Google Security Blog

Integrating Rust Into the Android Open Source Project

Google Security Blog - Tue, 05/11/2021 - 1:31pm
Posted by Ivan Lozano, Android Security & Privacy Team

The Android team has been working on introducing the Rust programming language into the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) since 2019 as a memory-safe alternative for platform native code development. As with any large project, introducing a new language requires careful consideration. For Android, one important area was assessing how to best fit Rust into Android’s build system. Currently this means the Soong build system (where the Rust support resides), but these design decisions and considerations are equally applicable for Bazel when AOSP migrates to that build system. This post discusses some of the key design considerations and resulting decisions we made in integrating Rust support into Android’s build system.

Rust integration into large projects

A RustConf 2019 meeting on Rust usage within large organizations highlighted several challenges, such as the risk that eschewing Cargo in favor of using the Rust Compiler, rustc, directly (see next section) may remove organizations from the wider Rust community. We share this same concern. When changes to imported third-party crates might be beneficial to the wider community, our goal is to upstream those changes. Likewise when crates developed for Android could benefit the wider Rust community, we hope to release them as independent crates. We believe that the success of Rust within Android is dependent on minimizing any divergence between Android and the Rust community at large, and hope that the Rust community will benefit from Android’s involvement.

No nested build systems

Rust provides Cargo as the default build system and package manager, collecting dependencies and invoking rustc (the Rust compiler) to build the target crate (Rust package). Soong takes this role instead in Android and calls rustc directly for several reasons:

  • In Cargo, C dependencies are handled independently in an ad-hoc manner via scripts. Soong already provides a mechanism for building C libraries and defining them as dependencies, and Android carefully controls the compiler version and global compilation flags to ensure libraries are built a particular way. Relying on Cargo would introduce a second non-Soong mechanism for defining/building C libraries that would not be constrained by the carefully selected compilation controls implemented in Soong. This could also lead to multiple different versions of the same library, negatively impacting memory/disk usage.
  • Calling compilers directly through Soong provides the stability and control Android requires for the variety of build configurations it supports (for example, specifying where target-specific dependencies are and which compilation flags to use). While it would technically be possible to achieve the necessary level of control over rustc indirectly through Cargo, Soong would have no understanding of how the Cargo.toml (the Cargo build file) would influence the commands Cargo emits to rustc. Paired with the fact that Cargo evolves independently, this would severely restrict Soong’s ability to precisely control how build artifacts are created.
  • Builds which are self-contained and insensitive to the host configuration, known as hermetic builds, are necessary for Android to produce reproducible builds. Cargo, which relies on scripts, doesn’t yet provide hermeticity guarantees.
  • Incremental builds are important to maintain engineering productivity; building Android takes a considerable amount of resources. Cargo was not designed for integration into existing build systems and does not expose its compilation units. Each Cargo invocation builds the entire crate dependency graph for a given Cargo.toml, rebuilding crates multiple times across projects1. This is too coarse for integration into Soong’s incremental build support, which expects smaller compilation units. This support is necessary to scale up Rust usage within Android.

    Using the Rust compiler directly allows us to avoid these issues and is consistent with how we compile all other code in AOSP. It provides the most control over the build process and eases integration into Android’s existing build system. Unfortunately, avoiding it introduces several challenges and influences many other build system decisions because Cargo usage is so deeply ingrained in the Rust crate ecosystem.

    No scripts

    A script compiles to a Rust binary which Cargo builds and executes during a build to handle pre-build tasks, commonly setting up the build environment, or building libraries in other languages (for example C/C++). This is analogous to configure scripts used for other languages.

    Avoiding scripts somewhat flows naturally from not relying on Cargo since supporting these would require replicating Cargo behavior and assumptions. Beyond this however, there are good reasons for AOSP to avoid build scripts as well:

    • scripts can execute arbitrary code on the build host. From a security perspective, this introduces an additional burden when adding or updating third-party code as the script needs careful scrutiny.
    • Third-party scripts may not be hermetic or reproducible in potentially subtle ways. It is also common for files to access files outside the build directory (such as /usr/lib). When they are not hermetic, we would need to either carry a local patch or work with upstream to resolve the issue.
    • The most common task for is to build C libraries which Rust code depends on. We already support this through Soong.
    • Android likewise avoids running build scripts while building for other languages, instead, simply using them to inform the structure of the Android.bp file.

