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Request: Google Play signed download alternative #127

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countrygeek opened this Issue Feb 9, 2013 · 150 comments

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@countrygeek

I was about to suggest this before reading the infamous issue 53. It is sad to see that FDroid and WhisperSystems could not work together, I truly enjoy both projects. Needless to say a google alternative is required - google more and more frequently involves itself in privacy violations. I am opening this ticket in hopes that an alternative of some sort is made.

Possibilities:

  1. WhisperSystems creates it's own official FDroid repository, as did GuardianProject:
    https://guardianproject.info/2012/03/15/our-new-f-droid-app-repository/

  2. WhisperSystems provides an APK somewhere out there for people to download with simple instructions on how to verify it's not been tampered with.

In the event this is not done users not wanting Google will have to compile it from source, which although can be done, is a major inconvenience especially to newbies. Just for reference, there seems to be a large interest in migrating away from google. e,g, the NoGAPPS project:
http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?s=a7bf27eb98e3bcefb7e58fb46d09710b&t=1715375

I hope you all come up with a resolution. Thanks and keep up the great work! :)

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moxie0 Feb 9, 2013

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Hey @countrygeek, let me provide a little color on why I've been reluctant to distribute APKs outside of Google Play.

First, I'm concerned primarily with the security of our users, and am interested in targeting a demographic that does not know what a checksum or signature is. You might call them "newbies," but personally I think we're doing a good job if these are the bulk of our users.

It may be an unpopular opinion, but I think the two worst security moves that an average user can make are rooting their device, or ticking the "allow 3rd party APKs" box in Android's settings. As bad as Google is, I believe that these actions make users susceptible to something that is much worse.

We are reluctant to distribute raw APKs for a few additional reasons:

  1. No upgrade channel. Timely and automatic updates are perhaps the most effective security feature we could ask for, and not having them would be a real blow for the project.

  2. No app scanning. The nice thing about market is the server-side APK scanning and signature validation they do. If you start distributing APKs around the internet, it's a reversion back to the PC security model and all of the malware problems that came with it.

  3. No crash reporting. We are able to react very quickly to crash bugs through exception reports.

  4. No stats. We are largely dependent on Play for knowing how many users we have, what types of devices they're running, and what version of Android they have. This allows us to make decisions about where to prioritize development and which platforms we should be supporting.

  5. Avoiding Play alone is not a privacy win. Many people seem to be under the impression that avoiding Play prevents their device from phoning home to Google, but that's not the case. On 2.2+, if you have the GSF on your device, it will phone home whether you have a Play account registered or not.

So that's where we are. I believe that the decision not to distribute prebuilt APKs achieves the following balance:

  1. It does not encourage the average user to tick "allow 3rd party APKs" in Android settings.

  2. It allows "power" users who can appropriately manage the risks to install TextSecure without Play by building from source.

The thesis essentially being, if you aren't able to build TextSecure from source, you probably aren't capable of managing the risks associated with 3rd party sources.

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moxie0 commented Feb 9, 2013

Hey @countrygeek, let me provide a little color on why I've been reluctant to distribute APKs outside of Google Play.

First, I'm concerned primarily with the security of our users, and am interested in targeting a demographic that does not know what a checksum or signature is. You might call them "newbies," but personally I think we're doing a good job if these are the bulk of our users.

It may be an unpopular opinion, but I think the two worst security moves that an average user can make are rooting their device, or ticking the "allow 3rd party APKs" box in Android's settings. As bad as Google is, I believe that these actions make users susceptible to something that is much worse.

We are reluctant to distribute raw APKs for a few additional reasons:

  1. No upgrade channel. Timely and automatic updates are perhaps the most effective security feature we could ask for, and not having them would be a real blow for the project.

  2. No app scanning. The nice thing about market is the server-side APK scanning and signature validation they do. If you start distributing APKs around the internet, it's a reversion back to the PC security model and all of the malware problems that came with it.

  3. No crash reporting. We are able to react very quickly to crash bugs through exception reports.

  4. No stats. We are largely dependent on Play for knowing how many users we have, what types of devices they're running, and what version of Android they have. This allows us to make decisions about where to prioritize development and which platforms we should be supporting.

  5. Avoiding Play alone is not a privacy win. Many people seem to be under the impression that avoiding Play prevents their device from phoning home to Google, but that's not the case. On 2.2+, if you have the GSF on your device, it will phone home whether you have a Play account registered or not.

So that's where we are. I believe that the decision not to distribute prebuilt APKs achieves the following balance:

  1. It does not encourage the average user to tick "allow 3rd party APKs" in Android settings.

  2. It allows "power" users who can appropriately manage the risks to install TextSecure without Play by building from source.

The thesis essentially being, if you aren't able to build TextSecure from source, you probably aren't capable of managing the risks associated with 3rd party sources.

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jamesbeebop Feb 9, 2013

FWIW I appreciate this posture. The usefulness of this app increases for me every time a friend or family member installs it ... most of whom aren't power users.

FWIW I appreciate this posture. The usefulness of this app increases for me every time a friend or family member installs it ... most of whom aren't power users.

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countrygeek Feb 9, 2013

@moxie0 Thanks for clarifying, it does help me better understand your thoughts on it.

However, I have some possibilities for what you mentioned.

  1. No Upgrade Channel. Most Debian-based distros suffer the same, which is why they made PPA's. Further reason to offer a repository of your own which is only available via HTTPS and synced as soon as a build is made. It can be GPG signed for powerusers who are unable to compile the tool everytime a new build is made. This can be due to a number of reasons, slow connections or unreliable and censored connections while trying to download the entire Android SDK.

Don't forget the people in Arab Spring. A quick download of an APK from a trusted party vs. an entire tool-chain when Google Play is blocked is more practical.

  1. No App Scanning - Agreed. Although Google does a fairly poor job as well, plenty of active malware is inside the market. The best defense a regular user can do is watch their Permissions and install an Anti-Virus. "Powerusers" could install PermissionBlocking software and firewall their applications, as well as hash check them and check their GPG signatures.

  2. No Crash Reporting - I think Mozilla's Fennec project did an excellent job of this -
    https://wiki.mozilla.org/Mobile/Fennec
    They use their own crash reporter which doesn't require Google to function.

  3. Stats - understandable, but I think users would prefer to opt-in to sharing statistical information. e.g. Cynanogen Mod asks if this "OK" before sharing. Google only asks if it's OK to share a crash report, the rest is fair game.

  4. Definitely Agree, Google controls many facets of the phone - Oh and let's not forget CarrierIQ. That's why NoGAPPS and Replicant Project is definitely something to watch long-term.
    http://replicant.us

I believe, as rightly communicated in your other tool, Convergence.io - there must also be decentralization in layers of security. If Google has complete central control, and if they ever become compromised the entire network and users are then compromised; additionally, if it fails or is blocked it becomes impossible to access. That's why there needs to be fallback nodes/mirrors whatever you want to call them.

Outside the scope of this project, I think there should be a repository which is peer-reviewed for security, as well having an established WebOfTrust, perhaps P2P based, that doesn't require users to uncheck "3rd party apps" and is open-source.

FDroid for example (as soon as more security measures are in place) could become the official repository on Replicant devices. Then users would not have to uncheck 3rd party apps. That's when tools like this should be included in the repository and updated regularly, as well as being system apps in ROMs. It would also need to regularly pull commits and updates like Arch so there was no delay that puts users at risk.
But that's for hopeful dreaming - until then we have we have.

@moxie0 Thanks for clarifying, it does help me better understand your thoughts on it.

However, I have some possibilities for what you mentioned.

  1. No Upgrade Channel. Most Debian-based distros suffer the same, which is why they made PPA's. Further reason to offer a repository of your own which is only available via HTTPS and synced as soon as a build is made. It can be GPG signed for powerusers who are unable to compile the tool everytime a new build is made. This can be due to a number of reasons, slow connections or unreliable and censored connections while trying to download the entire Android SDK.

Don't forget the people in Arab Spring. A quick download of an APK from a trusted party vs. an entire tool-chain when Google Play is blocked is more practical.

  1. No App Scanning - Agreed. Although Google does a fairly poor job as well, plenty of active malware is inside the market. The best defense a regular user can do is watch their Permissions and install an Anti-Virus. "Powerusers" could install PermissionBlocking software and firewall their applications, as well as hash check them and check their GPG signatures.

  2. No Crash Reporting - I think Mozilla's Fennec project did an excellent job of this -
    https://wiki.mozilla.org/Mobile/Fennec
    They use their own crash reporter which doesn't require Google to function.

  3. Stats - understandable, but I think users would prefer to opt-in to sharing statistical information. e.g. Cynanogen Mod asks if this "OK" before sharing. Google only asks if it's OK to share a crash report, the rest is fair game.

  4. Definitely Agree, Google controls many facets of the phone - Oh and let's not forget CarrierIQ. That's why NoGAPPS and Replicant Project is definitely something to watch long-term.
    http://replicant.us

I believe, as rightly communicated in your other tool, Convergence.io - there must also be decentralization in layers of security. If Google has complete central control, and if they ever become compromised the entire network and users are then compromised; additionally, if it fails or is blocked it becomes impossible to access. That's why there needs to be fallback nodes/mirrors whatever you want to call them.

Outside the scope of this project, I think there should be a repository which is peer-reviewed for security, as well having an established WebOfTrust, perhaps P2P based, that doesn't require users to uncheck "3rd party apps" and is open-source.

FDroid for example (as soon as more security measures are in place) could become the official repository on Replicant devices. Then users would not have to uncheck 3rd party apps. That's when tools like this should be included in the repository and updated regularly, as well as being system apps in ROMs. It would also need to regularly pull commits and updates like Arch so there was no delay that puts users at risk.
But that's for hopeful dreaming - until then we have we have.

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  1. No Upgrade Channel. Most Debian-based distros suffer the same, which is why they made PPA's. Further
    reason to offer a repository of your own which is only available via HTTPS and synced as soon as a build is
    made. It can be GPG signed for powerusers who are unable to compile the tool everytime a new build is made.
    This can be due to a number of reasons, slow connections or unreliable and censored connections while trying to
    download the entire Android SDK.

Generally speaking, comparisons to the PC world are not going to resonate with me. The security model for desktops (unix-based and windows-based) is completely broken, and I think the mobile environment should be a chance to rectify our past sins, not copy them.

The current situation is that it's not (rightly!) possible for a 3rd party app to automatically install an APK. This fundamentally prevents auto-updates from being a reality outside of Play.

Don't forget the people in Arab Spring. A quick download of an APK from a trusted party vs. an entire tool-chain
when Google Play is blocked is more practical.

Unfortunately, circumvention problems extend beyond the download. RedPhone depends on GCM, and soon TextSecure likely will as well. My sense is that other projects are better positioned to deal with circumvention in the general case.

  1. No App Scanning - Agreed. Although Google does a fairly poor job as well, plenty of active malware is inside
    the market. The best defense a regular user can do is watch their Permissions and install an Anti-Virus.
    "Powerusers" could install PermissionBlocking software and firewall their applications, as well as hash check
    them and check their GPG signatures.

Actually, the malware incidence inside of the Play Store is exceptionally low. Compare it to desktop malware, and it's nonexistent. The bulk of mobile malware (drudged up by AV companies to justify their existence) has been in 3rd party app stores and random drive-by downloads. And the problem with depending on mobile AV is that mobile AV is a complete joke, even more so than desktop AV. These apps have no system integration, so they literally can't do anything other than look at a 3rd party APK at install time. It's quite easy to evade any signature detection and then simply disable the AV app. This is already happening.

Again, I feel like we should be desperately trying to avoid what we inherited with the desktop paradigm, rather than reproducing it.

