We mostly protect against script kiddie attacks

The recent efforts on improving the security of different areas of Gentoo have brought some arguments. Some time ago one of the developers has considered whether he would withstand physical violence if an attacker would use it in order to compromise Gentoo. A few days later another developer has suggested that an attacker could pay Gentoo developers to compromise the distribution. Is this a real threat to Gentoo? Are we all doomed?

Before I answer this question, let me make an important presumption. Gentoo is a community-driven open source project. As such, it has certain inherent weaknesses and there is no way around them without changing what Gentoo fundamentally is. Those weaknesses are common to all projects of the same nature.

Gentoo could indeed be compromised if developers are subject to the threat of violence to themselves or their families. As for money, I don’t want to insult anyone and I don’t think it really matters. The fact is, Gentoo is vulnerable to any adversary resourceful enough, and there are certainly both easier and cheaper ways than the two mentioned. For example, the adversary could get a new developer recruited, or simply trick one of the existing developers into compromising the distribution. It just takes one developer out of ~150.

As I said, there is no way around that without making major changes to the organizational structure of Gentoo. Those changes would probably do more harm to Gentoo than good. We can just admit that we can’t fully protect Gentoo from focused attack of a resourceful adversary, and all we can do is to limit the potential damage, detect it quickly and counteract the best we can. However, in reality random probes and script kiddie attacks that focus on trivial technical vulnerabilities are more likely, and that’s what the security efforts end up focusing on.

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