After some crypto sillyness with @feliam, @julianor and @ortegaalfredo on Twitter I cooked up a one-time pad crypto implementation in Python. This speaks volumes, not of my talent as a cryptographer (which is none at all) but the sad state of my social life these days (which happens to be the same amount).
What is one-time pad encryption?
Feel free to skip this section if you already know the answer. Especially so you don’t have to suffer my layman’s explanations of cryptography. 🙂
To put it simply, a one-time pad cipher is one in which the plaintext (i.e. the original message) is encoded using a completely new, random key each time it’s sent. When properly used (and I hope I have) this system is provably unbreakable. That means the ciphertext (that is, the encoded message) can never be decoded without the proper key – even if the encoding algorithm is very simple, like a bitwise XOR operation on each byte.
There are a few caveats: first of all, the key can never be reused. If you do, the system not only ceases to be unbreakable but it’s also as strong as the encoding algorithm you used. So if you chose XOR encoding and were tempted to use the key twice, you might as well have used a “magic ring” from a cereal box. 😉
The second caveat: the key must be truly random. For this reason need a random generator that can guarantee a certain amount of entropy, for example /dev/random on many Unix systems, to get the one-time pads, instead of the random module, which is only a PRNG (pseudo-random generator). PRNGs can only produce a seemingly random stream of numbers, all derived from a single value (called the seed number) – so it’s “randomness” is just as good as the seed number from which all others are calculated. (This is a useful property in other contexts, like avoiding to have to store the contents of all malformed files produced by a fuzzer in order to reproduce the crashes, but I digress).
The third caveat: the key must never be transmitted over an insecure medium. Sounds pretty much like a no-brainer, I know, but it’s worth mentioning that public key crypto doesn’t suffer from this problem. (Now you know why GPG is so much better than this). Real-life uses of one-time pads include storing the keys in codebooks, which the recipient of the message would carry everywhere. Then the encrypted messages could be safely sent in the clear, say on some radio frequency by a numbers station, until the codebook was used up.
How does this code work?
If you weren’t among the lucky ones who skipped over my ramblings in the previous section you can easily guess by now: we’ll be using a bitwise XOR encoding of each byte of the plaintext against the corresponding byte of the one-time pad to produce the ciphertext. This is how we generate a one-time pad of any given size:
$ ./otp.py generate test.key -s 1024 $ ls -l test.key -rw-r--r-- 1 user group 1024 2010-02-17 01:23 test.key $
The alternative for the lazy is to pass the name of the file we want to encrypt. A one-time pad of the exact same size will be generated. We’ll use the -f flag this time to force overwriting the previous file.
$ ./otp.py generate test.key conscience.txt -f $ ls -l test.key conscience.txt -rw-r--r-- 1 user group 3880 2010-02-17 01:22 conscience.txt -rw-r--r-- 1 user group 3880 2010-02-17 01:24 test.key $
And to satisfy all audiences, there’s also an option for the paranoid: the -p flag uses /dev/random for maximum security instead of the much faster /dev/urandom. It does take considerably longer to generate even small one-time pads, that’s why this option is disabled by default.
$ ./otp.py generate test.key conscience.txt -f -p $ ls -l test.key conscience.txt -rw-r--r-- 1 user group 3880 2010-02-17 01:22 conscience.txt -rw-r--r-- 1 user group 3880 2010-02-17 01:38 test.key $
Now that we have our one-time pad we can encrypt the message:
$ ./otp.py encrypt conscience.txt test.key conscience.crypto $ ls -l conscience.* -rw-r--r-- 1 user group 3880 2010-02-17 01:38 conscience.crypto -rw-r--r-- 1 user group 3880 2010-02-17 01:22 conscience.txt $
Both files are the same size but have different contents. Since it’s no longer ASCII trying to cat the file only renders a bunch of garbage in the terminal. Finally, this is how you decrypt it:
$ ./otp.py decrypt conscience.crypto test.key conscience2.txt $ ls -l conscience* -rw-r--r-- 1 user group 3880 2010-02-17 01:38 conscience2.txt -rw-r--r-- 1 user group 3880 2010-02-17 01:38 conscience.crypto -rw-r--r-- 1 user group 3880 2010-02-17 01:22 conscience.txt $ cmp conscience.txt conscience2.txt $
After decryption, conscience2.txt is identical to the original file and contains the familiar text of The Conscience of a Hacker.
