Wow, if this is even remotely true, it’s quite spectacular: Theo de Raadt, has made public an email sent to him by Gregory Perry, who worked on the OpenBSD crypto framework a decade ago. The claim is that the FBI paid contractors to insert backdoors into OpenBSD’s IPSEC stack, a stack that has been re-used in many other products. Full email below:
I have received a mail regarding the early development of the OpenBSD
IPSEC stack. It is alleged that some ex-developers (and the company
they worked for) accepted US government money to put backdoors into
our network stack, in particular the IPSEC stack. Around 2000-2001.
Since we had the first IPSEC stack available for free, large parts of
the code are now found in many other projects/products. Over 10
years, the IPSEC code has gone through many changes and fixes, so it
is unclear what the true impact of these allegations are.
The mail came in privately from a person I have not talked to for
nearly 10 years. I refuse to become part of such a conspiracy, and
will not be talking to Gregory Perry about this. Therefore I am
making it public so that
(a) those who use the code can audit it for these problems,
(b) those that are angry at the story can take other actions,
(c) if it is not true, those who are being accused can defend themselves.
Of course I don’t like it when my private mail is forwarded. However
the “little ethic” of a private mail being forwarded is much smaller
than the “big ethic” of government paying companies to pay open source
developers (a member of a community-of-friends) to insert
privacy-invading holes in software.
From: Gregory Perry <[email protected]>
To: “[email protected]” <[email protected]>
Subject: OpenBSD Crypto Framework
Thread-Topic: OpenBSD Crypto Framework
Date: Sat, 11 Dec 2010 23:55:25 +0000
Message-ID: <[email protected]omain.local>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=”iso-8859-1″
Long time no talk. If you will recall, a while back I was the CTO at
NETSEC and arranged funding and donations for the OpenBSD Crypto
Framework. At that same time I also did some consulting for the FBI,
for their GSA Technical Support Center, which was a cryptologic
reverse engineering project aimed at backdooring and implementing key
escrow mechanisms for smart card and other hardware-based computing
My NDA with the FBI has recently expired, and I wanted to make you
aware of the fact that the FBI implemented a number of backdoors and
side channel key leaking mechanisms into the OCF, for the express
purpose of monitoring the site to site VPN encryption system
implemented by EOUSA, the parent organization to the FBI. Jason
Wright and several other developers were responsible for those
backdoors, and you would be well advised to review any and all code
commits by Wright as well as the other developers he worked with
originating from NETSEC.
This is also probably the reason why you lost your DARPA funding, they
more than likely caught wind of the fact that those backdoors were
present and didn’t want to create any derivative products based upon
This is also why several inside FBI folks have been recently
advocating the use of OpenBSD for VPN and firewalling implementations
in virtualized environments, for example Scott Lowe is a well
respected author in virtualization circles who also happens top be on
the FBI payroll, and who has also recently published several tutorials
for the use of OpenBSD VMs in enterprise VMware vSphere deployments.
Chief Executive Officer
“VMware Training Products & Services”
540-645-6955 x111 (local)
866-354-7369 x111 (toll free)
The real news here is of course not that OpenBSD IPSEC may be insecure. But the allegations (and yes, they are allegations only) shows that code audits are vital in high-security projects, even if they’re Open Source.