Tor at the Reproducible Builds Workshop in Athens 2015
Being able to build Tor Browser several times in a row and getting exactly the same result each time has been an important feature for a while now. It provides a direct link between the source code we provide and the binary that Tor users are downloading and using to surf the web. This offers a number of benefits to all parties involved:
- Users can verify that they really got the binary they were supposed to get
- Pressure on developers to provide a bullet-proof build and signing setup is reduced
- Incentives to pressure release engineers into inserting backdoors into the code are reduced
From December 1-3, 2015 we had the opportunity to discuss these and other topics around reproducible builds with members of different projects. Thanks to the Linux Foundation, the Open Technology Fund and Google, developers from Debian, FreeBSD, NetBSD, Google, the Guardian Project, Coreboot and Tor (to name just a few) were able to attend. The workshop started with exchanging experiences with already existing systems (like Gitian, which we use for Tor Browser). During the three days of the meeting, work went on to explore together future directions for advocacy, commonly used tools, infrastructure and documentation.
We were especially pleased to see the fruitful collaboration on the operating systems level. While it is good to have a reproducible Tor Browser, the security guarantees that it provides are even stronger if the operating systems and the toolchains used to build it can be created reproducibly as well. Moreover, all participants agreed that non-reproducibility is essentially a defect that needs to be fixed. This allows us to treat workarounds (like using libfaketime to avoid timestamp differences in binaries) as mere band-aids and instead focus on addressing the root causes of non-determinism directly upstream.
Thanks to Allen Gunn and the Aspiration team for the excellent facilitation and all participants for the productive and exciting time. See all of you at the next workshop!