Sign of the primes: Linux Foundation serves up free code-signing service

Cryptographic software assurance backed by Google, Red Hat, Purdue U


The Linux Foundation, with the support of Google, Red Hat, and Purdue University, is launching a service called sigstore to help developers sign the code they release.

Signing code involves associating a cryptographic signature with a specific digital artifact – release files, container images, and binaries – so that the person using the software can check the code's signature to verify that the release is authentic and hasn't been altered by someone along the way.

"Sigstore enables all open source communities to sign their software and combines provenance, integrity and discoverability to create a transparent and auditable software supply chain," said Luke Hinds, security engineering lead in Red Hat's office of the CTO, in a statement.

Sigstore aims to provide that service in a way that makes the process easier for developers, so they don't have to deal with the key management issues that arise when signing code on one's own or as part of a project with multiple maintainers.

"The tools that are available for developers to cryptographically sign the authenticity of software are just not up to the job," said Hinds in an interview with The Register. "They're not really applicable in the current situation that we find ourselves in."

Sigstore has been designed as a free, non-profit service, along the lines of ISRG's Let's Encrypt, which has vastly improved access to TLS/SSL certificates.

rip

Let's Encrypt completes huge upgrade, can now rip and replace 200 million security certs in 'worst case scenario'

READ MORE

"A lot of it's inspired by Apple's model around signing and Microsoft has a similar one," said Dan Lorenc, a software engineer on Google's open source team. "We're trying to combine that with the Let's Encrypt style approach of automatically granting and managing short-lived keys."

Lorenc as an example cited a developer working on a Node.js app who wanted to publish it to npm, the Node Package Manager registry. You would run a command to sign your app, your browser would open and you'd complete the OpenID Connect (OIDC) authentication flow and two-factor authentication check to obtain an authorization token. A certificate would be automatically issued to your OIDC email address and it would then be uploaded to npm.

Hinds said the only bits of data that get stored are the signature used to sign the digital artifact, the email address associated with the OIDC login, the public key, and the digest (the output of a hash function) of the component signed.

"There's no need to store private keys on somebody else's infrastructure," said Hinds. "That's the really nice thing about this: The keys are generated and then they're immediately discarded. They can't be used again."

There's no need to store private keys on somebody else's infrastructure

Sigstore is based on X.509 PKI and transparency logs, which provide a way to check on signatures that have been issued.

Asked how sigstore will deal with potential abuse, Hinds said the service is set up for auditing.

"We don't want to block the bad stuff coming in because the signature signing system is backed by a technology called a transparency log, which is where all of the signatures, and who signed what, is stored," he said.

This allows anyone, via an API that's provided, to audit signatures. In fact, Hinds expects software companies will integrate this capability into their own security monitoring services.

"Once it's available, security researchers can start to really scrutinize this, and look at what's happening," he said, imagining that it might be used for detecting typosquatting or other suspicious patterns. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • GPL legal battle: Vizio told by judge it will have to answer breach-of-contract claims
    Fine-print crucially deemed contractual agreement as well as copyright license in smartTV source-code case

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) has won a significant legal victory in its ongoing effort to force Vizio to publish the source code of its SmartCast TV software, which is said to contain GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 copyleft-licensed components.

    SFC sued Vizio, claiming it was in breach of contract by failing to obey the terms of the GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 licenses that require source code to be made public when certain conditions are met, and sought declaratory relief on behalf of Vizio TV owners. SFC wanted its breach-of-contract arguments to be heard by the Orange County Superior Court in California, though Vizio kicked the matter up to the district court level in central California where it hoped to avoid the contract issue and defend its corner using just federal copyright law.

    On Friday, Federal District Judge Josephine Staton sided with SFC and granted its motion to send its lawsuit back to superior court. To do so, Judge Staton had to decide whether or not the federal Copyright Act preempted the SFC's breach-of-contract allegations; in the end, she decided it didn't.

    Continue reading
  • US brings first-of-its-kind criminal charges of Bitcoin-based sanctions-busting
    Citizen allegedly moved $10m-plus in BTC into banned nation

    US prosecutors have accused an American citizen of illegally funneling more than $10 million in Bitcoin into an economically sanctioned country.

    It's said the resulting criminal charges of sanctions busting through the use of cryptocurrency are the first of their kind to be brought in the US.

    Under the United States' International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEA), it is illegal for a citizen or institution within the US to transfer funds, directly or indirectly, to a sanctioned country, such as Iran, Cuba, North Korea, or Russia. If there is evidence the IEEA was willfully violated, a criminal case should follow. If an individual or financial exchange was unwittingly involved in evading sanctions, they may be subject to civil action. 

    Continue reading
  • Meta hires network chip guru from Intel: What does this mean for future silicon?
    Why be a customer when you can develop your own custom semiconductors

    Analysis Here's something that should raise eyebrows in the datacenter world: Facebook parent company Meta has hired a veteran networking chip engineer from Intel to lead silicon design efforts in the internet giant's infrastructure hardware engineering group.

    Jon Dama started as director of silicon in May for Meta's infrastructure hardware group, a role that has him "responsible for several design teams innovating the datacenter for scale," according to his LinkedIn profile. In a blurb, Dama indicated that a team is already in place at Meta, and he hopes to "scale the next several doublings of data processing" with them.

    Though we couldn't confirm it, we think it's likely that Dama is reporting to Alexis Bjorlin, Meta's vice president of infrastructure hardware who previously worked with Dama when she was general manager of Intel's Connectivity group before serving a two-year stint at Broadcom.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022