Page MenuHome GnuPG

Enable AES GCM in FIPS mode
Open, LowPublic


Since commit [0] from 2013, GCM is disabled in FIPS mode as the invocation of the _gcry_cipher_gcm_setiv function disables encryption:

_gcry_cipher_gcm_setiv (gcry_cipher_hd_t c, const byte *iv, size_t ivlen)
  c->marks.iv = 0;
  c->marks.tag = 0;
  c->u_mode.gcm.disallow_encryption_because_of_setiv_in_fips_mode = 0;

  if (fips_mode ())
      /* Direct invocation of GCM setiv in FIPS mode disables encryption. */
      c->u_mode.gcm.disallow_encryption_because_of_setiv_in_fips_mode = 1;

  return _gcry_cipher_gcm_initiv (c, iv, ivlen);

There is another commit [1] that fixes the counter overflow handling in AES-GCM.

What is needed to have AES-GCM working in FIPS mode?




Related Objects

Event Timeline

This requires re-evaluation of Libgcrypt to match the current FIPS specs.

If I understand correctly, to conform FIPS, we need to ensure Key/IV pair uniqueness (See "Implementation Guidance for FIPS 140-3", Annex C. "C.H Key/IV Pair Uniqueness Requirements from SP 800-38D").
Use of the API to set IV by any value may be considered bad.

Right. The AES-GCM was not allowed in FIPS mode until recently and I think now it is acceptable only for certain protocols (TLS, SSH), which guarantee that the IV is handled "correctly". As mentioned by gniibe, the requirements is that one should not be able to set IV to any specific value. The IV should be incremented automatically inside of the library (with some mask length + some generator configuration), somehow similarly as it is done with openssl, which would probably requite a new API in libgcrypt.

@pmgdeb Do you have some particular use case for AES-GCM in FIPS mode?

FWIW: Unfortunately everyone is moving to GCM, even Outlook. While GnuPG was evaluated by the German BSI we had discussions about this and their evaluators were wary about GCM due to its brittleness thus our use of OCB was very welcomed. OTOH, another approved product meanwhile comes with GCM for S/MIME and thus it seems thatGCM is accepted.

gniibe: Can you please check what openssl does exactly. The problem is that we currently have no permanent state for Libgcrypt (i.e. something stored on disk per user or even better global)

I have couple of references from libssh:

With OpenSSL, the IV is set to fixed value at first:

And then it is incremented with another operation for each packet:

The libgcrypt version of the same looks like this:

yeah .. there is no context that could hold this IV accross different packets at this moment, but my understanding of the FIPS is that it requires this context.

(OpenSSL for FIPS support is a bit tricky, which is described in in their distribution. It offers OpenSSL FIPS provider as shared library

In OpenSSL, for lower level API, there is GCYPTO_gcm_setiv.
And for higher level API (EVP), it seems that it is correctly handled about IV constraint for FIPS conformance.

Specifically, in openssl/crypto/evp/e_aes.c, it has following lines:

 * See SP800-38D (GCM) Section 8 "Uniqueness requirement on IVS and keys"


     * FIPS requires generation of AES-GCM IV's inside the FIPS module.
     * The IV can still be set externally (the security policy will state that
     * this is not FIPS compliant). There are some applications
     * where setting the IV externally is the only option available.

This means that:
(1) With OpenSSL, using GCM with arbitrary IV is possible by lower level API, and it's up to an application (say, use case for SSH and TLS).
(2) For, GCM (with unique IV) is supported, and it (somehow) ensures the uniqueness of IV by internal generation.

In my opinion, it would be good for libgcrypt
(1) to extend the behavior:

  • allow use of GCM with internally generated IV

(2) to extend/add an API:

  • a flag to specify internal generation of IV
  • or... a flag to specify random IV at first use and incremented by each call

(3) (possibly) to make sure that only internally generated IV is used in FIPS mode