For instances in third-party code where a build script is used only to compile C dependencies, we either use existing cc_library Soong definitions (such as boringssl for quiche) or create new definitions for crate-specific code.

When the is used to generate source, we try to replicate the core functionality in a Soong rust_binary module for use as a custom source generator. In other cases where Soong can provide the information without source generation, we may carry a small patch that leverages this information.

Why proc_macro but not

Why do we support proc_macros, which are compiler plug-ins that execute code on the host within the compiler context, but not scripts?

While code is written as one-off code to handle building a single crate, proc_macros define reusable functionality within the compiler which can become widely relied upon across the Rust community. As a result popular proc_macros are generally better maintained and more scrutinized upstream, which makes the code review process more manageable. They are also more readily sandboxed as part of the build process since they are less likely to have dependencies external to the compiler.

proc_macros are also a language feature rather than a method for building code. These are relied upon by source code, are unavoidable for third-party dependencies, and are useful enough to define and use within our platform code. While we can avoid by leveraging our build system, the same can’t be said of proc_macros.

There is also precedence for compiler plugin support within the Android build system. For example see Soong’s java_plugin modules.

Generated source as crates

Unlike C/C++ compilers, rustc only accepts a single source file representing an entry point to a binary or library. It expects that the source tree is structured such that all required source files can be automatically discovered. This means that generated source either needs to be placed in the source tree or provided through an include directive in source:


The Rust community depends on scripts alongside assumptions about the Cargo build environment to get around this limitation. When building, the cargo command sets an OUT_DIR environment variable which scripts are expected to place generated source code in. This source can then be included via:

include!(concat!(env!("OUT_DIR"), "/"));

This presents a challenge for Soong as outputs for each module are placed in their own out/ directory2; there is no single OUT_DIR where dependencies output their generated source.

For platform code, we prefer to package generated source into a crate that can be imported. There are a few reasons to favor this approach:

  • Prevent generated source file names from colliding.
  • Reduce boilerplate code checked-in throughout the tree and which needs to be maintained. Any boilerplate necessary to make the generated source compile into a crate can be centrally maintained.
  • Avoid implicit3 interactions between generated code and the surrounding crate.
  • Reduce pressure on memory and disk by dynamically liking commonly used generated sources.

    As a result, all of Android’s Rust source generation module types produce code that can be compiled and used as a crate.

    We still support third-party crates without modification by copying all the generated source dependencies for a module into a single per-module directory similar to Cargo. Soong then sets the OUT_DIR environment variable to that directory when compiling the module so the generated source can be found. However we discourage use of this mechanism in platform code unless absolutely necessary for the reasons described above.

    Dynamic linkage by default

    By default, the Rust ecosystem assumes that crates will be statically linked into binaries. The usual benefits of dynamic libraries are upgrades (whether for security or functionality) and decreased memory usage. Rust’s lack of a stable binary interface and usage of cross-crate information flow prevents upgrading libraries without upgrading all dependent code. Even when the same crate is used by two different programs on the system, it is unlikely to be provided by the same shared object4 due to the precision with which Rust identifies its crates. This makes Rust binaries more portable but also results in larger disk and memory footprints.

    This is problematic for Android devices where resources like memory and disk usage must be carefully managed because statically linking all crates into Rust binaries would result in excessive code duplication (especially in the standard library). However, our situation is also different from the standard host environment: we build Android using global decisions about dependencies. This means that nearly every crate is shareable between all users of that crate. Thus, we opt to link crates dynamically by default for device targets. This reduces the overall memory footprint of Rust in Android by allowing crates to be reused across multiple binaries which depend on them.

    Since this is unusual in the Rust community, not all third-party crates support dynamic compilation. Sometimes we must carry small patches while we work with upstream maintainers to add support.

    Current Status of Build Support

    We support building all output types supported by rustc (rlibs, dylibs, proc_macros, cdylibs, staticlibs, and executables). Rust modules can automatically request the appropriate crate linkage for a given dependency (rlib vs dylib). C and C++ modules can depend on Rust cdylib or staticlib producing modules the same way as they would for a C or C++ library.

