We are pleased to announce completion of a source code audit of the recently refactored python-tuf codebase.


In February 2022 the python-tuf team released version 1.0. This release was the product of a significant refactoring effort with the code being rewritten from scratch to provide two new stable API’s:

  • A low-level interface for creating and consuming TUF metadata
  • A robust and pluggable client implementation

Unifying both of these APIs is a focus on developer ergonomics and flexibility of the API.

While the new python-tuf codebase is much leaner, a mere 1,400 lines of code at release, compared to the legacy code’s 4,700 lines, and builds on the lessons learned from development (and developers) on the prior versions of python-tuf, we were very conscious of the fact that our first major release of a security project was made up of newly authored code.

To improve our confidence in this newly authored code we engaged with the Open Source Technology Improvement Fund (OSTIF) to have an independent security assessment of the new python-tuf code. OSTIF connected us with the team at X41 D-Sec who performed a thorough source code audit, the results of which we are releasing today.

Results and resolutions

The report prepared by X41 included one medium severity and three low severity issues, we describe below how we are addressing each of those reported items.

Private Key World-Readable (TUF-CR-22-01) – Medium

This vulnerability is not in any code called by python-tuf, but was included in demonstrative code the python-tuf team provided to the X41 team. The underlying issue is in securesystemslib, a utility library used by python-tuf which provides a consistent interface around various cryptography APIs and related functionality, where any files were created with the default permissions of the running process.

We resolved this issue by adding an optional restrict parameter to the storage.put() interface and in the corresponding filesystem implementation of the interface ensuring that when restrict=True files are created with octal permissions 0o600 (read and write for the user only).

This enhancement has been included in the recent release of securesystemslib 0.25.0.

Shallow Build Artifact Verification (TUF-CR-22-02) – Low

The verify_release script, run by python-tuf developers as part of the release process and available to users to verify that a release on GitHub or PyPI matches a build of source code from the repository, was only performing a shallow comparison of files. That is, only the type, size, and modification times were compared. We have modified the script to perform a deep comparison of the contents and attributes of files being verified.

Quadratic Complexity in JSON Number Parsing (TUF-CR-22-03) – Low

This issue was not in python-tuf itself, rather the problem was in Python’s built-in json module.

Fortunately, we did not need to take any action for this issue as it was independently reported upstream and has been fixed in Python. Find more details in CVE-2020-10735: Prevent DoS by large int<->str conversions on Python’s issue tracker.

Release Signatures Add No Protection (TUF-CR-22-04) – Low

python-tuf releases are built by GitHub Actions in response to a developer pushing a tag. However, before those releases are published to the project’s GitHub releases page and PyPI a developer must verify (using the verify_release script discussed earlier) and approve the release. Part of the approval includes creating a detached signature and including that in the release artifacts. While these do not add any additional protection, we do believe that the additional authenticity signal is worthwhile to users.

Furthermore, along with the above notice and the recommendations in the informational notes we will continue to iterate on our build and release process to provide additional security for users of python-tuf.

Thank you

We are extremely grateful to X41 for their thorough audit of the python-tuf code, to Open Source Technology Improvement Fund (OSTIF) for connecting us with the X41 D-Sec, GMBH team, and to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) for funding the source code audit – thank you all.

Read the full report here: Source Code Audit on The Update Framework for Open Source Technology Improvement Fund (OSTIF).