How does account recover work?

Community Member


i have a question belongig to recovering. As far as i understand, AES-Keys for shared vault are shared along all teammembers encrypted with the personal public key of the belonging members. So this is re-shared when an account for a team member is recovered.

But whats about entries in a personal vault of a team member who forgot his password? How are these records accessible with the recovered account (and new masterkey)?

Thank you

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  • jpgoldberg
    1Password Alumni

    Outstanding question @mik!

    As it happens, I just presented on how recovery works in 1Password at PasswordsCon 16 in Bochum, Germany last week. My slides are riddled with typos, and my attempt to talk through the protocol didn't really work very well, so I'm not going to inflict that upon you.

    Understanding Groups

    Anyway, the answer to your specific question lies in what we call a "Recovery Group". A "Group" in 1Password has a keyset just as an individual does, but the secret key of the group keyset is available to a number of individuals.

    Here is how this is described in an unpublished draft of the Security white paper.

    To understand how the Recovery Group works it is first necessary to understand how a group works. A group will have a key set that is similar in nature to an individual's key set. It is an encrypted public/private key pair. A vault is held by a group if the vault key is encrypted with the group's public key.

    An individual (or another group) is a member of the group if the group's private key can be decrypted by that individual. To put it simply1A is a member of group G if and only if G's private key is encrypted with A's public key. A can decrypt anything encrypted with her public key because she can decrypt her private key. Thus, A will be able to decrypt the private key of G. With G's private key, she can decrypt the vault keys that are encrypted with G's public key. However, if A has not been granted access to a vault, she will be prevented by server policy from obtaining the vault data even though she has the key to that vault. Simple.

    The Recovery Group

    The owner/organizer of a Team/Family is automatically made part of the Recovery Group and all vault keys, including personal vaults are shared with the Recovery Group. When a vault (including a personal vault) is created, its vault key is encrypted with the public key of the Recovery Group and stored on the server.

    Protecting personal (and other) vaults

    At one level, it might seem like everyone is just forced to share all of their vaults with members of the Recovery Group (RG), but we have a couple of server enforced mechanisms that limit the power of Recovery Group members so that.

    1. The server will only provide a person's vault keys (encrypted with RG public key) to an RG member after the person being recovered has gone through some recovery steps. Thus an RG member cannot silently obtain someone's vault keys without that someone confirming that they are seeking data recovery.

    2. The server will not give RG members the encrypted vault data for vaults that they are not entitled to read.

    Note that a member of the recovery group who also has control of a team/family member's email can take over that person's account.

    Expanding your recovery group

    We recommend that each Team or Family have multiple members of the Recovery Group. For Families that means adding an other Organizer. For Teams it can be done in several ways, including creating an administrator with "recovery powers".

    But it is also the case that recovery group members do have a lot of power (particularly if they can control team members email accounts as well), so they should be chosen with care.

    We believe that we've done the right thing by putting this in the hands of teams and families. We, at AgileBits, never have the capacity to learn your vault keys or decrypt your data.

    1. For some values of the word “simply”. ↩︎

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