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Date:   Thu, 8 Apr 2021 17:02:07 -0700
From:   "Darrick J. Wong" <>
To:     Theodore Ts'o <>
Cc:     Dave Chinner <>,
        Eric Biggers <>,
        Leah Rumancik <>,
Subject: Re: [PATCH v2 1/2] ext4: wipe filename upon file deletion

On Thu, Apr 08, 2021 at 03:25:30PM -0400, Theodore Ts'o wrote:
> On Thu, Apr 08, 2021 at 03:21:55PM +1000, Dave Chinner wrote:
> > "if"
> > 
> > Is this purely a hypothetical "if", or is it "we have a customer
> > that actaully does this"? Because if this is just hypothetical, then
> > future customers should already be advised and know not to store PII
> > information in clear text *anywhere* in their systems.
> Customers might not even know if they are doing this.  The concern
> they have is that when they are doing "lift and shift", and moving
> their workloads from their private data center to the cloud, they
> would have no idea what might be lurking in their legacy workloads.

Customers don't know and don't care so long as they can get away with
it.  Two seconds after we grant them write access to the filesystem,
they've written your covid19 vaccination card selfie^W^W^Wcredit card
number to permanent storage.

(Err I mean, they care after the breach goes public and gaslighting the
victims^Wcustomers results in lawsuits that stick, so I guess maybe we
should do the world a solid and try to prevent that...)

> Heck, in a previous job, I visited a major customer who had lost their
> sources to a critical bit of their software and they were changing
> pathnames by running a hex editor on the binary.  Enterprise customers
> do the darnedest things... (OTOH, they pay $$$ to our companies :-)

Heh.  I never thought of myself as an enterprise customer.  Editing
binaries is fun.

> In the ideal world, sure, all or most of them would agree that they
> *shouldn't* be storing any kind of PII at rest unencrypted, but they
> can't be sure, and so from the perspective of keeping their audit and
> I/T compliance committees happy, this requirement is desirable from a
> "belt and suspenders" perspective.
> > This seems like a better fit for FITRIM than anything else.
> > 
> > Ooohh. We sure do suck at APIs, don't we? FITRIM has no flags field,
> > so we can't extend that.
> I don't have any serious objections to defining FITRIM2; OTOH, for

Er, are we talking about the directory name wiping, or the journal

FITRIM is a horrible interface for directory name wiping.  I'm assuming
you're talking about the journal discard patch, but it's a little
strange that these are all replies to the patch adding directory name

> Darrick's use case of wanting to make XFS work reliably with the GRUB
> bootloader (which doesn't replay file system journals) and a certain
> Enterprise Linux distribution (cough, cough) can't be bothered to do a

To be fair, the certain Enterprise Linux distro actually does
/sbin/reboot properly like you'd expect; it's the clod users that (heh,
I'll leave the typo in) who expect that they can save time by making
their systems unrebootable.

> clean shutdown at the end of doing an install, using a hypothetical
> FITRIM2 seems... wierd, whereas it might be cleaner to define
> semantics in terms of FS_IOC_CHKPT_JRNL.  But I don't have a dog in
> that particular fight, since I'm not responsible of maintaining either
> XFS or RHEL.  :-)

> Yet another possible solution might be to define a new system call,
> syncfs2(), which takes a flag option.  That might be a bit more
> heavyweight, and we would still have to figure out how to define what
> a "journal checkpoint means" from the standpoint of an API definition.
> It would presumably be something like "allows a non-kernel
> implementation accessing the file system (e.g., from bootloaders like
> grub) to be able to access files on the file sytstem as easily as
> unmounting the file system", or perhaps defining it in terms of doing
> a FIFREEZE/FITHAW, without having to actually freeze the file system.

Let's move this part of the discussion over to the other patch, please.

