Restricted Bots in Chat

Keybase has support for restricted bots; isolated members of a chat conversation. The separation allows chat conversations to benefit from bots -- providing games, utilities, or notification workflows without entrusting the content to the bots of the world. Users can interact with bots directly in a conversation without having to trust bot developers/maintainers with sensitive communications.

An encryption key derived from the main chat key is used to encrypt messages for these members, keeping the bot from accessing content of the conversation besides messages directly intended for them. The chat client determines which messages to encrypt based on a signed configuration of the bot when it is added to the team.

High Level Design

Chat conversations are backed by Keybase teams and use a per-team-key (PTK) to encrypt messages. Restricted bots are signed into the team signature chain as members of a team but lack access to the PTK, rendering them unable to decrypt any team secrets (chat, files, etc). Instead, team members derive a new encryption key for the bot called a TeambotKey and store a copy of the key on the server encrypted with the bot's per-user-key (PUK). Members use the TeambotKey when communicating with the bot, allowing all regular members to send and receive to the bot without exposing messages for other team members or other bots.

Technical Details

Bot Settings Chain Link

A new team chain link bot_settings specifies the policies of when a restricted bot member will have content keyed for them. When sending a chat message, the message contents are checked against the rule set and if they match, the content is keyed using the derived bot key instead of the PTK. This data is stored in the sigchain instead of a chat message to prevent a server rollback of the bot’s configuration. The link is of the form:

  "bot": {
    "uid": "f1f49e2da3db6392b47dc913b4e85519",
    "eldest_seqno": 1,
  "cmds": true,
  "mentions": true,
  "triggers": ["remind me", "new reminder"],
  "channels": null,

The config field specifies what constitutes a match: - cmds: boolean - "messages that begin with !, a bot advertised command , will match" - mentions: boolean - "@-mentions of the bot will match" - triggers: []string | null - "word(s) can be present in the message to match" - "may be a regular expression for advanced usage" - channels: []string | null - "configuration is only respected in the given channels or all channels if null"

Users specify this configuration when adding a bot to the team and can modify it with an updated chain link -- the latest config in the chain is applied when checking messages.

Key Derivation

When a bot member is added as a restricted bot, a TeambotKey is derived from the latest PerTeamKey seed and boxed for the bot’s PUK. The keys can be derived by any team member with access to team secrets by computing HMAC(seed || botUID || "Derived-Teambot-Key-NaCl-DH-1"). The resulting box is signed by the latest PTK, which the bot validates when unboxing. Since bots cannot derive their own keys, if a box signed by an old PTK is seen it is considered valid for a short window while team members are notified to create a new key. The bot caches the first time a particular key is invalid on disk to prevent the server from repeatedly giving old boxes.

Restricted bots can also use exploding messages using a derived TeambotEphemeralKey from the teams latest TeamEK.