Establishing Trust in Linux Keyrings - Is Trust Built-in, Imputed, or Transitive?



Establishing Trust in Linux Keyrings – Is Trust Built-in, Imputed, or Transitive? – Elaine Palmer, IBM Research & George Wilson, IBM Linux Technology Center

Keys are used in firmware, in the Linux kernel, and in user space. They are used to sign, verify, and encrypt other keys, code, and data. They come from multiple authorities, and those used in the kernel are typically embedded in the kernel image at kernel build time. Problems arise, however, when authorities and trust relationships are unknown at build time, because it is difficult to dynamically establish trust later. Dynamically loaded keys can derive their trust from firmware (imputed trust) or from a chain of certificates linked back to a trusted root (transitive trust). In Linux, keys are loaded onto keyrings. These keyrings define trust domains (e.g., I trust keys built-in by the distro, but not others), scope (e.g., OK in user space, but not in the kernel), and key usage constraints (e.g., OK for verifying keys, but not code). Additionally, keyrings can support different threat models (e.g., OK in laptops, but not in locked down servers). This talk will review some of the kernel keyrings currently in use, how they are used, restrictions and constraints placed upon them, and how trust can be evaluated.

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