  1. No Crash Reporting - I think Mozilla's Fennec project did an excellent job of this -
    https://wiki.mozilla.org/Mobile/Fennec
    They use their own crash reporter which doesn't require Google to function.

A good crash reporting solution is essentially a product in itself. There are entire companies built around mobile crash reporting, but as far as I've seen, none of them are as good as the default Play reporting. To ask that I develop and maintain my own is a big ask. I can't emphasize how important this is to the project.

  1. Stats - understandable, but I think users would prefer to opt-in to sharing statistical information. e.g.
    Cynanogen Mod asks if this "OK" before sharing. Google only asks if it's OK to share a crash report, the rest is
    fair game.

Build me a high quality stats reporting solution with a nice web interface that displays graphs and trends of time. Then manage the server side hosting for me, and I'll use it. =)

I believe, as rightly communicated in your other tool, Convergence.io - there must also be decentralization in
layers of security. If Google has complete central control, and if they ever become compromised the entire
network and users are then compromised; additionally, if it fails or is blocked it becomes impossible to access.
That's why there needs to be fallback nodes/mirrors whatever you want to call them.

This is actually how the Play Store works right now. Google does not have complete control over all updates: I sign all APKs with my own code signing key that is kept offline. These signatures are enforced by the PackageManagerService on each user's device, not by the Play Store itself. The mechanics are very similar to TACK (http://tack.io), which is what we're currently advocating for the TLS world.

This is in huge contrast to how the bulk of apps on fdroid are distributed. Most are not signed by the developers, but by fdroid itself, with keys that they keep online. I believe this is a dangerous situation, and is one of the primary reasons (along with having to enable 3rd party sources) that I don't recommend using fdroid.

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moxie0 commented Feb 9, 2013

  1. No Upgrade Channel. Most Debian-based distros suffer the same, which is why they made PPA's. Further
    reason to offer a repository of your own which is only available via HTTPS and synced as soon as a build is
    made. It can be GPG signed for powerusers who are unable to compile the tool everytime a new build is made.
    This can be due to a number of reasons, slow connections or unreliable and censored connections while trying to
    download the entire Android SDK.

Generally speaking, comparisons to the PC world are not going to resonate with me. The security model for desktops (unix-based and windows-based) is completely broken, and I think the mobile environment should be a chance to rectify our past sins, not copy them.

The current situation is that it's not (rightly!) possible for a 3rd party app to automatically install an APK. This fundamentally prevents auto-updates from being a reality outside of Play.

Don't forget the people in Arab Spring. A quick download of an APK from a trusted party vs. an entire tool-chain
when Google Play is blocked is more practical.

Unfortunately, circumvention problems extend beyond the download. RedPhone depends on GCM, and soon TextSecure likely will as well. My sense is that other projects are better positioned to deal with circumvention in the general case.

  1. No App Scanning - Agreed. Although Google does a fairly poor job as well, plenty of active malware is inside
    the market. The best defense a regular user can do is watch their Permissions and install an Anti-Virus.
    "Powerusers" could install PermissionBlocking software and firewall their applications, as well as hash check
    them and check their GPG signatures.

Actually, the malware incidence inside of the Play Store is exceptionally low. Compare it to desktop malware, and it's nonexistent. The bulk of mobile malware (drudged up by AV companies to justify their existence) has been in 3rd party app stores and random drive-by downloads. And the problem with depending on mobile AV is that mobile AV is a complete joke, even more so than desktop AV. These apps have no system integration, so they literally can't do anything other than look at a 3rd party APK at install time. It's quite easy to evade any signature detection and then simply disable the AV app. This is already happening.

Again, I feel like we should be desperately trying to avoid what we inherited with the desktop paradigm, rather than reproducing it.

  1. No Crash Reporting - I think Mozilla's Fennec project did an excellent job of this -
    https://wiki.mozilla.org/Mobile/Fennec
    They use their own crash reporter which doesn't require Google to function.

A good crash reporting solution is essentially a product in itself. There are entire companies built around mobile crash reporting, but as far as I've seen, none of them are as good as the default Play reporting. To ask that I develop and maintain my own is a big ask. I can't emphasize how important this is to the project.

  1. Stats - understandable, but I think users would prefer to opt-in to sharing statistical information. e.g.
    Cynanogen Mod asks if this "OK" before sharing. Google only asks if it's OK to share a crash report, the rest is
    fair game.

Build me a high quality stats reporting solution with a nice web interface that displays graphs and trends of time. Then manage the server side hosting for me, and I'll use it. =)

I believe, as rightly communicated in your other tool, Convergence.io - there must also be decentralization in
layers of security. If Google has complete central control, and if they ever become compromised the entire
network and users are then compromised; additionally, if it fails or is blocked it becomes impossible to access.
That's why there needs to be fallback nodes/mirrors whatever you want to call them.

This is actually how the Play Store works right now. Google does not have complete control over all updates: I sign all APKs with my own code signing key that is kept offline. These signatures are enforced by the PackageManagerService on each user's device, not by the Play Store itself. The mechanics are very similar to TACK (http://tack.io), which is what we're currently advocating for the TLS world.

This is in huge contrast to how the bulk of apps on fdroid are distributed. Most are not signed by the developers, but by fdroid itself, with keys that they keep online. I believe this is a dangerous situation, and is one of the primary reasons (along with having to enable 3rd party sources) that I don't recommend using fdroid.

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Argafal Feb 12, 2013

I am happy to see this issue discussed here and i would like to add another user requesting this app to be available from outside Google Play. I do not use Google Play since I do not wish to bundle my phone with a Google account. I do see your reasoning in why you are reluctant to support anything else, but I think you should reconsider this, at least for alternatives that actually care about security and open source software. I fully agree that decentralization is a vital requirement for secure designs and that monopolies should be avoided. History shows many examples.

For my daily use I use fdroid exclusively, since I see the need for a trustworthy source of applications and an update mechanism. Fdroid provides this for me at the level that I require. Yes, some details could be improved (such as statistics), but I think it's very much a step in the right direction. I do believe the fdroid folks are in general very open to suggestions.

I very much wish I could get the most recent TextSecure through fdroid as well rather than having the choice between running a version older than Methusalem or building from source. Avoiding the former should be in your very own interest as the author of the app. The latter requires me to constantly monitor for updates and bugs and is manual work which I wish I could avoid. Since most of my friends and family use cyanogenmod and fdroid as well I am very reluctant to suggest them to upgrade to TextSecure, since that would put me in the apk maintainer position.

For these reason I would greatly appreciate to see TextSecure back in fdroid, and I would very much hope you reconsider your position on this.

Argafal commented Feb 12, 2013

I am happy to see this issue discussed here and i would like to add another user requesting this app to be available from outside Google Play. I do not use Google Play since I do not wish to bundle my phone with a Google account. I do see your reasoning in why you are reluctant to support anything else, but I think you should reconsider this, at least for alternatives that actually care about security and open source software. I fully agree that decentralization is a vital requirement for secure designs and that monopolies should be avoided. History shows many examples.

For my daily use I use fdroid exclusively, since I see the need for a trustworthy source of applications and an update mechanism. Fdroid provides this for me at the level that I require. Yes, some details could be improved (such as statistics), but I think it's very much a step in the right direction. I do believe the fdroid folks are in general very open to suggestions.

I very much wish I could get the most recent TextSecure through fdroid as well rather than having the choice between running a version older than Methusalem or building from source. Avoiding the former should be in your very own interest as the author of the app. The latter requires me to constantly monitor for updates and bugs and is manual work which I wish I could avoid. Since most of my friends and family use cyanogenmod and fdroid as well I am very reluctant to suggest them to upgrade to TextSecure, since that would put me in the apk maintainer position.

For these reason I would greatly appreciate to see TextSecure back in fdroid, and I would very much hope you reconsider your position on this.

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mvdan Feb 12, 2013

@moxie0 Might I give my five cents here?

I've gone through all the discussions on this, and this is my overall conclusion: Your concern here seems to be the safety of your users. You don't want them ignoring the availability of newer versions, or downloading APK's from sources that don't provide you with use/device statistics. Is that correct?

Now, here's my point of view - What about the users who do not want to use Google Play and do not want to follow your advice? Surely you can consider that as harmful to them - but that's their problem, not yours. And the amount of people who use F-Droid is in no way comparable to the amount of people who use Google Play.

Moreover, I would certainly not think that by keeping F-Droid from packaging your software you are getting more installs on Google Play. Most of the people who use it would never consider using Google, thus you're just making life harder for these people. Nor are you winning anything by that prohibition.

Please do tell me if I understood anything the wrong way. I just started packaging for F-Droid as a hobby, and I'd like to package your software in the following days. Hopefully there won't be a problem with that.

mvdan commented Feb 12, 2013

@moxie0 Might I give my five cents here?

I've gone through all the discussions on this, and this is my overall conclusion: Your concern here seems to be the safety of your users. You don't want them ignoring the availability of newer versions, or downloading APK's from sources that don't provide you with use/device statistics. Is that correct?

Now, here's my point of view - What about the users who do not want to use Google Play and do not want to follow your advice? Surely you can consider that as harmful to them - but that's their problem, not yours. And the amount of people who use F-Droid is in no way comparable to the amount of people who use Google Play.

Moreover, I would certainly not think that by keeping F-Droid from packaging your software you are getting more installs on Google Play. Most of the people who use it would never consider using Google, thus you're just making life harder for these people. Nor are you winning anything by that prohibition.

Please do tell me if I understood anything the wrong way. I just started packaging for F-Droid as a hobby, and I'd like to package your software in the following days. Hopefully there won't be a problem with that.

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Argafal Feb 12, 2013

mvdan, thanks for adding this. Indeed I would never consider using Google Play, that was the point I was trying to make. I build it myself until I find an alternative way of getting the app in a recent version. Unfortunately my grandma can't do that (building it herself) so she can't use it. ;)

Argafal commented Feb 12, 2013

mvdan, thanks for adding this. Indeed I would never consider using Google Play, that was the point I was trying to make. I build it myself until I find an alternative way of getting the app in a recent version. Unfortunately my grandma can't do that (building it herself) so she can't use it. ;)

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dalb8 Feb 12, 2013

If the app uses GCM will it be usable without Google Play?

F-Droid admin does not keep the keystore online: how could one come to that conclusion?

He signs the apks, thus we know if updates are also signed by him; I don't see why this fact should upset the whole idea of sharing software as set out in the GNU GPL.

dalb8 commented Feb 12, 2013

If the app uses GCM will it be usable without Google Play?

F-Droid admin does not keep the keystore online: how could one come to that conclusion?

He signs the apks, thus we know if updates are also signed by him; I don't see why this fact should upset the whole idea of sharing software as set out in the GNU GPL.

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@Argafal

I am happy to see this issue discussed here and i would like to add another user requesting this app to be
available from outside Google Play. I do not use Google Play since I do not wish to bundle my phone with a
Google account. I do see your reasoning in why you are reluctant to support anything else, but I think you should
reconsider this, at least for alternatives that actually care about security and open source software. I fully agree
that decentralization is a vital requirement for secure designs and that monopolies should be avoided. History
shows many examples.

But I'm reluctant to distribute APKs outside of the Play Store precisely because I care about the security of TextSecure users.

Additionally, many folks seem to think that not adding a Google account to their device is a privacy win, when that's rarely the case. If your device has GSF installed, the privacy implications are the same whether you have a Google account associated or not.

For my daily use I use fdroid exclusively, since I see the need for a trustworthy source of applications and an
update mechanism. Fdroid provides this for me at the level that I require. Yes, some details could be improved
(such as statistics), but I think it's very much a step in the right direction. I do believe the fdroid folks are in
general very open to suggestions.

It's not just statistics. The problem is the security model. The bulk of applications distributed through fdroid are signed by keys that belong to the fdroid maintainers, and which are kept online. This means that the fdroid maintainers themselves, or any attackers who compromise fdroid, are capable of pushing malware to your device.

