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Advanced Security Topics

This repo contains the slides from my talk on Advanced Security at Pycon US 2012.

I strongly encourage you to ask me questions about the material covered in this presentation. I'm usually on IRC on the freenode network (PaulM), and respond pretty quickly via twitter (@paulrmcmillan) or email (

The video:

Brian Rue's Notes:

March 9th 1:45 p.m. – 2:40 p.m.


If your Python application has users, you should be worried about security. This talk will cover advanced material, highlighting common mistakes. Topics will include hashing and salts, timing attacks, serialization, and much more. Expect eye opening demos, and an urge to go fix your code right away.


If your Python application has users (even if it's used offline), you should be worried about security. This talk will cover advanced material, highlighting common mistakes.

Hashing and encryption can be tricky to get right. We'll discuss when to use hashing to sign data, and how to choose the right encryption algorithm (spoiler: don't). We'll demonstrate length extension attacks, and discuss how to prevent them.

Another common mistake is the incorrect use of pseudo-random number generators. We'll discuss the fix, and some of the dangers associated with it.

Timing attacks are relatively exotic, but as applications move into shared data centers (and shared virtual machines) they have become easier to implement and more dangerous. They're a very common class of bugs, but fixing them (and proving they're fixed) can be difficult.

Pickle is a common and easy to use serialization format for Python objects. Unfortunately, it's also insecure when attackers can send or modify the pickled data. We'll discuss strategies for signing pickled objects, and alternate serialization formats.

The final portion of the talk will discuss a meta security problem within the Python community. I'll be demonstrating live code that can compromise even the most locked down of servers, and discussing the steps we need to take as a community to mitigate this threat moving forward.