Mcabber and PGP
Today I decided to play with a number of new things. One was conky:
And the other was mcabber. A simple chat client that uses the jabber protocol. Those of you who are used to using Facebook Chat, GChat, and other website specific chat application might wonder why you'd ever want to use a desktop application. After all, most of us stopped using AIM in the late 2000's.
But back in those simple times we were all used to having our own chat clients instead of storing everything in 3rd party servers. Not to say everything wasn't logged then as well, but you know, ahem. Anyway! This is how to connect to the google chat servers via mcabber and then use pgp to encrypt your communications.
Using your favorite package manager download mcabber and gpg. The best guide for setting up and understanding gpg can be found here if you need to set that up. Once you've got mcabber downloaded you'll need to create your configuration file: ~/.mcabberrc.
set jid = <your gmail address> set username = <your gmail address> set server = talk.google.com set port = 5223 set priority = 4 set ignore_self_presence = 1 set ssl = 1 set ssl_verify = 1 set logging = 0 set pgp =1 set pgp_private_key = <use gpg --list-keys --keyid-format long> set beep_on_message = 1
You can find more configuration options online with google or looking
through documentation. One that I found which had a lot of good comments
can be read here. As noted above, you'll want to put your own email
address for the
jid and the
username. Then use the long form of your
private key from
gpg --list-keys --keyid-format long.
Once this is done you're pretty much there but getting used to mcabber can be improved by mastering a few simple commands.
- Use the pgUp and pgDown keys to select a buddy in the roster list on the left, the type enter to open a chat with them.
/roster unread_first: This command will bring your chat window instantly to any unread messages. A must for talking to multiple people.
/roster hide_offline: This command removes offline people from your chat roster.
/roster search <name>: will let you quickly jump to a contact in the roster so you can chat with them. (much faster than pgDown)
/roster alternate: Switches between the current and last used chat session.
/pgp setkey <email> <longid>sets the pgp key to use when talking to the user who's email address is
/quithow to close mcabber!
mcabber does have tab complete, so you can quickly do these commands that way, it also supports bindings. For example, within your mcabberrc file you can do things like this:
bind 17 = quit #q for quit bind 24 = roster unread_first #x for jumping to next message bind 26 = roster toggle_offline #z for toggling offline people alias me = say /me
When experimenting with the pgp encypted chatting, it's a good idea to
/pgp info commands to determine if you have
another user's keys or not and to verify that the key is the same one
you have stored in your gpg chain (use
gpg --list-keys to check). Once
you've confirmed that you're using the right keys, according to the
manual if you have
set pgp = 1 within your rc file then your
communications will automatically be encrypted. However, when testing
this with a friend of mine we noticed this wasn't always the case and on
occasions we needed to use
/pgp info before the encrypted
communications would begin, or we needed to use the
email@example.com KEYFROMPGPKEY command to set the key ourselves.
Him and I troubleshot the problem for a bit, eventually giving up around
1am in the morning after being unable to figure out why my client would
automatically encrypt messages but his required a
/pgp force command.
If you run into similar issues here are a few things to check:
/pgp forcewill show you errors in the log box if there's something wrong, read them, they'll help troubleshoot
gpg --list-keysand make sure you've got their key and that the id matches the one from
/pgp info <email>
- If you have multiple keys for the same email (such as if you use keys,gnupg.net and pgp.mit.edu for keyservers) make sure you have the most updated keys from both then check the above step again
- if you see the
-~>that means the message was sent encrypted. If it doesn't have a
~then it's not encrypted!
/pgp setkeyare your friends!
All said and done, you might ask yourself, why? Why should you encrypted your chat conversations? Well there's plenty of reasons. For example, what if you're talking about something like a disease? A close family death? Or anything like that that you don't think anyone else should know? What if you're an activists staging a protest and you want to be sure that it comes as a surprise for maximum impact (and you're wearing your tinfoil hat)? What if you're a journalist chatting with a leak source? What if you're a leak chatting to a journalist? Or a developer talking to another and exchanging passwords for a database or web server? There are plenty of reasons to want to encrypt your chat that aren't nefarious. And mcabber and gpg make it very simple to have automatic encryption right away.