[Python-Dev] PEP 578: Python Runtime Audit Hooks

Christian Heimes christian at python.org
Sun Mar 31 08:38:38 EDT 2019

On 29/03/2019 21.10, Steve Dower wrote:
>> For example how does the importhook work in regarding of alternative
>> importers like zipimport? What does the import hook 'see' for an import
>> from a zipfile?
> Yes, good point. I think opening the zip file with open_for_import() is
> the right place to do it, as this operation relates to opening the file
> on disk rather than files within it.


>> Shared libraries are trickier. libc doesn't define a way to dlopen()
>> from a file descriptor. dlopen() takes a file name, but a file name
>> leaves the audit hook open to a TOCTOU attack.
> For Windows, at least, the operating system can run its own validation
> on native modules (if you're using a feature like DeviceGuard, for
> example), so the hook likely isn't necessary for those purposes. I
> believe some configurations of Linux allow this as well?
> But there's likely no better option here than a combination of good ACLs
> and checking by filename, which at least lets you whitelist the files
> you know you want to allow. Similarly for the zip file - if you trust a
> particular file and trust your ACLs, checking by filename is fine. That
> said, specific audit events for "I'm about to open this zip/dlopen this
> file for import" are very easy to add. (The PEP proposes many examples,
> but is not trying to be exhaustive. If accepted, we should feel free to
> add new events as we identify places where they matter.)

The Linux effort is called Integrity Measurement Architecture (IMA) and
Linux Extended Verification Module (EVM). I have no practical experience
with IMA yet.

I don't like the fact that the PEP requires users to learn and use an
additional layer to handle native code. Although we cannot provide a
fully secure hook for native code, we could at least try to provide a
best effort hook and document the limitations. A bit more information
would make the verified open function more useful, too.

PyObject *PyImport_OpenForExecution(
    const char *path,
    const char *intent,
    int flags,
    PyObject *context

- Path is an absolute (!) file path. The PEP doesn't specify if the file
name is relative or absolute. IMO it should be always absolute.

- The new intent argument lets the caller pass information how it
intents to use the file, e.g. pythoncode, zipimport, nativecode (for
loading a shared library/DLL), ctypes, ... This allows the verify hook
to react on the intent and provide different verifications for e.g.
Python code and native modules.

- The flags argument is for additional flags, e.g. return an opened file
or None, open the file in text or binary mode, ...

- Context is an optional Python object from the caller's context. For
the import system, it could be the loader instance.


) -> fileobject

) -> None

> Aside: an important aspect of this per-file approach to execution is
> that the idea is generally to *enable* the files you trust, rather than
> disable the files that are bad. So the detection routines are typically
> "does this match a known hash" or "is this in a secure location", which
> for a carefully deployed system are already known values, rather than
> trying to figure out whether a file might do a bad thing. If you can't
> validate the files in your deployment match the ones you thought you
> were deploying, you are so far from needing this that it doesn't even
> matter, but most of the deployments I work with are *at least* this well
> controlled.


On Linux, trust settings could be stored in extended file attributes.
Linux has multiple namespaces for extended attributes. User attributes
can be modified by every process that has write permission to an inode.
The security namespace is only writable for processes with
CAP_SYS_ADMIN. A secure loader could check for presence of
'user.org.python.bytecode' attribute or compare the content of the file
to hashsum in 'security.org.python.bytecode.sha256'.


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