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authorTom Willemse2016-02-14 19:59:36 +0100
committerTom Willemse2016-02-14 19:59:36 +0100
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+#+TITLE: Using DisPass to manage your passwords
+
+*tl;dr*: If you don’t care about any of the back story and just want
+to know how to use DisPass to manage passwords, skip to [[Managing
+passwords]] for instant gratification.
+
+* Introduction
+
+ DisPass is a project that was started, and is still maintained, by a
+ [[https://babab.nl][friend]] and former colleague of mine. I've been using it for quite
+ some time. It helps me feel safe online, knowing that all my
+ accounts have different and strong passwords.
+
+ DisPass uses algorithms to make reproducible passphrases. Making it
+ a kind-of functional password manager, just like Haskell is a
+ functional programming language and Guix is a functional package
+ manager. Given the same input DisPass will always produce the same
+ output. This means that the generated passphrases are never stored
+ anywhere and cannot be discovered by crackers[fn:1] and the like.
+
+ The input for DisPass consists of a label, algorithm, length,
+ possibly a sequence number (depending on the algorithm used) and
+ finally a password. All but the label and password have some default
+ value, but can also be specified through command-line switches.
+
+* The Labelfile
+
+ Being a functional anything usually means that whatever you're using
+ doesn't maintain any state. This can be true for DisPass, but isn't
+ necessarily so. It can be a challenge to remember the size,
+ algorithm and sequence number for a large number of labels, so there
+ is the labelfile.
+
+ The labelfile is normally located in either
+ ~$XDG_CONFIG_HOME/dispass/labels~ or ~$HOME/.dispass/labels~, but
+ can also be specified on the command-line. It contains the metadata
+ for the labels, and the labels themselves. This lets you run
+ something like:
+
+ : dispass generate foobar
+
+ And it'll know the size, algorithm and sequence number for the label
+ “foobar”, assuming you’ve saved it to the labelfile. The labelfile
+ is unencrypted, but this information is useless as long as nobody
+ knows the password(s) you use to generate the passphrases.
+
+* Setting up
+
+ DisPass is easy to install if you have either Archlinux or pip
+ installed. Windows is a bit more problematic and I don’t even know
+ how to get started on a Mac personally, but there is no reason it
+ can’t work. It doesn’t have many dependencies, so you don’t need to
+ install anything else first.
+
+ The latest release is quite old, but a new release should be coming
+ soon. There haven’t been too many developments since version
+ 0.3.0-dev because it basically does what it needs to do, and the
+ user base is currently very small, so bugs might not be encountered
+ too quickly. Don’t think that it’s an abandoned project, if you look
+ at it’s [[https://github.com/babab/DisPass][github]] page you’ll see that it’s seen a bit of development
+ again as of late.
+
+ In the case of Archlinux I’ve provided packages in the AUR for both
+ [[https://aur.archlinux.org/packages/python2-dispass/][python2-dispass]] version 0.2.0 and [[https://aur.archlinux.org/packages/python2-dispass-git/][python2-dispass-git]]. Installing
+ either of these like any regular old aur package will get you set
+ up. Incidentally, if you’re using Archlinux on x86_64 and have the
+ testing package repository enabled, you could also use [[https://ryuslash.org/packages/][my package
+ repository]], though no guarantees that it’ll ever work are given
+ there.
+
+ For a general pip installation it should be as easy as running:
+
+ : sudo pip install dispass
+
+* UIs
+
+ Seeing as how my friend would like it to be generally useful, and
+ he’s a VIM user, there is both a GUI and CLI interface. Since I’m an
+ Emacs user I’ve created an Emacs and a Conkeror interface for it as
+ well.
+
+** CLI
+
+ The CLI is what gets the most attention and gets developed the
+ most. I will be working with this in the [[Managing passwords]]
+ section.
+
+** GUI
+
+ There is a basic GUI included with dispass, it can be started with
+ either the ~gdispass~ or the ~dispass gui~ commands. It requires
+ tkinter to be installed. It doesn't do everything the CLI does, but
+ there are plans to improve it and use a different gui library (such
+ as Qt). In some situations it can copy the generated passphrases
+ directly to the clipboard, but this is only true on GNU/Linux, not
+ on Windows.
+
+** Emacs
+
+ I wrote an Emacs interface when I started using DisPass. It tries
+ to copy the generated passwords directly to the clipboard, instead
+ of needing the user to copy it manually as the CLI does. It can
+ also insert generated passphrases into a buffer, such as the
+ minibuffer.
+
+ It's available on [[https://github.com/ryuslash/dispass.el][github]].
+
+** Conkeror
+
+ I also wrote a Conkeror interface some time later, because I didn't
+ want to keep copying and pasting the passphrases through one of the
+ other interfaces (usually Emacs). It inserts the generated
+ passphrases into the focused input.
+
+ It's also available on [[https://github.com/ryuslash/cdispass][github]].
