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PEP 524: Make os.urandom() blocking on Linux (version 3)
by Victor Stinner 30 Jul '16
by Victor Stinner 30 Jul '16
30 Jul '16
Hi, I moved my os.urandom PEP to the regular GitHub repository so it gets available on python.org: https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0524/ Changes since version 2: * add os.getrandom() * random.Random now always use non-blocking system urandom and so remove the "Never use blocking urandom in the random module" section * add a new "Examples using os.getrandom()" section * various fixes and minor updates Victor PEP: 524 Title: Make os.urandom() blocking on Linux Version: $Revision$ Last-Modified: $Date$ Author: Victor Stinner <victor.stinner(a)gmail.com> Status: Draft Type: Standards Track Content-Type: text/x-rst Created: 20-June-2016 Python-Version: 3.6 Abstract ======== Modify ``os.urandom()`` to block on Linux 3.17 and newer until the OS urandom is initialized to increase the security. Add also a new ``os.getrandom()`` function (for Linux and Solaris) to be able to choose how to handle when ``os.urandom()`` is going to block on Linux. The bug ======= Original bug ------------ Python 3.5.0 was enhanced to use the new ``getrandom()`` syscall introduced in Linux 3.17 and Solaris 11.3. The problem is that users started to complain that Python 3.5 blocks at startup on Linux in virtual machines and embedded devices: see issues `#25420 <http://bugs.python.org/issue25420>`_ and `#26839 <http://bugs.python.org/issue26839>`_. On Linux, ``getrandom(0)`` blocks until the kernel initialized urandom with 128 bits of entropy. The issue #25420 describes a Linux build platform blocking at ``import random``. The issue #26839 describes a short Python script used to compute a MD5 hash, systemd-cron, script called very early in the init process. The system initialization blocks on this script which blocks on ``getrandom(0)`` to initialize Python. The Python initilization requires random bytes to implement a counter-measure against the hash denial-of-service (hash DoS), see: * `Issue #13703: Hash collision security issue <http://bugs.python.org/issue13703>`_ * `PEP 456: Secure and interchangeable hash algorithm <https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0456/>`_ Importing the ``random`` module creates an instance of ``random.Random``: ``random._inst``. On Python 3.5, random.Random constructor reads 2500 bytes from ``os.urandom()`` to seed a Mersenne Twister RNG (random number generator). Other platforms may be affected by this bug, but in practice, only Linux systems use Python scripts to initialize the system. Status in Python 3.5.2 ---------------------- Python 3.5.2 behaves like Python 2.7 and Python 3.4. If the system urandom is not initialized, the startup does not block, but ``os.urandom()`` can return low-quality entropy (even it is not easily guessable). Use Cases ========= The following use cases are used to help to choose the right compromise between security and practicability. Use Case 1: init script ----------------------- Use a Python 3 script to initialize the system, like systemd-cron. If the script blocks, the system initialize is stuck too. The issue #26839 is a good example of this use case. Use case 1.1: No secret needed ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ If the init script doesn't have to generate any secure secret, this use case is already handled correctly in Python 3.5.2: Python startup doesn't block on system urandom anymore. Use case 1.2: Secure secret required ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ If the init script has to generate a secure secret, there is no safe solution. Falling back to weak entropy is not acceptable, it would reduce the security of the program. Python cannot produce itself secure entropy, it can only wait until system urandom is initialized. But in this use case, the whole system initialization is blocked by this script, so the system fails to boot. The real answer is that the system iniitalization must not be blocked by such script. It is ok to start the script very early at system initialization, but the script may blocked a few seconds until it is able to generate the secret. Reminder: in some cases, the initialization of the system urandom never occurs and so programs waiting for system urandom blocks forever. Use Case 2: Web server ---------------------- Run a Python 3 web server serving web pages using HTTP and HTTPS protocols. The server is started as soon as possible. The first target of the hash DoS attack was web server: it's important that the hash secret cannot be easily guessed by an attacker. If serving a web page needs a secret to create a cookie, create an encryption key, ..., the secret must be created with good entropy: again, it must be hard to guess the secret. A web server requires security. If a choice must be made between security and running the server with weak entropy, security is more important. If there is no good entropy: the server must block or fail with an error. The question is if it makes sense to start a web server on a host before system urandom is initialized. The issues #25420 and #26839 are restricted to the Python startup, not to generate a secret before the system urandom is initialized. Fix system urandom ================== Load entropy from disk at boot ------------------------------- Collecting entropy can take up to several minutes. To accelerate the system initialization, operating systems store entropy on disk at shutdown, and then reload entropy from disk at the boot. If a system collects enough entropy at least once, the system urandom will be initialized quickly, as soon as the entropy is reloaded from disk. Virtual machines ---------------- Virtual machines don't have a direct access to the hardware and so have less sources of entropy than bare metal. A solution is to add a `virtio-rng device <https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Features/Virtio_RNG>`_ to pass entropy from the host to the virtual machine. Embedded devices ---------------- A solution for embedded devices is to plug an hardware RNG. For example, Raspberry Pi have an hardware RNG but it's not used by default. See: `Hardware RNG on Raspberry Pi <http://fios.sector16.net/hardware-rng-on-raspberry-pi/>`_. Denial-of-service when reading random ===================================== Don't use /dev/random but /dev/urandom -------------------------------------- The ``/dev/random`` device should only used for very specific use cases. Reading from ``/dev/random`` on Linux is likely to block. Users don't like when an application blocks longer than 5 seconds to generate a secret. It is only expected for specific cases like generating explicitly an encryption key. When the system has no available entropy, choosing between blocking until entropy is available or falling back on lower quality entropy is a matter of compromise between security and practicability. The choice depends on the use case. On Linux, ``/dev/urandom`` is secure, it should be used instead of ``/dev/random``. See `Myths about /dev/urandom <http://www.2uo.de/myths-about-urandom/>`_ by Thomas Hühn: "Fact: /dev/urandom is the preferred source of cryptographic randomness on UNIX-like systems" getrandom(size, 0) can block forever on Linux --------------------------------------------- The origin of the Python issue #26839 is the `Debian bug report #822431 <https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=822431>`_: in fact, ``getrandom(size, 0)`` blocks forever on the virtual machine. The system succeeded to boot because systemd killed the blocked process after 90 seconds. Solutions like `Load entropy from disk at boot`_ reduces the risk of this bug. Rationale ========= On Linux, reading the ``/dev/urandom`` can return "weak" entropy before urandom is fully initialized, before the kernel collected 128 bits of entropy. Linux 3.17 adds a new ``getrandom()`` syscall which allows to block until urandom is initialized. On Python 3.5.2, os.urandom() uses the ``getrandom(size, GRND_NONBLOCK)``, but falls back on reading the non-blocking ``/dev/urandom`` if ``getrandom(size, GRND_NONBLOCK)`` fails with ``EAGAIN``. Security experts promotes ``os.urandom()`` to genereate cryptographic keys because it is implemented with a `Cryptographically secure pseudo-random number generator (CSPRNG) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptographically_secure_pseudorandom_number_…>`_. By the way, ``os.urandom()`` is preferred over ``ssl.RAND_bytes()`` for different reasons. This PEP proposes to modify os.urandom() to use ``getrandom()`` in blocking mode to not return weak entropy, but also ensure that Python will not block at startup. Changes ======= Make os.urandom() blocking on Linux ----------------------------------- All changes described in this section are specific to the Linux platform. Changes: * Modify os.urandom() to block until system urandom is initialized: ``os.urandom()`` (C function ``_PyOS_URandom()``) is modified to always call ``getrandom(size, 0)`` (blocking mode) on Linux and Solaris. * Add a new private ``_PyOS_URandom_Nonblocking()`` function: try to call ``getrandom(size, GRND_NONBLOCK)`` on Linux and Solaris, but falls back on reading ``/dev/urandom`` if it fails with ``EAGAIN``. * Initialize hash secret from non-blocking system urandom: ``_PyRandom_Init()`` is modified to call ``_PyOS_URandom_Nonblocking()``. * ``random.Random`` constructor now uses non-blocking system urandom: it is modified to use internally the new ``_PyOS_URandom_Nonblocking()`` function to seed the RNG. Add a new os.getrandom() function --------------------------------- A new ``os.getrandom(size, flags=0)`` function is added: use ``getrandom()`` syscall on Linux and ``getrandom()`` C function on Solaris. The function comes with 2 new flags: * ``os.GRND_RANDOM``: read bytes from ``/dev/random`` rather than reading ``/dev/urandom`` * ``os.GRND_NONBLOCK``: raise a BlockingIOError if ``os.getrandom()`` would block The ``os.getrandom()`` is a thin wrapper on the ``getrandom()`` syscall/C function and so inherit of its behaviour. For example, on Linux, it can return less bytes than requested if the syscall is interrupted by a signal. Examples using os.getrandom() ============================= Best-effort RNG --------------- Example of a portable non-blocking RNG function: try to get random bytes from the OS urandom, or fallback on the random module. :: def best_effort_rng(size): # getrandom() is only available on Linux and Solaris if not hasattr(os, 'getrandom'): return os.urandom(size) result = bytearray() try: # need a loop because getrandom() can return less bytes than # requested for different reasons while size: data = os.getrandom(size, os.GRND_NONBLOCK) result += data size -= len(data) except BlockingIOError: # OS urandom is not initialized yet: # fallback on the Python random module data = bytes(random.randrange(256) for byte in range(size)) result += data return bytes(result) This function *can* block in theory on a platform where ``os.getrandom()`` is not available but ``os.urandom()`` can block. wait_for_system_rng() --------------------- Example of function waiting *timeout* seconds until the OS urandom is initialized on Linux or Solaris:: def wait_for_system_rng(timeout, interval=1.0): if not hasattr(os, 'getrandom'): return deadline = time.monotonic() + timeout while True: try: os.getrandom(1, os.GRND_NONBLOCK) except BlockingIOError: pass else: return if time.monotonic() > deadline: raise Exception('OS urandom not initialized after %s seconds' % timeout) time.sleep(interval) This function is *not* portable. For example, ``os.urandom()`` can block on FreeBSD in theory, at the early stage of the system initialization. Create a best-effort RNG ------------------------ Simpler example to create a non-blocking RNG on Linux: choose between ``Random.SystemRandom`` and ``Random.Random`` depending if ``getrandom(size)`` would block. :: def create_nonblocking_random(): if not hasattr(os, 'getrandom'): return random.Random() try: os.getrandom(1, os.GRND_NONBLOCK) except BlockingIOError: return random.Random() else: return random.SystemRandom() This function is *not* portable. For example, ``random.SystemRandom`` can block on FreeBSD in theory, at the early stage of the system initialization. Alternative =========== Leave os.urandom() unchanged, add os.getrandom() ------------------------------------------------ os.urandom() remains unchanged: never block, but it can return weak entropy if system urandom is not initialized yet. Only add the new ``os.getrandom()`` function (wrapper to the ``getrandom()`` syscall/C function). The ``secrets.token_bytes()`` function should be used to write portable code. The problem with this change is that it expects that users understand well security and know well each platforms. Python has the tradition of hiding "implementation details". For example, ``os.urandom()`` is not a thin wrapper to the ``/dev/urandom`` device: it uses ``CryptGenRandom()`` on Windows, it uses ``getentropy()`` on OpenBSD, it tries ``getrandom()`` on Linux and Solaris or falls back on reading ``/dev/urandom``. Python already uses the best available system RNG depending on the platform. This PEP does not change the API: * ``os.urandom()``, ``random.SystemRandom`` and ``secrets`` for security * ``random`` module (except ``random.SystemRandom``) for all other usages Raise BlockingIOError in os.urandom() ------------------------------------- Proposition ^^^^^^^^^^^ `PEP 522: Allow BlockingIOError in security sensitive APIs on Linux <https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0522/>`_. Python should not decide for the developer how to handle `The bug`_: raising immediatly a ``BlockingIOError`` if ``os.urandom()`` is going to block allows developers to choose how to handle this case: * catch the exception and falls back to a non-secure entropy source: read ``/dev/urandom`` on Linux, use the Python ``random`` module (which is not secure at all), use time, use process identifier, etc. * don't catch the error, the whole program fails with this fatal exception More generally, the exception helps to notify when sometimes goes wrong. The application can emit a warning when it starts to wait for ``os.urandom()``. Criticism ^^^^^^^^^ For the use case 2 (web server), falling back on non-secure entropy is not acceptable. The application must handle ``BlockingIOError``: poll ``os.urandom()`` until it completes. Example:: def secret(n=16): try: return os.urandom(n) except BlockingIOError: pass print("Wait for system urandom initialiation: move your " "mouse, use your keyboard, use your disk, ...") while 1: # Avoid busy-loop: sleep 1 ms time.sleep(0.001) try: return os.urandom(n) except BlockingIOError: pass For correctness, all applications which must generate a secure secret must be modified to handle ``BlockingIOError`` even if `The bug`_ is unlikely. The case of applications using ``os.urandom()`` but don't really require security is not well defined. Maybe these applications should not use ``os.urandom()`` at the first place, but always the non-blocking ``random`` module. If ``os.urandom()`` is used for security, we are back to the use case 2 described above: `Use Case 2: Web server`_. If a developer doesn't want to drop ``os.urandom()``, the code should be modified. Example:: def almost_secret(n=16): try: return os.urandom(n) except BlockingIOError: return bytes(random.randrange(256) for