Hello everyone,

I am a research programmer at the NYU School of Engineering.  My colleagues (Trishank Kuppusamy and Justin Cappos) and I are requesting community feedback on our proposal, "Surviving a Compromise of PyPI."  The two-stage proposal can be reviewed online at:

PEP 458

PEP 480

Summary of the Proposal:

"Surviving a Compromise of PyPI" proposes how the Python Package Index (PyPI) can be amended to better protect end users from altered or malicious packages, and to minimize the extent of PyPI compromises against affected users.  The proposed integration allows package managers such as pip to be more secure against various types of security attacks on PyPI and defend end users from attackers responding to package requests. Specifically, these PEPs describe how PyPI processes should be adapted to generate and incorporate repository metadata, which are signed text files that describe the packages and metadata available on PyPI.  Package managers request (along with the packages) the metadata on PyPI to verify the authenticity of packages before they are installed.  The changes to PyPI and tools will be minimal by leveraging a library, The Update Framework, that generates and transparently validates the relevant metadata.

The first stage of the proposal (PEP 458) uses a basic security model that supports verification of PyPI packages signed with cryptographic keys stored on PyPI, requires no action from developers and end users, and protects against malicious CDNs and public mirrors. To support continuous delivery of uploaded packages, PyPI administrators sign for uploaded packages with an online key stored on PyPI infrastructure. This level of security prevents packages from being accidentally or deliberately tampered with by a mirror or a CDN because the mirror or CDN will not have any of the keys required to sign for projects.  

The second stage of the proposal (PEP 480) is an extension to the basic security model (discussed in PEP 458) that supports end-to-end verification of signed packages. End-to-end signing allows both PyPI and developers to sign for the packages that are downloaded by end users.  If the PyPI infrastructure were to be compromised, attackers would be unable to serve malicious versions of these packages without access to the project's developer key.  As in PEP 458, no additional action is required by end users.  However, PyPI administrators will need to periodically (perhaps every few months) sign metadata with an offline key.  PEP 480 also proposes an easy-to-use key management solution for developers, how to interface with a potential build farm on PyPI infrastructure, and discusses the security benefits of end-to-end signing.  The second stage of the proposal simultaneously supports real-time project registration and developer signatures, and when configured to maximize security on PyPI, less than 1% of end users will be at risk even if an attacker controls PyPI and goes undetected for a month.

We thank Nick Coghlan and Donald Stufft for their valuable contributions, and Giovanni Bajo and Anatoly Techtonik for their feedback.

PEP 458 & 480 authors.