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proposal: cmd/go: secure releases with transparency log #25530
[The text of this proposal is outdated. Find the whole proposal here.]
This is a proposal for a long-term plan to provide transparency logs to verify the authenticity of Go releases. It's not something we are ready to implement anytime soon.
Transparency logs are append only Merkle trees which are easy to audit, and provide efficient proofs of inclusion. They are used for Certificate Transparency and are starting to be used for binary transparency.
They are a good fit for securing releases:
The security of such a system is superior to what is provided by modverify, which is effectively pinning to the view of the developer adding the dependency. Transparency logs pin to the first time the version was globally observed, and with the
We can probably build the implementation on top of Trillian, a transparency log (and map) implementation which has the explicit concept of "personalities" for the custom use-case logic. (CT is a Trillian personality.)
Ideally, these logs would be operated by multiple players in the community, and a client could choose to trust or submit to any number of them.
We can build the tooling outside the go tool as a way to check/generate modverify entries to experiment until we feel comfortable with it.
See https://golang.org/design/25530-notary. For golang/go#25530. Change-Id: I1b4add8fe1c2f6911e925bafab99eb7418aa67b4 Reviewed-on: https://go-review.googlesource.com/c/proposal/+/165018 Run-TryBot: Russ Cox <email@example.com> Reviewed-by: Russ Cox <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hi there. I'm late to the party and maybe from left field, but I am part of an OWASP project that is trying to raise the security bar for package management systems across the development ecosystem.
As such, we took quick interest in the work happening here once we became aware of it and wanted to support and encourage further work as well. We recognize that golang is a little different than say, npm and rubygems where we have seen significant security issues emerge. Still, we think that there is more than can be done.
Please let me know if you would rather see separate issues raised, or would like to have a discussion in some other forum (eg. a list), or whatever is most constructive from your collective perspective.
There are a number of good things already in the proposal, obviously. Kudos for that.
As a developer, I still have some concerns:
There is probably more here but this seems like a good start for the conversation.
As always, I could be missing something - or many things - so hopefully this can come across as constructive input. Your work here, on ecosystem level pieces, is so critical to building a more secure overall software environment and there are a bunch of people from our community who would likely be willing to talk or even help with pieces of this. Thanks!
Hi @mkonda, other people might have more specific comments, but I wanted to at least briefly share some pointers that might be of interest to you.
Regarding your points 1. and 3., see for example #24031, and especially #24031 (comment). As far as I understand it, that would enable declaring insecure versions of a module after a release has been published, and would do so without relying on a centralized authority. (edit: as you'll notice if you click on that link, that is an open proposal. That said, I've seen the core Go team state it is important to address that use case. Another alternative discussed prior to that was expanding godoc.org to enable reporting on pair-wise incompatibilities and security issues).
Regarding your point 2., two related items that might be of interest to you:
Together, those two references I think describe a desire to provide services to make it easier for people within the ecosystem to evaluate the quality of a dependency. Perhaps evaluating something like whether or not a dependency has MFA set up for GitHub authentication could be a piece of that.
There is a brief description in the documentation:
I believe it is a SHA256.
Hi @mkonda, 1 and 3 are indeed open issues. They are thankfully orthogonal to what the checksum database solves, so we can tackle them separately. (Making sure the content is authentic, vs making sure it's "secure".)
On 2, I don't really believe we can get widespread adoption of authentication beyond the code host. Even if we made every author sign their releases (which is unrealistic for a number of reasons), they will most likely just sign what's in their repository, effectively delegating that trust.
It is important though that we prevent proxies and attackers from publishing versions unbeknownst to the author, and the checksum database log helps greatly with that: any third-party auditor can offer a service to notify owners of new releases in their repositories, and I hope we will see many kinds of that service.
That, combined with
I realize I am late to complain, but while I understand the need for veryfing the integrity of go modules, what this proposal amounts to is using a single central server by default, creating a single point of failure.
