Archive for August, 2018

Introducing the Tink cryptographic software library

August 30th, 2018


At Google, many product teams use cryptographic techniques to protect user data. In cryptography, subtle mistakes can have serious consequences, and understanding how to implement cryptography correctly requires digesting decades' worth of academic literature. Needless to say, many developers don’t have time for that.

To help our developers ship secure cryptographic code we’ve developed Tink—a multi-language, cross-platform cryptographic library. We believe in open source and want Tink to become a community project—thus Tink has been available on GitHub since the early days of the project, and it has already attracted several external contributors. At Google, Tink is already being used to secure data of many products such as AdMob, Google Pay, Google Assistant, Firebase, the Android Search App, etc. After nearly two years of development, today we’re excited to announce Tink 1.2.0, the first version that supports cloud, Android, iOS, and more!

Tink aims to provide cryptographic APIs that are secure, easy to use correctly, and hard(er) to misuse. Tink is built on top of existing libraries such as BoringSSL and Java Cryptography Architecture, but includes countermeasures to many weaknesses in these libraries, which were discovered by Project Wycheproof, another project from our team.

With Tink, many common cryptographic operations such as data encryption, digital signatures, etc. can be done with only a few lines of code. Here is an example of encrypting and decrypting with our AEAD interface in Java:

import com.google.crypto.tink.Aead;
   import com.google.crypto.tink.KeysetHandle;
   import com.google.crypto.tink.aead.AeadFactory;
   import com.google.crypto.tink.aead.AeadKeyTemplates;


   // 1. Generate the key material.
   KeysetHandle keysetHandle = KeysetHandle.generateNew(
       AeadKeyTemplates.AES256_EAX);


   // 2. Get the primitive.
   Aead aead = AeadFactory.getPrimitive(keysetHandle);


   // 3. Use the primitive.
   byte[] plaintext = ...;
   byte[] additionalData = ...;
   byte[] ciphertext = aead.encrypt(plaintext, additionalData);

Tink aims to eliminate as many potential misuses as possible. For example, if the underlying encryption mode requires nonces and nonce reuse makes it insecure, then Tink does not allow the user to pass nonces. Interfaces have security guarantees that must be satisfied by each primitive implementing the interface. This may exclude some encryption modes. Rather than adding them to existing interfaces and weakening the guarantees of the interface, it is possible to add new interfaces and describe the security guarantees appropriately.

We’re cryptographers and security engineers working to improve Google’s product security, so we built Tink to make our job easier. Tink shows the claimed security properties (e.g., safe against chosen-ciphertext attacks) right in the interfaces, allowing security auditors and automated tools to quickly discover usages where the security guarantees don’t match the security requirements. Tink also isolates APIs for potentially dangerous operations (e.g., loading cleartext keys from disk), which allows discovering, restricting, monitoring and logging their usage.

Tink provides support for key management, including key rotation and phasing out deprecated ciphers. For example, if a cryptographic primitive is found to be broken, you can switch to a different primitive by rotating keys, without changing or recompiling code.

Tink is also extensible by design: it is easy to add a custom cryptographic scheme or an in-house key management system so that it works seamlessly with other parts of Tink. No part of Tink is hard to replace or remove. All components are composable, and can be selected and assembled in various combinations. For example, if you need only digital signatures, you can exclude symmetric key encryption components to minimize code size in your application.

To get started, please check out our HOW-TO for Java, C++ and Obj-C. If you'd like to talk to the developers or get notified about project updates, you may want to subscribe to our mailing list. To join, simply send an empty email to tink-users+subscribe@googlegroups.com. You can also post your questions to StackOverflow, just remember to tag them with tink.

We’re excited to share this with the community, and welcome your feedback!

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Evolution of Android Security Updates

August 22nd, 2018


[Cross-posted from the Android Developers Blog]

At Google I/O 2018, in our What's New in Android Security session, we shared a brief update on the Android security updates program. With the official release of Android 9 Pie, we wanted to share a more comprehensive update on the state of security updates, including best practice guidance for manufacturers, how we're making Android easier to update, and how we're ensuring compliance to Android security update releases.

