status report

HardenedBSD December 2020 Status Report

Happy New Year! On this the last day of 2020, I submit December's status report.

FreeBSD recently switched its source (/usr/src) repo from subversion to git. This switch had a major impact on HardenedBSD. This month was spent almost entirely on that impact. I had planned to work on Cross-DSO CFI this month, but I wasn't able to find any time for that.

I spent some time with my Foundation administrative hat on. I sent emails to recent donors, asking them whether they wanted to be listed on the donor's page. If you have donated and haven't received an email from me, please reach out.

This month alone, the community blew through our 2020 donation goal. We received around $13,000 USD in December 2020. We are immensely thankful for those who contribute. Monetary donations go straight to improving the project. In January, we will purchase a new server to replace our existing self-hosted Gitea server.

It has been an honor to serve you, the HardenedBSD Community, in 2020. I'm grateful for the continued opportunity to serve in 2021. Our Roadmap page hasn't been updated in three years now. In January, I will be updating the roadmap.


HardenedBSD November 2020 Status Report

Hey all,

We're getting close to the end of November. My wife and I have plans this weekend, so I thought I'd take the time to write November's status report today.

On amd64, with commit fd35ed2087409c7ae83ed6cf8ec041d47432a758, I added the HARDENEDBSD-NODEBUG kernel. Note that this disables INVARIANTS, which has a lot of security side-benefits due to assertion checking. Disabling INVARIANTS also means enabling PAX_INSECURE_MODE.

I've been working on the ports tree, updating more ports that need extra CFLAGS/LDFLAGS and/or need ports-based hardening features disabled (like PIE, RELRO+BIND_NOW).

I've worked on merging in some code and documentation contributions. We had our first vendor code contribution this month. I still need to review and merge in their patch for the hardening-check port.

Our self-hosted git server is still experiencing issues, but is still getting more stable as time goes on. We've noticed malicious bot scanning activity over our Tor Onion Service endpoints that put a lot of pressure on Gitea, to the point of crashing Gitea. Happens every other week or so.

There's some work that I failed to highlight in October:

  1. Per-thread stacks. We apply both a new delta to mmap(MAP_STACK) and libthr's _thr_stack_alloc(). The delta is is disabled when the hardening.pax.aslr.status syctl node/tunable is set to 1 or 0, or if ASLR is disabled for the process. I need to determine a way to disable the additional randomization added in libthr so that ports like sbcl work again. sbcl requires a deterministic memory layout.
  2. I hardeninged the debug.dump_modinfo flag. Only privileged, unjailed accounts can now access debug.dump_modinfo.

I took a brief look at Cross-DSO CFI again, merging in the latest changes from hardened/current/master into the Cross-DSO CFI feature branch. It seems that FreeBSD's switch to ZFS-on-Linux as the new basis for the upstream repo, the ZFS utilities (/sbin/zpool, /sbin/zfs) and perhaps libraries violate Cross-DSO CFI in some form or fashion. I need to set up a UFS VM and test ZFS regressions there, because it's not possible to boot a userland with Cross-DSO CFI and root-on-ZFS anymore.

In early December, I plan to catch up on HardenedBSD administrative tasks, like reaching out to October and November's donors to see if they want to be listed on the donor's page. (We default to keeping donations anonymous given the security and privacy aspects HardenedBSD promots.)

Cross-DSO CFI will start becoming my main focus again as we go into 2021. Cross-DSO CFI is a hard beast to wrangle when you have to maintain millions of lines of code in the base OS _and_ 33,000+ ports/packages built on top of that. It's a huge effort, and I'm happy to be the guinea pig for llvm's implementation of CFI in a complete OS ecosystem (base OS + third-party programs/packages.)


HardenedBSD October 2020 Status Report

A bit of progress has been made in October. I've started working on randomizing per-thread stacks. I've added a new delta to our ASLR implementation. That delta is applied on all mmap(MAP_STACK) calls. That causes a different delta to be applied than the regular mmap delta, and we're able to introduce a lot more entropy than the delta applied to regular mmap calls. This is only phase one. Phase two will likely be implemented in libthr, to apply a per-thread delta at pthread_create time, thus completing the per-thread stack randomization implementation.

