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NTP-KEYGEN(8)           FreeBSD System Manager's Manual          NTP-KEYGEN(8)

     ntp-keygen - key generation program for ntpd

     ntp-keygen [-deGgHIMnPT] [-c scheme] [-i name] [-p password]
                [-S [RSA | DSA]] [-s name] [-v nkeys]

     This program generates cryptographic data files used by the NTPv4
     authentication and identification schemes.  It generates MD5 key files
     used in symmetric key cryptography.  In addition, if the OpenSSL software
     library has been installed, it generates keys, certificate and identity
     files used in public key cryptography.  These files are used for cookie
     encryption, digital signature and challenge/response identification
     algorithms compatible with the Internet standard security infrastructure.

     All files are in PEM-encoded printable ASCII format, so they can be
     embedded as MIME attachments in mail to other sites and certificate
     authorities.  By default, files are not encrypted.  The -p password
     option specifies the write password and -q password option the read
     password for previously encrypted files.  The ntp-keygen program prompts
     for the password if it reads an encrypted file and the password is
     missing or incorrect.  If an encrypted file is read successfully and no
     write password is specified, the read password is used as the write
     password by default.

     The ntpd(8) configuration command crypto pw password specifies the read
     password for previously encrypted files.  The daemon expires on the spot
     if the password is missing or incorrect.  For convenience, if a file has
     been previously encrypted, the default read password is the name of the
     host running the program.  If the previous write password is specified as
     the host name, these files can be read by that host with no explicit

     File names begin with the prefix ntpkey_ and end with the postfix
     _hostname.filestamp, where hostname is the owner name, usually the string
     returned by the Unix gethostname() routine, and filestamp is the NTP
     seconds when the file was generated, in decimal digits.  This both
     guarantees uniqueness and simplifies maintenance procedures, since all
     files can be quickly removed by a rm ntpkey* command or all files
     generated at a specific time can be removed by a rm *filestamp command.
     To further reduce the risk of misconfiguration, the first two lines of a
     file contain the file name and generation date and time as comments.

     All files are installed by default in the keys directory /usr/local/etc,
     which is normally in a shared filesystem in NFS-mounted networks.  The
     actual location of the keys directory and each file can be overridden by
     configuration commands, but this is not recommended.  Normally, the files
     for each host are generated by that host and used only by that host,
     although exceptions exist as noted later on this page.

     Normally, files containing private values, including the host key, sign
     key and identification parameters, are permitted root read/write-only;
     while others containing public values are permitted world readable.
     Alternatively, files containing private values can be encrypted and these
     files permitted world readable, which simplifies maintenance in shared
     file systems.  Since uniqueness is insured by the hostname and file name
     extensions, the files for a NFS server and dependent clients can all be
     installed in the same shared directory.

     The recommended practice is to keep the file name extensions when
     installing a file and to install a soft link from the generic names
     specified elsewhere on this page to the generated files.  This allows new
     file generations to be activated simply by changing the link.  If a link
     is present, ntpd follows it to the file name to extract the filestamp.
     If a link is not present, ntpd(8) extracts the filestamp from the file
     itself.  This allows clients to verify that the file and generation times
     are always current.  The ntp-keygen program uses the same timestamp
     extension for all files generated at one time, so each generation is
     distinct and can be readily recognized in monitoring data.

   Running the program
     The safest way to run the ntp-keygen program is logged in directly as
     root.  The recommended procedure is change to the keys directory, usually
     /usr/local/etc, then run the program.  When run for the first time, or if
     all ntpkey files have been removed, the program generates a RSA host key
     file and matching RSA-MD5 certificate file, which is all that is
     necessary in many cases.  The program also generates soft links from the
     generic names to the respective files.  If run again, the program uses
     the same host key file, but generates a new certificate file and link.

     The host key is used to encrypt the cookie when required and so must be
     RSA type.  By default, the host key is also the sign key used to encrypt
     signatures.  When necessary, a different sign key can be specified and
     this can be either RSA or DSA type.  By default, the message digest type
     is MD5, but any combination of sign key type and message digest type
     supported by the OpenSSL library can be specified, including those using
     the MD2, MD5, SHA, SHA1, MDC2 and RIPE160 message digest algorithms.
     However, the scheme specified in the certificate must be compatible with
     the sign key.  Certificates using any digest algorithm are compatible
     with RSA sign keys; however, only SHA and SHA1 certificates are
     compatible with DSA sign keys.