This is a huge contrast to Google Play, where every app is signed by keys that belong to the app's developers. Google, or attackers who compromise Google, are not capable of pushing rogue updates.

I very much wish I could get the most recent TextSecure through fdroid as well rather than having the choice
between running a version older than Methusalem or building from source. Avoiding the former should be in your
very own interest as the author of the app. The latter requires me to constantly monitor for updates and bugs and
is manual work which I wish I could avoid. Since most of my friends and family use cyanogenmod and fdroid as
well I am very reluctant to suggest them to upgrade to TextSecure, since that would put me in the apk maintainer
position.

Again, I know that this is probably an unpopular opinion, but if you've set your "less technical" friends and family up with cyanogenmod and fdroid, I believe that you've very seriously compromised their security. Both cyanogen and fdroid seriously compromise the security gains that we've made in the mobile environment and are a reversion back to the desktop security model:

  1. Cyanogen runs things as root, completely circumventing the development of a fine grained permissions system. They've also made a number of tradeoffs that further weaken its security.

  2. In order for your friends to run fdroid, they've had to tick "allow 3rd party sources," which is probably the single most effective malware prevention mechanism for less savvy users.

It's exactly this (setting less technical users up with things like fdroid) that I am afraid of.

For you, compiling and installing from source once a week is literally three commands: git pull && ant release && adb install -r bin/TextSecure-release.apk. For your friends who are not technically capable of doing this, I believe that this means they aren't savvy enough to tick "allow 3rd party sources" responsibly.

I totally agree that 3rd party app store alternatives seem cool, but until they're done securely and correctly, I'd prefer not to participate.

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moxie0 commented Feb 12, 2013

@Argafal

I am happy to see this issue discussed here and i would like to add another user requesting this app to be
available from outside Google Play. I do not use Google Play since I do not wish to bundle my phone with a
Google account. I do see your reasoning in why you are reluctant to support anything else, but I think you should
reconsider this, at least for alternatives that actually care about security and open source software. I fully agree
that decentralization is a vital requirement for secure designs and that monopolies should be avoided. History
shows many examples.

But I'm reluctant to distribute APKs outside of the Play Store precisely because I care about the security of TextSecure users.

Additionally, many folks seem to think that not adding a Google account to their device is a privacy win, when that's rarely the case. If your device has GSF installed, the privacy implications are the same whether you have a Google account associated or not.

For my daily use I use fdroid exclusively, since I see the need for a trustworthy source of applications and an
update mechanism. Fdroid provides this for me at the level that I require. Yes, some details could be improved
(such as statistics), but I think it's very much a step in the right direction. I do believe the fdroid folks are in
general very open to suggestions.

It's not just statistics. The problem is the security model. The bulk of applications distributed through fdroid are signed by keys that belong to the fdroid maintainers, and which are kept online. This means that the fdroid maintainers themselves, or any attackers who compromise fdroid, are capable of pushing malware to your device.

This is a huge contrast to Google Play, where every app is signed by keys that belong to the app's developers. Google, or attackers who compromise Google, are not capable of pushing rogue updates.

I very much wish I could get the most recent TextSecure through fdroid as well rather than having the choice
between running a version older than Methusalem or building from source. Avoiding the former should be in your
very own interest as the author of the app. The latter requires me to constantly monitor for updates and bugs and
is manual work which I wish I could avoid. Since most of my friends and family use cyanogenmod and fdroid as
well I am very reluctant to suggest them to upgrade to TextSecure, since that would put me in the apk maintainer
position.

Again, I know that this is probably an unpopular opinion, but if you've set your "less technical" friends and family up with cyanogenmod and fdroid, I believe that you've very seriously compromised their security. Both cyanogen and fdroid seriously compromise the security gains that we've made in the mobile environment and are a reversion back to the desktop security model:

  1. Cyanogen runs things as root, completely circumventing the development of a fine grained permissions system. They've also made a number of tradeoffs that further weaken its security.

  2. In order for your friends to run fdroid, they've had to tick "allow 3rd party sources," which is probably the single most effective malware prevention mechanism for less savvy users.

It's exactly this (setting less technical users up with things like fdroid) that I am afraid of.

For you, compiling and installing from source once a week is literally three commands: git pull && ant release && adb install -r bin/TextSecure-release.apk. For your friends who are not technically capable of doing this, I believe that this means they aren't savvy enough to tick "allow 3rd party sources" responsibly.

I totally agree that 3rd party app store alternatives seem cool, but until they're done securely and correctly, I'd prefer not to participate.

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moxie0 Feb 12, 2013

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@mvdan

Now, here's my point of view - What about the users who do not want to use Google Play and do not want to
follow your advice? Surely you can consider that as harmful to them - but that's their problem, not yours. And the
amount of people who use F-Droid is in no way comparable to the amount of people who use Google Play.

Moreover, I would certainly not think that by keeping F-Droid from packaging your software you are getting more
installs on Google Play. Most of the people who use it would never consider using Google, thus you're just
making life harder for these people. Nor are you winning anything by that prohibition.

I can't willingly participate in something that I believe is a bad idea. I can't sign and distribute packages through fdroid, because I believe that fdroid is harmful, and I don't want to endorse harmful activity.

I understand that many of the people commenting here probably understand how insecure fdroid is, but value a full OSS stack more than the security of their device. That's fine, but I think anyone that completely understands the risks is also completely capable of building TextSecure from source themselves. It's the people that don't understand the risks that I'm worried about.

Please do tell me if I understood anything the wrong way. I just started packaging for F-Droid as a hobby, and I'd
like to package your software in the following days. Hopefully there won't be a problem with that.

It's my preference that you don't. I spend a lot of time on this project, and I'm certain that having APKs floating around which are signed by someone else will inevitably cause problems for me in the future.

I realize that everyone here likely has their own projects that they spend their time on, but before jumping straight to the high-level decisions for the direction of this project, I would recommend that people who are interested in this project's direction start by committing a little bit of code here first, in order to get a feeling for this codebase and its challenges.

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moxie0 commented Feb 12, 2013

@mvdan

Now, here's my point of view - What about the users who do not want to use Google Play and do not want to
follow your advice? Surely you can consider that as harmful to them - but that's their problem, not yours. And the
amount of people who use F-Droid is in no way comparable to the amount of people who use Google Play.

Moreover, I would certainly not think that by keeping F-Droid from packaging your software you are getting more
installs on Google Play. Most of the people who use it would never consider using Google, thus you're just
making life harder for these people. Nor are you winning anything by that prohibition.

I can't willingly participate in something that I believe is a bad idea. I can't sign and distribute packages through fdroid, because I believe that fdroid is harmful, and I don't want to endorse harmful activity.

I understand that many of the people commenting here probably understand how insecure fdroid is, but value a full OSS stack more than the security of their device. That's fine, but I think anyone that completely understands the risks is also completely capable of building TextSecure from source themselves. It's the people that don't understand the risks that I'm worried about.

Please do tell me if I understood anything the wrong way. I just started packaging for F-Droid as a hobby, and I'd
like to package your software in the following days. Hopefully there won't be a problem with that.

It's my preference that you don't. I spend a lot of time on this project, and I'm certain that having APKs floating around which are signed by someone else will inevitably cause problems for me in the future.

I realize that everyone here likely has their own projects that they spend their time on, but before jumping straight to the high-level decisions for the direction of this project, I would recommend that people who are interested in this project's direction start by committing a little bit of code here first, in order to get a feeling for this codebase and its challenges.

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You're not being asked to participate in F-Droid, nor are you needed to sign or distribute any packages for it.

And, as much as security seems to be quite subjective, I would not say F-Droid is insecure. Like @dalb8 stated, no keys are online, and the default downloads are through SSL. I see no big insecurity here. Even if there was, that's the risk the user is willing to take once he installs F-Droid and accepts the terms of service. Much like with CM - we are not bringing malware to the masses.

I see it is your preference that we don't package it. But I don't understand the reason. We can always add something like the following to the description:

Please make sure that you're running the latest upstream version before submitting any bug reports.

Would that suffice? It has been said before that you "forbid" us from packaging it, but that's not what I understood. You'd rather not have people install it from non-Google sources, but we can still package it as-is without a problem.

mvdan commented Feb 12, 2013

@moxie0

You're not being asked to participate in F-Droid, nor are you needed to sign or distribute any packages for it.

And, as much as security seems to be quite subjective, I would not say F-Droid is insecure. Like @dalb8 stated, no keys are online, and the default downloads are through SSL. I see no big insecurity here. Even if there was, that's the risk the user is willing to take once he installs F-Droid and accepts the terms of service. Much like with CM - we are not bringing malware to the masses.

I see it is your preference that we don't package it. But I don't understand the reason. We can always add something like the following to the description:

Please make sure that you're running the latest upstream version before submitting any bug reports.

Would that suffice? It has been said before that you "forbid" us from packaging it, but that's not what I understood. You'd rather not have people install it from non-Google sources, but we can still package it as-is without a problem.

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It's my preference that you don't. I would also reiterate that it might behoove you to commit even a single line of code before you jump straight to signing your own releases. =)

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moxie0 commented Feb 12, 2013

It's my preference that you don't. I would also reiterate that it might behoove you to commit even a single line of code before you jump straight to signing your own releases. =)

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mvdan Feb 12, 2013

It's my preference that you don't. I would also reiterate that it might behoove you to commit even a single line of code before you jump straight to signing your own releases. =)

Although you might be right, I have never done any serious Java. Still getting started with C++. Perhaps someone else would be of some use to you. But so far all I've been doing is packaging.

mvdan commented Feb 12, 2013

It's my preference that you don't. I would also reiterate that it might behoove you to commit even a single line of code before you jump straight to signing your own releases. =)

Although you might be right, I have never done any serious Java. Still getting started with C++. Perhaps someone else would be of some use to you. But so far all I've been doing is packaging.

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The only secret is to begin. Pick one of the open issues, start working on it, and you'll figure it out as you go.

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moxie0 commented Feb 12, 2013

The only secret is to begin. Pick one of the open issues, start working on it, and you'll figure it out as you go.

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tedks Feb 12, 2013

@moxie0 -- As one of the former users of TextSecure via fdroid, and someone who values libre software and security, I'd like to say that I appreciate your points, and feel pretty good about my decision to keep using TextSecure as deployed by the Play store.

However, I'd still prefer to use fdroid for as many apps as I can, and I'd also like to have some sense of security when using it.

As a compromise, do you think you could outline, either on fdroid's bug tracker or here, exactly what would need to be fixed in fdroid before you'd consider allowing TextSecure on it? Then, the people who want TextSecure in fdroid can fix those bugs, or work towards fixing them. Either way, everyone benefits: you get a definitive end to these issues, and fdroid gets more secure.

As an FSF member, free software advocate, fdroid user, etc., I hope that if Moxie does this, it ends this discussion until those bugs are resolved. Moxie is the maintainer of a free software package; he's under no obligation to do even more work than he already has for our benefit; forcing him to repeat himself on bug reports like these is to no one's benefit.

(At least one of the things mentioned in this thread is not necessarily an issue: there are some packages in fdroid that have packages signed by the maintainers, including the Firefox build, I believe.)

tedks commented Feb 12, 2013

@moxie0 -- As one of the former users of TextSecure via fdroid, and someone who values libre software and security, I'd like to say that I appreciate your points, and feel pretty good about my decision to keep using TextSecure as deployed by the Play store.

However, I'd still prefer to use fdroid for as many apps as I can, and I'd also like to have some sense of security when using it.

