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[Debian] reproducible builds are a waste of time

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Security
Debian
  • reproducible builds are a waste of time

    Yesterday I read an article on Motherboard about Debian’s plan to shut down 83% of the CIA with reproducible builds. Ostensibly this defends against an attack where the compiler is modified to insert backdoors in the packages it builds. Of course, the defense only works if only some of the compilers are backdoored. The article then goes off on a bit of a tangent about self propagating compiler backdoors, which may be theoretically possible, but also terribly, unworkably fragile.

    I think the idea is that if I’m worried about the CIA tampering with Debian, I can rebuild everything myself from source. Because there’s no way the CIA would be able to insert a trojan in the source package. Then I check if what I’ve built matches what they built. If I were willing to do all that, I’m not sure why I need to check that the output is the same. I would always build from scratch, and ignore upstream entirely. I can do this today. I don’t actually need the builds to match to feel confident that my build is clean. Perhaps the idea is that a team of incorruptible volunteers will be building and checking for me, much like millions of eyeballs are carefully reviewing the source to all the software I run.

    The original source document doesn’t actually mention deployment of the whacked SDK, just research into its development. Perhaps they use it, perhaps they rejected it as being too difficult and risky. Tricking a developer into using a whacked toolchain leaves detectable traces and it’s somewhat difficult to deny as an accident. If we assume that the CIA has access to developer’s machines, why not assume they have access to the bug database as well and are mining it for preexisting vulnerabilities to exploit? Easy, safe, deniable.

  • Debian Reproducible Builds to Detect Spyware

    Debian has been getting a lot of attention the last couple of days for Jérémy Bobbio's work on Reproducible Builds. Bobbio has been working on this idea and implementation for a couple of years now, but after a presentation at Chaos Communication Camp last month it's come back into focus. In other Debian news, updates 8.2 and 7.9 were released.

  • Debian Linux versus the CIA

    Hidden backdoors into software have long been a concern for some users as government spying has increased around the world. Now the Debian project has taken aim at the CIA and other government spy agencies with reproducible builds that aim to stop hidden backdoors.

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today's leftovers

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    Vehicles are becoming more connected, autonomous, shared and electric (the famous CASE acronym). While customers expect new features and upgradability, the software and hardware components enabling such innovations require a different system architecture to function. This is a major change for the automotive industry as it requires new software skills, methodologies and business models. At the same time, automotive manufacturers need to adhere to complex and strict industry standards, and uphold safety-critical functions. In this post, we will focus on the different challenges the industry is facing in terms of hardware and software complexity, cybersecurity and safety. We will also discuss how Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) can learn from software companies to survive this transition towards software-defined vehicles and succeed. [...] On top of this, regulations are becoming very strict, forcing OEMs to provide patches and fixes to common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE). Taking into account the previously detailed system complexity, it is becoming increasingly necessary to move towards a software-defined holistic context. Only a software-defined approach can provide the required flexibility and scalability that allows companies to comply with regulatory requirements while providing UX updates and handling hardware complexity. Of course, cybersecurity never only relies on software. Hardware vulnerabilities can also occur and usually lead to even worse consequences. Some hardware issues can be patched via software, but usually these CVEs remain valid throughout the system’s lifetime. For example, Meltdown and Spectre, two of the most widespread hardware vulnerabilities in the world, are still present and affecting tons of devices. This means that during hardware conception, cybersecurity must be taken into account in the specifications and system architecture in order to limit these vulnerabilities.

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