     Private/public key files and certificates are compatible with other
     OpenSSL applications and very likely other libraries as well.
     Certificates or certificate requests derived from them should be
     compatible with extant industry practice, although some users might find
     the interpretation of X509v3 extension fields somewhat liberal.  However,
     the identification parameter files, although encoded as the other files,
     are probably not compatible with anything other than Autokey.

     Running the program as other than root and using the Unix su command to
     assume root may not work properly, since by default the OpenSSL library
     looks for the random seed file .rnd in the user home directory.  However,
     there should be only one .rnd, most conveniently in the root directory,
     so it is convenient to define the $RANDFILE environment variable used by
     the OpenSSL library as the path to /.rnd.

     Installing the keys as root might not work in NFS-mounted shared file
     systems, as NFS clients may not be able to write to the shared keys
     directory, even as root.  In this case, NFS clients can specify the files
     in another directory such as /etc using the keysdir command.  There is no
     need for one client to read the keys and certificates of other clients or
     servers, as these data are obtained automatically by the Autokey

     Ordinarily, cryptographic files are generated by the host that uses them,
     but it is possible for a trusted agent (TA) to generate these files for
     other hosts; however, in such cases files should always be encrypted.
     The subject name and trusted name default to the hostname of the host
     generating the files, but can be changed by command line options.  It is
     convenient to designate the owner name and trusted name as the subject
     and issuer fields, respectively, of the certificate.  The owner name is
     also used for the host and sign key files, while the trusted name is used
     for the identity files.

   Trusted Hosts and Groups
     Each cryptographic configuration involves selection of a signature scheme
     and identification scheme, called a cryptotype, as explained in the
     Authentication Options section of ntp.conf(5).  The default cryptotype
     uses RSA encryption, MD5 message digest and TC identification.  First,
     configure a NTP subnet including one or more low-stratum trusted hosts
     from which all other hosts derive synchronization directly or indirectly.
     Trusted hosts have trusted certificates; all other hosts have nontrusted
     certificates.  These hosts will automatically and dynamically build
     authoritative certificate trails to one or more trusted hosts.  A trusted
     group is the set of all hosts that have, directly or indirectly, a
     certificate trail ending at a trusted host.  The trail is defined by
     static configuration file entries or dynamic means described on the
     Automatic NTP Configuration Options section of ntp.conf(5).

     On each trusted host as root, change to the keys directory.  To insure a
     fresh fileset, remove all ntpkey files.  Then run ntp-keygen -T to
     generate keys and a trusted certificate.  On all other hosts do the same,
     but leave off the -T flag to generate keys and nontrusted certificates.
     When complete, start the NTP daemons beginning at the lowest stratum and
     working up the tree.  It may take some time for Autokey to instantiate
     the certificate trails throughout the subnet, but setting up the
     environment is completely automatic.

     If it is necessary to use a different sign key or different
     digest/signature scheme than the default, run ntp-keygen with the -S type
     option, where type is either RSA or DSA.  The most often need to do this
     is when a DSA-signed certificate is used.  If it is necessary to use a
     different certificate scheme than the default, run ntp-keygen with the -c
     scheme option and selected scheme as needed.  If ntp-keygen is run again
     without these options, it generates a new certificate using the same
     scheme and sign key.

     After setting up the environment it is advisable to update certificates
     from time to time, if only to extend the validity interval.  Simply run
     ntp-keygen with the same flags as before to generate new certificates
     using existing keys.  However, if the host or sign key is changed,
     ntpd(8) should be restarted.  When ntpd(8) is restarted, it loads any new
     files and restarts the protocol.  Other dependent hosts will continue as
     usual until signatures are refreshed, at which time the protocol is

   Identity Schemes
     As mentioned on the Autonomous Authentication page, the default TC
     identity scheme is vulnerable to a middleman attack.  However, there are
     more secure identity schemes available, including PC, IFF, GQ and MV
     described on the "Identification Schemes" page (maybe available at  These schemes are based
     on a TA, one or more trusted hosts and some number of nontrusted hosts.
     Trusted hosts prove identity using values provided by the TA, while the
     remaining hosts prove identity using values provided by a trusted host
     and certificate trails that end on that host.  The name of a trusted host
     is also the name of its sugroup and also the subject and issuer name on
     its trusted certificate.  The TA is not necessarily a trusted host in
     this sense, but often is.

