Skip to content

User Management

To support use of the Coldcard in HSM mode, the Coldcard can hold usernames and their shared secrets for authentication purposes. At present, this is only useful for use in HSM mode.

Two methods are offered: shared password (ie. classic "something you know") or TOTP (time-based one-time pass) 2FA authentication, compatible with RFC6238. Most people will already have an app on their mobile phone to hold the shared secrets and simplify the number-calculating process.

Creating new users can only be done over USB protocol with the help of CKBunker or ckcc programs. However, once the user is established, you may view it and remove them from the menu system, in Advanced under "User Management".

The best practice is for the Coldcard to generate the password or TOTP secret and display it on-screen in a QR code. If you are using a TOTP app, such as Google Authenticator or FreeOTP, then you can scan the screen of the Coldcard to install the code. Unfortunately, due to limited screen space, there isn't room for the meta data such as username or specific Coldcard number: your app will only show "CC".

It is possible to send a user-generated shared secret (or password) over USB, in which case, the QR code is not shown. This requires trust of the attached computer during this operation, so we do not recommend it.

The CKBunker can make creating users very easy, and as a sample implementation for others, the CLI program ckcc can be used as well.

Creating New Users with CLI#

The user subcommand can be used:

% ckcc user --help
Usage: ckcc user [OPTIONS] USERNAME

  Create a new user on the Coldcard for HSM policy (also delete).

  You can input a password (interactively), or one can be picked by the
  Coldcard. When possible the QR to enrol your 2FA app will be shown on the
  Coldcard screen.

  -t, --totp              Do TOTP and let Coldcard pick secret (default)
  --pass                  Use a password picked by Coldcard
  -a, --ask-pass          Define password here (interactive)
  -s, --totp-secret TEXT  BASE32 encoded secret for TOTP 2FA method (not
  -p, --text-secret TEXT  Provide password on command line (not great)
  -d, --delete            Remove a user by name
  -q, --show-qr           Show enroll QR contents (locally)
  --hotp                  Use HOTP instead of TOTP (dev only)
  --help                  Show this message and exit.

For example, a TOTP 2FA account for alice could be created like this:

% ckcc user alice

On the attached Coldcard, the screen will look like this:

QR for TOTP enrol

Alice just needs to scan that screen with her phone, and subject to local shoulder surfers, only the Coldcard and her mobile phone will know the shared secret involved.

Bob could create his account with a basic password using this command (nothing is shown on Coldcard screen).

% ckcc user bob -p "P@ssw0rd"

You can test your creditials with ckcc as well, but only if the Coldcard is not in HSM mode. If it's in HSM mode, the same command merely prepares the input for checking on the next signing attempt, and isn't immediately verified.

% ckcc auth bob -p sldkfjsdlfkj
Problem: mismatch

% ckcc auth bob -p "P@ssw0rd"
Correct or queued

% ckcc auth bob -p
Password (hidden): 
Correct or queued

% ckcc auth alice 123123
Problem: mismatch

% ckcc auth alice 872532
Correct or queued

% ckcc auth --help
Usage: ckcc auth [OPTIONS] USERNAME [TOTP]

  Indicate specific user is present (for HSM).

  Username and 2FA (TOTP, 6-digits) value or password are required. To use
  password, the PSBT file in question must be provided.

  -f, --psbt-file FILENAME
  -p, --password            Prompt for password
  -d, --debug               Show values used
  --help                    Show this message and exit.

Obviously, you are trusting the USB-attached computer in the password case, but that risk does not exist for the 2FA case, as each code is useful only once. We generally recommend 2FA instead of fixed passwords.

When authorizing a PSBT, the password response includes a hash of the PSBT being approved. Therefore, it is possible to hash-up your password on a remote machine, before submitting it over USB to the Coldcard. In that sense, it is also a one-time password, and interception on the USB-connected computer would not help attackers.

The new password is key-stretched using PBKDF2(SHA512) (with a salt value derived from the serial number of the specific Coldcard involved) before being transmitted over USB. When proving your knowledge of the password, you must provide:

HMAC(secret=PBKDF2_SHA512(password, salt=SHA256(...+serial_number)), msg=SHA256(psbt_file))

Full code for the PBKDF2 step can be found in hash_password() in ckcc/ and HMAC step in user_auth() in