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Drydock User Guide: Security
Phabricator User Documentation (Application User Guides)

Understanding security concerns in Drydock.


Different applications use Drydock for different things, and some of the things they do with Drydock require different levels of trust and access. It is important to configure Drydock properly so that less trusted code can't do anything you aren't comfortable with.

For example, running unit tests on Drydock normally involves running relatively untrusted code (it often has a single author and has not yet been reviewed) that needs very few capabilities (generally, it only needs to be able to report results back to Phabricator). In contrast, automating merge requests on Drydock involves running trusted code that needs more access (it must be able to write to repositories).

Drydock allows resources to be shared and reused, so it's possible to configure Drydock in a way that gives untrusted code a lot of access by accident.

One way Drydock makes allocations faster is by sharing, reusing, and recycling resources. When an application asks Drydock for a working copy, it will try to satisfy the request by cleaning up a suitable existing working copy if it can, instead of building a new one. This is faster, but it means that tasks have some ability to interact or interfere with each other.

Similarly, Drydock may allocate multiple leases on the same host at the same time, running as the same user. This is generally simpler to configure and less wasteful than fully isolating leases, but means that they can interact.

Depending on your organization, environment and use cases, you might not want this, and it may be important that different use cases are unable to interfere with each other. For example, you might want to prevent unit tests from writing to repositories.

Drydock does not guarantee that resources are isolated by default. When resources are more isolated, they are usually also harder to configure and slower to allocate. Because most installs will want to find a balance between isolation and complexity/performance, Drydock does not make assumptions about either isolation or performance having absolute priority.

You'll usually want to isolate things just enough that nothing bad can happen. Fortunately, this is straightforward. This document describes how to make sure you have enough isolation so that nothing you're uncomfortable with can occur.

Choosing an Isolation Policy

This section provides some reasonable examples of ways you might approach configuring Drydock.

IsolationSuitable ForDescription
ZeroDevelopmentEverything on one host.
LowSmall InstallsUse a dedicated Drydock host.
HighMost InstallsRecommended. Use low-trust and high-trust pools.
CustomSpecial RequirementsUse multiple pools.
AbsoluteSpecial RequirementsCompletely isolate all resources.

Zero Isolation: Run Drydock operations on the same host that Phabricator runs on. This is only suitable for developing or testing Phabricator. Any Drydock operation can potentially compromise Phabricator. It is intentionally difficult to configure Drydock to operate in this mode. Running Drydock operations on the Phabricator host is strongly discouraged.

Low Isolation: Designate a separate Drydock host and run Drydock operations on it. This is suitable for small installs and provides a reasonable level of isolation. However, it will allow unit tests (which often run lower-trust code) to interfere with repository automation operations.

High Isolation: Designate two Drydock host pools and run low-trust operations (like builds) on one pool and high-trust operations (like repository automation) on a separate pool. This provides a good balance between isolation and performance, although tests can still potentially interfere with the execution of unrelated tests.

Custom Isolation: You can continue adding pools to refine the resource isolation model. For example, you may have higher-trust and lower-trust repositories or do builds on a mid-trust tier which runs only reviewed code.

Absolute Isolation: Configure blueprints to completely initialize and destroy hosts or containers on every request, and limit all resources to one simultaneous lease. This will completely isolate every operation, but come at a high performance and complexity cost.

NOTE: It is not currently possible to configure Drydock in an absolute isolation mode.

It is usually reasonable to choose one of these approaches as a starting point and then adjust it to fit your requirements. You can also evolve your use of Drydock over time as your needs change.

Threat Scenarios

This section will help you understand the threats to a Drydock environment. Not all threats will be concerning to all installs, and you can choose an approach which defuses only the threats you care about.

Attackers have three primary targets:

  • capturing hosts;
  • compromising Phabricator; and
  • compromising the integrity of other Drydock processes.

Attacks against hosts are the least sophisticated. In this scenario, an attacker wants to run a program like a Bitcoin miner or botnet client on hardware that they aren't paying for or which can't be traced to them. They write a "unit test" or which launches this software, then send a revision containing this "unit test" for review. If Phabricator is configured to automatically run tests on new revisions, it may execute automatically and give the attacker access to computing resources they did not previously control and which can not easily be traced back to them.

This is usually only a meaningful threat for open source installs, because there is a high probability of eventual detection and the value of these resources is small, so employees will generally not have an incentive to attempt this sort of attack. The easiest way to prevent this attack is to prevent untrusted, anonymous contributors from running tests. For example, create a "Trusted Contributors" project and only run tests if a revision author is a member of the project.

Attacks against Phabricator are more sophisticated. In this scenario, an attacker tries to compromise Phabricator itself (for example, to make themselves an administrator or gain access to an administrator account).

This is made possible if Drydock is running on the same host as Phabricator or runs on a privileged subnet with access to resources like Phabricator database hosts. Most installs should be concerned about this attack.

The best way to defuse this attack is to run Drydock processes on a separate host which is not on a privileged subnet. For example, use a host or pool for Drydock processes, separate from your host or pool.

Even if the host is not privileged, many Drydock processes have some level of privilege (enabling them to clone repositories, or report test results back to Phabricator). Be aware that tests can hijack credentials they are run with, and potentially hijack credentials given to other processes on the same hosts. You should use credentials with a minimum set of privileges and assume all processes on a host have the highest level of access that any process on the host has.

Attacks against Drydock are the most sophisticated. In this scenario, an attacker uses one Drydock process to compromise a different process: for example, a unit test which tampers with a merge or injects code into a build. This might allow an attacker to make changes to a repository or binary without going through review or triggering other rules which would normally detect the change.

These attackers could also make failing tests appear to pass, or break tests or builds, but these attacks are generally less interesting than tampering with a repository or binary.

This is a complex attack which you may not have to worry about unless you have a high degree of process and control in your change pipeline. If users can push changes directly to repositories, this often represents a faster and easier way to achieve the same tampering.

The best way to defuse this attack is to prevent high-trust (repository automation) processes from running on the same hosts as low-trust (unit test) processes. For example, use an host or pool for repository automation, and a host or pool for tests.

Applying an Isolation Policy

Designing a security and isolation policy for Drydock can take some thought, but applying it is straightforward. Applications which want to use Drydock must explicitly list which blueprints they are allowed to use, and they must be approved to use them in Drydock. By default, nothing can do anything, which is very safe and secure.

To get builds or automation running on a host, specify the host blueprint as a usable blueprint in the build step or repository configuration. This creates a new authorization request in Drydock which must be approved before things can move forward.

Until the authorization is approved, the process can not use the blueprint to create any resources, nor can it use resources previously created by the blueprint.

You can review and approve requests from the blueprint detail view in Drydock: find the request and click Approve Authorization. You can also revoke approval at any time from this screen which will prevent the object from continuing to use the blueprint (but note that this does not release any existing leases).

Once the authorization request is approved, the build or automation process should be able to run if everything else is configured properly.

Note that authorizations are transitive: if a build step is authorized to use blueprint A, and blueprint A is authorized to use blueprint B, the build step may indirectly operate on resources created by blueprint B. This should normally be consistent with expectations.

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