I've fixed a number of ports that had issues with PIE being set. More ports should compile now, as some of these ports that I fixed were dependencies of others.

The infrastructure is becoming more and more stable. I've been tweaking Gitea's config to prevent it from consuming more memory than it can handle on the system. The system Gitea is deployed on has a lot of memory, but its CPU is a bit on the slow side. That slow CPU means Gitea has a tough time crawling through its in-app caches. Disabling caching made Gitea perform better for our particular use caase.

I created the HardenedBSD 12.2-RELEASE branch. I plan to provide base updates for that branch. Due to the way FreeBSD designed the package manager, we'll not be able to provide packages for the 12.2-RELEASE branch since we put the priority on 12-STABLE.

Having the 12.2-RELEASE branch, though, allows projects downstream of us to have a release branch from which to build upon.


HardenedBSD August 2020 Status Report and Call for Donations

This last month has largely been a quiet one. I've restarted work on porting five-year-old work from the Code Pointer Integrity (CPI) project into HardenedBSD. Chiefly, I've started forward-porting the libc and rtld bits from the CPI project and now need to look at llvm compiler/linker enhancements. We need to be able to apply SafeStack to shared objects, not just application binaries. This forward-porting work I'm doing is to support that effort.

The infrastructure has settled and is now churning normally and happily. We're still working out bandwidth issues. We hope to have a new fiber line ran by the end of September.

As part of this status report, I'm issuing a formal call for donations. I'm aiming for $4,000.00 USD for a newer self-hosted Gitea server. I hope to purchase the new server before the end of 2020.

Last year, I migrated us away from GitHub as the source-of-truth for HardenedBSD's source code and ports tree. The server hosting the source is a rather ancient one (a > 10yo Dell R410) with insufficient CPU and RAM. I'm formally calling for donations to go towards a newer server to host our code.

I wanted to self-host our source for a couple reasons:

1. A single source-of-truth under our control that we can monitor and guarantee the security of.
2. Provide unique access to the HardenedBSD ecosystem. We provide Tor Onion Services for those who need it. We plan to deploy other mixnets, anonymization services, and privacy-related tech for reaching HardenedBSD's infrastructure in unique ways.

We use Gitea as our code sharing platform. It has a similar look and feel to GitHub and provides bug reporting, wiki, and pull request features.

Given that HardenedBSD is downstream from FreeBSD, which shares a history greater than twenty five years, this places a huge burden on Gitea. It's having a hard time on our hand-me-down Dell R410 system and desperately needs an upgrade.

We appreciate every type of contribution--whether it be financial, code, documentation, advocacy, or otherwise. HardenedBSD would not exist without the continued help and support from the community.


HardenedBSD July 2020 Status Report

The filesystem extended attribute support work is now completed. As time progresses, more ports will be marked with toggles. I've started documenting which ports are marked with exploit mitigations toggled.

On to a different subject: hosting network stability. Since the migration of the build infrastructure to BlackhawkNests's hosting facility, we've had a number of network-related issues, especially with regards to network stability. The stability issues have hopefully been worked out as of this morning.

We're also in talks with Verizon FiOS and will hopefully switch to FiOS once installation is completed. The switch will also drastically increase available bandwidth.

I'm also working on migrating our gitea instance from using sqlite as the database backend to mysql. Migrating to mysql should drastically increase speed and stability of our self-hosted git service. I will keep you, the HardenedBSD community, updated with my progress.

DEF CON and Jeff Moss have donated funds for a new development laptop for me. I received it last week and am migrating to it. Once the self-hosted git service work is completed, I plan to start completing our SafeStack integration such that SafeStack can be applied to shared objects, opening the door to applying SafeStack to our entire ecosystem (base world + ports).


HardenedBSD June 2020 Status Report

Now that HardenedBSD's infrastructure has found its new home, it's time to ramp up development again. We're working out kinks with regards to bandwidth and hope to increase bandwidth to our infrastructure on the inside of two months.