Commercial Best Practices around Android Security Updates

As we noted in our 2017 Android Security Year-in-Review, Android's anti-exploitation strength now leads the mobile industry and has made it exceedingly difficult and expensive to leverage operating system bugs into compromises. Nevertheless, an important defense-in-depth strategy is to ensure critical security updates are delivered in a timely manner. Monthly security updates are the recommended best practice for Android smartphones. We deliver monthly Android source code patches to smartphone manufacturers so they may incorporate those patches into firmware updates. We also deliver firmware updates over-the-air to Pixel devices on a reliable monthly cadence and offer the free use of Google's firmware over-the-air (FOTA) servers to manufacturers. Monthly security updates are also required for devices covered under the Android One program.
While monthly security updates are best, at minimum, Android manufacturers should deliver regular security updates in advance of coordinated disclosure of high severity vulnerabilities, published in our Android bulletins. Since the common vulnerability disclosure window is 90 days, updates on a 90-day frequency represents a minimum security hygiene requirement.

Enterprise Best Practices

Product security factors into purchase decisions of enterprises, who often consider device security update cadence, flexibility of policy controls, and authentication features. Earlier this year, we introduced the Android Enterprise Recommended program to help businesses make these decisions. To be listed, Android devices must satisfy numerous requirements, including regular security updates: at least every 90 days, with monthly updates strongly recommended. In addition to businesses, consumers interested in understanding security update practices and commitment may also refer to the Enterprise Recommended list.

Making Android Easier to Update

We've also been working to make Android easier to update, overall. A key pillar of that strategy is to improve modularity and clarity of interfaces, enabling operating system subsystems to be updated without adversely impacting others. Project Treble is one example of this strategy in action and has enabled devices to update to Android P more easily and efficiently than was possible in previous releases. The modularity strategy applies equally well for security updates, as a framework security update can be performed independently of device specific components.
Another part of the strategy involves the extraction of operating system services into user-mode applications that can be updated independently, and sometimes more rapidly, than the base operating system. For example, Google Play services, including secure networking components, and the Chrome browser can be updated individually, just like other Google Play apps.
Partner programs are a third key pillar of the updateability strategy. One example is the GMS Express program, in which Google is working closely with system-on-chip (SoC) suppliers to provide monthly pre-integrated and pre-tested Android security updates for SoC reference designs, reducing cost and time to market for delivering them to users.

Security Patch Level Compliance

Recently, researchers reported a handful of missing security bug fixes across some Android devices. Initial reports had several inaccuracies, which have since been corrected. We have been developing security update testing systems that are now making compliance failures less likely to occur. In particular, we recently delivered a new testing infrastructure that enables manufacturers to develop and deploy automated tests across lower levels of the firmware stack that were previously relegated to manual testing. In addition, the Android build approval process now includes scanning of device images for specific patterns, reducing the risk of omission.

Looking Forward

In 2017, about a billion Android devices received security updates, representing approximately 30% growth over the preceding year. We continue to work hard devising thoughtful strategies to make Android easier to update by introducing improved processes and programs for the ecosystem. In addition, we are also working to drive increased and more expedient partner adoption of our security update and compliance requirements. As a result, over coming quarters, we expect the largest ever growth in the number of Android devices receiving regular security updates.
Bugs are inevitable in all complex software systems, but exploitability of those bugs is not. We're working hard to ensure that the incidence of potentially harmful exploitation of bugs continues to decline, such that the frequency for security updates will reduce, not increase, over time. While monthly security updates represents today's best practice, we see a future in which security updates becomes easier and rarer, while maintaining the same goal to protect all users across all devices.

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A reminder about government-backed phishing

August 20th, 2018


TLDR: Government-backed phishing has been in the news lately. If you receive a warning in Gmail, be sure to take prompt action. Get two-factor authentication on your account. And consider enrolling in the Advanced Protection Program.

One of the main threats to all email users (whatever service you use) is phishing, attempts to trick you into providing a password that an attacker can use to sign into your account. Our ​improving ​technology has enabled ​us to ​significantly ​decrease ​the ​volume ​of ​phishing ​emails that ​get ​through to our users. ​ Automated ​protections, ​account ​security ​(like ​security ​keys), ​and specialized ​warnings give ​Gmail users industry-leading ​security.

Beyond phishing for the purposes of fraud, a small minority of users in all corners of the world are still targeted by sophisticated government-backed attackers. These attempts come from dozens of countries. Since 2012, we've shown prominent warnings within Gmail notifying users that they may be targets of these types of phishing attempts; we show thousands of these warnings every month, even if we have blocked the specific attempt.

