Message Signing

OpenADR messages should ideally be signed using an X509 certificate keypair. This allows both parties to verify that the message came from the correct party, and that it was not tampered with in transport. It does not provide message encryption; for that, a transport-level encryption (TLS) should be used.


The high level overview is this:

  1. The VTN creates an X509 certificate and an associated private key. It shares a fingerprint of the certificate with the VEN it connects to (this fingerprint will be printed to your console on startup).

  2. The VEN receives a signed (not encrypted) message from the VTN. Each message to the VEN includes the complete X509 Certificate that can be used to verify the signature. The VEN verifies that the message signature is correct, and it verifies that the certificate fingerprint matches the fingerprint that it received from the VEN.

The same process applies with the parties reversed.

For a VEN (client), which talks to one VTN, you simply provide the path to the signing certificate and private key, and the private key passphrase and the VTN’s fingerprint on initialization. See: Signing outgoing messages and Validating incoming messages.

For a VTN (server), which talks to multiple VENs, you provide the signing certificate, private key, private key passphrase and a handler function that can look up the certificate fingerprint when given a ven_id. See: Signing Messages.

Generating certificates

To generate a certificate + private key pair, you can use the following command on Linux:

openssl req -x509 -newkey rsa:4096 -keyout key.pem -out cert.pem -days 365

This will generate two files (key.pem and cert.pem) and require you to input a passphrase that encrypts/decrypts the private key.

You can provide paths to these files, as well as the passphrase, in your Client or Server initialization. See the examples referred to above.

Replay Protection

To prevent an attacker from simple re-playing a previous message (for instance, an Event), unmodified, each signed message contains a ReplayProtect property. This contains a random string (nonce) and a timestamp. Upon validation of the message, it is verified that the timestamp is not older then some preconfigured value (default: 5 seconds), and that the random string has not already been seen during that time window. A cache of the nonces is kept automatically to verify this.

OpenLEADR automatically generates and validates these portions of the signature. Signed messages that do not contain a ReplayProtect element are rejected, as required by the OpenADR specification.

Certificate Fingerprints

In order for the opposing party to verify that you ar who you say you are, they need the fingerprint of your public key that you are using. You can get this fingerprint in two ways:

  1. It will be printed to your stdout when you start your client or server. If you don’t want this, your can turn it off by passing show_fingerprint=False to the OpenADRClient() or OpenADRServer() constructors.

  2. You can use an included commandline tool to show the fingerprint of any PEM certificate:

pip3 install --user openleadr
fingerprint path/to/cert.pem

The fingerprint is not sensitive material; you can distribute it via an unsecured method, or you can publish it as a DNS-record for example.