+
+** Wishlist
+
+ As I mentioned, the idea is to expand the GUI and use a different
+ gui library for it, to make it look a little better. The
+ functionality should also be extended to do everything the CLI
+ does.
+
+ A Firefox extension is also still on the list of desirable
+ interfaces. I'm not sure how plausible it is with the new
+ WebExtension plugin api, I haven't looked into it yet. I don't
+ think chrom(e|ium) allows developers to call external programs,
+ which is an obstacle, but I haven't looked at this either.
+
+* Managing passwords
+
+ Now for the real fun. Generating passphrases is simple. Use the
+ ~generate~ command:
+
+ : dispass generate foobar
+
+ If no entry exists in the labelfile for ~foobar~, it uses the
+ defaults, which at the time of writing are a length of 30, and the
+ algorithm ~dispass1~. This algorithm doesn't use a sequence
+ number. It can generate more than one passphrase at a time.
+
+ The generated passphrases are presented in an ncurses screen so they
+ aren't kept in your terminal emulator's scrollback history, at least
+ in some cases. You can use the ~-o~ switch to do away with the
+ ncurses screen and just output a line for each generated
+ passphrase. Together with something like awk this can be used to
+ directly send some command the passphrase it needs. For example, if
+ the program ~foo~ needs a password from stdin, you could use:
+
+ : dispass generate -o foobar | awk '{ print $2 }' | foo
+
+ You can specify a different length, algorithm and sequence number by
+ using command line switches. For example, I normally prefer the
+ ~dispass2~ algorithm since it adds a sequence number. For some crazy
+ reason the place I use the passphrase limits it to a length of 16
+ characters and I've had to change my password twice, so I use a
+ sequence number of 3. I could use:
+
+ : dispass generate -l 16 -a dispass2 -s 3 foobar
+
+ It would be difficult to remember all this, so I personally would
+ add it to the labelfile. To do this I can use the ~add~
+ command. Basically this is:
+
+ : dispass add foobar
+
+ This creates an entry in the label file with the same default values
+ as the generate command: a length of 30 and using the ~dispass1~
+ algorithm. To use the values we used before we can instead do:
+
+ : dispass add foobar:16:dispass2:3
+
+ This way we can add multiple entries with different values at once:
+
+ : dispass add foo:16 bar::dispass2:2
+
+ This would add the ~foo~ label with a length of 16, using the
+ default algorithm and the label ~bar~ with the default length, using
+ the ~dispass2~ algorithm and the sequence number 2. As you can see
+ you can omit any trailing parameters and leave any parameters in
+ between empty to use their default values.
+
+ If you added it before I showed you the extended add syntax you can
+ use ~update~ to change an existing entry in the labelfile:
+
+ : dispass update foobar 13:dispass2:3
+
+ Unlike the ~add~ command, the ~update~ command only updates one
+ label at a time.
+
+ Now, the place I use my password was cracked by crackers[fn:1], my
+ password was stolen. That's no biggie. I use the ~list~ command to
+ check what my sequence number is:
+
+ : dispass list
+
+ Then I can update my labelfile and use a new sequence number:
+
+ : dispass update foobar ::4
+
+ I could also use the convenient ~increment~ command:
+
+ : dispass increment foobar
+
+ Everytime the sequence number is changed the input changes and so
+ does the passphrase. So a simple call to the ~increment~ command
+ will completely change your passphrase. This is nice, because
+ otherwise I'd have to change either the label or the password used
+ to generate the passphrase.
+
+ Actually, I just quit the job where I used my ~foobar~ label. I
+ still use many other labels and don't want my list to get too big. I
+ also don't want to delete the label in case I ever need to get back
+ in there, so I just disable it:
+
+ : dispass disable foobar
+
+ This keeps it in the labelfile, but commands such as ~list~ don't
+ show it anymore. But then they really need me back, and since I'm
+ now a freelance worker I can accommodate them, so I enable my label
+ again:
+
+ : dispass enable foobar
+
+ But now the place where I use the ~foobar~ label has gone out of
+ business (I mean, come on, using a maximum password length of 16 and
+ getting cracked by crackers all the time, are you really surprised?)
+ and their site has been taken offline. Now I really have no reason
+ to keep this label around, so I remove it:
+
+ : dispass remove foobar
+
+* Cons
+
+ Yes, this is an excellent project and I'm not just saying that
+ because a friend of mine wrote it. There are some things that it
+ just isn't suited for.
+
+ When sharing a single account with someone else (don't do this!),
+ you can't expect the other party to use the same label and password
+ to generate the passphrase, if they're even tech-savvy enough to use
+ DisPass just like you. It also increases the amount of information
+ you need to remember to use DisPass. There are better programs to
+ store pre-generated passwords.
+
+ Due to the way the current algorithms are implemented there is a
+ limit to the length of the passphrases and that limit isn't entirely
+ consistent. This is only a problem when you need passphrases of more
+ than 100 characters, and I haven't had that problem yet.
+
+* Footnotes
+
+[fn:1] I refuse to use the term hackers, because to me that means
+ something completely different, and I hope to you as well.