    In addition to being able to build Rust code, Android’s build system also provides support for protobuf and gRPC and AIDL generated crates. First-class bindgen support makes interfacing with existing C code simple and we have support modules using cxx for tighter integration with C++ code.

    The Rust community produces great tooling for developers, such as the language server rust-analyzer. We have integrated support for rust-analyzer into the build system so that any IDE which supports it can provide code completion and goto definitions for Android modules.

    Source-based code coverage builds are supported to provide platform developers high level signals on how well their code is covered by tests. Benchmarks are supported as their own module type, leveraging the criterion crate to provide performance metrics. In order to maintain a consistent style and level of code quality, a default set of clippy lints and rustc lints are enabled by default. Additionally, HWASAN/ASAN fuzzers are supported, with the HWASAN rustc support added to upstream.

    In the near future, we plan to add documentation to on how to define and use Rust modules in Soong. We expect Android’s support for Rust to continue evolving alongside the Rust ecosystem and hope to continue to participate in discussions around how Rust can be integrated into existing build systems.

    Thank you to Matthew Maurer, Jeff Vander Stoep, Joel Galenson, Manish Goregaokar, and Tyler Mandry for their contributions to this post.

    1. This can be mitigated to some extent with workspaces, but requires a very specific directory arrangement that AOSP does not conform to. 

    2. This presents no problem for C/C++ and similar languages as the path to the generated source is provided directly to the compiler. 

    3. Since include! works by textual inclusion, it may reference values from the enclosing namespace, modify the namespace, or use constructs like #![foo]. These implicit interactions can be difficult to maintain. Macros should be preferred if interaction with the rest of the crate is truly required.  

    4. While libstd would usually be shareable for the same compiler revision, most other libraries would end up with several copies for Cargo-built Rust binaries, since each build would attempt to use a minimum feature set and may select different dependency versions for the library in question. Since information propagates across crate boundaries, you cannot simply produce a “most general” instance of that library. 

Categories: Google Security Blog

Making the Internet more secure one signed container at a time

Google Security Blog - Thu, 05/06/2021 - 9:00am
Posted by Priya Wadhwa, Google Open Source Security Team
With over 16 million pulls per month, Google’s `distroless` base images are widely used and depended on by large projects like Kubernetes and Istio. These minimal images don’t include common tools like shells or package managers, making their attack surface (and download size!) smaller than traditional base images such as `ubuntu` or `alpine`. Even with this additional protection, users could still fall prey to typosquatting attacks, or receive a malicious image if the distroless build process was compromised – making users vulnerable to accidentally using a malicious image instead of the actual distroless image. This problem isn’t unique to distroless images – until now, there just hasn’t been an easy way to verify that images are what they claim to be.

Introducing Cosign

Cosign simplifies signing and verifying container images, aiming to make signatures invisible infrastructure – basically, it takes over the hard part of signing and verifying software for you.

We developed cosign in collaboration with the sigstore project, a Linux Foundation project and a non-profit service that seeks to improve the open source software supply chain by easing the adoption of cryptographic software signing, backed by transparency log technologies.

We’re excited to announce that all of our distroless images are now signed by cosign! This means that all users of distroless can verify that they are indeed using the base image they intended to before kicking off image builds, making distroless images even more trustworthy. In fact, Kubernetes has already begun performing this check in their builds.

As we look to the future, Kubernetes SIG Release's vision is to establish a consumable, introspectable, and secure supply chain for the project. By collaborating with the sigstore maintainers (who are fellow Kubernetes contributors) to integrate signing and transparency into our supply chain, we hope to be an exemplar for standards in the cloud native (and wider) tech industry, said Stephen Augustus, co-chair for Kubernetes SIG Release.

How it works
To start signing distroless we integrated cosign into the distroless CI system, which builds and pushes images via Cloud Build. Signing every distroless image was as easy as adding an additional Cloud Build step to the Cloud Build job responsible for building and pushing the images. This additional step uses the cosign container image and a key pair stored in GCP KMS to sign every distroless image. With this additional signing step, users can now verify that the distroless image they’re running was built in the correct CI environment.

