used directly to sign developer keys. Since
they are used in an automated service, they are exposed to attacks.
They are trust-signed by the L1 key and can be revoked and rotated more
frequently than the L1 key.
This dual-layer model aims to combine improved security with user
convenience. While the individual Gentoo keys are signed by the L2 key,
the users sign only the L1 key and the validity is established via chain
L1 → L2 → developer key. This makes it possible to replace the L2 key
if it ever becomes compromised without requiring the users to
reestablish trust. Since the replacement key will be also signed
by the L1 key (provided that it was not compromised), the validity
of developer keys will remain established.
Validating the L1 key
Establishing the authenticity of the L1 Authority Key is essential
to the system. Initially, the users will be able to determine
the authenticity via comparing the key fingerprint with the one
published on the website. This will shift the authenticity verification
to HTTPS (PKI/DNSSEC).
However, at the same time users are encouraged to sign the key upon
verifying it. This will effectively make it possible to establish key's
validity via OpenPGP web of trust.
Authority Key model vs web of trust
The regular web of trust model relies on individuals verifying
the Gentoo developer identity and access to the particular
``@gentoo.org`` e-mail address. The particular UID is considered valid
if a sufficient number of people trusted by the user in question have
confirmed the developer's identity. This specifically relies on being
able to establish a chain of trust between the developer and user.
At the moment, many of the existing Gentoo developers did not even
establish a chain of trust between one another, not to mention web
of trust coverage that would make it feasible for users to reach any
specific developer. Efforts towards improving that were rejected
by the developers, mostly based on argumentation that many developers
find it impossible to meet any other community member for the purpose
of identity verification.
The Authority Key model, on the other hand, assumes that there is
a single trusted authority that verifies Gentoo developers' keys.
The user verifies the key representing this authority and trusts it.
The validity of keys used by all developers is established via a single
point of trust.
The procedure of establishing the validity of a specific key does not
involve the necessity of meeting anyone or verifying identity. While
the validity is exposed in a manner compatible with web of trust, it is
verified against LDAP which implicitly proves authenticity of the keys.
Therefore, the Authority Key model is much easier to set up. The user
merely needs to verify a single key and trust it, while pure WoT would
probably require trusting multiple third party identities. It is also
more secure as it limits the attack vector to a single key rather than
one of potentially large number of keys that need to be trusted by
the user. If the user decides to stop trusting ``@gentoo.org`` UIDs,
the validity can easily be reverted by disabling the single Authority
Authority Key vs gentoo-keys
The gentoo-keys project provides seed data that is sufficient to verify
the authenticity of the keys. However, this data uses entirely custom
format and therefore requires special tooling to process. This tooling
has not been packaged for any other Linux distribution or operating
system, and is non-trivial to install as unprivileged user.
The Authority Key model is based entirely on built-in GnuPG features.
It does not require any special tooling to run. The necessary bootstrap
can be done manually via GnuPG command-line facilities. Eventually,
even that may become unnecessary if the Authority Key is covered via
web of trust.
Furthermore, gentoo-keys seed data currently requires manual updates.
The Authority Key system is automated, and therefore subject to smaller
delays in operation.
In the original proposal, it was debated whether new developers should
be subject to grace period during which their keys would not be signed.
However, no arguments were brought to support such a period,
and therefore the GLEP assumes all developers are covered as long
as they are considered active Gentoo developers.
Since only ``@gentoo.org`` e-mail addresses are under Gentoo control
and developer identities outside the distribution are outside the scope
of this project, only UIDs matching the respective developer addresses
are signed. This is meant to prevent the developers from forging
somebody else's identity.
The developers' real names are not verified. Firstly, the purpose
of this project is to establish association between keys and specific
Gentoo developers, whose primary identification is the nickname used
in Gentoo. The exact real name is irrelevant to the validity in this
context. Secondly, comparing real names between LDAP and user
identifiers would be non-trivial and most likely cause a number of
developers being silently rejected due to e.g. modified name spelling.
caff verification model
During the initial debate, using a model similar to Debian's caff tool
was suggested. In this model, new signatures are sent encrypted
to the developers rather than uploaded straight to keyservers.
Developers need to decrypt and add them to their keys themselves.
