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Let's say I have an application that accesses an encrypted datastore, and I want the admins to be able to unlock the datastore upon application startup (and then the application will have access to the datastore until it terminates). I don't want any single admin to have the ability to unlock the datastore himself, but I also don't want all of the admins to be required to do it (since they may not always be available) -- I'd like a certain subset of admins to be able to unlock the datastore by entering their credentials.

For example, if I have 5 administrators for the application, I might want any two or three of them to be able to enter their passphrase to unlock access to the datastore.

Is there some off-the-shelf software implementation for a system like this?

This seems similar to a bifurcated key, but instead of requiring both people to supply their half of the key, I'd like any specified subset of users to be able to unlock the key.

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This sounds like a good task for Shamir's Secret Sharing, as Stephen pointed out in comments. One example of off-the-shelf software that can do this is Crypto++ (relevant docs: http://www.cryptopp.com/docs/ref/class_secret_sharing.html).

  • I figured there'd be dozens of algorithms and options, but based on the lack of responses, it seems like this is the about the only choice. – Johnny Apr 8 '14 at 18:21

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