Right now, cosign can be run as an image or as a CLI tool. It supports:

  • Hardware and KMS signing
  • Bring-your-own PKI
  • Our free OIDC PKI (Fulcio)
  • Built-in binary transparency and timestamping service (Rekor)

Signing distroless with cosign is just the beginning, and we plan to incorporate other sigstore technologies into distroless to continue to improve it over the next few months. We also can’t wait to integrate sigstore with other critical projects. Stay tuned here for updates! To get started verifying your own distrolesss images, check out the distroless README and to learn more about sigstore, check out
Categories: Google Security Blog

Enabling Hardware-enforced Stack Protection (cetcompat) in Chrome

Google Security Blog - Tue, 05/04/2021 - 1:17pm
Alex Gough, Engineer, Chrome Platform Security Team

Chrome 90 for Windows adopts Hardware-enforced Stack Protection, a mitigation technology to make the exploitation of security bugs more difficult for attackers. This is supported by Windows 20H1 (December Update) or later, running on processors with Control-flow Enforcement Technology (CET) such as Intel 11th Gen or AMD Zen 3 CPUs. With this mitigation the processor maintains a new, protected, stack of valid return addresses (a shadow stack). This improves security by making exploits more difficult to write. However, it may affect stability if software that loads itself into Chrome is not compatible with the mitigation. Below we describe some exploitation techniques that are mitigated by stack protection, discuss its limitations and what we will do next to approach them. Finally, we provide some quick tips for other software authors as they enable /cetcompat for their Windows applications.

Stack Protection

Imagine a simple use-after-free (UAF) bug where an attacker can induce a program to call a pointer of their choosing. Here the attacker controls an object which occupies space formerly used by another object, which the program erroneously continues to use. The attacker sets a field in this region that is used as a function call to the address of code the attacker would like to execute. Years ago an attacker could simply write their shellcode to a known location, then, in their overwrite, set the instruction pointer to this shellcode. In time, Data Execution Prevention was added to prevent stacks or heaps from being executable.

In response, attackers invented Return Oriented Programming (ROP). Here, attackers take advantage of the process’s own code, as that must be executable. With control of the stack (either to write values there, or by changing the stack pointer) and control of the instruction pointer, an attacker can use the `ret` instruction to jump to a different, useful, piece of code.

During an exploit attempt, the instruction pointer is changed so that instead of its normal destination, a small fragment of code, called an ROP gadget, is invoked instead. These gadgets are selected so that they do something useful (such as prepare a register for a function call) then call return.

These tiny fragments need not be a complete function in the normal program, and could even be found part-way through a legitimate instruction. By lining up the right set of “return” addresses, a chain of these gadgets can be called, with each gadget’s `ret` switching to the next gadget. With some patience, or the right tooling, an attacker can piece together the arguments to a function call, then really call the function.

Chrome has a multi-process architecture -- a main browser process acts as the logged-in user, and spawns restricted renderer and utility processes to host website code. This isolation reduces the severity of a bug in a renderer as its process cannot do much by itself. Attackers will then attempt to use another sandbox escape bug to run code in the browser, which lets them act as the logged-in user. As libraries are mapped at the same address in different processes by Windows, any bug that allows an attacker to read memory is enough for them to examine Chrome’s binary and any loaded libraries for ROP gadgets. This makes preventing ROP chains in the browser process especially useful as a mitigation.

Enter stack-protection. Along with the existing stack, the cpu maintains a shadow stack. This stack cannot be directly manipulated by normal program code and only stores return addresses. The CALL instruction is modified to push a return address (the instruction after the CALL) to both the normal stack, and the shadow stack. The RET (return) instruction still takes its return address from the normal stack, but now verifies that it is the same as the one stored in the shadow stack region. If it is, then the program is left alone and it continues to work as it always did. If the addresses do not match then an exception is raised which is intercepted by the operating system (not by Chrome). The operating system has an opportunity to modify the shadow region and allow the program to continue, but in most cases an address mismatch is the result of a program error so the program is immediately terminated.

In our example above, the attacker will be able to make their initial jump into a ROP gadget, but on trying to return to their next gadget they will be stopped.