The main purpose of the caff model is to assist users in verifying
e-mail addresses of the UIDs they are about to sign. By sending
an encrypted e-mail, this model verifies that the recipient is both
able to receive mail at a specific address and decrypt messages
encrypted using the specified key. Since the message contains complete
signature ready to be imported, the key signing process can be completed
entirely by the recipient and the sender does not need to be concerned
past sending it.
However, there seems to be no clear reason to employ this model here.
A reasonable assumption can be made that if one is able to access
the LDAP directory as a particular Gentoo developer, one is also able
to access the developer's mailbox. This considered, verifying
the e-mail address in caff fashion is redundant.
Furthermore, implementing this model increases complexity both server-
and client-side. The server would need to be entirely stateful to avoid
sending duplicate mails, and at the same time it would need to permit
re-requesting signature e-mails. The developers would need to manually
import the signature and send it to keyservers.
It is quite probable that some of the less active developers would be
permanently excluded by being unaware or uninterested in participating
in the new system. Furthermore, signature expirations would cause
potentially extensive periods of key invalidity to occur (between
signature expiration and import of the new one). During those periods,
users' ability to mail developers securely would be hindered.
The dual-layer Authority Key model is established in order to combine
security with needed automation. The L1 Key provides higher level
of security, at the cost of requiring manual operation. The L2 Keys are
suitable for automated use but that implies they're exposed to attacks.
If the model was based on a single key and that key was compromised,
the key would have to be revoked and replaced with a new one. All users
would have to fetch the new key and validate it independently to restore
the developer key validity.
Using two keys introduces a middle link in the trust chain that can be
replaced easily. Users trust the L1 Key which is unlikely to be
compromised. The trust on L2 Key is implicitly provided by the L1 Key,
and users do not need to be specifically concerned about it. If L2 Key
is compromised, the Infrastructure developers can replace it and restore
the trust via (non-compromised) L1 Key. Users only have to fetch
the new key and validity is restored.
The user needs to be able to verify the authenticity of the L1 Key.
This can be done in one of two ways:
a. via comparing the fingerprint against the record on Gentoo website.
This relies on the security of Gentoo web servers, and the website
content repository. From user side, authenticity relies on PKI
and/or DNSSEC, and possibly any other future HTTPS protection
b. via web of trust, provided the user trusts someone who verified
the key first. In this case, the authenticity relies entirely
on the web of trust model, and is subject to attacks specific to it
(e.g. to wrongly trusting a malicious person).
The L1 Key itself is protected from being compromised via current
Infrastructure best practices. At this moment, this involves password
protection and offline storage. If the key ever becomes compromised,
the procedures involve revoking it and announcing the problem.
The L2 Keys lack this kind of protection by design. If they become
compromised, the procedure involves revoking the key quickly
and replacing it with a new one.
In both cases, the revocation procedure relies on the user periodically
refreshing keys against reliable sources. Typically this involves using
SKS keyservers over HKPS which in turn relies on PKI to prevent a third
party from intercepting propagation of revocations.
The validity of developer key UIDs is established via signatures made
by the L2 Key. If UIDs become no longer valid, the signatures are
revoked in order to invalidate them. This also relies on users
periodically pulling keyservers for developer key updates.
Additionally, signatures are made with one year expiration time.
In the extremely unlikely case of scripts failing to revoke
the particular signature, it will expire automatically.
This proposal is established independently of existing solutions,
and does not affect them.
The reference tooling for maintaining Authority Key signatures is
published as gentoo-authority-key project. [#GENTOO-AUTHORITY-KEY]_
.. [#KEY-BUNDLES] Directory listing including .gpg key bundles
.. [#LDAP-GUIDE] Project:Infrastructure/LDAP Guide - Gentoo Wiki
.. [#WWW-SIGNATURES] Release media signatures - Gentoo Linux
.. [#KEY-PACKAGE] app-crypt/openpgp-keys-gentoo-release – Gentoo Packages
.. [#GENTOO-KEYS] Project:Gentoo-keys - Gentoo Wiki
.. [#CAFF] caff - Debian Wiki
.. [#GENTOO-AUTHORITY-KEY] mgorny/gentoo-authority-key: Script to
automatically sign developer keys using OpenPGP authority key
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