As a compromise, do you think you could outline, either on fdroid's bug tracker or here, exactly what would need to be fixed in fdroid before you'd consider allowing TextSecure on it? Then, the people who want TextSecure in fdroid can fix those bugs, or work towards fixing them. Either way, everyone benefits: you get a definitive end to these issues, and fdroid gets more secure.

As an FSF member, free software advocate, fdroid user, etc., I hope that if Moxie does this, it ends this discussion until those bugs are resolved. Moxie is the maintainer of a free software package; he's under no obligation to do even more work than he already has for our benefit; forcing him to repeat himself on bug reports like these is to no one's benefit.

(At least one of the things mentioned in this thread is not necessarily an issue: there are some packages in fdroid that have packages signed by the maintainers, including the Firefox build, I believe.)

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This is the current list of things that we need before we can distribute an APK outside of the Play Store. Any help completing these missing pieces would certainly be appreciated:

  • A built in crash reporting solution with a web interface that allows us to visualize crashes and sort by app version, device type, etc. This is essential for producing stable software.
  • A built in statistics gathering solution with a web interface that allows us to visualize aggregate numbers on device type, android version, and carriers for our users. This has been crucial in shaping support and development direction.
  • A built in auto-update solution. Fully automatic upgrades won't be possible outside of Play Store, but we at least need something that will annoy the hell out of users until they upgrade. This is necessary for ensuring that new security features and bug fixes can be propagated quickly.
  • A build system that allows us to easily turn these features on and off for Play and non-Play builds. Gradle should make this easier.
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moxie0 commented Jul 30, 2013

This is the current list of things that we need before we can distribute an APK outside of the Play Store. Any help completing these missing pieces would certainly be appreciated:

  • A built in crash reporting solution with a web interface that allows us to visualize crashes and sort by app version, device type, etc. This is essential for producing stable software.
  • A built in statistics gathering solution with a web interface that allows us to visualize aggregate numbers on device type, android version, and carriers for our users. This has been crucial in shaping support and development direction.
  • A built in auto-update solution. Fully automatic upgrades won't be possible outside of Play Store, but we at least need something that will annoy the hell out of users until they upgrade. This is necessary for ensuring that new security features and bug fixes can be propagated quickly.
  • A build system that allows us to easily turn these features on and off for Play and non-Play builds. Gradle should make this easier.
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michalzxc Aug 18, 2013

"1) Cyanogen runs things as root, completely circumventing the development of a fine grained permissions system. They've also made a number of tradeoffs that further weaken its security."

Sniffing phone communication, like motorola did?
http://www.beneaththewaves.net/Projects/Motorola_Is_Listening.html?source=hn

Or maybe you think about Trojans like Carrier iQ?
http://gizmodo.com/5864220/what-is-carrier-iq

Closed source (official) ROMs doesn't have weak security, there are completely compromised. Full of malware, trojans and backdoors.

  1. In order for your friends to run fdroid, they've had to tick "allow 3rd party sources," which is probably the single most effective malware prevention mechanism for less savvy users.

If you have your official OEM ROM, you don't have to install any malware, you have all out of the box

"1) Cyanogen runs things as root, completely circumventing the development of a fine grained permissions system. They've also made a number of tradeoffs that further weaken its security."

Sniffing phone communication, like motorola did?
http://www.beneaththewaves.net/Projects/Motorola_Is_Listening.html?source=hn

Or maybe you think about Trojans like Carrier iQ?
http://gizmodo.com/5864220/what-is-carrier-iq

Closed source (official) ROMs doesn't have weak security, there are completely compromised. Full of malware, trojans and backdoors.

  1. In order for your friends to run fdroid, they've had to tick "allow 3rd party sources," which is probably the single most effective malware prevention mechanism for less savvy users.

If you have your official OEM ROM, you don't have to install any malware, you have all out of the box

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KaitoKito Aug 29, 2013

I've read the whole conversation and I don't understand something : if someone want textsecure but don't want to use a google account and has better thing to do than learn how to compile an android software, he can either download a very very very old version or take an .apk compiled by someone on internet without knowing if the .apk he's downloading has been compromised or no. Do you really prefer these two insecure option for your users instead of releasing an official binary, compiled by your hands, right here ?

Also I don't understand why the fact of not knowing how to compile a source code make you not enough responsible to untick the "third party app". I know many guys who know how to program and compile codes but they still can't avoid stupid viruses on Internet and next to them some people who can't even read a source code but are enough intelligent to know which app is good and safe for them. Your argument is invalid.

"I spend a lot of time on this project, and I'm certain that having APKs floating around which are signed by someone else will inevitably cause problems for me in the future." If you really think this the most intelligent thing to do is to compile and sign yourself the .apk who will floating on internet. don't give the time to creepy black hats to do it before you.

I've read the whole conversation and I don't understand something : if someone want textsecure but don't want to use a google account and has better thing to do than learn how to compile an android software, he can either download a very very very old version or take an .apk compiled by someone on internet without knowing if the .apk he's downloading has been compromised or no. Do you really prefer these two insecure option for your users instead of releasing an official binary, compiled by your hands, right here ?

Also I don't understand why the fact of not knowing how to compile a source code make you not enough responsible to untick the "third party app". I know many guys who know how to program and compile codes but they still can't avoid stupid viruses on Internet and next to them some people who can't even read a source code but are enough intelligent to know which app is good and safe for them. Your argument is invalid.

"I spend a lot of time on this project, and I'm certain that having APKs floating around which are signed by someone else will inevitably cause problems for me in the future." If you really think this the most intelligent thing to do is to compile and sign yourself the .apk who will floating on internet. don't give the time to creepy black hats to do it before you.

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@KaitoKito If you look at the number of open issues we have right now, we're substantially behind where we'd like to be in terms of providing support. We're at a place where raising our support load by even 1% would be really overwhelming, and my sense is that an official non-Play APK release without the 4 prerequisites I list above would have that impact.

So I'd love to get a non-Play APK distribution channel going, but we need to do some work in order to make that happen smoothly. If this is something you're interested in seeing, the best thing you can do to help is to take on some of the work listed here: #127 (comment)

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moxie0 commented Aug 29, 2013

@KaitoKito If you look at the number of open issues we have right now, we're substantially behind where we'd like to be in terms of providing support. We're at a place where raising our support load by even 1% would be really overwhelming, and my sense is that an official non-Play APK release without the 4 prerequisites I list above would have that impact.

So I'd love to get a non-Play APK distribution channel going, but we need to do some work in order to make that happen smoothly. If this is something you're interested in seeing, the best thing you can do to help is to take on some of the work listed here: #127 (comment)

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dalb8 Aug 29, 2013

Too true: anybody can be careless, even clever people. However, I don't think it's fair to portray compiling apps as difficult. Some are, but not this one — give it a try!

dalb8 commented Aug 29, 2013

Too true: anybody can be careless, even clever people. However, I don't think it's fair to portray compiling apps as difficult. Some are, but not this one — give it a try!

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zak333 Oct 16, 2013

Hello moxie,

thank you for your discussion about this issue. There are many other developers out there, who close such issues very fast, avoiding the opinions and preferences of other users.

I recognize you think the "security model for desktops (unix-based and windows-based) is completely broken" and "believe that fdroid is harmful, and [you] don't want to endorse harmful activity."

As I understand it, your sense of security lies in the use of Google Play in combination with the deactivation of the ability to install 3rd party applications. The ability to create, sign and upload your app to the Playstore yourself gives you alone the full control of it. Nobody else should be able to provide any other (probably compromised) version of your app.

Although I can understand the positive implications of this, I nevertheless strongly want to disagree with this perspective. First: It's condition is to trust two involved parties.

  1. Google
    I do not know, what Google really does. Its main purpose of existence is the processing of data, our data. It can keep track of our phones, our contacts, our communication, our preferences, what apps we use when and how often and who knows what else. I do not allege Google to use this data against us (yet?) (maybe undeliberately?), but I simply do not want to create any account with Google just to be able to install some few apps I would like to use. And as you can see, there are many other users who think alike.
    I do not know if Google modifies your created package in some way, too. It may be unlikely, but I cannot be absolute sure they don't either. Who programmed the key-verification routines and how do they really work with all those Google Apps?
    In the end, if I would want to install something from Google Play, I will have to give Google my trust.
  2. (Please don't take this personally) You
    I do not believe you have any bad interests when providing us your software. (And I am of course grateful you provide it at all!) But the fact is, the way I see it now, you are the only one involved in creating this package, and I therefore need to trust you alone with it. It could be very easy for you to patch every version just before you compile it and add a few lines. No one would ever know. Maybe in a year or so, someone sends you a generous check, if you would be so nice to add some specific code. Maybe someone hacks your server/workstation and uploads a new version under your name. Again: I don't think this will happen and you are probably trustworthy, but in the end, the trust in you alone is mandatory.

Now, it is of course essential, that security is not possible without the trust to anybody. So second: The problem with your concept is, that we - the users - do not have the choice who we trust. If we want to install the app, we are forced to trust you with packaging and to trust Google with providing it.
(I leave the option to compile the source ourselves, because that is not the issue here. I believe the issue is to provide users an easy and secure concept of installing and using applications.)

If however, other people in an open community become involved in the distribution of applications and this distribution is transparent and replicable, the possibility of compromised software gets lower.

Why is that so?
a) The chances, that several people at once have malevolent intentions is lower. If only one person is involved, he/she can do whatever he/she wants without anybody else noticing.
b) If someone does something wrong (either intentionally or accidentally), there is a good chance that someone else recognizes this.
c) In case of a bigger project like F-Droid (or take Debian for example to mention one of your "faulty desktop security models"), the impact of something bad would fall back on the whole project. It is unlikely that people will risk losing their trust by risking something bad with a few apps/programs.

And finally, I cannot emphasize enough the most important thing I believe security should have: The freedom of choice! If I think Google is untrustworthy, I should have the possibility to get my app elsewhere. If I believe F-Droid sucks, I should be able to get the apk from maybe another distributor or on the webpage of the author. If I believe, even this apk is compromised, I should have the possibility of compiling it myself.
The attitude of someone who pursues the open policy of providing his software to other people using different channels raises in my opinion the credibility of that person and the project.

If people however need to trust one single instance, it gives this instance great power about them. And we all know: With great power comes great responsibility.
Unfortunately there were often times in the past, were great power was misused at some point sooner or later.

And in the end, security remains entirely with the user. If he does not care or understand what it means (or what kind of security he desires), not your and not my concept will completely help him.

By the way:
a) The "demographic that does not know what a checksum or signature is" will probably use Google Play either way.
b) The users who do not want to create a Google account will probably still not create one just to use your app.
c) It is very likely that someone will start a fork or create a new app instead. So your concern about the security of the users of your app may be honorable, but you will not really help them by restricting your software that way.

P.S.: I installed Cyanogenmod on my device and cannot find any GSF. If I am missing it I would be interested in how my device may still phone home to Google.

zak333 commented Oct 16, 2013

Hello moxie,

thank you for your discussion about this issue. There are many other developers out there, who close such issues very fast, avoiding the opinions and preferences of other users.

I recognize you think the "security model for desktops (unix-based and windows-based) is completely broken" and "believe that fdroid is harmful, and [you] don't want to endorse harmful activity."

As I understand it, your sense of security lies in the use of Google Play in combination with the deactivation of the ability to install 3rd party applications. The ability to create, sign and upload your app to the Playstore yourself gives you alone the full control of it. Nobody else should be able to provide any other (probably compromised) version of your app.

Although I can understand the positive implications of this, I nevertheless strongly want to disagree with this perspective. First: It's condition is to trust two involved parties.

