Refresher on gcc port and the executables

Tabitha McNerney tabithamc at
Wed Sep 11 03:22:51 PDT 2013

Ian and all,

I have been doing some more research and spoke with some people in the
industry about certified compilers. Apparently a lot of progress has been
made in the recent past and money has been flowing into the arena of
certified compilers. What's preventing Apple from having a third party
independent audit of their developer tools (which MacPorts depends on, and
the rest of the world also depends on for a wide range of apps either for
OS X or iOS)? Seriously, how hard would this be and I can't imagine it
being a terrible expense to Apple to do this and show the world that its
compilers are trojan free.



On Sun, Sep 8, 2013 at 2:19 AM, Ian Wadham < at> wrote:

> On 08/09/2013, at 3:56 PM, Tabitha McNerney wrote:
> > My boss has been smiling at work a lot lately. He feels very vindicated
> for having reasonably healthy "paranoia" about vendor compilers (e.g.,
> Apple's tools) just months ago before Snowden made headlines. My boss asked
> me and my colleagues to read this seminal article by Ken Thompson of Bell
> Labs in 1984 (from the Turing Award Lecture) about how a trojan can be
> created in a C compiler (he said he does not want the especially younger
> developers to be too naive and also told us about the Clipper Chip from the
> 1990s that never came to fore light but was very close to coming to fore):
> >
> >
> I think the genie got out of the bottle a long time ago, see:
> which I think is the paper Thompson was referring to at the end of his
> talk.
> In that paper, Major Schell and his team showed in the 1970s that the
> world's
> supposedly most secure operating system, Multics, could be easily
> penetrated
> for a modest cost in time and resources.
> They called Trojan horses "trapdoors" and they planted several in Multics,
> even
> by such simple means as walking into the manufacturer's offices, sitting
> down
> somewhere and leaving a patch in the source code.  They concluded that the
> KGB et al. would also be capable of penetrating any American O/S or
> compiler.
> Schell was promoted to Colonel (please no shell/kernel puns) and then
> worked
> on how to make hardware and software certifiably secure for intelligence
> and
> military use.  AFAIK a version of the UNIX kernel was the only O/S to be so
> certified.
> It is best to assume that any O/S or compiler can be penetrated and
> subverted
> by any agency, American, non-American, criminal or otherwise, with or
> without
> the co-operation of the maker of that O/S or compiler, and that this has
> been the
> case for 40 years or more.
> Nor should we assume that non-commercial software, such as Open Source
> and Linux, is immune.  It is quite easy to become part of an Open Source
> team and I do not think there is much perusal of contributions.  Indeed, an
> author might not know and might never have met all of his/her colleagues.
> Maybe even SVG and git have been subverted so as to leave no trace of
> changes to code when so "requested".
> So I do not think your boss has much to smile about.
> Regards, Ian W.
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