Some software may be incompatible with this mechanism, especially some older security software that injects into a process and hooks operating system functions by overwriting the prelude with `rax = &hook; push rax; ret`.


Chrome does not yet support every direction of control flow enforcement. Stack protection enforces the reverse-edge of the call graph but does not constrain the forward-edge. It will still be possible to make indirect jumps around existing code as stack protection is only validated when a return instruction is encountered, and call targets are not validated. On Windows a technology called Control Flow Guard (CFG) can be used to verify the target of an indirect function call before it is attempted. This prevents calling into the middle of a function, significantly reducing the scope of useful instructions for attackers to use. Another approach is provided by Intel’s CET which includes an ENDBRANCH instruction to prevent jumps into arbitrary code locations. Memory tagging tools such as MTE can be used to make it more difficult to modify pointers to valid code sequences (and makes UAFs more difficult in general). We are working to introduce CFG to Chrome for Windows, and will add other techniques over time.

By itself, stack protection can be bypassed in some contexts. For instance, stack protection does not prevent an attacker tricking a program into calling an existing function by entirely replacing an object containing a function pointer. This approach does not involve ROP as the function call happens instead of the expected call, and returns to the address it was originally called from, so must be allowed. However, the called function must be useful to an attacker, and most functions will not be. An example of an attack using this method is to craft a call to add the `--no-sandbox` argument to Chrome’s command line. This results in future renderers being launched without normal protections. Over time we will identify and remove such useful tools.

In the renderer, for performance reasons, our javascript and wasm engines may use memory that is both writable and executable at the same time. This allows an attacker to modify code that v8 is already going to execute, saving them the trouble of constructing a ROP chain. This explains why it was not our first priority to make v8 CET compatible, and why stack-protection is not yet enabled in the renderer.

Finally, stack protection doesn’t stop the bugs in the first place. Everything we have discussed above is a mitigation that makes it more difficult to execute arbitrary code. If a programming error allows arbitrary writes then it is very unlikely that we can prevent this being used to run arbitrary code. Attackers will adapt and find new ways to turn memory safety errors into code execution.

Debugging Tips

You can see if Hardware-enforced Stack Protection is enabled for a process using the Windows Task Manager. Open task manager, open the Details Tab, Right Click on a heading, Select Columns & Check the Hardware-enforced Stack Protection box. The process display will then indicate if a process is opted-in to this mitigation. ‘Compatible Modules Only’ indicates that any dll marked as /cetcompat at build time will raise an exception if a return address is invalid.

You can see which Chrome processes are opted-out of CET by consulting the Mitigations field of chrome://sandbox and clicking ‘+’. All processes are included unless the mitigation CET_USER_SHADOW_STACKS_ALWAYS_OFF is present in the expanded details view.

If you are developing software, or debugging a problem in Chrome the shadow stack can be helpful as it includes only return addresses, and these cannot be corrupted by rogue writes elsewhere in the process. To see these registers use the `r` command in windbg with the mask option:

0:159> rM 8002

rax=00000000c000060a rbx=000000fa5bbfeff0 rcx=0000000000000030

rdx=0000000000000000 rsi=00007ffba4118924 rdi=000000fa5bbff1a0

rip=00007ffc1847b4a1 rsp=000000fa5bbfc0a0 rbp=000000fa5bbfc0a0

r8=000000fa5bbfc098 r9=0000000000000000 r10=0000000000000000

r11=0000000000000246 r12=000000fa5bbfe230 r13=000002c3450b5830

r14=000002c3450b7850 r15=000000fa5bbfc260

iopl=0 nv up ei pl zr na po nc

ssp=000000fa5c3fef10 cetumsr=0000000000000001

`ssp` points to the shadow stack region, `cetumsr` indicates if cet is enabled for the process.

You can then see the call stack within the shadow region using `dps @ssp`. Values are not overwritten so you can also see where you came from by looking a bit deeper: `dps @ssp-20`.

