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Use Roughtime

There are various ways you can use Roughtime to keep your clock in sync. These recipes use Cloudflare’s Go package, which is based on Google’s Go client.

The protocol is also implemented in C++, Rust, and Java.

​​ Client configuration

The client configuration consists of a list of named Roughtime servers formatted as a JSON object. For example:

"servers": [
"name": "Cloudflare-Roughtime-2",
"publicKeyType": "ed25519",
"publicKey": "0GD7c3yP8xEc4Zl2zeuN2SlLvDVVocjsPSL8/Rl/7zg=",
"addresses": [
"protocol": "udp",
"address": ""

It includes each server’s root public key. When the server starts, it generates an online public/secret key pair. The root secret key is used to create a delegation for the online public key and the online secret key is used to sign the response.

The delegation serves the same function as a traditional X.509 certificate on the web. The client first uses the root public key to verify the delegation, then uses the online public key to verify the response.

Because the response is auditable, the protocol makes each client accountable to provide accurate time.

The configuration also encodes the type of signature algorithm used by the server (currently only Ed25519 is supported). Lastly, the configuration contains a list of addresses where the service can be reached and which transport protocol to use to reach them (currently only UDP is supported).

​​ TLS

A good starting example would be to sync a TLS client or server using a single Roughtime server. That would involve computing the time difference between our clock and the Roughtime sever’s.

The first step is to load the configuration file (be sure to import

servers, skipped, err := roughtime.LoadConfig("roughtime.config")

In this example, the variable servers is the list of valid server configurations parsed from the input file. The variable skipped indicates the number of servers that were skipped, for example, if the signature algorithm or transport protocol was not supported.

Next, we would get the system time and query the first server in the list:

t0 := time.Now()
rt, err := roughtime.Get(&servers[0], attempts, timeout, nil)

This sends a request to the server and verifies the response. The variable rt is of type *roughtime.Roughtime and represents the result of the query. The inputs are:

  1. The server’s configuration.
  2. The number of attempts to dial the server.
  3. The time to wait for each dial attempt.
  4. An optional *roughtime.Roughtime, the result of a prior query.

If the last parameter is provided, then it’s used generate the nonce for the request (more on this later).

The crypto/tls package allows the user to specify a callback for the current time to use when validating certificates, session tickets, etc. You can compute this callback as follows:

t1, radius := rt.Now()
delta := t1.Sub(t0.Now())
now := func() time.Time {
return time.Now().Add(delta)

The variable t1 is the time reported by the server and radius is the server’s uncertainty radius.

For a full working example, check out our GitHub.

​​ Desktop alerts

A more general way to use Roughtime is to create desktop alerts that warn you when your clock is skewed.

On Ubuntu GNU/Linux, you can do something like this:

skew := time.Duration(math.Abs(float64(delta)))
if skew > 10*time.Second {
summary := "Check your clock!"
body := fmt.Sprintf("%s says it's off by %v.", servers[0].Name, skew)
cmd := exec.Command("notify-send", "-i", "clock", summary, body)
if err := cmd.Run(); err != nil {
// error handling ...

For a full working example, check out our GitHub (tested on Ubuntu 18.04). You would run this program as a cron job to periodically check that your clock is in sync.

​​ Using multiple sources

Using multiple sources for Roughtime is easy (and highly recommended):

t0 := time.Now()
res := roughtime.Do(servers, attempts, timeout, nil)

The first parameter is a sequence of servers and the remaining parameters are the same as in roughtime.Get(). This queries each server in the sequence servers in order. The output res is a slice the same length as servers.

Each element represents the result of the query to the server. If the query was successful, then the result contains the server’s time. If unsuccessful, then the result contains the error that occurred. To compute the median difference between your clock and the valid responses:

thresh := 10 * time.Second
delta, err := roughtime.MedianDeltaWithRadiusThresh(res, t0, thresh)

This rejects responses whose uncertainty radii exceed 10 seconds. An error will be returned if there were no valid responses.

​​ Auditing Your Sources

Function roughtime.Do() chains together valid responses, generating each nonce using the server’s response in the last successful query. As we discuss in more detail in the blog, linking queries together in this manner results in cryptographic proof that the queries were made in order. To verify that the results have this property, you can do the following:

chain := roughtime.NewChain(results)
ok, err := chain.Verify(nil)
if err != nil || !ok {
// error handling ...

The variable chain is a structure that contains the first successful query in results. It has a field, chain.Next, that points to the next successful query. The input parameter to Verify() allows you to use a previous result as a starting point for verifying the chain. For example, if chain.Verify(nil) is valid, then chain.Next.Verify(chain.Roughtime) will be valid, too.

​​ Being Verbose

It is possible to have roughtime.Do() output useful information as it executes its queries. To do so, invoke roughtime.SetLogger() to set a logger. For example:

roughtime.SetLogger(log.New(os.Stdout, "", 0))