Roy Lenferink Roy Lenferink - 13 days ago 4
C Question

Can I swap the private and public key within ZeroMQ

At the moment, I am investigating the possibilities to use ZeroMQ with Curve to secure traffic between my publishers and subscribers.

I have successfully implemented a pub sub system which is using CZMQ.

At the moment, my publisher is encrypting the data he wants to send with his private key and subscribers can decrypt this data using the public key of the publisher. This is more 'authenticating' data than 'encrypting' data. Because when there is a Man In The Middle he can still decrypt all the data because the public key of the publisher is public.

I'm coding in C with the latest version of ZeroMQ and CZMQ.

My publisher.c

zctx_t* zmq_context = zctx_new();

zauth_t* auth = zauth_new (zmq_context);
zauth_set_verbose (auth, true);
zauth_configure_curve (auth, "*", CURVE_ALLOW_ANY);

zcert_t* pub_cert = zcert_load("cert.key"); // private key of publisher
void* socket = zsocket_new(zmq_context, ZMQ_PUB);
zcert_apply(pub_cert, socket);
zsocket_set_curve_server(socket, true);

//start publishing from here

My subscriber.c

zctx_t* zmq_context = zctx_new();

zcert_t* sub_cert = zcert_new();
zcert_t* pub_cert = zcert_load(""); // public key of publisher
char* pub_key = zcert_public_txt(pub_cert);

void* zmq_s = zsocket_new(zmq_context, ZMQ_SUB);
zcert_apply(sub_cert, zmq_s);
zsocket_set_curve_serverkey(zmq_s, pub_key);

//start subscribing to topics and receiving messages from here

From this point, the publisher is encrypting all the data with his private key and the subscribing is decrypting all the data with the public key of the publisher. I would like to swap this system.

So, I would like to encrypt all the data with the public key of the publisher and decrypt all the data with the private key of the publisher.

I have tested it and changed the
in my publisher.c.

I also changed this code in my subscriber.c:

zcert_t* pub_cert = zcert_load(""); // public key of publisher
char* pub_key = zcert_public_txt(pub_cert);

to this code:

zcert_t* pub_cert = zcert_load("cert.key"); // private key of publisher
char* pub_key = zcert_secret_txt(pub_cert);

When I run my publisher and subscriber with these code changes, the publisher is constantly giving me the message:
CURVE I: cannot open client HELLO -- wrong server key?

My question: Is it possibile to use a public key for encrypting data (publisher socket) and the private key for decrypting data (subscriber socket) with the architecture of ZeroMQ and CZMQ ?

Many thanks in advance,



I think you're misunderstanding the ZeroMQ CURVE mechanism. There are two great articles written about it by Pieter Hintjens, one is theoretical, where you can find this:

Clients and servers have long-term permanent keys, and for each connection, they create and securely exchange short-term transient keys. Each key is a public/secret keypair, following the elliptic curve security model.

To start a secure connection the client needs the server permanent public key. It then generates a transient key pair and sends a HELLO command to the server that contains its short term public key. The HELLO command is worthless to an attacker; it doesn't identify the client.

The server, when it gets a HELLO, generates its own short term key pair (one connection uses four keys in total), and encodes this new private key in a "cookie", which it sends back to the client as a WELCOME command. It also sends its short term public key, encrypted so only the client can read it. It then discards this short term key pair.

At this stage, the server hasn't stored any state for the client. It has generated a keypair, sent that back to the client in a way only the client can read, and thrown it away.

The client comes back with an INITIATE command that provides the server with its cookie back, and the client permanent public key, encrypted as a "vouch" so only the server can read it. As far as the client is concerned, the server is now authenticated, so it can also send back metadata in the command.

The server reads the INITIATE and can now authenticate the client permanent public key. It also unpacks the cookie and gets its short term key pair for the connection. As far as the server is now concerned, the client is now authenticated, so the server can send its metadata safely. Both sides can then send messages and commands.

So the keys you generate here are not used directly to encrypt data, they are only used to authenticate parties. The handshake process between client and server produces real encryption (and authentication as in MAC) keys that are used to encrypt the data. So if the only concern you have is MITM, you're already protected.

But you can also be concerned about rogue clients, your current scheme allows anyone to connect. This is where the second article by Pieter Hintjens can help you with "The Ironhouse Pattern". The critical part is to disable CURVE_ALLOW_ANY and tell server where to look for client public certificates:

//  Tell authenticator to use the certificate store in .curve
zauth_configure_curve (auth, "*", ".curve");

Then you generate client key on the client (once! not calling zcert_new() for every connection), transfer its public part to the ".curve" directory of your server and load (on the client) that key instead of calling zcert_new().

If you want to make life a bit easier (not needing to transfer public keys from client to server for each client), you can create a "golden" client key pair, get its public part into the ".curve" store and then (via a secure channel, of course) copy the secret key on every client that needs to connect to your publisher.