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README.md

Logo

Covert Encryption

A file and message encryptor with strong anonymity

  • ChaCha20-Poly1305 stream cipher with authentication
  • Argon2 secures shorter passwords against cracking
  • Curve25519 public key encrypt & sign with SSH, Age and Minisign keys

Anonymity, privacy and authenticity

The encrypted archive looks exactly like random data, providing deniability. Every byte is protected so that not only is reading prevented but authenticity is also verified, protecting your data against any outsiders, and files may also be signed if necessary.

Other encryption tools add unencrypted headers revealing the recipients and other metadata. Covert was created to address this very problem, to stop all information leakage.

A message (base64 or binary) has no headers or anything else that could be recognized:

R/i7oqt9QnTnc6Op9gw9wSbYQq1bfYtKAfEOxpiQopc0SsYdLa12AUkg0o5s4KPfU6eZX59c4SXD2F8efFCEUeU

Covert generates easy passphrases like oliveanglepeaceethics for the above. The encoded message includes random padding to hide the length of the message and it is still shorter than others. For comparison, gpg needs six lines instead of one and still ends up revealing the exact length of the message.

Installation

Python pip installs qcovert and covert on your system:

pip install "covert[gui]"

qcovert      # Run GUI, or
covert       # Run in terminal

Python 3.9 or 3.10 is required. On systems still using older versions, you may need to install by:

python3.9 -m pip install covert

Developers should install a dev repo in editable mode: (consider also using pipenv)

git clone https://github.com/covert-encryption/covert.git
cd covert
pip install -e ".[dev,gui]"

File I/O speeds matching the fastest SSDs

Benchmark results. Covert up to 4 GB/s.

Covert is the fastest of all the popular tools in both encryption (blue) and decryption (red).

Program Lang Algorithms Operation
Covert Python chacha20‑poly1305 sha512‑ed25519 encrypt with auth and signature
Age Go chacha20-poly1305 encrypt with auth
Rage Rust chacha20-poly1305 encrypt with auth
OpenSSL C aes256-ctr (hw accelerated) encrypt only
GPG C aes128-cfb, deflate encrypt with auth and compression
Minisign C blake2b-512 ed25519 signature only (for reference)

A few interesting features

Files of any size may be attached to messages without the use of external tools, and without revealing any metadata such as modification times.

A completely different ciphertext is produced each time, usually of different size, even if the message and the key are exactly the same. Other crypto tools cannot do this.

Covert messages are much shorter than with other cryptosystems, accomplished by some ingenious engineering.

A key insight is that a receiver can blindly attempt to decrypt a file with many different keys and parameters until he finds a combination that authenticates successfully. This saves valuable space on short messages and improves security because no plain text headers are needed.

Screenshot

A secure desktop app

Covert comes with a graphical user interface built in. Unlike PGP GUIs, Covert does not use external CLI tools but instead does everything inside the app. Storing the plain text message on disk at any point exposes it to forensic researchers and hackers who might be scanning your drive for deleted files, and unfortunately there have been such leaks with popular PGP programs that use temporary files to communicate with external editors or with the gpg tool.

Additional reading

Covert is in an early development phase, so you are encouraged to try it but avoid using it on any valuable data just yet. We are looking for interested developers and the specification itself is still open to changes, no compatibility guarantees.