[dm-crypt] Cryptocontainer on remote storage

Florian Weingarten weingarten at itsec.rwth-aachen.de
Wed Jan 18 10:22:39 CET 2012

Hi everyone,

I have been thinking about possible solutions to the problem of
encrypted remote storage and I was wondering if dmcrypt would be good
way to do it.

My requirements are basically as follows: I want to store files (in the
magnitude of gigabytes) on a remote server. However, I do not trust the
server's admins, therefore, the files should be encrypted. Access should
not be too slow. Obviously, no key material what so ever should ever
reach the server. Furthermore, filesystem metadata (names, access times,
etc.) should also be hidden, so encrypted single files is not enough.

I was thinking about locally creating a large enough container file,
encrypt it with cryptsetup/LUKS, upload it to the remote storage. Then,
access it via some network filesystem (sshfs, smbfs, nfs, ...) and
locally mount the container with losetup. What do you think about this

My main concern is: What happens when the network link dies while the
container is mounted? How much damage is there in the worst case? I
expect it to be pretty much the same as powering down while a local
filesystem is mounted (a few damaged sectors at most, which will likely
be recoverable because of filesystem journaling).

The main drawback is, in my opinion, that I initially have to upload a
very large file to the storage (and do it again whenever I want to resize).

What network fs should I use? As far as I see it, I need good
authentication, but encryption is not necessary (so sshfs would be an
unnecessary overhead), right?

I was also thinking about some copy-on-write ideas which create a local
fs with all the "changes", which I can then sync back to the remote
server later all at once, which would reduce the network activity and
thus the risk of network errors.

Anybody got practical experiences with ideas of this kind? Any
performance benchmarks?


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