File System-level Integrity Protection

Theodore Ts'o, Google


I'd like to talk about a proposal to implement and upstream something that we've been calling fs-verity, which is something like dm-verity, but implemnted on a per-file basis. It will be implemnted much like fs/crypto, in that most of the code will be in a generic layer, with minimal modifications needed in the file system layer.

The merkle tree will be located after file's normal data, and then after the package manager sets the verity bit, i_size will be updated so that the fs-verity header and merkle tree will be "hidden" from userspace and the file will become immutable.

How does this differ from IMA's file integrity?

*) The pages are verified as they are read, so pages are verified as they are read on the storage device; this avoids a large latency hit when the file is first opened or referenced.

*) The design and code are done by file system developers, so it doesn't have the locking problems of the IMA code.

The initial use case of this will be for Android, where the latency concerns of doing the full checksum at file open time is important.

In the future, the fact that a file has been signed using fs-verity, using a PKCS 11 signature with a key on a trusted keyring (possibly the same one used for signed kernel modules, or perhaps a separate keyring) could be used as input into a security policy which requires this for say, setuid executables, setuid shell scripts, etc.

Most of this feature could also be used with a non-cryptographic checksum to provide data checksums for read-only files in a general way for all file systems. It wouldn't be as flexible as btrfs, but for files being stored for backup purposes, it should work quite well.

@conference {213024,
author = {Theodore Ts{\textquoteright}o},
title = {File System-level Integrity Protection},
year = {2018},
address = {Oakland, CA},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = feb,