     In some schemes there are separate keys for servers and clients.  A
     server can also be a client of another server, but a client can never be
     a server for another client.  In general, trusted hosts and nontrusted
     hosts that operate as both server and client have parameter files that
     contain both server and client keys.  Hosts that operate only as clients
     have key files that contain only client keys.

     The PC scheme supports only one trusted host in the group.  On trusted
     host alice run ntp-keygen -P -p password to generate the host key file
     ntpkey_RSAkey_alice.filestamp and trusted private certificate file
     ntpkey_RSA-MD5_cert_alice.filestamp.  Copy both files to all group hosts;
     they replace the files which would be generated in other schemes.  On
     each host bob install a soft link from the generic name ntpkey_host_bob
     to the host key file and soft link ntpkey_cert_bob to the private
     certificate file.  Note the generic links are on bob, but point to files
     generated by trusted host alice.  In this scheme it is not possible to
     refresh either the keys or certificates without copying them to all other
     hosts in the group.

     For the IFF scheme proceed as in the TC scheme to generate keys and
     certificates for all group hosts, then for every trusted host in the
     group, generate the IFF parameter file.  On trusted host alice run
     ntp-keygen -T -I -p password to produce her parameter file
     ntpkey_IFFpar_alice.filestamp, which includes both server and client
     keys.  Copy this file to all group hosts that operate as both servers and
     clients and install a soft link from the generic ntpkey_iff_alice to this
     file.  If there are no hosts restricted to operate only as clients, there
     is nothing further to do.  As the IFF scheme is independent of keys and
     certificates, these files can be refreshed as needed.

     If a rogue client has the parameter file, it could masquerade as a
     legitimate server and present a middleman threat.  To eliminate this
     threat, the client keys can be extracted from the parameter file and
     distributed to all restricted clients.  After generating the parameter
     file, on alice run ntp-keygen -e and pipe the output to a file or mail
     program.  Copy or mail this file to all restricted clients.  On these
     clients install a soft link from the generic ntpkey_iff_alice to this
     file.  To further protect the integrity of the keys, each file can be
     encrypted with a secret password.

     For the GQ scheme proceed as in the TC scheme to generate keys and
     certificates for all group hosts, then for every trusted host in the
     group, generate the IFF parameter file.  On trusted host alice run
     ntp-keygen -T -G -p password to produce her parameter file
     ntpkey_GQpar_alice.filestamp, which includes both server and client keys.
     Copy this file to all group hosts and install a soft link from the
     generic ntpkey_gq_alice to this file.  In addition, on each host bob
     install a soft link from generic ntpkey_gq_bob to this file.  As the GQ
     scheme updates the GQ parameters file and certificate at the same time,
     keys and certificates can be regenerated as needed.

     For the MV scheme, proceed as in the TC scheme to generate keys and
     certificates for all group hosts.  For illustration assume trish is the
     TA, alice one of several trusted hosts and bob one of her clients.  On TA
     trish run ntp-keygen -V n -p password, where n is the number of revokable
     keys (typically 5) to produce the parameter file
     ntpkeys_MVpar_trish.filestamp and client key files
     ntpkeys_MVkeyd_trish.filestamp where d is the key number (0 < d < n).
     Copy the parameter file to alice and install a soft link from the generic
     ntpkey_mv_alice to this file.  Copy one of the client key files to alice
     for later distribution to her clients.  It doesn't matter which client
     key file goes to alice, since they all work the same way.  Alice copies
     the client key file to all of her cliens.  On client bob install a soft
     link from generic ntpkey_mvkey_bob to the client key file.  As the MV
     scheme is independent of keys and certificates, these files can be
     refreshed as needed.

   Command Line Options
     -c scheme
             Select certificate message digest/signature encryption scheme.
             The scheme can be one of the following: RSA-MD2, RSA-MD5,
             RSA-SHA, RSA-SHA1, RSA-MDC2, RSA-RIPEMD160, DSA-SHA, or DSA-SHA1.
             Note that RSA schemes must be used with a RSA sign key and DSA
             schemes must be used with a DSA sign key.  The default without
             this option is RSA-MD5.

     -d      Enable debugging.  This option displays the cryptographic data
             produced in eye-friendly billboards.

     -e      Write the IFF client keys to the standard output.  This is
             intended for automatic key distribution by mail.

     -G      Generate parameters and keys for the GQ identification scheme,
             obsoleting any that may exist.

     -g      Generate keys for the GQ identification scheme using the existing
             GQ parameters.  If the GQ parameters do not yet exist, create
             them first.