byte in range(n)) The question is if `The bug`_ is common enough to require that so many applications have to be modified. Another simpler choice is to refuse to start before the system urandom is initialized:: def secret(n=16): try: return os.urandom(n) except BlockingIOError: print("Fatal error: the system urandom is not initialized") print("Wait a bit, and rerun the program later.") sys.exit(1) Compared to Python 2.7, Python 3.4 and Python 3.5.2 where os.urandom() never blocks nor raise an exception on Linux, such behaviour change can be seen as a major regression. Add an optional block parameter to os.urandom() ----------------------------------------------- See the `issue #27250: Add os.urandom_block() <http://bugs.python.org/issue27250>`_. Add an optional block parameter to os.urandom(). The default value may be ``True`` (block by default) or ``False`` (non-blocking). The first technical issue is to implement ``os.urandom(block=False)`` on all platforms. Only Linux 3.17 (and newer) and Solaris 11.3 (and newer) have a well defined non-blocking API (``getrandom(size, GRND_NONBLOCK)``). As `Raise BlockingIOError in os.urandom()`_, it doesn't seem worth it to make the API more complex for a theorical (or at least very rare) use case. As `Leave os.urandom() unchanged, add os.getrandom()`_, the problem is that it makes the API more complex and so more error-prone. Annexes ======= Operating system random functions --------------------------------- ``os.urandom()`` uses the following functions: * `OpenBSD: getentropy() <http://man.openbsd.org/OpenBSD-current/man2/getentropy.2>`_ (OpenBSD 5.6) * `Linux: getrandom() <http://man7.org/linux/man-pages/man2/getrandom.2.html>`_ (Linux 3.17) -- see also `A system call for random numbers: getrandom() <https://lwn.net/Articles/606141/>`_ * Solaris: `getentropy() <https://docs.oracle.com/cd/E53394_01/html/E54765/getentropy-2.html#scrolltoc>`_, `getrandom() <https://docs.oracle.com/cd/E53394_01/html/E54765/getrandom-2.html>`_ (both need Solaris 11.3) * UNIX, BSD: /dev/urandom, /dev/random * Windows: `CryptGenRandom() <https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/aa379942%28v=vs.85…>`_ (Windows XP) On Linux, commands to get the status of ``/dev/random`` (results are number of bytes):: $ cat /proc/sys/kernel/random/entropy_avail 2850 $ cat /proc/sys/kernel/random/poolsize 4096 Why using os.urandom()? ----------------------- Since ``os.urandom()`` is implemented in the kernel, it doesn't have issues of user-space RNG. For example, it is much harder to get its state. It is usually built on a CSPRNG, so even if its state is "stolen", it is hard to compute previously generated numbers. The kernel has a good knowledge of entropy sources and feed regulary the entropy pool. That's also why ``os.urandom()`` is preferred over ``ssl.RAND_bytes()``. Copyright ========= This document has been placed in the public domain.
How to document changes related to security in Python changelog?
by Victor Stinner 28 Jul '16
by Victor Stinner 28 Jul '16
28 Jul '16
Hi, I read the summary of Christian Heimes's talk at the language summit: "The Python security response team" http://lwn.net/Articles/691308/ Extract: "Some of the problems that have occurred are things like bug reports being sent to the list, but that couldn't be reproduced, or distributions not updating their Python packages because it wasn't clear to them that there was a security fix made in an upstream release. Heimes suggested that security fixes be clearly marked in the "News" file that accompanies releases." I suggest to add a new Security section to Misc/NEWS. So packagers should be able to quickly identify changes which should be backported (if they maintain a Python version which is no more supported upstream, or if you cannot use the latest version). Christian proposed to simply prefix changes with "[Security]". What do you think? Victor
Does the buildtime HAVE_GETRANDOM_SYSCALL check actually make sense?
by Nick Coghlan 03 Jul '16
by Nick Coghlan 03 Jul '16
03 Jul '16
I think I've found a better explanation than mere timing or coincidence for why we haven't had any problem reports regarding Python 3.5.1 blocking in Fedora or in the Software Collections builds for RHEL and CentOS: those builds currently aren't even trying to use the new syscall, and are instead always using the older non-blocking /dev/urandom behaviour. My assumption in https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=1350123 is that this is due to those binaries being built against a version of the kernel that doesn't have that syscall defined, which means the config script doesn't define HAVE_GETRANDOM_SYSCALL, which means we compile out the code that tries calling it at runtime. Does skipping trying the new syscall at runtime just because the build server is running an older kernel actually make sense? Or we would be better off defining a different TRY_GETRANDOM_SYSCALL that looks for some other indicator that this is a build for a platform where getrandom() might be available at runtime, even if it's not available at build time. Cheers, Nick. -- Nick Coghlan | ncoghlan(a)gmail.com | Brisbane, Australia