  1. Google
    I do not know, what Google really does. Its main purpose of existence is the processing of data, our data. It can keep track of our phones, our contacts, our communication, our preferences, what apps we use when and how often and who knows what else. I do not allege Google to use this data against us (yet?) (maybe undeliberately?), but I simply do not want to create any account with Google just to be able to install some few apps I would like to use. And as you can see, there are many other users who think alike.
    I do not know if Google modifies your created package in some way, too. It may be unlikely, but I cannot be absolute sure they don't either. Who programmed the key-verification routines and how do they really work with all those Google Apps?
    In the end, if I would want to install something from Google Play, I will have to give Google my trust.
  2. (Please don't take this personally) You
    I do not believe you have any bad interests when providing us your software. (And I am of course grateful you provide it at all!) But the fact is, the way I see it now, you are the only one involved in creating this package, and I therefore need to trust you alone with it. It could be very easy for you to patch every version just before you compile it and add a few lines. No one would ever know. Maybe in a year or so, someone sends you a generous check, if you would be so nice to add some specific code. Maybe someone hacks your server/workstation and uploads a new version under your name. Again: I don't think this will happen and you are probably trustworthy, but in the end, the trust in you alone is mandatory.

Now, it is of course essential, that security is not possible without the trust to anybody. So second: The problem with your concept is, that we - the users - do not have the choice who we trust. If we want to install the app, we are forced to trust you with packaging and to trust Google with providing it.
(I leave the option to compile the source ourselves, because that is not the issue here. I believe the issue is to provide users an easy and secure concept of installing and using applications.)

If however, other people in an open community become involved in the distribution of applications and this distribution is transparent and replicable, the possibility of compromised software gets lower.

Why is that so?
a) The chances, that several people at once have malevolent intentions is lower. If only one person is involved, he/she can do whatever he/she wants without anybody else noticing.
b) If someone does something wrong (either intentionally or accidentally), there is a good chance that someone else recognizes this.
c) In case of a bigger project like F-Droid (or take Debian for example to mention one of your "faulty desktop security models"), the impact of something bad would fall back on the whole project. It is unlikely that people will risk losing their trust by risking something bad with a few apps/programs.

And finally, I cannot emphasize enough the most important thing I believe security should have: The freedom of choice! If I think Google is untrustworthy, I should have the possibility to get my app elsewhere. If I believe F-Droid sucks, I should be able to get the apk from maybe another distributor or on the webpage of the author. If I believe, even this apk is compromised, I should have the possibility of compiling it myself.
The attitude of someone who pursues the open policy of providing his software to other people using different channels raises in my opinion the credibility of that person and the project.

If people however need to trust one single instance, it gives this instance great power about them. And we all know: With great power comes great responsibility.
Unfortunately there were often times in the past, were great power was misused at some point sooner or later.

And in the end, security remains entirely with the user. If he does not care or understand what it means (or what kind of security he desires), not your and not my concept will completely help him.

By the way:
a) The "demographic that does not know what a checksum or signature is" will probably use Google Play either way.
b) The users who do not want to create a Google account will probably still not create one just to use your app.
c) It is very likely that someone will start a fork or create a new app instead. So your concern about the security of the users of your app may be honorable, but you will not really help them by restricting your software that way.

P.S.: I installed Cyanogenmod on my device and cannot find any GSF. If I am missing it I would be interested in how my device may still phone home to Google.

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@zak333:

I do not know if Google modifies your created package in some way, too. It may be unlikely, but I cannot be absolute sure they don't either. Who programmed the key-verification routines and how do they really work with all those Google Apps?

You can be absolutely sure. PackageManagerService is OSS, so you (or anyone) can audit the code.

(Please don't take this personally) You
I do not believe you have any bad interests when providing us your software. (And I am of course grateful you provide it at all!) But the fact is, the way I see it now, you are the only one involved in creating this package, and I therefore need to trust you alone with it. It could be very easy for you to patch every version just before you compile it and add a few lines. No one would ever know. Maybe in a year or so, someone sends you a generous check, if you would be so nice to add some specific code. Maybe someone hacks your server/workstation and uploads a new version under your name. Again: I don't think this will happen and you are probably trustworthy, but in the end, the trust in you alone is mandatory.

If you don't trust the packager, I think your only option is to build it yourself. Fortunately, we've gone to great lengths to ensure that this can be done by typing a single command: gradle build

If you're concerned about trusting me to package the source, I'm not sure why you would be less concerned about someone random at F-Droid packaging the source. At least my signing keys aren't online!

And finally, I cannot emphasize enough the most important thing I believe security should have: The freedom of choice! If I think Google is untrustworthy, I should have the possibility to get my app elsewhere.

You don't have to convince me. I would love to distribute an APK outside of Play. Above, I've outlined the four missing pieces we need in order to do that. If this is something that you are interested in seeing happen, all it takes is helping us get those done.

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moxie0 commented Oct 16, 2013

@zak333:

I do not know if Google modifies your created package in some way, too. It may be unlikely, but I cannot be absolute sure they don't either. Who programmed the key-verification routines and how do they really work with all those Google Apps?

You can be absolutely sure. PackageManagerService is OSS, so you (or anyone) can audit the code.

(Please don't take this personally) You
I do not believe you have any bad interests when providing us your software. (And I am of course grateful you provide it at all!) But the fact is, the way I see it now, you are the only one involved in creating this package, and I therefore need to trust you alone with it. It could be very easy for you to patch every version just before you compile it and add a few lines. No one would ever know. Maybe in a year or so, someone sends you a generous check, if you would be so nice to add some specific code. Maybe someone hacks your server/workstation and uploads a new version under your name. Again: I don't think this will happen and you are probably trustworthy, but in the end, the trust in you alone is mandatory.

If you don't trust the packager, I think your only option is to build it yourself. Fortunately, we've gone to great lengths to ensure that this can be done by typing a single command: gradle build

If you're concerned about trusting me to package the source, I'm not sure why you would be less concerned about someone random at F-Droid packaging the source. At least my signing keys aren't online!

And finally, I cannot emphasize enough the most important thing I believe security should have: The freedom of choice! If I think Google is untrustworthy, I should have the possibility to get my app elsewhere.

You don't have to convince me. I would love to distribute an APK outside of Play. Above, I've outlined the four missing pieces we need in order to do that. If this is something that you are interested in seeing happen, all it takes is helping us get those done.

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mvdan Oct 16, 2013

If you're concerned about trusting me to package the source, I'm not sure why you would be less concerned about someone random at F-Droid packaging the source. At least my signing keys aren't online!

Just two quick comments:

  • You can be less concerned because the whole build process is public, verbose and reproducible by anyone.
  • Our keys are not online. Where did you get that?

mvdan commented Oct 16, 2013

If you're concerned about trusting me to package the source, I'm not sure why you would be less concerned about someone random at F-Droid packaging the source. At least my signing keys aren't online!

Just two quick comments:

  • You can be less concerned because the whole build process is public, verbose and reproducible by anyone.
  • Our keys are not online. Where did you get that?
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moxie0 Oct 16, 2013

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You can be less concerned because the whole build process is public, verbose and reproducible by anyone.

As it is for me. If that's not good enough somehow, I don't see how someone else building it is any different.

Our keys are not online. Where did you get that?

So every time any one of your packages needs to be updated, someone hand carries the source to an airgapped machine, plugs in the HSM with the key specific to that app, runs the build, and carries the signed APK back over to the networked machine? How do you scale that process across all of the apps you distribute? How do you physically store all of your HSMs?

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moxie0 commented Oct 16, 2013

You can be less concerned because the whole build process is public, verbose and reproducible by anyone.

As it is for me. If that's not good enough somehow, I don't see how someone else building it is any different.

Our keys are not online. Where did you get that?

So every time any one of your packages needs to be updated, someone hand carries the source to an airgapped machine, plugs in the HSM with the key specific to that app, runs the build, and carries the signed APK back over to the networked machine? How do you scale that process across all of the apps you distribute? How do you physically store all of your HSMs?

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mvdan Oct 16, 2013

As it is for me. If that's not good enough somehow, I don't see how someone else building it is any different.

I'm not saying that our method is any better than yours or anyone else's. I'm just saying that argueing that it is less secure doesn't make sense either (edit: as far as I know or have been told)

So every time any one of your packages needs to be updated, someone hand carries the source to an airgapped machine, plugs in the HSM with the key specific to that app, runs the build, and carries the signed APK back over to the networked machine? How do you scale that process across all of the apps you distribute? How do you physically store all of your HSMs?

The process is similar to what you say. There is the web server holding the site and the repo over http and https, and there's a machine without any kind of remote access that holds the keys and runs the builds. All of this is to be done separately for each repo, in fact a single fdroiddata dir can only handle a single repo. Repos should never share their keys with any other repo, at least we won't do that with the main repo.

How do we physically store the sensible data? I don't have access to said machine (only one person does), so I'm guessing it is stored in a secure place in an encrypted file system. But that's only a guess following what I would do.

Just to clarify, the building machine uses ssh to provide the hosting machine with the apks, the icons, the index, etc. This is all public if you check the fdroidserver python source.

mvdan commented Oct 16, 2013

As it is for me. If that's not good enough somehow, I don't see how someone else building it is any different.

I'm not saying that our method is any better than yours or anyone else's. I'm just saying that argueing that it is less secure doesn't make sense either (edit: as far as I know or have been told)

So every time any one of your packages needs to be updated, someone hand carries the source to an airgapped machine, plugs in the HSM with the key specific to that app, runs the build, and carries the signed APK back over to the networked machine? How do you scale that process across all of the apps you distribute? How do you physically store all of your HSMs?

The process is similar to what you say. There is the web server holding the site and the repo over http and https, and there's a machine without any kind of remote access that holds the keys and runs the builds. All of this is to be done separately for each repo, in fact a single fdroiddata dir can only handle a single repo. Repos should never share their keys with any other repo, at least we won't do that with the main repo.

How do we physically store the sensible data? I don't have access to said machine (only one person does), so I'm guessing it is stored in a secure place in an encrypted file system. But that's only a guess following what I would do.

Just to clarify, the building machine uses ssh to provide the hosting machine with the apks, the icons, the index, etc. This is all public if you check the fdroidserver python source.

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dalb8 Oct 16, 2013

My understanding is that the keys are offline only in the sense that the machine doesn't accept incoming internet traffic. The encrypted keys are stored on the same machine as the builds which are done in a VM.

Theoretically, it allows for bit-for-bit reproducible builds, which would allow anybody to verify that an apk was built as described, negating the need for HSMs and such.

dalb8 commented Oct 16, 2013

My understanding is that the keys are offline only in the sense that the machine doesn't accept incoming internet traffic. The encrypted keys are stored on the same machine as the builds which are done in a VM.

Theoretically, it allows for bit-for-bit reproducible builds, which would allow anybody to verify that an apk was built as described, negating the need for HSMs and such.

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moxie0 Oct 16, 2013

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Just to clarify, the building machine uses ssh to provide the hosting machine with the apks, the icons, the index,
etc. This is all public if you check the fdroidserver python source.

If the keys are on a machine that's connected to a network, then the keys are online. Just because only one person is supposed to have access to the machine doesn't mean the keys are offline. =)

It also sounds like you're saying that you're not using HSMs, which means that an attacker could actually copy the keys and use them to sign APKs out of band.

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moxie0 commented Oct 16, 2013

Just to clarify, the building machine uses ssh to provide the hosting machine with the apks, the icons, the index,
etc. This is all public if you check the fdroidserver python source.

If the keys are on a machine that's connected to a network, then the keys are online. Just because only one person is supposed to have access to the machine doesn't mean the keys are offline. =)

It also sounds like you're saying that you're not using HSMs, which means that an attacker could actually copy the keys and use them to sign APKs out of band.

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mvdan Oct 16, 2013

If the keys are on a machine that's connected to a network, then the keys are online. Just because only one person is supposed to have access to the machine doesn't mean the keys are offline. =)

It's connected to the network, yes, but it's not that simple. The builds are done inside a virtualbox machine, and the keys are definitely not there. So I don't see the trouble in using keys that way. They would only be released if the admin did it on purpose.