     -H      Generate new host keys, obsoleting any that may exist.

     -I      Generate parameters for the IFF identification scheme, obsoleting
             any that may exist.

     -i name
             Set the suject name to name.  This is used as the subject field
             in certificates and in the file name for host and sign keys.

     -M      Generate MD5 keys, obsoleting any that may exist.

     -P      Generate a private certificate.  By default, the program
             generates public certificates.

     -p password
             Encrypt generated files containing private data with password and
             the DES-CBC algorithm.

     -q      Set the password for reading files to password.

     -S [RSA | DSA]
             Generate a new sign key of the designated type, obsoleting any
             that may exist.  By default, the program uses the host key as the
             sign key.

     -s name
             Set the issuer name to name.  This is used for the issuer field
             in certificates and in the file name for identity files.

     -T      Generate a trusted certificate.  By default, the program
             generates a non-trusted certificate.

     -V nkeys
             Generate parameters and keys for the Mu-Varadharajan (MV)
             identification scheme.

   Random Seed File
     All cryptographically sound key generation schemes must have means to
     randomize the entropy seed used to initialize the internal pseudo-random
     number generator used by the library routines.  The OpenSSL library uses
     a designated random seed file for this purpose.  The file must be
     available when starting the NTP daemon and ntp-keygen program.  If a site
     supports OpenSSL or its companion OpenSSH, it is very likely that means
     to do this are already available.

     It is important to understand that entropy must be evolved for each
     generation, for otherwise the random number sequence would be
     predictable.  Various means dependent on external events, such as
     keystroke intervals, can be used to do this and some systems have built-
     in entropy sources.  Suitable means are described in the OpenSSL software
     documentation, but are outside the scope of this page.

     The entropy seed used by the OpenSSL library is contained in a file,
     usually called .rnd, which must be available when starting the NTP daemon
     or the ntp-keygen program.  The NTP daemon will first look for the file
     using the path specified by the randfile subcommand of the crypto
     configuration command.  If not specified in this way, or when starting
     the ntp-keygen program, the OpenSSL library will look for the file using
     the path specified by the RANDFILE environment variable in the user home
     directory, whether root or some other user.  If the RANDFILE environment
     variable is not present, the library will look for the .rnd file in the
     user home directory.  If the file is not available or cannot be written,
     the daemon exits with a message to the system log and the program exits
     with a suitable error message.

   Cryptographic Data Files
     All other file formats begin with two lines.  The first contains the file
     name, including the generated host name and filestamp.  The second
     contains the datestamp in conventional Unix date format.  Lines beginning
     with # are considered comments and ignored by the ntp-keygen program and
     ntpd(8) daemon.  Cryptographic values are encoded first using ASN.1
     rules, then encrypted if necessary, and finally written PEM-encoded
     printable ASCII format preceded and followed by MIME content identifier

     The format of the symmetric keys file is somewhat different than the
     other files in the interest of backward compatibility.  Since DES-CBC is
     deprecated in NTPv4, the only key format of interest is MD5 alphanumeric
     strings.  Following hte heard the keys are entered one per line in the
           keyno type key
     where keyno is a positive integer in the range 1-65,535, type is the
     string MD5 defining the key format and key is the key itself, which is a
     printable ASCII string 16 characters or less in length.  Each character
     is chosen from the 93 printable characters in the range 0x21 through 0x7f
     excluding space and the `#' character.

     Note that the keys used by the ntpq(8) and ntpdc(8) programs are checked
     against passwords requested by the programs and entered by hand, so it is
     generally appropriate to specify these keys in human readable ASCII

     The ntp-keygen program generates a MD5 symmetric keys file
     ntpkey_MD5key_hostname.filestamp.  Since the file contains private shared
     keys, it should be visible only to root and distributed by secure means
     to other subnet hosts.  The NTP daemon loads the file ntp.keys, so
     ntp-keygen installs a soft link from this name to the generated file.
     Subsequently, similar soft links must be installed by manual or automated
     means on the other subnet hosts.  While this file is not used with the
     Autokey Version 2 protocol, it is needed to authenticate some remote
     configuration commands used by the ntpq(8) and ntpdc(8) utilities.

     It can take quite a while to generate some cryptographic values, from one
     to several minutes with modern architectures such as UltraSPARC and up to
     tens of minutes to an hour with older architectures such as SPARC IPC.

FreeBSD 11.0-PRERELEASE          May 17, 2006          FreeBSD 11.0-PRERELEASE


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