We also send alerts to G Suite administrators if someone in their corporate network may have been the target of government-backed phishing. And we regularly post public advisories to make sure that people are aware of this risk.

This is what an account warning looks like; an extremely small fraction of users will ever see one of these, but if you receive this warning from us, it's important to take immediate action on it.
We intentionally send these notices in batches to all users who may be at risk, rather than at the moment we detect the threat itself, so that attackers cannot track some of our defense strategies. We have an expert team in our Threat Analysis Group, and we use a variety of technologies to detect these attempts. We also notify law enforcement about what we’re seeing; they have additional tools to investigate these attacks.

We hope you never receive this type of warning, but if you do, please take action right away to enhance the security of your accounts.

Even if you don’t receive such a warning, you should enable 2-step verification in Gmail. And if you think you’re at particular risk of government-backed phishing, consider enrolling in the Advanced Protection Program, which provides even stronger levels of security.

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Expanding our Vulnerability Reward Program to combat platform abuse

August 15th, 2018


Since 2010, Google’s Vulnerability Reward Programs have awarded more than $12 million dollars to researchers and created a thriving Google-focused security community. For the past two years, some of these rewards were for bug reports that were not strictly security vulnerabilities, but techniques that allow third parties to successfully bypass our abuse, fraud, and spam systems.

Today, we are expanding our Vulnerability Reward Program to formally invite researchers to submit these reports.

This expansion is intended to reward research that helps us mitigate potential abuse methods. A few examples of potentially valid reports for this program could include bypassing our account recovery systems at scale, identifying services vulnerable to brute force attacks, circumventing restrictions on content use and sharing, or purchasing items from Google without paying. Valid reports tend to result in changes to the product’s code, as opposed to removal of individual pieces of content.

This program does not cover individual instances of abuse, such as the posting of content that violates our guidelines or policies, sending spam emails, or providing links to malware. These should continue to be reported through existing product-specific channels, such as for Google+, YouTube, Gmail, and Blogger.

Reports submitted to our Vulnerability Reward Program that outline abuse methods are reviewed by experts on our Trust & Safety team, which specializes in the prevention and mitigation of abuse, fraud, and spam activity on our products.

We greatly value our relationship with the research community, and we’re excited to expand on it to help make the internet a safer place for everyone. To learn more, see our updated rules.

Happy hunting!

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Google Public DNS turns 8.8.8.8 years old

August 11th, 2018


Once upon a time, we launched Google Public DNS, which you might know by its iconic IP address, 8.8.8.8. (Sunday, August 12th, 2018, at 00:30 UTC marks eight years, eight months, eight days and eight hours since the announcement.) Though not as well-known as Google Search or Gmail, the four eights have had quite a journey—and some pretty amazing growth! Whether it’s travelers in India’s train stations or researchers on the remote Antarctic island Bouvetøya, hundreds of millions of people the world over rely on our free DNS service to turn domain names like wikipedia.org into IP addresses like 208.80.154.224.
Google Public DNS query growth and major feature launches

Today, it’s estimated that about 10% of internet users rely on 8.8.8.8, and it serves well over a trillion queries per day. But while we’re really proud of that growth, what really matters is whether it’s a valuable service for our users. Namely, has Google Public DNS made the internet faster for users? Does it safeguard their privacy? And does it help them get to internet sites more reliably and securely?

In other words, has 8.8.8.8 made DNS and the internet better as a whole? Here at Google, we think it has. On this numerological anniversary, let’s take a look at how Google Public DNS has realized those goals and what lies ahead.
Making the internet faster

From the start, a key goal of Google Public DNS was to make the internet faster. When we began the project in 2007, Google had already made it faster to search the web, but it could take a while to get to your destination. Back then, most DNS lookups used your ISP’s resolvers, and with small caches, they often had to make multiple DNS queries before they could return an address.

Google Public DNS resolvers’ DNS caches hold tens of billions of entries worldwide. And because hundreds of millions of clients use them every day, they usually return the address for your domain queries without extra lookups, connecting you to the internet that much faster.
DNS resolution process for example.org

Speeding up DNS responses is just one part of making the web faster—getting web content from servers closer to you can have an even bigger impact. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) distribute large, delay-sensitive content like streaming videos to users around the world. CDNs use DNS to direct users to the nearest servers, and rely on GeoIP maps to determine the best location.