It also sounds like you're saying that you're not using HSMs, which means that an attacker could actually copy the keys and use them to sign APKs out of band.

I'm curious, how would that be accomplished? No sarcasm intended, really.

mvdan commented Oct 16, 2013

If the keys are on a machine that's connected to a network, then the keys are online. Just because only one person is supposed to have access to the machine doesn't mean the keys are offline. =)

It's connected to the network, yes, but it's not that simple. The builds are done inside a virtualbox machine, and the keys are definitely not there. So I don't see the trouble in using keys that way. They would only be released if the admin did it on purpose.

It also sounds like you're saying that you're not using HSMs, which means that an attacker could actually copy the keys and use them to sign APKs out of band.

I'm curious, how would that be accomplished? No sarcasm intended, really.

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tedks Oct 20, 2013

I'm curious, how would that be accomplished? No sarcasm intended, really.

  1. The hosting machine is compromised.
  2. The attacker compromises the build machine the next time the build machine connects to the hosting machine via SSH.
  3. The now-compromised build machine waits for the keys to be provided for a build, inserts them into a file, and pushes them to the hosting machine via SSH.
  4. The attacker downloads the keys and uses them to sign APKs out of band.

A machine that has network communication with other machines isn't "offline."

How are the keys actually stored? Are they just outside the virtualbox image or something? You could just as easily have step 2.5: the attacker compromises the virtualbox environment and then compromises the VM host.

In contrast, presumably Moxie has a hardware security module (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardware_security_module) that stores key material in such a way that it is inaccessible to his operating system.

tedks commented Oct 20, 2013

I'm curious, how would that be accomplished? No sarcasm intended, really.

  1. The hosting machine is compromised.
  2. The attacker compromises the build machine the next time the build machine connects to the hosting machine via SSH.
  3. The now-compromised build machine waits for the keys to be provided for a build, inserts them into a file, and pushes them to the hosting machine via SSH.
  4. The attacker downloads the keys and uses them to sign APKs out of band.

A machine that has network communication with other machines isn't "offline."

How are the keys actually stored? Are they just outside the virtualbox image or something? You could just as easily have step 2.5: the attacker compromises the virtualbox environment and then compromises the VM host.

In contrast, presumably Moxie has a hardware security module (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardware_security_module) that stores key material in such a way that it is inaccessible to his operating system.

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dschuermann Oct 20, 2013

Srsly moxie? Do you think your signing key is store more securely than the key of fdroid's main repo?
Besides the fact that I don't like HSMs, are you using one?

You are right with one thing regarding the fdroid client: there should be an auto update function. Okay, we can do that.
To accomplish this FDroids needs to be installed as a system app. This would also allow installation without enabling apks from unknown sources.
I started implementing unattended install for fdroid which will be the basis for auto update functionality: https://gitorious.org/f-droid/fdroidclient/merge_requests/37

Srsly moxie? Do you think your signing key is store more securely than the key of fdroid's main repo?
Besides the fact that I don't like HSMs, are you using one?

You are right with one thing regarding the fdroid client: there should be an auto update function. Okay, we can do that.
To accomplish this FDroids needs to be installed as a system app. This would also allow installation without enabling apks from unknown sources.
I started implementing unattended install for fdroid which will be the basis for auto update functionality: https://gitorious.org/f-droid/fdroidclient/merge_requests/37

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moxie0 Oct 21, 2013

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@dalb8 :

Theoretically, it allows for bit-for-bit reproducible builds, which would allow anybody to verify that an apk was built as described, negating the need for HSMs and such.

Sort of. Reproducible builds allow us to verify what's happening in public. However, we have no visibility into what the f-droid administrator or any attackers who get access to that machine do with the keys outside of public view. Signing keys are an important part of the Android security ecosystem, and centralizing them feels like bad security hygiene to me. Particularly if those centralized keys are also kept online.

@mvdan :

It's connected to the network, yes, but it's not that simple. The builds are done inside a virtualbox machine, and the keys are definitely not there. So I don't see the trouble in using keys that way. They would only be released if the admin did it on purpose.

Nobody expects to be hacked. Comodo, VeriSign, and other CAs didn't expect to be hacked, but they were. They at least don't keep their root CA certs online. We have no way to measure the security of f-droid's centralized key database, but online vs offline keys is a good starting point.

@dschuermann :

Srsly moxie? Do you think your signing key is store more securely than the key of fdroid's main repo?

Yes. I don't think this is something that's possible for fdroid to avoid. There is simply no way to keep a centralized keystore that needs to run online automatic build/distribution tasks more secure than an individual developer can, when the latter has the luxury of scheduling their own offline builds.

It's a systemic security problem with the froid model. Distributed signing is one of the real strengths of Android, and I think there's a clear security cost to centralizing it. I'm sure you can make the case that fdroid is useful for many reasons, but in my view increased security isn't one of them.

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moxie0 commented Oct 21, 2013

@dalb8 :

Theoretically, it allows for bit-for-bit reproducible builds, which would allow anybody to verify that an apk was built as described, negating the need for HSMs and such.

Sort of. Reproducible builds allow us to verify what's happening in public. However, we have no visibility into what the f-droid administrator or any attackers who get access to that machine do with the keys outside of public view. Signing keys are an important part of the Android security ecosystem, and centralizing them feels like bad security hygiene to me. Particularly if those centralized keys are also kept online.

@mvdan :

It's connected to the network, yes, but it's not that simple. The builds are done inside a virtualbox machine, and the keys are definitely not there. So I don't see the trouble in using keys that way. They would only be released if the admin did it on purpose.

Nobody expects to be hacked. Comodo, VeriSign, and other CAs didn't expect to be hacked, but they were. They at least don't keep their root CA certs online. We have no way to measure the security of f-droid's centralized key database, but online vs offline keys is a good starting point.

@dschuermann :

Srsly moxie? Do you think your signing key is store more securely than the key of fdroid's main repo?

Yes. I don't think this is something that's possible for fdroid to avoid. There is simply no way to keep a centralized keystore that needs to run online automatic build/distribution tasks more secure than an individual developer can, when the latter has the luxury of scheduling their own offline builds.

It's a systemic security problem with the froid model. Distributed signing is one of the real strengths of Android, and I think there's a clear security cost to centralizing it. I'm sure you can make the case that fdroid is useful for many reasons, but in my view increased security isn't one of them.

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dschuermann Oct 21, 2013

@moxie0
Yes, you can't keep a centralized keystore more secure than the keystore of an individual developer.
You did not answer to my other points, so I ask again: Is your keystore more secure than the keystore of fdroid? Are you using a HSM? Are you building on a seperate offline machine?
If that's not the case your security is likely the same as the security of fdroid.

If you weren't a known security researcher, I would even argue that the probability that your machine is somehow compromised is much higher than a compromised fdroid build server.
Most Android devs aren't that much security aware (just look at SSL hostname validation in android apps).

Additionally, I would like to know your opinion on https://gitorious.org/f-droid/fdroidclient/merge_requests/37
What if F-Droid is preinstalled like Google Play and would provide an auto update functionality?

@moxie0
Yes, you can't keep a centralized keystore more secure than the keystore of an individual developer.
You did not answer to my other points, so I ask again: Is your keystore more secure than the keystore of fdroid? Are you using a HSM? Are you building on a seperate offline machine?
If that's not the case your security is likely the same as the security of fdroid.

If you weren't a known security researcher, I would even argue that the probability that your machine is somehow compromised is much higher than a compromised fdroid build server.
Most Android devs aren't that much security aware (just look at SSL hostname validation in android apps).

Additionally, I would like to know your opinion on https://gitorious.org/f-droid/fdroidclient/merge_requests/37
What if F-Droid is preinstalled like Google Play and would provide an auto update functionality?

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mvdan Oct 21, 2013

I see @moxie0's point of view here, but I agree with @dschuermann in saying that f-droid is no less secure than the decentralized method that the Google Play uses. Mostly because our method isn't centralized at all. It just appears centralized as noone has taken the time to set up and maintain another repo yet, so only the main repo is used by most people.

But, like the security of one developer's build machine can be compromised when publishing to the Play store, a single repo's build machine can be compromised. That won't compromise any other repos, of course. I'm not saying that this method is perfect, but IMHO it does solve @moxie0's complaints regarding our repo. In other words, an f-droid repo will be more or less secure depending on the build/hosting servers behind it. By default it automates via sshfs, but you may do all of that manually too.

Before saying why, let me remind you that I said "I suppose the keystore is someplace in the hard drive, outside of the virtualbox VM". I don't know where it is kept in our buildserver's setup, it might even be in a separate storage unit. Because the signing takes place independently from the building, so you could very easily build all applications without the keystore, read the keystore manually from someplace like an HSM, and then sign all unsigned packages at once.

Usually, the building takes place inside the VM, and the signing (fdroid publish) and index updating (fdroid update) outside of the VM.

Regarding moxie's need of security: He could provide his users with non-Gplay downloads in different ways:

  • Setting up a binary f-droid repo (you build, you sign, f-droid only updates the index)
  • Setting up a binary f-droid repo with automated signatures (you build, f-droid signs and updates the index)
  • Setting up a source f-droid repo (f-droid builds, signs and updates the index)

Of course, all the f-droid steps can be done separately and triggered at independent times, so you could use a HSM if you wanted to.

Automatic updates aren't done yet, but like @dschuermann said we want to approach that possibility. I'm not sure that forcing updates on the users without opt-in/opt-out would be sensible on our side, but you could always just have the latest version of each app in your repo.

mvdan commented Oct 21, 2013

I see @moxie0's point of view here, but I agree with @dschuermann in saying that f-droid is no less secure than the decentralized method that the Google Play uses. Mostly because our method isn't centralized at all. It just appears centralized as noone has taken the time to set up and maintain another repo yet, so only the main repo is used by most people.

But, like the security of one developer's build machine can be compromised when publishing to the Play store, a single repo's build machine can be compromised. That won't compromise any other repos, of course. I'm not saying that this method is perfect, but IMHO it does solve @moxie0's complaints regarding our repo. In other words, an f-droid repo will be more or less secure depending on the build/hosting servers behind it. By default it automates via sshfs, but you may do all of that manually too.

Before saying why, let me remind you that I said "I suppose the keystore is someplace in the hard drive, outside of the virtualbox VM". I don't know where it is kept in our buildserver's setup, it might even be in a separate storage unit. Because the signing takes place independently from the building, so you could very easily build all applications without the keystore, read the keystore manually from someplace like an HSM, and then sign all unsigned packages at once.

Usually, the building takes place inside the VM, and the signing (fdroid publish) and index updating (fdroid update) outside of the VM.

Regarding moxie's need of security: He could provide his users with non-Gplay downloads in different ways:

  • Setting up a binary f-droid repo (you build, you sign, f-droid only updates the index)
  • Setting up a binary f-droid repo with automated signatures (you build, f-droid signs and updates the index)
  • Setting up a source f-droid repo (f-droid builds, signs and updates the index)

Of course, all the f-droid steps can be done separately and triggered at independent times, so you could use a HSM if you wanted to.

Automatic updates aren't done yet, but like @dschuermann said we want to approach that possibility. I'm not sure that forcing updates on the users without opt-in/opt-out would be sensible on our side, but you could always just have the latest version of each app in your repo.

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moxie0 Oct 27, 2013

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@dschuermann :

Yes, you can't keep a centralized keystore more secure than the keystore of an individual developer.
You did not answer to my other points, so I ask again: Is your keystore more secure than the keystore of fdroid?
Are you using a HSM? Are you building on a seperate offline machine?
If that's not the case your security is likely the same as the security of fdroid.

