Sep 01, 2015

Transparent and easy encryption for files in git repositories

Have been installing things to an OS containers (/var/lib/machines) lately, and looking for proper configuration management in these.

Large-scale container setups use some hard-to-integrate things like etcd, where you have to template configuration from values in these, which is not very convenient and very low effort-to-results ratio (maintenance of that system itself) for "10 service containers on 3 hosts" case.

Besides, such centralized value store is a bit backwards for one-container-per-service case, where most values in such "central db" are specific to one container, and it's much easier to edit end-result configs then db values and then templates and then check how it all gets rendered on every trivial tweak.

Usual solution I have for these setups is simply putting all confs under git control, but leaving all the secrets (e.g. keys, passwords, auth data) out of the repo, in case it might be pulled from on other hosts, by different people and for purposes which don't need these sensitive bits and might leak them (e.g. giving access to contracted app devs).

For more transient container setups, something should definitely keep track of these "secrets" however, as "rm -rf /var/lib/machines/..." is much more realistic possibility and has its uses.


So my (non-original) idea here was to have one "master key" per host - just one short string - with which to encrypt all secrets for that host, which can then be shared between hosts and specific people (making these public might still be a bad idea), if necessary.

This key should then be simply stored in whatever key-management repo, written on a sticker and glued to a display, or something.

Git can be (ab)used for such encryption, with its "filter" facilities, which are generally used for opposite thing (normalization to one style), but are easy to adapt for this case too.

Git filters work by running "clear" operation on selected paths (can be a wildcard patterns like "*.c") every time git itself uses these and "smudge" when showing to user and checking them out to a local copy (where they are edited).

In case of encryption, "clear" would not be normalizing CR/LF in line endings, but rather wrapping contents (or parts of them) into a binary blob, and "smudge" should do the opposite, and gitattributes patterns would match files to be encrypted.


Looking for projects that already do that, found quite a few, but still decided to write my own tool, because none seem have all the things I wanted:

  • Use sane encryption.

    It's AES-CTR in the absolutely best case, and AES-ECB (wtf!?) in some, sometimes openssl is called with "password" on the command line (trivial to spoof in /proc).

    OpenSSL itself is a red flag - hard to believe that someone who knows how bad its API and primitives are still uses it willingly, for non-TLS, at least.

    Expected to find at least one project using AEAD through NaCl or something, but no such luck.

  • Have tool manage gitattributes.

    You don't add file to git repo by typing /path/to/myfile managed=version-control some-other-flags to some config, why should you do it here?

  • Be easy to deploy.

    Ideally it'd be a script, not some c++/autotools project to install build tools for or package to every setup.

    Though bash script is maybe taking it a bit too far, given how messy it is for anything non-trivial, secure and reliable in diff environments.

  • Have "configuration repository" as intended use-case.

So wrote git-nerps python script to address all these.

Crypto there is trivial yet solid PyNaCl stuff, marking files for encryption is as easy as git-nerps taint /what/ever/path and bootstrapping the thing requires nothing more than python, git, PyNaCl (which are norm in any of my setups) and git-nerps key-gen in the repo.

README for the project has info on every aspect of how the thing works and more on the ideas behind it.

I expect it'll have a few more use-case-specific features and convenience-wrapper commands once I'll get to use it in a more realistic cases than it has now (initially).


[project link]

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