What is it?

orion is another attempt at cryptography implemented in pure Rust. Its main focus is usability. This is in part achieved by providing a thorough documentation of the library. High-level abstractions are also provided, which are an attempt at guiding the users towards safe usage of the lower-level functionality of the library. Additionally, types used throughout the library, especially in the high-level interfaces, are designed to increase misuse-resistance.

orion itself forbids the use of so-called “unsafe” code, meaning that all memory-safety guarantees provided by Rust are enforced at compile-time (see rust-lang docs). Using no unsafe code also has its drawbacks, such as if you need near-complete constant-time execution. This will in most cases require the use of assembly and therefor unsafe Rust code too.

Even though orion forbids unsafe code, some of its dependencies do not. For example the subtle crate provides constant-time comparisons, for which it uses inline assembly.

Who is it for?

orion is not an attempt to replace existing libraries. Libraries such as ring and those under the RustCrypto organization all have their own advantages. orion is simply meant as a possible alternative that people can try out. They can then use it if they find it fitting for their specific use-case and if it meets their security requirements.

If you’re a developer (regardless of prior experience) and looking to work on cryptography-related projects or just want to work on something in Rust, orion could very well be for you. See the note at the bottom about contributing.

I would NOT recommend orion to someone looking for a production-ready library and I have tried to make this as clear as possible in the README of the repository.

Where is it?

The project is hosted on GitHub and the crate is published on crates.io.

More detailed information about the library is available in the project wiki.

Road map

orion is still under development, and as such the API is still changing. To get orion to a more “mature” state, it also needs to be used more by other projects.

Before a stable version of orion is released, an audit will be done. This audit may not cover all of orion, depending on my financial situation. If it does not, the scope of the audit will be determined at the given point in time. A release date for a stable version has not been set.

Pros:

  • orion’s lower-level functionality is available for use on embedded devices. More specifically, the high-level API is not supported in a no_std context.
  • Hopefully, orion is easy to use.
  • Ensures Rust’s memory-safety guarantees by forbidding unsafe code. This does however not apply to orions dependencies.
  • Sometimes, easier dependency management compared to approaches like RustCrypto.
  • Actively maintained compared to rust-crypto.
  • Because orion is still new and under development, it is more flexible in terms of potential contributors having a greater influence on where the project should be heading.

Cons:

  • orion has been developed by someone who has no professional background in cryptography and who was inexperienced with implementing cryptographic algorithms when he started working on orion.
  • orion has not been audited (a quick audit was done back in April, but the library has changed so much since then, it effectively renders the audit useless).
  • orion still lacks implementations of many popular/common cryptographic algorithms.
  • orion is not decoupled like RustCrypto. This means you have the complete library as dependency, even if you only want to use some of its functionality.
  • Due to forbidding unsafe code and therefor also assembly, “constant-time” code, that orion itself implements, cannot at all be guaranteed to be constant-time. However, currently all constant-time operations are provided by external libraries that are using inline assembly for this.
  • orion is not as “mature” as other alternatives available.

Contributing

Contributions of any kind are most welcome! You can report issues and suggest new features or improvements through the public repository.