Signed Revisions with Bazaar

One useful feature of Bazaar is the ability to cryptographically sign revisions. I was discussing this with Ryan on IRC, and thought I’d write up some of the details as they might be useful to others.

Anyone who remembers the past security of GNOME and Debian servers should be able to understand the benefits of being able to verify the integrity of a source code repository after such an incident. Rather than requiring all revisions made since the last known safe backup to be examined, much of the verification could be done mechanically.

Turning on Revision Signing

The first thing you’ll need to do is get a PGP key and configure GnuPG to use it. The GnuPG handbook is a good reference on doing this. As the aim is to provide some assurance that the revisions you publish were really made by you, it’d be good to get the key signed by someone.

Once that is done, it is necessary to configure Bazaar to sign new revisions. The easiest way to do this is to edit ~/.bazaar/bazaar.conf to look something like this:

email = My Name <>
create_signatures = always

Now when you run “bzr commit“, a signature for the new revision will be stored in the repository. With this configuration change, you will be prompted for your pass phrase when making commits. If you’d prefer not to enter it repeatedly, there are a few options available:

  1. install gpg-agent, and use it to remember your pass phrase in the same way you use ssh-agent.
  2. install the gnome-gpg wrapper, which lets you remember your pass phrase in your Gnome keyring. To use gnome-gpg, you will need to add an additional configuration value: “gpg_signing_command = gnome-gpg“.

Signatures are transferred along with revisions when you push or pull a branch, perform merges, etc.

How Does It Work?

So what does the signature look like, and what does it cover? There is no command for printing out the signatures, but we can access them using bzrlib. As an example, lets look at the signature on the head revision of one of my branches:

>>> from bzrlib.branch import Branch
>>> b ='')
>>> b.last_revision()
>>> print b.repository.get_signature_text(b.last_revision())
Hash: SHA1

bazaar-ng testament short form 1
sha1: 467b78c3f8bfe76b222e06c71a8f07fc376e0d7b
Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (GNU/Linux)



If we save this signature to a file, we can verify it with a command like “gpg --verify signature.txt” to prove that it was made using my PGP key. Looking at the signed text, we see three lines:

  1. An identifier for the checksum algorithm. This is included to future proof old signatures should the need arise to alter the checksum algorithm at a later date.
  2. The revision ID that the signature applies to. Note that this is the full globally unique identifier rather than the shorter numeric identifiers that are only unique in the context of an individual branch.
  3. The checksum, in SHA1 form.

For the current signing algorithm, the checksum is made over the long form testament for the revision, which can easily be verified:

$ bzr branch
$ cd reconnect
$ bzr testament --long > testament.txt
$ sha1sum testament.txt
467b78c3f8bfe76b222e06c71a8f07fc376e0d7b  testament.txt

Looking at the long form testament, we can see what the signature ultimately covers:

  1. The revision ID
  2. The name of the committer
  3. The date of the commit
  4. The parent revision IDs
  5. The commit message
  6. A list of the files that comprise the source tree for the revision, along with SHA1 sums of their contents
  7. Any revision properties

So if the revision testament matches the revision signature and the revision signature validates, you can be sure that you are looking at the same code as the person who made the signature.

It is worth noting that while the signature makes an assertion about the state of the tree at that revision — the only thing it tells you about the ancestry is the revision IDs of the parents. If you need assurances about those revisions, you will need to check their signatures separately. One of the reasons for this is that you might not know the full history of a branch if it has ghost revisions (as might happen when importing code from certain foreign version control systems).

Signing Past Revisions

If you’ve already been using Bazaar but had not enabled revision signing, it is likely that you’ve got a bunch of unsigned revisions lying around. If that is the case, you can sign the revisions in bulk using the “bzr sign-my-commits” command. It will go through all revisions in the ancestry, and generate signatures for all the commits that match your committer ID.

Verifying Signatures in Bulk

To verify all signatures found in a repository, John Arbash Meinel’s signing plugin can be used, which provides a “bzr verify-sigs” command. It can be installed with the following commands:

$ mkdir -p ~/.bazaar/plugins
$ bzr branch ~/.bazaar/plugins/signing

When the command is run it will verify the integrity of all the signatures, and give a summary of how many revisions each person has signed.