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Password Safe Database Reader Library in C# for .NET

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16 Oct 2007GPL32 min read 62.9K   919   29   5
An independent library implementation to read Password Safe Password Manager V3 database files


Password Safe is an open source password manager available for download at Sourceforge, written in MFC/C++. This is a useful program, but I had a need to integrate the possibility to import such content to my online password manager which uses a format based on Encrypted XML.

There are many potentially creative things to do with Password Safe files, but many such ideas may be stopped by the apparent difficulty of decrypting and interpreting the database format used. This library provides an easy to use interface, patterned on the general .NET Framework readers, such as XmlReader.


Read the background of Password Safe at their Web site, but briefly this originated as a product from Bruce Schneier, at Counterpane who subsequently published the source code, and it now lives an independent life at Sourceforge.

The code presented only implements a PasswordSafeReader at this time, but it should be relatively trivial to follow the general implementation pattern to make a PasswordSafeWriter. If anyone makes such a beast, I'll be happy to integrate the source.

Using the Code

The solution in the source code package contains two projects, one for the actual library, one for a simple demo and test using the NUnit framework to demonstrate usage as well as to provide a validation of the implementation.

The basic reader loop, devoid of error checking (the reader will throw InvalidDataException for a bad key or bad database format, and InvalidOperationException for an internal implementation error) can look like this:

PasswordSafeHeader header;
List<PasswordSafeRecord> records = new List<PasswordSafeRecord>();

using (PasswordSafeReader reader = new PasswordSafeReader(stream))
    while (reader.Read())
        switch (reader.CurrentPartType)
            case PasswordSafePartType.Header:
                header = reader.Header;

            case PasswordSafePartType.Record:


Points of Interest

An interesting discovery when implementing this code was that I discovered a minor security flaw in the format. The database is encrypted and also protected with a keyed hash, an HMAC to ensure the integrity of the data. The problem is that the HMAC does not actually protect all the bits it should, it does not protect the format meta data, i.e. record lengths and field type codes. The real-world risk of this is low, since it is all encrypted, but it's still a flaw.

Password Safe has gone through several generations, this code implements the Version 3 format which, among other things of note, uses the Twofish block cipher for encryption. The Twofish implementation used was written by Shaun Wilde.

The source code as published here is licensed under the GPL version 3.0 - but if this is a problem for your project, in most cases I'll be happy to license it to you for free under less restrictive terms. Just send me an e-mail.


  • 16th October, 2007: This is version


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The GNU General Public License (GPLv3)

Written By
Web Developer Axantum Software AB
Sweden Sweden
I've been working with all aspects of software development since 1979 - from compiler construction to management. Currently I'm an independent consultant mostly specializing in computer security. Please see my homepage for contact details.

I speak C like a native, and have a pretty good grasp of C++. The most recent five years C# has been the main development language. Traditionally Unix has been the dominating environment, but currently the scales have tipped over to Windows, due to market demands but I'm equally at home developing in both environments.

When I'm not coding I'm usually sitting on one of my 4 bikes, indoors or outdoors, on the road or in the woods.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionReplacement for KeyedHashAlgorithm and HMACSHA256 ? Pin
katakana223-Dec-08 20:56
katakana223-Dec-08 20:56 
AnswerRe: Replacement for KeyedHashAlgorithm and HMACSHA256 ? Pin
Alphons van der Heijden25-Feb-09 9:24
professionalAlphons van der Heijden25-Feb-09 9:24 
GeneralRe: Replacement for KeyedHashAlgorithm and HMACSHA256 ? Pin
katakana21-Mar-09 22:38
katakana21-Mar-09 22:38 
GeneralRe: Replacement for KeyedHashAlgorithm and HMACSHA256 ? [modified] Pin
Alphons van der Heijden1-Mar-09 23:39
professionalAlphons van der Heijden1-Mar-09 23:39 
GeneralGreat! Pin
Alphons van der Heijden21-Jun-08 23:59
professionalAlphons van der Heijden21-Jun-08 23:59 

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