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From: Taylor Blau <>
To: Glen Choo <>
Cc:, "Emily Shaffer" <>,,
	"Johannes Schindelin" <>,
	"Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason" <>,
	"Derrick Stolee" <>,
	"Junio C Hamano" <>,
	"brian m. carlson" <>,
Subject: Re: Bare repositories in the working tree are a security risk
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2022 21:14:17 -0400	[thread overview]
Message-ID: <YmyNacEAiRl4zLW4@nand.local> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <>

On Fri, Apr 29, 2022 at 04:57:51PM -0700, Glen Choo wrote:
> Thanks so much for the response - it's really helpful, and there's a lot of food
> for thought here.
> (Sorry that I didn't get back to you sooner, there really is a lot of
> great stuff here to think about :))

No problem, I'm glad that you found it helpful (and likewise!).

> So I'll leave behind this idea of "blocking embedding bare repos" for
> now; I think there are more promising proposals in this thread.

I am in strong agreement with you here, but I would add an additional
point which is that even if we encouraged submodules over embedded bare
repos, or suggested storing bare repos on CDNs or what have you, there's
significant momentum in the "do nothing" category which we have to take
into account, too.

So even if we made it as easy as possible to convert to, for e.g., using
submodules, getting the millions (?) of repositories with embedded bare
repositories in them that have accumulated over the years to actually
change seems virtually impossible to me.

> >>   1. Prevent checking out an embedded bare repo.
> >>   2. Detect if the bare repo is embedded and refuse to work with it.
> >>   3. Detect if the bare repo is embedded and do not read its config/hooks, but
> >>      everything else still 'works'.
> >>   4. Don't detect bare repos.
> >>   5. Only detect bare repos that are named `.git` [1].
> >>
> >>   (I've responded with my thoughts on each of these approaches in-thread).
> >
> >   1. Likely disrupts too many legitimate workflows for us to adopt
> >      without designing some way to declare an embedded bare repository
> >      is "safe".
> >   2. Ditto.
> >   3. This seems the most promising approach so far. Similar to (1), I
> >      would also want to make sure we provide an easy way to declare a
> >      bare repository as "safe" in order to avoid permanently disrupting
> >      valid workflows that have accumulated over the past >15 years.
> >   4. Seems like this approach is too heavy-handed.
> >   5. Ditto.
> If I understand you correctly, it seems like we can ship any of the options from
> 1.-3., provided there is an easy way to opt-in known, "safe" bare repos.

After thinking about it some more, I think that we should probably try
to ship (3) of the ones that we agree are viable, but more on that

> Yes, that's good to keep in mind. After mulling about it some more, I don't have
> a clear direction on the fsck patch to be honest, I'll leave this alone for now
> and I'll return to it if I get a clearer picture.

Sounds good. I'm happy to have ideas bounced off of me in the meantime ;).

> I really like the `safe.embeddedRepo` idea, though I'm not convinced about
> "respect only the safe parts of the embedded repo". I'll address the latter
> first.

To be clear, I am advocating for "only the safe parts" insofar as "read
repository extensions, core.repositoryFormatVersion and literally
nothing else". I'm definitely not suggesting we go and enumerate every
configurable value, determine whether it's safe or not, and then read
only the safe ones. That approach seems doomed to fail, since no matter
how clever we are, there will always be some slightly-cleverer attacker
who can find a vector that we missed.

> I think brian m. carlson was coming from a similar direction, and the "respect
> only the safe parts of the embedded repo" part of the proposal sounds similar to
> his [1]. Both seem to be motivated by your second point - protect as many
> workflows as we can. It's a good guiding principle, and I think it's a good
> place to start from. That said, I'm not sure that this proposal serves these
> users that well:
> - Not reading the config might break the embedded bare repos in ways we don't
>   expect (e.g. not reading core.repositoryformatversion).

I'm hoping that if we include this among the list of essential- and
known-safe config values that we'll mitigate this reasonably well.

> - Users who use embedded bare repos as test fixtures presumably want their tests
>   to mimic real-world scenarios as closely as possible; running in this
>   half-state of "use some parts of the repo but not others" doesn't seem a good
>   fit for that use case.

It's hard to estimate how many of these tests will get broken. But I
think the important trade-off to consider between "abort all Git
operations in embedded bare repositories" and "warn, and avoid reading
config/hooks" is how disruptive the change will be. The latter seems far
less disruptive to me, so I would rather us favor that over an
overly-conservative approach.

> - This complicates the rules significantly for the user, who now has to figure
>   out which parts of the bare repo are respected and which are not.

On this point I disagree, but I suspect we weren't on the same page
about what "only the safe parts" meant when you wrote this. To be
extra-extra clear, I don't think we should read some parts of config and
not other, I mean we should read _only_ the above listed parts (the
format version and extensions) and nothing else.

> - I'm also of the opinion that changing the rules like this actually does affect
>   workflows, even if it doesn't break libgit2's tests.
>   - A diligent user still has to convince themselves that the tests are passing
>     for the right reasons, possibly adapting to the new rules (e.g. by
>     selectively enabling `safe.embeddedRepo` on the right test fixtures).
>   - A less diligent user might not even realize the change has happened and
>     end up with difficult to debug results somewhere down the line.

I am sympathetic to what you're saying, but I (a) think there's still a
tradeoff here that doesn't obviously point us in one direction or the
other and (b) we should equally keep in mind other workflows besides
just test fixtures. Does that change our thinking at all? I'm not sure.

> I'm also not keen on it for other reasons:
> - This expands the attack surface significantly, and I'm pessimistic that we
>   can maintain a list of the 'safe' parts of a bare repo. A lot of attention has
>   been focused on config/hooks, but I wouldn't be surprised if a creative
>   attacker finds some other avenue that we missed (maybe a buffer overflow
>   attack on a malicious index file?).

