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Revision as of 09:33, 13 March 2014

System-wide crypto policy


Unify the crypto policies used by different applications and libraries. That is allow setting a consistent security level for crypto on all applications in a Fedora system. The implementation approach will be to initially modify SSL libraries to respect the policy and gradually adding more libraries and applications.


Current status

  • Targeted release: Fedora 21
  • Last updated: 2013-01-16
  • Tracker bug: <will be assigned by the Wrangler>

Detailed Description

The idea is to have some predefined security levels such as LEVEL-80, LEVEL-112, LEVEL-128, LEVEL-256, or ENISA-LEGACY, ENISA-FUTURE, SUITEB-128, SUITEB-256. These will be the security levels that the administrator of the system will be able to configure by modifying /usr/lib/crypto-profiles/config /etc/crypto-profiles/config

and being applied after executing update-crypto-profiles. (Note: it would be better to have a daemon that watches those files and runs update-crypto-profiles automatically)

After that the administrator should be assured that any application that uses the system settings will follow a policy that adheres to the configured profile.

Ideally setting a profile should be setting:

  • the acceptable TLS/SSL (and DTLS) versions
  • the acceptable ciphersuites and the preferred order
  • acceptable parameters in certificates and key exchange, i.e.:
    • the minimum acceptable size of parameters (DH,ECDH,RSA,DSA,ECDSA)
    • the acceptable elliptic curves (ECDH,ECDSA)
    • the acceptable signature hash functions
  • other TLS options such as:
    • safe renegotiation

An idea of how this will be implemented is to have each Fedora application's configuration file or compilation option will set a system default option. That is for example for applications that use GnuTLS or OpenSSL a priority string or cipher named "SYSTEM". Then the shipped library will make sure that once the "SYSTEM" option is encountered the preconfigured system settings will be applied. When an application doesn't specify any default settings the system settings should apply.

The preconfigured settings for each SSL library will be auto-generated from the default profile in /etc/crypto-profiles/generated/$(libname)/config

Benefit to Fedora

With this change a Fedora system will have a consistent way of setting a default security profile for all applications.


There are changes required in GnuTLS, OpenSSL and NSS libraries. On a second phase non-SSL crypto libraries could use these settings.

  • Proposal owners:

For GnuTLS and OpenSSL the "SYSTEM" cipher needs to be understood and behave as described. For NSS the policy will implemented by reading a pkcs11 string argument.

After that a mechanism to specify crypto policies for Fedora has to be devised, as well as the extraction to each libraries' settings.

  • Other developers:

Packages that use SSL crypto libraries should, after the previous change is complete, replace the default cipher strings with SYSTEM. In F21 the number of packages converted will be a selected small set to prevent an overwhelming flow of bugs in case of breakage, and in F22 more packages will be converted. After F21 bugs will be reported to packages using the crypto libraries (detected possibly using repoquery).

  • Release engineering:

This feature does not require coordination with release engineering.

  • Policies and guidelines:

After the change is complete the packaging guidelines, should mention abouve replacing the default cipher strings with "SYSTEM". This of course need not affect programs that do not have a mechanism for setting ciphers/modes that is already in wide use (e.g., browsers). It mostly targets applications that use some reasonable (or unreasonable) defaults and the user/administrator has little control of them.

Upgrade/compatibility impact

There should be no upgrade/compatibility issues. Programs that use their own strings will continue to work as before, although they will not adhere to system's policy.

How To Test

By trying the different security levels and evaluating whether connecting to specific SSL server using applications that use distinct libraries, and then verifying whether the results are the expected. It will require writing a test application that uses all 3 libraries for that purpose.

User Experience

It may be that setting a high security level could prevent applications that connected to servers below that level to connect. Thus, care must be taken when selecting the default level.


There are many packages that depend on the mentioned crypto libraries.

Contingency Plan

  • Contingency mechanism:

The backup plan if anything goes wrong is to delay for f22. If the infrastructure is in place but doesn't work for any reason, then the packages shouldn't use the system settings and should be reverted to the original settings.

  • Contingency deadline: beta freeze
  • Blocks release? No


My notes are above in the description.

Release Notes