Version 1 (modified by chris, 13 days ago) (diff)


Replacing Certificates

Certificates ensure the security of the Box Backup server (bbstored) against malicious clients connecting, which could damage existing backups, prevent new backups from occurring, and waste CPU time and disk space on the server.

They also allow the client (bbackupd) to verify that it is connecting to the correct server, not an imposter, who could not decrypt the encrypted data, but could substitute bad data instead, or delete existing backups.

Box Backup uses X.509 certificates, which are generated on the server and clients. They are signed by a Certificate Authority, usually a private (free) one created by the included scripts, which should be kept on a separate machine to all servers and clients, strongly protected from the Internet, and with an encrypted disk.

The certificates generated by Box Backup expire in the year 2038 for server certificates, and 5000 days (13 years) for client certificates. Sometimes it may be necessary to generate new certificates. For example, if a client or server is compromised, it needs a new certificate. If the CA is compromised, a new one should be created (on a fresh, secure box) and all certificates generated by the old one and still in use should be replaced.

Also, sometimes the powers that be (e.g. OpenSSL, Debian) decide that the previous standard encryption key length or algorithm is no longer enough, and should be considered insecure from now on. This is usually because of advances in computing power, but could also happen if a weakness is discovered in a cryptographic algorithm. It is a subjective decision based on the estimated time, cost and energy of breaking the encryption on data using that key length or algorithm dropping below an arbitrary threshold.

Debian made such a decision when deploying OpenSSL 1.1.1, which is currently only in Debian Unstable (as of January 2019). Because the minimum RSA key length is now 2048 bits, and all keys generated by previous versions are 1024 bits long, you will encounter the following errors:

  • Server and client fail to start, with the error TLSLoadCertificatesFailed: SSL or crypto error: loading certificates from testfiles/clientCerts.pem: error:140AB18F:SSL routines:SSL_CTX_use_certificate:ee key too small.
  • Test/basicserver and other tests that use bbstored will fail because of this.

You can work around this by editing /etc/ssl/openssl.cnf and finding the following section (at the end of the file):

MinProtocol = TLSv1.2
CipherString = [email protected]=2

and changing SECLEVEL=2 to SECLEVEL=1. However you would be going against Debian's recommendations by doing this, and it also affects (reduces the security level of) the whole system, not just Box Backup.

Before (an unreleased version) it was not possible to configure the cipher strength specifically in Box Backup, without modifying the source and recompiling. It now is possible, but also, older versions can still use certificates and keys generated by this version and later, which are also compatible with Debian's new stricter security level. Therefore we recommend that you at least use this version (or later) to generate new CA, server and client certificates for the affected system(s) and any that they connect to.

This may require you to replace the CA certificate on all clients.

To actually generate new certificates, upgrade the version of Box Backup on your CA (at least) to (unreleased version) and then follow the Certificates and Account Management instructions to create a new CA, and new certificates for the server(s) and client(s). You can generate all the certificates and keys on the CA, you don't need to upgrade all the servers and clients just so that they can generate the new, stronger certificates.