> > Oh, that won't be fun. XFS places a whiteout over the dirent to
> > indicate that it has been freed, and it does not actually log
> > anything other than the 4 byte whiteout at the start of the dirent
> > and the 2 byte XFS_DIR2_DATA_FREE_TAG tag at the end of the dirent.
> > So zeroing dirents is going to require changing the size and shape
> > of dirent logging during unlinks...
> So I'm not an expert on XFS, but XFS does logical logging, so what is
> in the log is "we're going to white out this dirent", right?  So
> couldn't the replay code be taught to look at the dirent's reclen, and
> zero out the full directory entry at journal replay time?  If the
> directory entry has already been reused, that's a case which the XFS
> replay code has to handle already.  Or is there something subtle which
> makes this hard to do.
> > This will have to be done correclty for all the node merge, split
> > and compaction cases, too, not just the "remove name" code.
> Agreed this is going to be a lot more complicated for XFS.

I didn't think it was any more difficult than changing xfs_removename to
zero out the name and ftype fields at the same time it adds the whiteout
to the dirent.  But TBH I haven't thought through this too deeply.

I /do/ think that if you ever want to add "secure" deletion to XFS, I'd
want to do it by implementing FS_SECRM_FL for XFS, and not by adding
more mount options.

> > > P.P.S.  We'll also want to have a mount option which supresses file
> > > names (for example, from ext4_error() messages) from showing up in
> > > kernel logs, to ease potential privacy concerns with respect to serial
> > > console and kernel logs.  But that's for another patch set....
> > 
> > This sounds more and more like "Don't encode PII in clear text
> > anywhere" is a best practice that should be enforced with a big
> > hammer.

How?  Encrypting the entire block device?  Implementing fscrypt for all
filesystems?  Sending Daves to companies everywhere to heckle them for
their poor sekuritee practices? ;)

> > Filenames get everywhere and there's no easy way to prevent
> > that because path lookups can be done by anyone in the kernel. This
> > so much sounds like you're starting a game of whack-a-mole that can
> > never be won.
> > 
> > From a security perspective, this is just bad design. Storing PII in
> > clear text filenames pretty much guarantees that the PII will leak
> > because it can't be scrubbed/contained within application controlled
> > boundaries. Trying to contain the spread of filenames within random
> > kernel subsystems sounds like a fool's errand to me, especially
> > given how few kernel developers will even know that filenames are
> > considered sensitive information from a security perspective...
> The problem is that the company that the Cloud SRE's work for is
> different from the enterprise customer owning the VM.  If a customer
> stores PII in a filename, and the Cloud SRE places the log in some
> place where it could leak out, Google gets blamed, not the enterprise
> customer.
> So the Cloud SRE's *have* to treat the logs as if they might contain
> sensitive information, which means it can't be made available in bug
> trackers without a manual (human-drive) scrubbing to make sure the log
> doesn't have anything that might appear to contain PII.

Question -- does e2image have the ability to obscure names like
xfs_metadump will do if you don't pass it "-o" ?

> By the way, MySQL puts table names into file names, and even though
> table names normally aren't PII, it's still considered "customer
> data", and we need to treat any kind of customer data super-carefully.

<shrug> I don't have any objection to logging the directory inode number
and the offset of the dirent.  Replacing "Error in path /AUTOEXEC.BAT"
with "Error in directory 0x1515 offset 23568" solves the PII-in-logfiles
problem, right?  And still leaves us enough of a breadcrumb that we can
figure out where fstests went wrong.

> > Fundamentally, applications should *never* place PII in clear text
> > in potentially leaky environments.  The environment for storing PII
> > should be designed to be secure and free of data leaks from the
> > ground up. And ext4 has already got this with fscrypt support.....
> Cloud disks (no matter which cloud vendor) do tend to be encrypted at
> rest, and in the case of Google, we even give customers the option to
> Bring Your Own Key, which means when the VM isn't running, no one at
> Google has access to the encryption key.  But that doesn't change the
> fact that if we need to debug a system, the logs might contain file
> names, and file names might be customer-owned data.  Using encryption
> at rest doesn't solve that problem.



> 					- Ted

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