Mast Kalandar

bandar's colander of random jamun aur aam

Wed, 24 Dec 2008

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Password prompts with pinentry under screen


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I use public-key based access for a number of things and gpg-agent is a useful way to avoid having to repeatedly type the passphrases needed to unlock the private-keys. The agent prompts you for the passphrase and then uses the unlocked keys for a user-determined time-period. For a number of reasons it is a "good thing" if this prompting happens in a different interface from that where the key is being used. In an X window environment this is done by the pinentry-gtk avatar of pinentry which pops up a new window.

However, I use screen to multiplex operations within a single terminal session, often without an X session. It used to bother me that I could not get pinentry-curses to pop up in a different window. No more ;). Here is a hack that seems to work.

  1. Decide on some location like $HOME/.gnupg/pin-tty and assign it to the variable PINTTY.

  2. Use the additional options --ttypath $PINTTY, --ttytype screen and --keep-tty for gpg-agent.

  3. Start a screen window with the command

    screen -M -t pin socat -,raw,echo=0 PTY,link=$PINTTY

Now everytime a program asks gpg-agent to use a secret-key, it will invoke pinentry-curses which will connect to the pin window under screen; the latter will warn you (-M) that something is asking for a passphrase.

It would be nice if one did not have to invoke socat and screen could do step (3) directly.

Is there any way to integrate the use of gpg-agent with openvpn when the latter uses SSL keys?

There may be some security issues with such use! I can't see any at the moment but I may be wrong. :-(


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