Thursday, 28 July 2016

Password filling with KeePass2 - Ubuntu, Chrome and APEX


Whilst I was on holidays, I saw a tweet mentioning about an APEX enhancement request for browsers to handle passwords in the password manager better. In particular, a feature request was logged which you can see here:

Basically, you can have a multitude of passwords under the same domain, but with different workspaces, sometimes not handled greatly.

There was a bit of back and forth, mention of 1Password not having the issue - this is a non-free product and seemingly no (official) client for Linux. And finally, came the following tweet:

This key sequence is a shortcut that you can type so that if you're in the target window, the specified key stroke will be executed. In my limited testing, I only had success with this when specifying which window to map to (which is based off the window title). It's quite neat as well, but I went in a different direction.

So.... upon a bit more digging, I discovered there is a project called KeePassHttp, which exposes the database entries over a little HTTP server. And then another project, chromelPass, which interfaces with KeePassHttp to retrieve/update entries in the keypass database, direct from the browser.

Keep following on for steps on how to use this. Whilst the direction is based on Ubuntu, I'm sure you'll be able to pick up the difference on your preferred platform.


So, first, you need to install KeePass2. It is worth noting, there are two "keepass" packages in the repos, and you will want to get the one named "keepass2" - as that is the one KeePassHttp interacts with.

In addition, you will want to also have `mono-complete` installed. So at the terminal, run the command:

sudo apt-get install keepass2 mono-complete

KeePass2 has a plugin system, which is how exposing the passwords is done. So, before starting up KeePass, go and grab the plugin file from the GitHub project. You only need the KeePassHttp.plgx file. Once downloaded, it needs to be placed in the directory /usr/lib/keepass2/. So, go ahead and do that, or run the commands:

sudo wget -q -O /usr/lib/keepass2/KeePassHttp.plgx
sudo chmod 644 /usr/lib/keepass2/KeePassHttp.plgx

Set up

With that all done, start up KeePass2 and create your password database. Set up a master password and/or key file, and you can start adding entries. I suggest also to set a preference that by default the close button will minimise the application to the tray - this is because it needs to be running for the browser to access the entries. This is done through Tool -> Options, then go to the Interface tab and it's the first checkbox at the top.

Once, that's all done, it's time to go to Chrome and install the extension. This is done through the Chrome web store: Once added, you'll find an icon added to your extension bar.

Initially, it will have a little red cross as it's not connected to KeePass. So click on the extension button then click Connect.

Then give the database a name and click Save.

Fetching entries in the browser

So, let's say I have manually added an entry for my Gumtree account as per:

Now, when I go to login on Gumtree, I'm prompted with the following:

note: This prompt can be disabled through the KeePassHttp options - under the advanced tab, select "Always allow access to entries" and "Always allow updating entries".

Now, after that. The passwords are auto filled without the prompt. If you have multiple accounts for the same domain, after you grant access again, the username field becomes a drop down list where you can choose the relevant account.

Saving entries to the database, from the browser

Now, to save passwords into KeePass directly from the browser. When you login, the extension button at the top of the browser will start flashing. If you click this you can opt to save a new entry in the database.

So click New and it will be added to the database under the "KeePassHttp" group, where you can re-organise is to one of your other groups.

It's also a good idea to disable Chrome from saving your passwords so you aren't prompted twice. There is done in the settings under the section "Passwords and Forms".

APEX usage

Now, with that all the way, how do we work with the workspace login screen? Go to KeePassHttp settings, and enable custom fields.

Now, to set up a couple of examples of workspace logins. In KeePass, I set up a new group for workspaces (APEX Workspaces), then created some entries as per:

Because we have 3 fields associated to a login (workspace, username and password), we need to record the additional field. So, in the Advanced tab, add a new String field. The name needs to be prefixed with KPH: <name>. <name> is not important for this case as it's the only additional field (otherwise, it would get populated in alphabetical order). So, I just named my field "KPH: Workspace". So, it would end up looking something like this:

The next step, which only need to be done once for each domain, is to specify the form fields, so KeePassHttp knows where to map the values to. If you click the extension icon, you will see a button at the top right, "Choose own credential fields for this page". Click that, and you will be able to specify the fields. All in all, you should see the following flow:

Clicking confirm, and we are ready to form fill. Either click the username where you can select the relevant account, or click the extension icon and you will see a list of all saved accounts for the domain which can be applied.

APEX app usage

One other problem I've found with the regular password manager is that because a bunch of apps are on the same path, with a different slightly query string parameter (f?p=appid:*), it's often treated as the same site and as such quite difficult to have multiple entries for different applications.

One way around is to design your entry names in such a fashion to make it clear what app the credentials map to. So, in my previous examples I prefixed with Workspace so I know they're for workspace logins, and with app logins, I name the title with app ID and name, giving me a selection like so (which makes it quite clear which password entry I'm using).

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