Everything’s good if your DNS query comes from an ISP resolver that is close to you, but what happens if the resolver is far away, as it is for researchers on Bouvetøya? In that case, the CDN directs you to a server near the DNS resolver—but not the one closest to you. In 2010, along with other DNS and CDN services, we proposed a solution that lets DNS resolvers send part of your IP address in their DNS queries, so CDN name servers can get your best possible GeoIP location (short of sending your entire IP address). By sending only the first three parts of users’ IP addresses (e.g. 192.0.2.x) in the EDNS Client Subnet (ECS) extension, CDNs can return the closest content while maintaining user privacy.

We continue to enhance ECS, (now published as RFC 7871), for example, by adding automatic detection of name server ECS support. And today, we’re happy to report, support for ECS is widespread among CDNs.

Safeguarding user privacy

From day one of our service, we’ve always been serious about user privacy. Like all Google services, we honor the general Google Privacy Policy, and are guided by Google’s Privacy Principles. In addition, Google Public DNS published a privacy practice statement about the information we collect and how it is used—and how it’s not used. These protect the privacy of your DNS queries once they arrive at Google, but they can still be seen (and potentially modified) en route to 8.8.8.8.

To address this weakness, we launched a public beta of DNS-over-HTTPS on April 1, 2016, embedding your DNS queries in the secure and private HTTPS protocol. Despite the launch date, this was not an April Fool’s joke, and in the following two years, it has grown dramatically, with millions of users and support by another major public DNS service. Today, we are working in the IETF and with other DNS operators and clients on the Internet Draft for DNS Queries over HTTPS specification, which we also support.

Securing the Domain Name System

We’ve always been very concerned with the integrity and security of the responses that Google Public DNS provides. From the start, we rejected the practice of hijacking nonexistent domain (NXDOMAIN) responses, working to provide users with accurate and honest DNS responses, even when attackers tried to corrupt them.

In 2008, Dan Kaminsky publicized a major security weakness in the DNS protocol that left most DNS resolvers vulnerable to spoofing that poisoned their DNS caches. When we launched 8.8.8.8 the following year, we not only used industry best practices to mitigate this vulnerability, but also developed an extensive set of additional protections.

While those protected our DNS service from most attackers, they can’t help in cases where an attacker can see our queries. Starting in 2010, the internet started to use DNSSEC security in earnest, making it possible to protect cryptographically signed domains against such man-in-the-middle and man-on-the-side attacks. In 2013, Google Public DNS became the first major public DNS resolver to implement DNSSEC validation for all its DNS queries, doubling the percentage of end users protected by DNSSEC from 3.3% to 8.1%.

In addition to protecting the integrity of DNS responses, Google Public DNS also works to block DNS denial of service attacks by rate limiting both our queries to name servers and reflection or amplification attacks that try to flood victims’ network connections.

Internet access for all

A big part of Google Public DNS’s tremendous growth comes from free public internet services. We make the internet faster for hundreds of these services, from free WiFi in San Francisco’s parks to LinkNYC internet kiosk hotspots and the Railtel partnership in India‘s train stations. In places like Africa and Southeast Asia, many ISPs also use 8.8.8.8 to resolve their users’ DNS queries. Providing free DNS resolution to anyone in the world, even to other companies, supports internet access worldwide as a part of Google’s Next Billion Users initiative.

APNIC Labs map of worldwide usage (Interactive Map)

Looking ahead


Today, Google Public DNS is the largest public DNS resolver. There are now about a dozen such services providing value-added features like content and malware filtering, and recent entrants Quad9 and Cloudflare also provide privacy for DNS queries over TLS or HTTPS.

But recent incidents that used BGP hijacking to attack DNS are concerning. Increasing the adoption and use of DNSSEC is an effective way to protect against such attacks and as the largest DNSSEC validating resolver, we hope we can influence things in that direction. We are also exploring how to improve the security of the path from resolvers to authoritative name servers—issues not currently addressed by other DNS standards.

In short, we continue to improve Google Public DNS both behind the scenes and in ways visible to users, adding features that users want from their DNS service. Stay tuned for some exciting Google Public DNS announcements in the near future!

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