Furthermore, if GOPROXY and GOSUMDB are set by default to central Google servers, then not only people in countries such as China, but people al over the world behind firewalls, such as restrictive corporate firewalls, will experience difficulties in using Go. All these people will be forced to use a custom go proxy with support for sumdb. It doesn't make for a great user experience that the first thing a Go users should do when they start using the language is that they have to configure a proxy and a sum DB. See #31755 for a related discussion.
In I'd like to ask if there no other way that checking the module checksums could be more decentralized, and give a better user experience for firewalled users?
The design goal is to make sure everyone agrees on the same contents for the same version, so a degree of centralization is necessary. The point of the transparency log is to ensure that the log is not a single point of failure: compromising it is not enough because it will lead to detection by the auditors.
The checksum db is also designed to allow for decentralized proxies. As you mentioned, anyone that can reach any untrusted proxy can successfully use the sumdb. (This also makes the sumdb not a single point of failure for read availability.)
If you want to discuss the defaults, please use #31755. The sumdb design can support any conclusion that that issue comes to.
(As an example, consider a "blockchain", that you might think of as more decentralized. You still have to talk to nodes somehow. If you have a way to talk to a node, you can also speak the proxy protocol with them as-is, and reach the sumdb through that.)
To quote the “Releasing Modules (All Version)” section of the Go Modules wiki page : Ensure your go.sum file is committed along with your go.mod file. See FAQ below  for more details and rationale. And the “Should I commit my 'go.sum' file as well as my 'go.mod' file?” section from the same page : Typically your module's go.sum file should be committed along with your go.mod file. - go.sum contains the expected cryptographic checksums of the content of specific module versions. - If someone clones your repository and downloads your dependencies using the go command, they will receive an error if there is any mismatch between their downloaded copies of your dependencies and the corresponding entries in your go.sum. - In addition, go mod verify checks that the on-disk cached copies of module downloads still match the entries in go.sum. - Note that go.sum is not a lock file as used in some alternative dependency management systems. (go.mod provides enough information for reproducible builds). - See very brief rationale here  from Filippo Valsorda on why you should check in your go.sum. See the "Module downloading and verification"  section of the tip documentation for more details. See possible future extensions being discussed for example in golang/go#24117 and golang/go#25530.”  https://github.com/golang/go/wiki/Modules#releasing-modules-all-versions  https://github.com/golang/go/wiki/Modules#should-i-commit-my-gosum-file-as-well-as-my-gomod-file  https://twitter.com/FiloSottile/status/1029404663358087173  https://tip.golang.org/cmd/go/#hdr-Module_downloading_and_verification
I'm going to send a CL that enables both the Go checksum database and the Go module mirror by default in module mode.
There remain issues to resolve with this proposal, so we cannot turn the checksum database on for all users. However, now that we are not enabling modules for all users, it seems reasonable to enable the checksum database for module users, so that we can more precisely understand the exact problems and develop solutions. People who aren't ready to move to modules yet will not be affected by enabling the checksum database, and modules users having particular trouble with the checksum database can turn it off for the specific modules (
If there are any show-stopper issues that we can't address before Go 1.13 is released, we will back out the change. But we need to understand better what the issues are, especially the as-yet-unknown ones.
Editorial comments about the document...
The use of a transparent log for module hashes aligns with a broader trend of using transparent logs
needs elaboration or a link (https://github.com/google/trillian)
There are two main privacy concerns: exposing the text of private modules paths to the database, and
The complete solution for not exposing either private module path text or public module usage
Privacy in CI/CD Systems
I'm (maybe stupidly) unable to grasp one of the core design issues in this design. The services claimed as valuable and necessary are about doing a lookup to validate a pending action ("about to do this and want to know data to use in verification") or about the past-tense version of the same.
It seems important to me that In both cases the client (go get, et al) start by knowing something that may be a secret (the import path and version number) which is the key to obtain the not-a-secret value of the checksum. Because of privacy, non-public code, likely misconfiguration, etc., it seems that the sometimes secret info is the last thing you'd want to use as the public key.