If a process is not compatible with Hardware-enforced Stack Protection, the system event log (Application Log) will include brief error reports (Id:1001). You can filter those related to cetcompat using the following powershell snippet:-

Get-WinEvent -MaxEvents 128 -FilterHashtable @{ LogName='Application'; Id='1001' } `

| Where-Object {$_.Message -match 'chrome.exe'} `

| Select-Object -First 8 `

| fl

These will include the following parameters:-

P1: application.exe

P2: application version

P3: application build ts

P4: faulting module .dll

P5: faulting module version

P6: faulting module build ts

P7: faulting offset in P4 from base_address

P8: exception code (c0000409)

P9: subcode (00...000030)

If Chrome is misbehaving and you think it might be because of cetcompat, it is possible to disable it using Image File Execution Options - we do not recommend this except for a limited period of testing. If you find you have to do this, please raise an issue on so that we can investigate the failure.

Further Reading Summary

/cetcompat is enabled for most processes for Chrome M90 on Windows. Enabling Hardware-enforced Stack Protection will layer with existing and future measures to make exploitation more difficult and so more expensive for an attacker, ultimately protecting the people who use Chrome every day.

Categories: Google Security Blog

How we fought bad apps and developers in 2020

Google Security Blog - Wed, 04/21/2021 - 1:01pm
Posted by Krish Vitaldevara, Director of Product Management Trust & Safety, Google Play

Providing safe experiences to billions of users and millions of Android developers has been one of the highest priorities for Google Play for many years. Last year we introduced new policies, improved our systems, and further optimized our processes to better protect our users, assist good developers and strengthen our guard against bad apps and developers. Additionally, in 2020, Google Play Protect scanned over 100B installed apps each day for malware across billions of devices.

Users come to Google Play to find helpful, reliable apps on everything from COVID-19 vaccine information to new forms of entertainment, grocery delivery, communication and more.

As such, we introduced a series of policies and new developer support to continue to elevate information quality on the platform and reduce the risk of user harm from misinformation.

  • COVID-19 apps requirements: To ensure public safety, information integrity and privacy, we introduced specific requirements for COVID-19 apps. Under these requirements, apps related to sensitive use cases, such as those providing testing information, must be endorsed by either official governmental entities or healthcare organizations and must meet a high standard for user data privacy.
  • News policy: To promote transparency in news publishing, we introduced minimum requirements that apps must meet in order for developers to declare their app as a “News” app on Google Play. These guidelines help promote user transparency and developer accountability by providing users with relevant information about the app.
  • Election support: We created teams and processes across Google Play focused on elections to provide additional support and adapt to the changing landscape. This includes support for government agencies, specially trained app reviewers, and a safety team to address election threats and abuse.

Our core efforts around identifying and mitigating bad apps and developers continued to evolve to address new adversarial behaviors and forms of abuse. Our machine-learning detection capabilities and enhanced app review processes prevented over 962k policy-violating app submissions from getting published to Google Play. We also banned 119k malicious and spammy developer accounts. Additionally, we significantly increased our focus on SDK enforcement, as we've found these violations have an outsized impact on security and user data privacy.

Last year, we continued to reduce developer access to sensitive permissions. In February, we announced a new background location policy to ensure that apps requesting this permission need the data in order to provide clear user benefit. As a result of the new policy, developers now have to demonstrate that benefit and prominently tell users about it or face possible removal from Google Play. We've begun enforcement on apps not meeting new policy guidelines and will provide an update on the usage of this permission in a future blog post.

We've also continued to invest in protecting kids and helping parents find great content. In 2020 we launched a new kids tab filled with “Teacher approved” apps. To evaluate apps, we teamed with academic experts and teachers across the country, including our lead advisors, Joe Blatt (Harvard Graduate School of Education) and Dr. Sandra Calvert (Georgetown University).

As we continue to invest in protecting people from apps with harmful content, malicious behaviors, or threats to user privacy, we are also equally motivated to provide trusted experiences to Play developers. For example, we’ve improved our process for providing relevant information about enforcement actions we’ve taken, resulting in significant reduction in appeals and increased developer satisfaction. We will continue to enhance the speed and quality of our communications to developers, and continue listening to feedback about how we can further engage and elevate trusted developers. Android developers can expect to see more on this front in the coming year.

Our global teams of product managers, engineers, policy experts, and operations leaders are more excited than ever to advance the safety of the platform and forge a sustaining trust with our users. We look forward to building an even better Google Play experience.

Categories: Google Security Blog