Migrating from yubikey-ksm to python-pyshm

Yubico has declared end-of-life for the YubiKey Validation Server (YK-VAL) and YubiKey Key Storage Module (YK-KSM). These have been moved to YubicoLabs as a reference architecture. See article, YK-VAL, YK-KSM and YubiHSM 1 End-of-Life.

This guide will take you through the steps needed to migrate from using the PHP-based yubikey-ksm to using python-pyhsm. Benefits of using python-pyhsm include the ability of using a YubiHSM to protect Yubico OTP secrets. We will assume you have a functioning yubikey-ksm installation with some credentials which need to be migrated. These instructions are for systems running Ubuntu Linux. Most of this guide will apply to other distributions as well, but the commands to install the software may be different.


If you are migrating from yubikey-ksm for the purpose of using a YubiHSM to protect secrets, it is important that you securely wipe the old plaintext secrets used by yubikey-ksm. It’s strongly recommended that you set up a new server for yhsm-yubikey-ksm using a YubiHSM in production, and never expose any plaintext secrets to that machine. Plaintext secrets should only be handled on a secure computer that is not (and will not be) connected to the Internet.

Installing python-pyhsm

First we’ll install the python based KSM (Key Storage Module). By default it will run on a different port than the existing yubikey-ksm, so there is no issue in having both at the same time:

sudo apt-get install yhsm-yubikey-ksm

Option 1: Using a YubiHSM

If you have the ability to use a YubiHSM to protect the Yubico OTP secrets then it is recommended that you do so. You will first have to configure the YubiHSM with at least 1 key handle with the proper permissions. For detailed instructions on how to set up a YubiHSM, see the YubiHSM Reference Manual which is available here. For this guide we will assume key handle 1 will be used, and is configured for at least OTP decryption (the YSM_AEAD_YUBIKEY_OTP_DECODE permission).

Now, we need to configure the yhsm-yubikey-ksm server to use the YubiHSM, and to start automatically on boot. Start by editing the configuration file:

sudo nano /etc/default/yhsm-yubikey-ksm

Change the following values (if you’ve set an unlock passphrase you can configure that as well):


Then save and close the file.

Option 2: Storing the master key on disk

If you’re not going to be using a YubiHSM to protect the secrets then you will have to store a master key in plaintext on disk. This file will be used in lieu of the YubiHSM device. This is one example of setting up such a file:

sudo mkdir -p /etc/yubico/yhsm
sudo nano /etc/yubico/yhsm/keys.json

The file should contain a JSON object with key handles mapped to AES keys in hex format, we will use this example:

  "1": "000102030405060708090a0b0c0d0e0f"

We save and close the file, and we now have a keyhandle "1" set up to use a dummy AES key. You will want to replace the value used in this example with a randomly generated key. While you can have multiple key handles, we will stick to using this single one in this guide. Because we want to limit the access to this file, we change ownership and permissions of the file to be readable only by the yhsm-ksmsrv user, which was created during the installation of the software:

sudo chown yhsm-ksmsrv /etc/yubico/yhsm/keys.json
sudo chmod 400 /etc/yubico/yhsm/keys.json

Now, we need to configure the yhsm-yubikey-ksm server to use this file, and to start automatically on boot. Start by editing the configuration file:

sudo nano /etc/default/yhsm-yubikey-ksm

Change the following values:


Then save and close the file.

Verifying that yhsm-yubikey-ksm is configured correctly

Regardless of if you are using a YubiHSM or not, you have made configuration changes and now need to restart the yhsm-yubikey-ksm daemon:

sudo service yhsm-yubikey-val restart

Migrating existing data

We will now migrate the existing data from yubikey-ksm to yhsm-yubikey-ksm. In yubikey-ksm the data is stored in an SQL database, and can be exported using the ykksm-export command. In yhsm-yubikey-ksm the data is stored encrypted on the disk, in an AEAD format. You can create these AEAD files using the included yhsm-import-keys command:

sudo su
printf "# ykksm 1\n`ykksm-export`" | yhsm-import-keys --key-handles 1 -D /etc/yubico/yhsm/keys.json

This will encrypt the plaintext secrets using the given AES key (which should correspond to key handle 1 in your YubiHSM or keys.json file). The resulting AEAD files will be created under /var/cache/yubikey-ksm/aeads/, where yhsm-yubikey-ksm will automatically find them.

Verification of migrated data

We can verify the newly created AEADs by attempting to use them to decrypt an OTP. For this we need a YubiKey that contains a credential that was already in the yubikey-ksm database. Using curl, we first attempt to decrypt an OTP using the existing yubikey-ksm installation:

curl http://localhost/wsapi/decrypt?otp=internccccccfclhvbdbhudbjhvkidevcnbnblldhjfb
OK counter=0004 low=421d high=52 use=01

Now, we try the same OTP using yhsm-yubikey-ksm instead, which (by default) runs on port 8002:

curl http://localhost:8002/wsapi/decrypt?otp=internccccccfclhvbdbhudbjhvkidevcnbnblldhjfb
OK counter=0004 low=421d high=52 use=01

We got the same result, so the migration was successful.

Updating yubikey-val configuration

Any instance of yubikey-val which was using our earlier yubikey-ksm installation should be re-configured to use the new yhsm-yubikey-ksm installation instead. On all server running yubikey-val, edit the following file:

sudo nano /etc/yubico/val/ykval-config.php

Locate the otp2ksmurls function near the bottom of the file and make sure any URL listed there which is pointing to the older yubikey-ksm installation is updated with the new port. Close the file, and reload the configuration:

sudo service apache2 reload

Verify that this new setup works (this assumes yubikey-val is running on the same machine):

curl "http://localhost/wsapi/2.0/verify?id=1&nonce=12345678901234567890&otp=internccccccfclhvbdbhudbjhvkidevcnbnblldhjfb"

While yubikey-ksm by default listens on any network interface (, yhsm-yubikey-ksm only listens to the loopback interface ( by default. This means that if yubikey-val is running on a different host than yhsm-yubikey-val it will not be able to access the KSM without further configuration. While it is possible to configure yhsm-yubikey-ksm to listen on any interface, the recommended approach is to not expose it to the Internet to prevent possible denial of service attacks. Instead, the recommended approach is to whitelist only your own validation servers to connect to the KSM, using for example SSH tunnels or firewall rules.

Removing yubikey-ksm

Now that we’ve got the old data migrated to yhsm-yubikey-ksm, as well as verified it, we can remove the old data and yubikey-ksm installation:

sudo apt-get purge yubikey-ksm

During removal, we are prompted to confirm that we want to deconfigure and delete the yubikey-ksm database tables, which we do. This completes the guide.