I'm glad we can agree on that point. Yes, our packaging process is entirely offline.

Most Android devs aren't that much security aware (just look at SSL hostname validation in android apps).

Even if an individual Android developer has an online signing practice, I believe there is qualitative security value in that being distributed, rather than centralized in a single machine (or organization) that can be compromised.

@mvdan :

Mostly because our method isn't centralized at all. It just appears centralized as noone has taken the time to set up and maintain another repo yet, so only the main repo is used by most people.

There is a substantial difference between a distributed system and multiple centralized systems. So long as an f-droid repo is signing packages with keys that don't originate from the developers of those packages, it isn't going to interoperate with other repos. My view is that the practice of f-droid repos signing packages with their own centralized keys undermines one of the core strengths of the Android security model.

Setting up a binary f-droid repo

This is essentially what I'd like to do, however I'd prefer not to have users install a separate app just so that they can install this app. And I'd be reluctant to recommend users install a separate app that could lead them to installing other packages which are signed with centralized keys.

So ideally we'd just bundle some code in the APK that does three things:

  1. Check for updates and notify the user when they're available.
  2. Provide analytics on Android version.
  3. Provide crash reporting.

If you're interested in seeing TextSecure distributed outside of Google Play, we just need help implementing those three things.

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moxie0 commented Oct 27, 2013

@dschuermann :

Yes, you can't keep a centralized keystore more secure than the keystore of an individual developer.
You did not answer to my other points, so I ask again: Is your keystore more secure than the keystore of fdroid?
Are you using a HSM? Are you building on a seperate offline machine?
If that's not the case your security is likely the same as the security of fdroid.

I'm glad we can agree on that point. Yes, our packaging process is entirely offline.

Most Android devs aren't that much security aware (just look at SSL hostname validation in android apps).

Even if an individual Android developer has an online signing practice, I believe there is qualitative security value in that being distributed, rather than centralized in a single machine (or organization) that can be compromised.

@mvdan :

Mostly because our method isn't centralized at all. It just appears centralized as noone has taken the time to set up and maintain another repo yet, so only the main repo is used by most people.

There is a substantial difference between a distributed system and multiple centralized systems. So long as an f-droid repo is signing packages with keys that don't originate from the developers of those packages, it isn't going to interoperate with other repos. My view is that the practice of f-droid repos signing packages with their own centralized keys undermines one of the core strengths of the Android security model.

Setting up a binary f-droid repo

This is essentially what I'd like to do, however I'd prefer not to have users install a separate app just so that they can install this app. And I'd be reluctant to recommend users install a separate app that could lead them to installing other packages which are signed with centralized keys.

So ideally we'd just bundle some code in the APK that does three things:

  1. Check for updates and notify the user when they're available.
  2. Provide analytics on Android version.
  3. Provide crash reporting.

If you're interested in seeing TextSecure distributed outside of Google Play, we just need help implementing those three things.

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dschuermann Oct 27, 2013

I really like this discussion 👍 It gives me some other ideas and insights about android security.

I totally see your point about dezentralized signing, however I will not spend time developing another self-updating mechanism. This self-updating needs to be done sufficiently secure and it's not worth the time to implement something which already exists in form of binary F-Droid repos.
Due to security implications when everyone implements self-updating themself, Google banned those apps (http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/04/google-bans-self-updating-android-apps-possibly-including-facebooks/).

I'd like to discuss some things regarding Google Play vs. F-Droid.
Lets assume that your and F-Droid's signing key is not compromised.
Google Play vs. F-Droid are both MitM services providing binaries to users, if you do not provide any side channel for verifcation of apks, like a OpenPGP signed hash (or verify the android way: http://nelenkov.blogspot.de/2013/04/android-code-signing.html), there is no way to tell if these binaries are really build by you.
Google Play could just deliver a different apk for specific users.
The same goes for F-Droid.
Conclusively it comes down to: How much do I trust these MitM services?
I would always choose F-Droid as it is driven by a community, not by a central organization.
What's your opinion about this?

A second similar problem: F-Droid's inclusion policy is very strict. No spyware/adware etc. is allowed and only open source projects are included. Thus, everything I install from F-Droid is free of crap that undermines my privacy.
Google Play is a totally different paving.
I need to do actual research to find out about if given software is indeed the software I was looking for.
There are hunders of rip offs of existing applications, just bundled up again with some spyware in it (e.g. N64 emulators, crazy example: http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/ryzjk/n64_player_ripped_off_mupen64plus_ae_put/ )
Again, I would choose F-Droid.

I really like this discussion 👍 It gives me some other ideas and insights about android security.

I totally see your point about dezentralized signing, however I will not spend time developing another self-updating mechanism. This self-updating needs to be done sufficiently secure and it's not worth the time to implement something which already exists in form of binary F-Droid repos.
Due to security implications when everyone implements self-updating themself, Google banned those apps (http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/04/google-bans-self-updating-android-apps-possibly-including-facebooks/).

I'd like to discuss some things regarding Google Play vs. F-Droid.
Lets assume that your and F-Droid's signing key is not compromised.
Google Play vs. F-Droid are both MitM services providing binaries to users, if you do not provide any side channel for verifcation of apks, like a OpenPGP signed hash (or verify the android way: http://nelenkov.blogspot.de/2013/04/android-code-signing.html), there is no way to tell if these binaries are really build by you.
Google Play could just deliver a different apk for specific users.
The same goes for F-Droid.
Conclusively it comes down to: How much do I trust these MitM services?
I would always choose F-Droid as it is driven by a community, not by a central organization.
What's your opinion about this?

A second similar problem: F-Droid's inclusion policy is very strict. No spyware/adware etc. is allowed and only open source projects are included. Thus, everything I install from F-Droid is free of crap that undermines my privacy.
Google Play is a totally different paving.
I need to do actual research to find out about if given software is indeed the software I was looking for.
There are hunders of rip offs of existing applications, just bundled up again with some spyware in it (e.g. N64 emulators, crazy example: http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/ryzjk/n64_player_ripped_off_mupen64plus_ae_put/ )
Again, I would choose F-Droid.

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dalb8 Oct 28, 2013

F-Droid is as much a central organization as Google, except it's a non-profit company based in England with a couple of servers in Europe. Sure, people work on it for free, unlike at Google, and that presumably keeps it honest.

F-Droid was found to be one of the few app stores free of malware in a recent study. However, as a small group maintaining 800 apps, it can't be said that inspection of the code for privacy issues is a top priority (nor that an apk is built entirely from source BTW). There are thousands of users though, all getting updates at roughly the same time, so there's a decent chance somebody will spot shenanigans.

As for third-party repos, the client has defences against MitM attacks on the index: it sets up public key verification when first receiving the index (which can be sent over SSL). The user of the third-party repo just hopes that the F-Droid client is safe and that the initial download of the index by the client isn't MitM'd. There's nothing stopping him either from using another client (with the private key built-in); it can even be built from source one time and left alone for good. The client's support for multiple repos is pretty immature anyway so he might as well. So it looks as good a setup to me as the self-updating apk.

dalb8 commented Oct 28, 2013

F-Droid is as much a central organization as Google, except it's a non-profit company based in England with a couple of servers in Europe. Sure, people work on it for free, unlike at Google, and that presumably keeps it honest.

F-Droid was found to be one of the few app stores free of malware in a recent study. However, as a small group maintaining 800 apps, it can't be said that inspection of the code for privacy issues is a top priority (nor that an apk is built entirely from source BTW). There are thousands of users though, all getting updates at roughly the same time, so there's a decent chance somebody will spot shenanigans.

As for third-party repos, the client has defences against MitM attacks on the index: it sets up public key verification when first receiving the index (which can be sent over SSL). The user of the third-party repo just hopes that the F-Droid client is safe and that the initial download of the index by the client isn't MitM'd. There's nothing stopping him either from using another client (with the private key built-in); it can even be built from source one time and left alone for good. The client's support for multiple repos is pretty immature anyway so he might as well. So it looks as good a setup to me as the self-updating apk.

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SafwatHalaby Jul 2, 2014

Are the APK's distributed by Google digitally signed by the developers?

Are the APK's distributed by Google digitally signed by the developers?

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SecUpwN Jul 3, 2014

@wiseoldman95, yes, as to my knowledge they must be.

SecUpwN commented Jul 3, 2014

@wiseoldman95, yes, as to my knowledge they must be.

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cjeanneret Aug 4, 2014

Heya! just a small remark: why don't you create an f-droid compatible repository we can add to f-droid client app? This would:

  • allow you to still sign the apk with your key
  • allow people to get updates automagically
  • allow people who don't use gapps at all to have a convenient way to get OWS apks, without all the toolchain/build process

my 2cents.

Heya! just a small remark: why don't you create an f-droid compatible repository we can add to f-droid client app? This would:

  • allow you to still sign the apk with your key
  • allow people to get updates automagically
  • allow people who don't use gapps at all to have a convenient way to get OWS apks, without all the toolchain/build process

my 2cents.

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rdsqc22 Aug 4, 2014

@cjeanneret The reason for this is Fdroid forces you to allow apps from other sources, which opens up a huge number of possible security problems.

rdsqc22 commented Aug 4, 2014

@cjeanneret The reason for this is Fdroid forces you to allow apps from other sources, which opens up a huge number of possible security problems.

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cjeanneret Aug 4, 2014

@rdsqc22 true, still offering this possibility would be nice, and keeps the app signature.

anyway, going to build some APK, as there are some updates for TS, Flock and others ;).

@rdsqc22 true, still offering this possibility would be nice, and keeps the app signature.

anyway, going to build some APK, as there are some updates for TS, Flock and others ;).

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@rdsqc22 that is no longer true. You can install FDroid as a system app, or let it use root, and it no longer requires "Unknown Sources" to be allowed. This is true starting with FDroid 0.69-test, and will be included in the upcoming 0.71 stable release (any day now).

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eighthave commented Aug 4, 2014

@rdsqc22 that is no longer true. You can install FDroid as a system app, or let it use root, and it no longer requires "Unknown Sources" to be allowed. This is true starting with FDroid 0.69-test, and will be included in the upcoming 0.71 stable release (any day now).

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patcon Aug 7, 2014

That's awesome @eighthave! Thanks! didn't realize.

patcon commented Aug 7, 2014

That's awesome @eighthave! Thanks! didn't realize.

patcon added a commit to patcon/mission-impossible-update.zip that referenced this issue Aug 7, 2014

Install F-Droid as system app for more security.
No need for allowing apps from "Unknown Sources" under security.
See: signalapp/Signal-Android#127 (comment)
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countrygeek Aug 24, 2014

Would anyone mind posting the latest version of TextSecure? I'm currently running cynanogen without gapps and didn't feel like installing them to upgrade. Thanks!

Would anyone mind posting the latest version of TextSecure? I'm currently running cynanogen without gapps and didn't feel like installing them to upgrade. Thanks!

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@countrygeek Do you have a Linux box? Then you could build it by yourself (it's not too complicated). Pls. contact me by mail if you need help (your github account has no e-mail address connected for direct feedback).

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Wikinaut commented Aug 24, 2014

@countrygeek Do you have a Linux box? Then you could build it by yourself (it's not too complicated). Pls. contact me by mail if you need help (your github account has no e-mail address connected for direct feedback).

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@countrygeek Without gapps you can't use push messages, you'll be only able to send encrypted and unencrypted SMS

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agrajaghh commented Aug 24, 2014

@countrygeek Without gapps you can't use push messages, you'll be only able to send encrypted and unencrypted SMS

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@agrajaghh @countrygeek You can use TextSecure without having an Google Play account. For some reasons, I can use my self-built version on all my phones and tablets without any problem.

My devices however have Google Play Store installed, but as said, without an associated account ‒ the devices are not running CyanogenMod.

