KeePass on Android, Ubuntu and Windows

25 01 2011

For sometime now I’ve kept an electronic copy of passwords in a spreadsheet which I occasionally update and print out. It’s quite a reasonable way to go, but with a recently acquired Android phone I wanted to make use of this to hold passwords rather than using little bits of paper. 

I tested a number of version builds and ports of KeePass as the original main KeePass (http://keepass.info/) is a Windows only program.  On Ubuntu I tried KeePassX and on my Android Phone I went with KeePassDroid.  The good things is that all these programs can work with a similar database created by the other versions.  The bad thing is that currently this is really only true for .kdb (1.x) files/versions of KeePass databases and not .kdbx (2.x) files/versions of KeePass databases. This is somewhat limiting and resulted in quite a bit of playing around to get what I wanted to do to work.

The plan was to boot into a disconnected version of Ubuntu which I booted into from a 4GB memory stick on an isolated and disconnected computer.  Complete all the editing while in Ubuntu and then transfer my spreadsheet list of passwords into KeePass and finally transfer an appropriate subset of these passwords onto my mobile phone.

To do this I installed Ubuntu 10.10 onto the memory stick.  By default this installed OpenOffice which I was to use to update my spreadsheet.  This worked well.  However, when it came to importing the spreadsheet into KeePass I found KeePassX extremely limited and could not import comma separated files (CSV). I really gave up on KeePassX after this. I subsequently resorted to using KeePass 2.14 running under Mono.  This later step I also almost gave up with as I am no Linux expert and couldn’t understand how to install and get Mono running. In the end I did get KeePass 2.14 to run under Linux with Mono, but I’m not certain of the correct or best steps.  Nevertheless what appeared to work was first installing monoDevelop under Ubuntu 10.10.  Then I ran monoDevelop and selected Debug Applications from the monoDevelop Run menu and selected the KeePass.exe file from the downloaded KeePass 2.14 version.  It subsequently ran KeePass and this allowed me to import from the CSV file OpenOffice saved to.  Importing from a CSV limits fields which can be imported/exported to KeePass, but apart from these limitations the import worked well.

Once I got the files into a kdbx file I really had to give up on Linux.  In the future if KeePassX fully supports kdbx files I could do everything in Linux, but for now Mono caused a number of limitations with KeePass 2.14 when it came to printing, and when editing the kdbx file that it became impractical to use. 

I transferred my kdbx file created under Ubuntu to a Windows 7 notebook.  Using KeePass 2.14 in Windows I was able to save/export all and parts of my password lists to other formats.  The plan for ongoing use is to maintain the master list of passwords in a kdbx database and export necessary subsets to other locations.  KeePass 2.14 is very flexible with importing and exporting.  As such I exported a group of passwords to a kdb file.  This kdb file was easily/simply transferred to my Android phone through the USB cable connected to the Android phone. 

Finally I was able to open the kdb file and access my passwords using KeePassDroid running on the Android Phone.

In the future when I have a phone or software which fully supports KeePass kdbx files I may copy all passwords into the one database and carry them on the phone with me.  This is really what KeePass can easily be used for.  However, I am a little cautious with this because there are still some security risks with this and the more one attempts to mitigate these risks (ie long master password) the more tedious using this technology becomes. 

Anyway for now I’ll continue to try this technology and maintain my master password list in a kdbx database rather than a spreadsheet.  KeePass 2.14 prints out useful tabular summaries (with passwords) which I’ll also use in some instances as it better suits my purposes of access.

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