I read the part about possibly using "Private Module SHA256s" but that seemed to miss the point by focusing on the reverse mapping table and first-time publication issues. Here is what I don't understand--why does the database ever need the "clear text" import path and version number? Why must it ever be sent anywhere? It is only useful in that form (I think) to go get on the client side.
Instead, have go get et al create a hashed/encrypted by path/version token, locally, that has strong one-way attributes and use that as the query key, store that in databases, etc. In such a world the module checksum responses are just as easy to supply, are totally "transparent" on the data to be secured side (the checksum) and totally opaque on the other (machine names, import paths, versions, timestamps, traffic analysis, etc.) It sidesteps completely the issue of private data...which will be harmlessly useless to all.
What have I overlooked here?
Following up...because I forgot that this is not "lunch in Charlie's" and it is my duty to explain all the implications:
Yes, my proposal is about an opaque 256-bit one-way cryptographic hash of the query string (the go get info: path+version, perhaps hashed atop the hash of the module source in the Merkle-Damgard sense.)...
...and a transparent-but-otherwise meaningless 256-bit one-way cryptographic hash of the module source -- the existing answer to database queries.
This leads to an exactly 512-bit per record database that would be remarkably simple to maintain and serve, with any complexity being the existing dance around security-through-federation. (Which is nice!)
The result is a public database with properties beyond "encryption at rest" -- not one byte of this database tells you anything that can be used from the database end to know about module paths, machine/url paths, developer identity, etc. It is, in this way, a giant mystery and thus provably safe in any privacy sense no matter how it is configured or maintained, nothing can leak because nothing is there to leak.
Yet, when used the other way, it is fully supportive. go get or other tools want to know about an importable module: they internalize the request path+version, and query with that key. They get back the hash value for the module just as now.
What is lost, you might presume, is the joy of voyeuristically looking at database keys to build a network map of the Land of Go, and G-tools leveraging that map to monitor, report, and assist in various open-ended activities. Nothing in the rationale seems to argue for this map and its conceptual buildability from query strings shows the leaky nature of the present design. If it is not needed, then maybe it is not wanted.
However (this is the new part that I thought would be clear without mention but now I'm thinking that thinking is not in the spirit of distributed discussions) it happens to be true that a better map of the Land of Go is buildable in my opaque-key design. What is needed is a tool or company that knows how to crawl the public web looking for openly shared .go,.mod,... files and then download the import path and version strings from those. These can easily be interned to opaque keys and requests made to the database. When a key is present, then so is the version's hash. all of this--the three tuple of provably-shared-source path&version, the resulting key, and the stored hash--are then united for building the Land of Go tooling.
This way, the map if desired, is never built from private code because that code is not shared on the web. So provenance is provable. Security is implicit. Misconfiguration can't hurt. That's what I meant.
The reason module names need to be available in plaintext in the database is for auditing purposes. A transparent log is only useful if it is scrutinized and held accountable, and to perform a number of checks the auditors need to know what the module names are.
An example: we will want a notification service that can email me for any new module like
Also, the search space is not that wide so hashes can be reversed in most cases, which is why the private lookup proposal uses hash prefixes, to lean on the equivalent of k-anonymity.
(Thanks for the edits, I'll make a PR next week, but feel free to go ahead and make one in the meantime if you'd like.)
On May 21, I wrote:
Go 1.13 beta has been out for a while with the checksum database enabled, and overall it seems to be working well. No show-stopper issues have been identified that I am aware of. We have not resolved the comments about wanting to change the content of a module without triggering an error, but the design of the system is meant to catch exactly that. And people who want not to be stopped can always turn off the checksum database.
We made it easier to turn off both the proxy and the checksum database together, selectively, with the new GOPRIVATE environment variable (see 'go help environment').
Overall it seems like the consensus here is that we can move forward with this and accept this proposal, since no show-stopper issues have been identified. Am I missing anything?
Will leave this open for a week to collect final comments.
(It is always fine to file a new issue for other problems found with the checksum database.)