Considerations

CryptOps is a tool that can be used to raise the level of security in some particular aspects. It does not provide all-round security of your VPS.

CryptOps can be used as a part of an overall security strategy and should never be used as definitive security solution.

Possible reasons to use CryptOps

  • You want to make it harder for the hoster’s employees to casually view your data on disk.
  • You trust your hoster now, but you want to have an easy way to cut off their access to your data – maybe when they change owners, or when you anticipate that they are forced by some authority to grant access to your data.
  • You want your data to be safe in case the hosters disks get confiscated, stolen, or discarded without shredding.
  • You want your data to be encrypted at rest.

Invalid reasons to use CryptOps

  • You don’t trust your hoster, or you fear that they may be forced to grant access to your data without a timely warning. If your hoster or a powerful third party really wants to view your data, they could

    • install a modified version of CryptOps that doesn’t really encrypt;
    • man-in-the-middle your first ssh connection to the server running in the initrd, capturing your encryption password when you first enter it;
    • access your decrypted data in memory while your VPS is active;
    • various other methods.

It is very hard to prevent someone who has access (physical or via network) to the host running your VPS from reading your data, and CryptOps does not pretend to do so.

Possible reasons to not use CryptOps

  • It increases the chance of data loss: if you forget or lose your encryption password, a single reboot of your VPS (for whatever reason) renders your data irrecoverably lost.
  • It can increase downtime of your VPS: whenever your VPS reboots, you need to become aware of this (though we have a customisable hook to notify you of this situation), connect to the VPS, and enter your encryption password; only then can the boot process of the VPS continue. All this time the service provided by your VPS is not running.
  • You may not need full disk encryption of your VPS: depending on the software running on your VPS, it could be easier to encrypt only some data directories. On the other hand, it is easy to overlook some sensitive data stored in configuration, cache files, temporary files, etc.

What is not encrypted

The default CryptOps setup includes a small partition that contains unencrypted data needed by the CryptOps initrd. This data contains the SSH public keys that are used to authorise users logging into the Dropbear shell.

Note that these can be coupled to private keys on your computer, so in a sense can be seen as identifying material. To be secure, at least always:

  • Keep your private keys private! This is very important. They are essential for the security of your VPS
  • Think about what you enter as an identifier for your public key. The public key is formatted as follows: <key-type> <public-key> <identifier>. The identifier will often default to your (user)name, but can be anything. If you want to maximise anonymity, use something that you can use to identify the key, but does not directly identify you.

Boot partition

Other than some laptops with full disk encryption, CryptOps does not offer an encrypted boot partition. This is because booting a virtual machine is slightly different from booting a laptop. Often the initrd and kernel will be provided by the hosting provider.