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Wikinaut commented Aug 24, 2014

@agrajaghh @countrygeek You can use TextSecure without having an Google Play account. For some reasons, I can use my self-built version on all my phones and tablets without any problem.

My devices however have Google Play Store installed, but as said, without an associated account ‒ the devices are not running CyanogenMod.

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I think you don't need an google play account, but you need the google play services to be installed for push messages...

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agrajaghh commented Aug 24, 2014

I think you don't need an google play account, but you need the google play services to be installed for push messages...

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@agrajaghh wrote

I think you don't need an google play account, but you need the google play services to be installed for push messages...

@countrygeek : yes

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Wikinaut commented Aug 24, 2014

@agrajaghh wrote

I think you don't need an google play account, but you need the google play services to be installed for push messages...

@countrygeek : yes

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generalmanager Aug 24, 2014

Currently TS doesn't work without gapps because it uses GCM as a push network. Take a look at #1000 to monitor the progress on websockets.

On 24. August 2014 15:47:06 MESZ, countrygeek notifications@github.com wrote:

Would anyone mind posting the latest version of TextSecure? I'm
currently running cynanogen without gapps and didn't feel like
installing them to upgrade. Thanks!


Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHub:
#127 (comment)

Currently TS doesn't work without gapps because it uses GCM as a push network. Take a look at #1000 to monitor the progress on websockets.

On 24. August 2014 15:47:06 MESZ, countrygeek notifications@github.com wrote:

Would anyone mind posting the latest version of TextSecure? I'm
currently running cynanogen without gapps and didn't feel like
installing them to upgrade. Thanks!


Reply to this email directly or view it on GitHub:
#127 (comment)

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patcon Aug 24, 2014

Thanks for the pointer on that thread @generalmanager :)

@countrygeek While it's not particularly helpful here, I find this helpful for getting apk's for essentials not yet on F-Droid. (You can install with adb install /path/to/app.apk if you have USB debugging set up.)

http://apps.evozi.com/apk-downloader/

patcon commented Aug 24, 2014

Thanks for the pointer on that thread @generalmanager :)

@countrygeek While it's not particularly helpful here, I find this helpful for getting apk's for essentials not yet on F-Droid. (You can install with adb install /path/to/app.apk if you have USB debugging set up.)

http://apps.evozi.com/apk-downloader/

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countrygeek Aug 24, 2014

@patcon : Thanks, I actually had tried using that but the site was down - appears up again now. It's definately the easiest way, vs. trying to get the ADT bundle up and running just to run TextSecure without Gapps. I have an unlimited data plan so I don't care about SMS charges. :)

@patcon : Thanks, I actually had tried using that but the site was down - appears up again now. It's definately the easiest way, vs. trying to get the ADT bundle up and running just to run TextSecure without Gapps. I have an unlimited data plan so I don't care about SMS charges. :)

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Zeriuno Aug 25, 2014

I find it worrying that, to escape Google surveillance and profiling,
some are ready to install an apk downloaded from a service that don't
really offer security garantuees and that could compromise your device.

I think it really calls for a priority revision.

Find a way to do a checksum at least!

Zeriuno commented Aug 25, 2014

I find it worrying that, to escape Google surveillance and profiling,
some are ready to install an apk downloaded from a service that don't
really offer security garantuees and that could compromise your device.

I think it really calls for a priority revision.

Find a way to do a checksum at least!

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@Zeriuno this could be done by @moxie on the release page https://github.com/WhisperSystems/TextSecure/releases see this → example https://github.com/schildbach/bitcoin-wallet/releases

Moxie could simply additionally publish ‒ parallel to the publication in Google Play Store ‒ the release apks and their corresponding signature files in the TextSecure https://github.com/WhisperSystems/TextSecure/releases page. Currently, there is only the source code. But there's no room for discussion, because AFAIK, he wants a secure channel for automatic updates, and only Google Play Store can do.

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Wikinaut commented Aug 25, 2014

@Zeriuno this could be done by @moxie on the release page https://github.com/WhisperSystems/TextSecure/releases see this → example https://github.com/schildbach/bitcoin-wallet/releases

Moxie could simply additionally publish ‒ parallel to the publication in Google Play Store ‒ the release apks and their corresponding signature files in the TextSecure https://github.com/WhisperSystems/TextSecure/releases page. Currently, there is only the source code. But there's no room for discussion, because AFAIK, he wants a secure channel for automatic updates, and only Google Play Store can do.

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@Zeriuno I published checksums for versions < 2.0.8 on my TextSecure Wiki page https://github.com/Wikinaut/TextSecure/wiki/History-of-changes

This not-so-well-known gpg command/option lists all avaliable message digests:
gpg --print-md "*" org.thoughtcrime.securesms.apk

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Wikinaut commented Aug 25, 2014

@Zeriuno I published checksums for versions < 2.0.8 on my TextSecure Wiki page https://github.com/Wikinaut/TextSecure/wiki/History-of-changes

This not-so-well-known gpg command/option lists all avaliable message digests:
gpg --print-md "*" org.thoughtcrime.securesms.apk

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Zeriuno commented Aug 26, 2014

@Wikinaut: good!

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CHEF-KOCH Sep 10, 2014

I also vote for an F-Droid repo and a alternative direct link which provide sha1 and gpg. To publish it on the github release page would be also an interesting idea, we generally should as less as possible from google.

I also vote for an F-Droid repo and a alternative direct link which provide sha1 and gpg. To publish it on the github release page would be also an interesting idea, we generally should as less as possible from google.

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cyl-us Oct 24, 2014

Where there is no transparency, there cannot be any hope of either security or privacy. Seeing a privacy application depend on nonfree software to function is therefor a very sad thing to me, as its dependences undermine its purpose. A system is only as secure/private as its least secure/private component, so anything that has Google Play Services installed is already compromised.

You also mention that a user has to enable third-party application installation to install outside the Google Play Store. While I'm not sure it will sway you, it's worth noting that for us Replicant users, we have to have that box unchecked to install anything outside of F-Droid's repository, meaning that by not offering it on F-Droid, you require us to enable third-party application installation.

cyl-us commented Oct 24, 2014

Where there is no transparency, there cannot be any hope of either security or privacy. Seeing a privacy application depend on nonfree software to function is therefor a very sad thing to me, as its dependences undermine its purpose. A system is only as secure/private as its least secure/private component, so anything that has Google Play Services installed is already compromised.

You also mention that a user has to enable third-party application installation to install outside the Google Play Store. While I'm not sure it will sway you, it's worth noting that for us Replicant users, we have to have that box unchecked to install anything outside of F-Droid's repository, meaning that by not offering it on F-Droid, you require us to enable third-party application installation.

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SecUpwN Nov 2, 2014

@jtrig, maybe it's time to move on to more open alternatives like Tinfoil-SMS?

SecUpwN commented Nov 2, 2014

@jtrig, maybe it's time to move on to more open alternatives like Tinfoil-SMS?

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rdsqc22 Nov 2, 2014

@SecUpwN No, because that's also not on Fdroid. Google Play only, so it's no better.

rdsqc22 commented Nov 2, 2014

@SecUpwN No, because that's also not on Fdroid. Google Play only, so it's no better.

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SecUpwN Nov 2, 2014

@rdsqc22, the developer of that App is extremely open to open source. Feel free to open up an Issue on his GitHub for that, I am sure this App will be available there sooner than you think.

SecUpwN commented Nov 2, 2014

@rdsqc22, the developer of that App is extremely open to open source. Feel free to open up an Issue on his GitHub for that, I am sure this App will be available there sooner than you think.

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rdsqc22 Nov 2, 2014

@SecUpwN It looks like it used to be on Fdroid, but then got removed because the developer started using non-free binary blobs. https://f-droid.org/wiki/page/com.tinfoil.sms

rdsqc22 commented Nov 2, 2014

@SecUpwN It looks like it used to be on Fdroid, but then got removed because the developer started using non-free binary blobs. https://f-droid.org/wiki/page/com.tinfoil.sms

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justjanne Jan 9, 2015

Source, what is still limiting progress with this issue?

  • F-Droid allows nonfree apps, but will display a bold warning against them I seem to be mistaken here, but this still holds: (And TextSecure is implementing sockets instead of GCM anyway),
  • F-Droid now allows to distribute a developer-signed version of the app, if the build is reproducable by their build server,
  • F-Droid now allows installation of apps without enabling third-party support

In other words, every single of @moxie0’s complaints has been fixed, so why is this still not happening?

Source, what is still limiting progress with this issue?

  • F-Droid allows nonfree apps, but will display a bold warning against them I seem to be mistaken here, but this still holds: (And TextSecure is implementing sockets instead of GCM anyway),
  • F-Droid now allows to distribute a developer-signed version of the app, if the build is reproducable by their build server,
  • F-Droid now allows installation of apps without enabling third-party support

In other words, every single of @moxie0’s complaints has been fixed, so why is this still not happening?

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In other words, every single of @moxie0’s complaints has been fixed, so why is this still not happening?

Maybe just because no-one told him yet ;-)

I guess distributing TextSecure on F-Droid while Google Play Services are still required for it to run doesn't make too much sense. You could check out #1000 resp. the fork at https://github.com/JavaJens/TextSecure to help with that.

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fwalch commented Jan 9, 2015

In other words, every single of @moxie0’s complaints has been fixed, so why is this still not happening?

Maybe just because no-one told him yet ;-)

I guess distributing TextSecure on F-Droid while Google Play Services are still required for it to run doesn't make too much sense. You could check out #1000 resp. the fork at https://github.com/JavaJens/TextSecure to help with that.

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F-Droid now allows to distribute a developer-signed version of the app, if the build is reproducable by their build server

Interesting. Could you point me to some information / docs on how this is supposed to work?

In other words, every single of moxie0’s complaints has been fixed

I don't think there is a solution for automated crash reporting without Google Play yet.

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haffenloher commented Jan 9, 2015

F-Droid now allows to distribute a developer-signed version of the app, if the build is reproducable by their build server

Interesting. Could you point me to some information / docs on how this is supposed to work?

In other words, every single of moxie0’s complaints has been fixed

I don't think there is a solution for automated crash reporting without Google Play yet.

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@brumsoel See https://f-droid.org/wiki/page/Deterministic,_Reproducible_Builds. For background on reproducible builds in general, see e.g. this talk at the 31C3 (slides on this page).

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fwalch commented Jan 9, 2015

@brumsoel See https://f-droid.org/wiki/page/Deterministic,_Reproducible_Builds. For background on reproducible builds in general, see e.g. this talk at the 31C3 (slides on this page).

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The reproducible build stuff is quite new and still a bit raw, but it does work. I'm happy to help get TextSecure integrated using this process for anyone who wants to take it on.

As for automated crash reporting without Google Play, you can use ACRA then choose which backend you want it to upload to.

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eighthave commented Jan 9, 2015

The reproducible build stuff is quite new and still a bit raw, but it does work. I'm happy to help get TextSecure integrated using this process for anyone who wants to take it on.

As for automated crash reporting without Google Play, you can use ACRA then choose which backend you want it to upload to.

@signalapp signalapp locked and limited conversation to collaborators Jan 9, 2015

Stanzi97 referenced this issue Feb 20, 2017

Support for using Signal without Play Services
This is now possible with beta calling, so non-GCM users are a
part of beta calling by default.

// FREEBIE
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This is now available here: https://signal.org/android/apk/

I don't recommend that people do this, but we've set this up as a harm reduction strategy since people are already running random APKs signed by other random people instead.

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moxie0 commented Mar 13, 2017

This is now available here: https://signal.org/android/apk/

I don't recommend that people do this, but we've set this up as a harm reduction strategy since people are already running random APKs signed by other random people instead.

@moxie0 moxie0 closed this Mar 13, 2017

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