Extended verification for git tags
C Makefile Shell Rust Python M4
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git-evtag can be used as a replacement for git-tag -s. It will generate a strong checksum (called Git-EVTag-v0-SHA512) over the commit, tree, and blobs it references (and recursively over submodules). A primary rationale for this is that the underlying SHA1 algorithm of git is under increasing threat. Further, a goal here is to create a checksum that covers the entire source of a single revision as a replacement for tarballs + checksums.

git-evtag was originally discussed (long before the SHA1 collision of February 2017) on the git mailing list:

Getting git-evtag

See also the the Node.js implementation.

Using git-evtag

Create a new v2015.10 tag, covering the HEAD revision with GPG signature and Git-EVTag-v0-SHA512:

$ git-evtag sign v2015.10
 ( type your tag message, note a Git-EVTag-v0-SHA512 line in the message )
$ git show v2015.10
 ( Note signature covered by GPG signature )

Verify a tag:

$ git-evtag verify v2015.10
gpg: Signature made Sun 28 Jun 2015 10:49:11 AM EDT
gpg:                using RSA key 0xDC45FD5921C13F0B
gpg: Good signature from "Colin Walters <walters@redhat.com>" [ultimate]
gpg:                 aka "Colin Walters <walters@verbum.org>" [ultimate]
Primary key fingerprint: 1CEC 7A9D F7DA 85AB EF84  3DC0 A866 D7CC AE08 7291
     Subkey fingerprint: AB92 8A9C F8DD 0629 09C3  7BBD DC45 FD59 21C1 3F0B
Successfully verified: Git-EVTag-v0-SHA512: b05f10f9adb0eff352d90938588834508d33fdfcedbcfc332999ee397efa321d1f49a539f1b82f024111a281c1f441002e7f536b06eb04d41857b01636f6f268

Replacing tarballs - i.e. be the primary artifact

This is similar to what project distributors often accomplish by using git archive, or make dist, or similar tools to generate a tarball, and then checksumming that, and (ideally) providing a GPG signature covering it.

Tarball reproducibility

The problem with git archive and make dist is that tarballs (and other tools like zip files) are not easily reproducible exactly from a git repository commit. The authors of git reserve the right to change the file format output by git archive in the future. Also, there are a variety of reasons why compressors like gzip and xz aren't necessarily reproducible, such as compression levels, included timestamps, optimizations in the algorithm, etc. See Pristine tar for some examples of the difficulties involved (e.g. trying to retroactively guess the compression level arguments from the xz dictionary size).

If the checksum is not reproducible, it becomes much more difficult to easily and reliably verify that a generated tarball contains the same source code as a particular git commit.

What git-evtag implements is an algorithm for providing a strong checksum over the complete source objects for the target commit (+ trees + blobs + submodules). Then it's integrated with GPG for end-to-end verification. (Although, one could also wrap the checksum in X.509 or some other public/private signature solution).

Then no out of band distribution mechanism is necessary, and better, the checksums strengthen the ability to verify integrity of the git repository.

(And if you want to avoid downloading the entire history, that's what git clone --depth=1 is for.)

Git and SHA1

NEW! The first SHA1 collision was announced February 23, 2017:

Git uses a modified Merkle tree with SHA1, which means that if an attacker managed to create a SHA1 collision for a source file object (git blob), it would affect all revisions and checkouts - invalidating the security of all GPG signed tags whose commits point to that object.

Now, the author of this tool believes that today, GPG signed git tags are fairly secure, especially if one is careful to ensure transport integrity (e.g. pinned TLS certificates from the origin).

The Git-EVTag algorithm (v0)

There is currently only one version of the Git-EVTag algorithm, called v0 - and it only supports SHA-512. It is declared stable. All further text refers to this version of the algorithm. In the unlikely event that it is necessary to introduce a new version, this tool will support all known versions.

Git-EVTag-v0-SHA512 covers the complete contents of all objects for a commit; again similar to checksumming git archive, except reproducible. Each object is added to the checksum in its raw canonicalized form, including the header.

For a given commit (in Rust-style pseudocode):

fn git_evtag(repo: GitRepo, commitid: String) -> SHA512 {
    let checksum = new SHA512();
    walk_commit(repo, checksum, commitid)
    return checksum

fn walk_commit(repo: GitRepo, checksum : SHA512, commitid : String) {
    checksum_object(repo, checksum, commitid)
    let treeid = repo.load_commit(commitid).treeid();
    walk(repo, checksum, treeid)

fn checksum_object(repo: GitRepo, checksum: SHA512, objid: String) -> () {
    // This is the canonical header of the object; <typename> <length (ascii base 10)>
    // https://git-scm.com/book/en/v2/Git-Internals-Git-Objects#Object-Storage
    let header : &str = repo.load_object_header(objid);
    // The NUL byte after the header, explicitly included in the checksum
    let nul = [0u8];
    // The remaining raw content of the object as a byte array
    let body : &[u8] = repo.load_object_body(objid);

fn walk(repo: GitRepo, checksum: SHA512, treeid: String) -> () {
    // First, add the tree object itself
    checksum_object(repo, checksum, treeid);
    let tree = repo.load_tree(treeid);
    for child in tree.children() {
        match childtype {
            Blob(blobid) => checksum_object(repo, checksum, blobid),
            Tree(child_treeid) => walk(repo, checksum, child_treeid),
            Commit(commitid, path) => {
                let child_repo = repo.get_submodule(path)
                walk_commit(child_repo, checksum, commitid)

This strong checksum, can be verified reproducibly offline after cloning a git repository for a particular tag. When covered by a GPG signature, it provides a strong end-to-end integrity guarantee.

It's quite inexpensive and practical to compute Git-EVTag-v0-SHA512 once per tag/release creation. At the time of this writing, on the Linux kernel (a large project by most standards), it takes about 5 seconds to compute on this author's laptop. On most smaller projects, it's completely negligible.

Aside: other aspects of tarballs

This project is just addressing one small part of the larger git/tarball question. Anything else is out of scope, but a brief discussion of other aspects is included below.

Historically, many projects include additional content in tarballs. For example, the GNU Autotools pregenerate a configure script from configure.ac and the like. Other projects don't include translations in git, but merge them out of band when generating tarballs.

There are many other things like this, and they all harm reproducibility and continuous integration/delivery.

For example, while many of my projects use Autotools, I simply have downstream authors run autogen.sh. It works just fine - the autotools are no longer changing often, and many downstreams want to do it anyways.

For the translation issue, note that bad translations can actually crash one's application. If they're part of the git repository, they can be more easily tested as a unit continuously.