currently I thinking about on-the-fly disk encryption using Truecrypt/dmcrypt LUKS with key stored on smartcard.
I would like to use openPGP v2 smart card, respectively GPF Cryptostick which is based on openPGP v2 smartcard and my question is:

On the card you can store 3 GPG keys (encryption, signing, authentication) or S/MIME equivalent.
There are also a data objects on smartcard when you can store key for TC/LUKS.
So, are those data objects stored on card encrypted with GPG/S-MIME or just protected by smartcard's PIN?

1 Answer 1


From what I gather reading some documentation online:

  1. the Truecrypt key is stored on the card inside 'Private Data Object 3'.
  2. According to the PDF documentation of OpenPGP Card v2, private data object 3 is protected using PW1 PIN.
  3. The crypto-stick documentation on #1 states that

    Security Consideration: According to the TrueCrypt manual a 64 character long pass phrase is secure. Therefore the maximal capacity as "private data object 3" of 254 bytes is sufficient. Please note that TrueCrypt doesn't make use of the full security which the Crypto Stick (and smart cards) offer. Instead it stores a keyfile on the Crypto Stick which could be received by a computer virus after the user enters the password.

I believe that none of the data objects on the card are themselves encrypted. That includes objects such as your keys. However, the card prevents direct access to those objects, and enforces different access conditions. Some objects cannot be read at all (for example, the cardholder private key), some are generally available without a password (e.g. Name, URL) and some are password-protected (like the data object used for Truecrypt), but are retrievable. There are also different passwords for different 'user-levels' and access.

So bottom line, if I understand it correctly from the documentation alone, is that the Truecrypt data object is only protected with the PIN.

Speculation: I think it won't make any practical difference however if it were encrypted. You would still need to decrypt it to provide it to Truecrypt, at which point an attacker can intercept it anyway. This is based on my limited understanding, perhaps mistaken, that Truecrypt in this set-up does not actually perform any encryption/decryption operation on the card, but rather only uses it for key storage.

UPDATE: Most smartcards, and also it seems this card, prevent brute-force attacks and will block access after some failed attempts. This should provide some protection still, e.g. if the smartcard is lost or stolen. However, this might not be sufficient against rogue code that might intercept either the PIN or the TC key after the user inputs the correct PIN.

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