Evolution: UID trust extrapolation attack on OpenPGP signatures

This article describes the UI deficiency of Evolution mail client that extrapolates the trust of one of OpenPGP key UIDs into the key itself, and reports it along with the (potentially untrusted) primary UID. This creates the possibility of tricking the user into trusting a phished mail via adding a forged UID to a key that has a previously trusted UID.

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Identity with OpenPGP trust model

Let’s say you want to send a confidential message to me, and possibly receive a reply. Through employing asymmetric encryption, you can prevent a third party from reading its contents, even if it can intercept the ciphertext. Through signatures, you can verify the authenticity of the message, and therefore detect any possible tampering. But for all this to work, you need to be able to verify the authenticity of the public keys first. In other words, we need to be able to prevent the aforementioned third party — possibly capable of intercepting your communications and publishing a forged key with my credentials on it — from tricking you into using the wrong key.

This renders key authenticity the fundamental problem of asymmetric cryptography. But before we start discussing how key certification is implemented, we need to cover another fundamental issue — identity. After all, who am I — who is the person you are writing to? Are you writing to a person you’ve met? Or to a specific Gentoo developer? Author of some project? Before you can distinguish my authentic key from a forged key, you need to be able to clearly distinguish me from an impostor.

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Portability of tar features

The tar format is one of the oldest archive formats in use. It comes as no surprise that it is ugly — built as layers of hacks on the older format versions to overcome their limitations. However, given the POSIX standarization in late 80s and the popularity of GNU tar, you would expect the interoperability problems to be mostly resolved nowadays.

This article is directly inspired by my proof-of-concept work on new binary package format for Gentoo. My original proposal used volume label to provide user- and file(1)-friendly way of distinguish our binary packages. While it is a GNU tar extension, it falls within POSIX ustar implementation-defined file format and you would expect that non-compliant implementations would extract it as regular files. What I did not anticipate is that some implementation reject the whole archive instead.

This naturally raised more questions on how portable various tar formats actually are. To verify that, I have decided to analyze the standards for possible incompatibility dangers and build a suite of test inputs that could be used to check how various implementations cope with that. This article describes those points and provides test results for a number of implementations.

Please note that this article is focused merely on read-wise format compatibility. In other words, it establishes how tar files should be written in order to achieve best probability that it will be read correctly afterwards. It does not investigate what formats the listed tools can write and whether they can correctly create archives using specific features.

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New copyright policy explained

On 2018-09-15 meeting, the Trustees have given the final stamp of approval to the new Gentoo copyright policy outlined in GLEP 76. This policy is the result of work that has been slowly progressing since 2005, and that has taken considerable speed by the end of 2017. It is a major step forward from the status quo that has been used since the forming of Gentoo Foundation, and that mostly has been inherited from earlier Gentoo Technologies.

The policy aims to cover all copyright-related aspects, bringing Gentoo in line with the practices used in many other large open source projects. Most notably, it introduces a concept of Gentoo Certificate of Origin that requires all contributors to confirm that they are entitled to submit their contributions to Gentoo, and corrects the copyright attribution policy to be viable under more jurisdictions.

This article aims to shortly reiterate over the most important points in the new copyright policy, and provide a detailed guide on following it in Q&A form.

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