I disagree, though again I suspect we were thinking of different thing
when saying "only read safe parts of the config". Still though, I would
argue that it limits the attack surface at the right level, which is to
say any vector that we _did_ miss is something that we should just fix
(e.g., preventing a buffer overflow) and not "oops, this config value
does specify an executable".

(We shouldn't have to deal with the index file, though, since a bare
repository would not read the index, no?).

> - I expect that this is also going to be really complex to implement and
>   maintain; instead of looking in a single gitdir for everything, we now look in
>   two gitdirs.

I'd think that any approach we take that has different behavior
for bare repositories depending on whether or not they are embedded has
to do a similar check, so I don't think this adds significant
complexity. Though not having written any code here yet, I'd take what I
say with a huge grain of salt ;-).

> What is promising is an allow-listing scheme like `safe.embeddedRepo` that can
> be enabled on a per-repository basis. . Using an allowlist to selectively choose
> *entire* embedded bare repos preserves the first and third attributes you
> described, and it keeps things simple(-ish) for us and users. Breaking libgit2
> and Git LFS this way is pretty harsh, but it will give us the confidence that we
> have communicated the behavior change (and fix!) to the relevant users, rather
> than having them find out the wrong way.

Hmm. I still am pretty convicted that this (avoid working with unknown
embedded bare repositories) is too harsh of a change to
make the default. Replace "Breaking libgit2 and Git LFS" with "breaking
many hundreds of thousands of repositories" [1], and I think that we
would need to come up with something more lightweight.

> Some extra thoughts (in case they're helpful):
> - It's pretty important to get the format of `safe.embeddedRepo` 'correct', but
>   what 'correct' is is up for debate. For example, should we allow '*'? (I think
>   so, but I know some don't ;)).

Stolee (cc'd) will have an interesting perspective here (at least as it
relates to the 2.35.3 release), I think.

> - There might be some unifying principles behind "allowlisting certain embedded
>   bare repos" and "disabling/enabling bare repo detection" that can guide our
>   fix.
>   - Perhaps we could allow different 'levels' of bare repo protection, like
>     'allow all bare repos', 'allow only non-embedded bare repos', 'allow no bare
>     repos', 'allow embedded bare repos but not their configs".
>   - If we do want to discourage embedded bare repos (and flip the default), this
>     kind of gradual roll-out might give projects a way to incrementally migrate.

Ah! Are you suggesting a global configuration setting that controls the
behavior of embedded bare repositories that _aren't_ listed in a
repositories safe.embeddedRepo list?

That sort of thing could work, though I'd argue strongly that any Git
2.x.y release should make the default behavior "avoid config/hooks"
as opposed to "refuse to work". We could consider changing that default
in Git 3.x.y, but I feel strongly that any Git 2.x.y release should
cater as much to existing workflows as possible without significantly
compromising on attack surface area.


[1]: I have no idea if that figure is right, but I suspect it's in the
right order of magnitude. I could look into it further, though.

  reply	other threads:[~2022-04-30  1:14 UTC|newest]

Thread overview: 50+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2022-04-06 22:43 Glen Choo
2022-04-06 23:22 ` [PATCH] fsck: detect bare repos in trees and warn Glen Choo
2022-04-07 12:42   ` Johannes Schindelin
2022-04-07 13:21     ` Derrick Stolee
2022-04-07 14:14       ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2022-04-14 20:02         ` Glen Choo
2022-04-15 12:46           ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2022-04-07 15:11       ` Junio C Hamano
2022-04-13 22:24       ` Glen Choo
2022-04-07 13:12   ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2022-04-07 15:20   ` Junio C Hamano
2022-04-07 18:38 ` Bare repositories in the working tree are a security risk John Cai
2022-04-07 21:24 ` brian m. carlson
2022-04-07 21:53   ` Justin Steven
2022-04-07 22:10     ` brian m. carlson
2022-04-07 22:40       ` rsbecker
2022-04-08  5:54       ` Junio C Hamano
2022-04-14  0:03         ` Junio C Hamano
2022-04-14  0:04         ` Glen Choo
2022-04-13 23:44       ` Glen Choo
2022-04-13 20:37 ` Glen Choo
2022-04-13 23:36   ` Junio C Hamano
2022-04-14 16:41     ` Glen Choo
2022-04-14 17:35       ` Junio C Hamano
2022-04-14 18:19         ` Junio C Hamano
2022-04-15 21:33         ` Glen Choo
2022-04-15 22:17           ` Junio C Hamano
2022-04-16  0:52             ` Taylor Blau
2022-04-15 22:43           ` Glen Choo
2022-04-15 20:13       ` Junio C Hamano
2022-04-15 23:45         ` Glen Choo
2022-04-15 23:59           ` Glen Choo
2022-04-16  1:00           ` Taylor Blau
2022-04-16  1:18             ` Junio C Hamano
2022-04-16  1:30               ` Taylor Blau
2022-04-16  0:34 ` Glen Choo
2022-04-16  0:41 ` Glen Choo
2022-04-16  1:28   ` Taylor Blau
2022-04-21 18:25     ` Emily Shaffer
2022-04-21 18:29       ` Emily Shaffer
2022-04-21 18:47         ` Junio C Hamano
2022-04-21 18:54           ` Taylor Blau
2022-04-21 19:09       ` Taylor Blau
2022-04-21 21:01         ` Emily Shaffer
2022-04-21 21:22           ` Taylor Blau
2022-04-29 23:57     ` Glen Choo
2022-04-30  1:14       ` Taylor Blau [this message]
2022-05-02 19:39         ` Glen Choo
2022-05-02 14:05       ` Philip Oakley
2022-05-02 18:50         ` Junio C Hamano

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