Bug#754513: RFP: libressl -- SSL library, forked from OpenSSL
On Sat, Jul 12, 2014 at 12:06:27AM +0200, Toni Mueller wrote:
> * Package name : libressl
> Version : 2.0.0
> Upstream Author : The OpenBSD project, the OpenSSL project et al.
> * URL : http://www.libressl.org/
> * License : BSD, OpenSSL, SSLeay, Public Domain.
> Programming Lang: C
> Description : SSL library, forked from OpenSSL
> LibreSSL strives to maintain API compatibility with OpenSSL, but
> do away with all the cruft.
> After a long series of OpenSSL problems, recently highlighted by
> the infamous Heartbleed bug, a group inside OpenBSD decided to
> fork OpenSSL and adapt the code to modern coding standards.
> Along the way, a lot of compatibility with older architectures
> and toolchains was discarded.
[I won't quote everything, but people replying to this should probably
read the bug log in the BTS first.]
This was some years ago, and in the meantime Toni said it was too much
for them at the moment and retitled the bug to RFP.
In the meantime, the situation with OpenSSH is becoming critical.
OpenSSL has moved to a new API in version 1.1 which does a much better
job of making internal data structures opaque, but requires significant
changes to application code. (LibreSSL has not yet adopted this API.)
OpenSSH needs to continue working on OSes that only have OpenSSL 1.0,
not to mention with LibreSSL.
While there does exist a skeletal compatibility layer linked from the
upstream wiki , the OpenSSL developers explicitly don't want to
maintain this properly , and the OpenSSH developers say that it is
"unversioned, incomplete, barely documented, and seems to be
unmaintained" . Kurt Roeckx proposed a patch to add a compatibility
shim , and a number of other projects have done something similar,
but the OpenSSH developers have explicitly said that they do not want to
take that approach .
It's not currently clear to me whether anyone has explicitly talked with
the OpenSSL developers about this problem from the point of view of the
OpenSSH developers, rather than just as users trying to get OpenSSH to
compile against the new version.
Furthermore, the OpenSSL maintainers in Debian now want to drop their
1.0 compatibility packages, which the Debian OpenSSH packages rely on.
I can't exactly fault them for wanting to reduce their maintenance
burden, but it is going to put me in a very difficult position soon; and
I assume that they don't actually want to break OpenSSH either.
The OpenSSH developers are starting to talk about bundling LibreSSL to
avoid this problem , noting that OpenBSD and Apple already link
OpenSSH against LibreSSL. (Note that OpenSSH only uses libcrypto, not
libssl, so while this has all the usual problems of bundling, the
exposure isn't quite as horrific as it might first seem.)
At the moment I can see the following somewhat realistic paths forward:
* Convince people to keep OpenSSL 1.0 on life support in Debian for a
while longer. This probably only postpones the problem, but it might
be helpful anyway. One possibility which might help would be to
split libcrypto into separate runtime and development packages, and
then drop just libssl 1.0; this would allow keeping around packages
which only use libcrypto, while still being able to make progress on
packages that use libssl, which AIUI is the more pressing problem.
* Convince people to package LibreSSL for Debian in parallel. As noted
in the log of this bug, there are some problems to solve there, both
technical and political, but they don't seem insurmountable. Of
course it would mean another SSL implementation in the archive, which
I realise is probably not the favourite outcome for the security
* Accept an upstream bundling of LibreSSL (still hypothetical, but
plausible). I'm sure this would also not be the security team's
favourite outcome, although presumably only a subset of LibreSSL CVEs
would apply to OpenSSH, and it wouldn't be making it available as a
* Take Kurt's patch to switch to the 1.1 API. Fedora have done this.
I'm extremely reluctant to do this because it's a >3000-line patch
touching most of OpenSSH's cryptographic internals, which is bound to
produce lots of difficult conflicts on pretty much every new upstream
release. We carry another patch of a similar size (GSS-API key
exchange), but at least the bulk of that is a matter of plugging new
mechanisms into relatively general interfaces, and I more or less
understand how it all works; even so, that patch alone has delayed my
uploads of some new upstream releases by weeks or more. The 1.1 API
patch would probably be more than I can cope with maintaining for the
I have heard suggested or thought of some other plans that I don't think
are viable and I will not pursue:
* Switch to PKIX-SSH, an OpenSSH fork with 1.1 support. This fork adds
new features, making it a one-way transition. With all due respect,
as far as I can tell it's a one-person fork with very limited uptake
compared to OpenSSH, and I don't think it would be wise to switch
Debian over to it. (If somebody wants to package it separately for
the extra features, that's their affair, but it wouldn't solve the
problem at hand.)
* Start a team to maintain an OpenSSL 1.1 compatibility layer myself.
Ingo Schwarze persuaded me on openssl-unix-dev that this was a bad
idea. I would be happy if the OpenSSL developers carried this
forward as a proper project rather than just as an unversioned
tarball dump, but I'm not in a position to tell them what to do.
* Configure OpenSSH using --without-openssl, and use only its internal
crypto functions. I mention this mainly for completeness, but if you
do this you only get a very limited feature set (e.g. only ED25519
keys); it's a long way off being viable.
Out of all of these, I think the option that I think has the fewest
downsides overall is to convince people to package LibreSSL, but I'm not
myself in a position to contribute to that effort.
Does anyone have thoughts or other options, or want to help?
 Sorry, I don't have a link for this right now; if needed I can trawl
back through openssh-unix-dev history for it.
Colin Watson [firstname.lastname@example.org]