I've started working on adding filesystem extended attributes support to tmpfs. Once support is added, we should be able to integrate with ports/packages such that our users will no longer need to worry about toggling exploit mitigations--they'll already come pre-toggled for misbehaving applications.

I suspect this work will take a few months to complete. I've never done filesystem development, so I'm treading new waters. Once filesystem extended attribute support is added, I plan to integrate exploit mitigation toggling in the ports tree.

When all is said and done, I'm thinking around six months time frame. Granted, I have health issues, so there's no guarantees. I'll keep everyone updated.

My next goal will be integration of SafeStack into the RTLD. This is needed in order to apply SafeStack to both shared libraries and applications. This integration work relates directly with Cross-DSO CFI support, since Cross-DSO CFI requires the same/similar types of integrations.

I'm interviewing a few people to add to the HardenedBSD Board of Directors. We've added Jordan Boland to the team. He will help maintain the infrastructure. I plan to get with him once the bandwidth issues have been resolved.

I've included an intro to Jordan below. We will have more exciting news to share soon with regards to the Board of Directors.

I'm very excited to be getting more involved with HardenedBSD and to have an opportunity to serve on the Board.

I'm a lifelong tinkerer and open-source enthusiast. I was introduced to Linux in middle school and was fascinated with it until I was introduced to FreeBSD while in college. I ran FreeBSD on my personal machines for almost a decade until I was introduced to HardenedBSD, which quickly took over as my OS of choice.

My degree includes a specialization in network administration, and although I love that field I've worked in too many small IT shops to avoid becoming a generalist, and these days I do nothing related to it in my professional life. I've worked in higher education,
healthcare, telecommunications, and (to the complete surprise of my 17-year-old self) have somehow arrived at Microsoft, where I am a support engineer in the research division.

I'm not a programmer, I'm a person who occasionally has a problem that requires writing some code. On that journey I've dabbled in C, C++, C#, Java, Python, Perl, Powershell, and BASH/Bourne Shell (extensively). I really admire those that can write kernel code
and have such a deep understanding of the hardware and what is happening "under the hood", and I'd love to have that kind of proficiency someday. In the meantime, my best contribution to this project will likely be infrastructure-related. Deployment of Kerberos
and LDAP comes to mind, and perhaps digging around inside Gitea to understand why it gives 5xx errors to us. Let me know if you have any questions I didn't cover here. I'm excited to get to work with all of you!


HardenedBSD April 2020 Status Report

Hey HardenedBSD Community,

It has been a while since I've written a status report, and now is definitely time to do so. Over the past few months, I've put my focus on infrastructure stability and merge conflict resolution. The work on exploit mitigations is still somewhat on pause, though I've made slight progress on Cross-DSO CFI.

Our build infrastructure has been hosted at my current employer for a few years now. I'm so grateful for G2, Inc (now Huntington Ingalls Industries) for their support and help in ensuring the continued success of the project.

After over five years of service at my current employer, I've tendered my letter of resignation. The people I've met, the projects I've worked on, and the culture and virtues instilled in me made me fall in love with G2.

I've decided to take a new employment opportunity. BlackhawkNest will host the HardenedBSD build infrastructure with room to grow. I've architected the infrastructure such that the migration should be mostly plug-n-play, only needing to change a few IP addresses.

I plan to shut down the infrastructure in preparation for the migration on 02 May 2020, which is one week in advance of my start date. Builds will resume once the infrastructure has been deployed at the new facility. Note that published builds and package repos will still be accessible. Only the build infrastructure, which is separate from the infrastructure serving the builds and package repos, will be down. I do not currently have a date for when the infrastructure will be back online, but I suspect around two to three weeks from 02 May 2020.

I'm excited for this new opportunity, and especially for BlackhawkNest for agreeing to host the build infrastructure. I'm positive that the relationship between HardenedBSD and BlackhawkNest will be symbiotic.

Thank you so much for your help for and support of the project.


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