As always, the code is available for download below. Enjoy! 🙂
- 24-Jul-2011: Small update to the command like parsing and the documentation.
#!/usr/bin/env python # One-time pad example in Python # Copyright (c) 2009-2011, Mario Vilas # All rights reserved. # # Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without # modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met: # # * Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, # this list of conditions and the following disclaimer. # * Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright # notice,this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the # documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution. # * Neither the name of the copyright holder nor the names of its # contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from # this software without specific prior written permission. # # THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS "AS IS" # AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE # IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE # ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT OWNER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE # LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR # CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF # SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS # INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN # CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) # ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE # POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE. from __future__ import with_statement import sys import os.path import optparse try: import psyco from psyco.classes import * except ImportError: pass class OneTimePad(object): """ This is a simple one-time pad cipher implementation in Python. For more information on one-time pads: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-time_pad A word of warning: while I made my best effort to avoid programming mistakes and one time pads are not that hard to implement, I'm not a cryptographer. So until a proper cryptographer can validate this code, use it at your own risk! It's best to use /dev/random here, instead of the "random" module. The reason for that is that the random module doesn't truly provide random numbers, but pseudo-random numbers that are calculated from a seed number. So the entire amount of information contained in a stream of pseudo-random numbers fits into the seed number... using this would be no more secure than just picking a single number, defeating the whole purpose of using a one-time pad. It's also not a good idea to limit /dev/random to printable characters only, so if the user wants printable files we'll have to proceed as usual and later encode the results. One-time pad generation only works on Unix systems, but it should be possible to port it to Windows by deriving this class and reimplementing the check_dev() and random() methods to use Win32 crypto API. Encryption and decryption should work in all platforms. """ # Buffer size for file access block_size = 65536 # Paranoid mode (use /dev/random instead of the faster /dev/urandom) paranoid = False # Placeholder for random generator device (open file) dev = None # Check for the presence of the required random generator device def check_dev(self): if self.paranoid: return os.path.exists('/dev/random') return os.path.exists('/dev/urandom') # Generate a string of random bytes def random(self, size): if not self.dev: if self.paranoid: self.dev = open('/dev/random', 'r') else: self.dev = open('/dev/urandom', 'r') return self.dev.read(size) # Get the size of an open file def filesize(self, fd): fd.seek(0,2) n = fd.tell() fd.seek(0,0) return n # Generate a random one-time pad def generate(self, padfile, total_size): random = self.random block_size = self.block_size while total_size > 0: block = random( min(block_size, total_size) ) padfile.write(block) total_size = total_size - len(block) # Encrypt or decrypt a file using a one-time pad def cipher(self, infile, outfile, padfile): block_size = self.block_size while 1: data = infile.read(block_size) if not data: break pad = padfile.read(len(data)) encoded = ''.join([ chr(ord(a) ^ ord(b)) for a, b in zip(data, pad) ]) outfile.write(encoded) # Main function (most of it is command line parsing stuff) def run(self): # Define a command line parser banner = ( "One-time pad example in Python\n" "by Mario Vilas (mvilas at gmail dot com)\n" "https://breakingcode.wordpress.com/" "2010/02/17/one-time-pad-encryption-in-python\n" ) usage = ( "\n\n" "Create a one-time pad:\n" " ./%prog generate -k example.key -s size\n" " ./%prog generate -k example.key -t example.txt\n" "Encrypt a file:\n" " ./%prog encrypt -t example.txt -k example.key -c example.cipher\n" "Decrypt a file:\n" " ./%prog decrypt -c example.cipher -k example.key -t example.txt" ) formatter = MyHelpFormatter(banner, max_help_position=26) parser = optparse.OptionParser(usage=usage, formatter=formatter) parser.add_option("-t", "--text", action="store", type="string", metavar="FILE", help="plaintext filename") parser.add_option("-c", "--cipher", action="store", type="string", metavar="FILE", help="ciphertext filename") parser.add_option("-k", "--key", action="store", type="string", metavar="FILE", help="one-time pad filename") parser.add_option("-s", "--size", action="store", type="int", metavar="NUM", help="one-time pad size in bytes") parser.add_option("-f", "--force", action="store_true", default=False, help="force overwriting of any output files") parser.add_option("-p", "--paranoid", action="store_true", default=False, help="use /dev/random instead of /dev/urandom (slower!)") # Parse the command line args = list(sys.argv) if len(args) == 1: args = args + [ '--help' ] options, args = parser.parse_args(args) # Set paranoid mode if requested self.paranoid = options.paranoid # Check command is present if len(args) < 2: parser.error("missing command") command = args.strip().lower()[0:1] if not command: parser.error("missing command") # If more parameters are present, try to guess what they are if len(args) > 2: p = 2 try: if command == 'g': # g key size # g key text if not options.key: options.key = args[p] p = p + 1 try: options.size = int(args[p]) p = p + 1 except ValueError: options.text = args[p] p = p + 1 elif command == 'e': # e text key cipher if not options.text: options.text = args[p] p = p + 1 if not options.key: options.key = args[p] p = p + 1 if not options.cipher: options.cipher = args[p] p = p + 1 elif command == 'd': # d cipher key text if not options.cipher: options.cipher = args[p] p = p + 1 if not options.key: options.key = args[p] p = p + 1 if not options.text: options.text = args[p] p = p + 1 else: parser.error("too many arguments") except IndexError: pass if p < len(args): parser.error("too many arguments") # The one-time pad filename is always required if not options.key: parser.error("missing one-time pad filename") # Plaintext and ciphertext files are required for "decrypt" and "encrypt" if command in ('d', 'e'): if not options.text: parser.error("missing plaintext filename") if not options.cipher: parser.error("missing ciphertext filename") # Generate a one-time pad file if command == 'g': if options.cipher: parser.error("unused argument: ciphertext filename") if not self.check_dev(): parser.error("random generator not available") if not options.force and os.path.exists(options.key): parser.error("file already exists: %s" % options.key) if options.text: if not os.path.exists(options.text): parser.error("can't find file: %s" % options.text) with open(options.text, 'r') as textfile: size = self.filesize(textfile) elif options.size: size = options.size else: parser.error("either plaintext file or one-time pad size is required") with open(options.key, 'w') as padfile: self.generate(padfile, size) # Encrypt a file using a one-time pad elif command == 'e': if not os.path.exists(options.key): parser.error("can't find file: %s" % options.key) if not os.path.exists(options.text): parser.error("can't find file: %s" % options.text) if not options.force and os.path.exists(options.cipher): parser.error("file already exists: %s" % options.cipher) with open(options.key, 'r') as padfile: with open(options.text, 'r') as textfile: if self.filesize(textfile) > self.filesize(padfile): raise RuntimeError("Not enough bytes in the one-time pad for this file!") with open(options.cipher, 'w') as cipherfile: self.cipher(textfile, cipherfile, padfile) # Decrypt a file using a one-time pad elif command == 'd': if not os.path.exists(options.key): parser.error("can't find file: %s" % options.key) if not os.path.exists(options.cipher): parser.error("can't find file: %s" % options.cipher) if not options.force and os.path.exists(options.text): parser.error("file already exists: %s" % options.text) with open(options.key, 'r') as padfile: with open(options.cipher, 'r') as cipherfile: if self.filesize(cipherfile) > self.filesize(padfile): raise RuntimeError("Not enough bytes in the one-time pad for this file!") with open(options.text, 'w') as textfile: self.cipher(cipherfile, textfile, padfile) # Unknown command else: parser.error("unknown command: %s" % args) # Just a small tweak to optparse to be able to print a banner. # (Why is there an epilog but no prolog in optparse?) class MyHelpFormatter(optparse.IndentedHelpFormatter): def __init__(self, banner, *argv, **argd): self.banner = banner optparse.IndentedHelpFormatter.__init__(self, *argv, **argd) def format_usage(self, usage): msg = optparse.IndentedHelpFormatter.format_usage(self, usage) return '%s\n%s' % (self.banner, msg) # Run from the command line, try to use Psyco for acceleration if __name__ == "__main__": try: psyco.full() except NameError: pass OneTimePad().run()