I had already this email draft in my head, but Ananda 'Arch Linux
security is still poor' thread, on which the point was also brought up,
moved me to really write it.
First off, there's an implicit level of trust on the package software,
no matter which OS you use.
When using Windows, you trust in Microsoft, when using Mac OS, you trust
in Apple, when using a Linux distro, you trust the packagers and upstream.
Either you do that or trust just whatever came installed and not install
anything ever (thus not patching to new vulnerabilities).
The problem with Arch current packaging system is not that you must
trust people able to write in core not to add a rm -rf / (to name the
classical 'attack') nor that you didn't install arch with an infected
media. The problem is that every time you do pacman -Syu, you must
blindly trust that your dns, network, and mirror are reliable, too.
The packages are verified with a md5 from the server list, but should
you update from a compromised mirror (or impersonated, eg. arp
poisoning, dns spoofing, bofh proxy operator...) you have lost. A pacman
-Syu from an open wifi might be enough. A later update may 'clean' it,
so you may not even notice that you were once compromised.
There are several ways to close the gap:
*Always download the package list from ftp.archlinux.org
It's the easier solution, but it only protects against the mirror
operator. Moreover, it increases load on that server and makes it a
single point of failure.
*Package lists are signed from a trusted master key. There may be up to
a key per repo.
Easy to provide, allows backward compatibility.
*Packages are automatically signed by ftp.archlinux.org before
Removes the dependancy over the package list. Packages can be shared
securely (eg. getting a downgrade for an untrusted user).
*Each developer signs its own packages prior to uploading. Each
repository key signs the keys of the developers with write access. Users
can blacklist or trust independent developers.
Needless to say, the last solution is the one I like most. However,
being more complete, it also means more work.
The package signing could be a simple text file with filenames and
hashes (preferably something more secure than md5) signed with gpg, or
could be expanded if more fields are needed.
Do you think this is a good idea? Which solution do you prefer?
And most important, what would be needed to reach there?
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