Support Image Signature Verification

Support Image Signature Verification

Cinder currently does not support signature validation of downloaded signed images. Equipping Cinder with the ability to validate image signatures will provide end users with stronger assurances of the integrity of the image data they are using to create volumes. This change will use the same data model for image metadata as the accompanying functionality in Glance, which will allow the end user to sign images and verify these image signatures upon upload [1].

Problem description

Previously, OpenStack’s protection against unexpected modification of images was limited to verifying an MD5 checksum. While this may be sufficient for protecting against accidental modifications, MD5 is a hash function, not an authentication primitive [2], and thus provides no protection against deliberate, malicious modification of images. An image could potentially be modified in transit, such as when it is uploaded to Glance or transferred to Cinder. An image that is modified could include malicious code.

Currently, Glance has support for image signature verification upon upload, but Cinder does not support the feature to ensure the integrity of the image data before using it. Providing support for signature verification would allow Cinder to verify the signature before creating volume from image. This feature will secure OpenStack against the following attack scenarios:

  • Man-in-the-Middle Attack - An adversary with access to the network between Cinder and Glance is altering image data as Cinder downloads the data from Glance. The adversary is potentially incorporating malware into the image and/or altering the image metadata.
  • Untrusted Glance - In a hybrid cloud deployment, Glance is hosted on machines which are located in a physically insecure location or is hosted by a company with limited security infrastructure. Adversaries may be able to compromise the integrity of Glance and/or the integrity of images stored by Glance through physical access to the host machines or through poor network security on the part of the company hosting Glance.

Please note that our threat model considers only threats to the integrity of images while they are in transit between the end user and Glance, while they are at rest in Glance and while they are in transit between Glance and Cinder. This threat model does not include, and this feature therefore does not address, threats to the integrity, availability, or confidentiality of Cinder.

Use Cases

  • A user wants a high degree of assurance that a customized image which they have uploaded to Glance has not been accidentally or maliciously modified prior to creating a volume from the image.

With this proposed change, Cinder will verify the signature of a signed image while downloading that image. If the image signature cannot be verified, then Cinder will not create a volume from the image and instead place the volume into an error state. The user will begin to use this feature by uploading the image and the image signature metadata to Glance via the Glance API’s image-create method. The required image signature metadata properties are as follows:

  • img_signature - A string representation of the base 64 encoding of the signature of the image data.
  • img_signature_hash_method - A string designating the hash method used for signing. Currently, the supported values are SHA-224, SHA-256, SHA-384 and SHA-512. MD5 and other cryptographically weak hash methods will not be supported for this field. Any image signed with an unsupported hash algorithm will not pass validation.
  • img_signature_key_type - A string designating the signature scheme used to generate the signature. For more detail on which are currently supported, please check Glance’s documentation [7].
  • img_signature_certificate_uuid - A string encoding the certificate uuid used to retrieve the certificate from the key manager.

The image verification functionality in Glance uses the cursive.signature_utils module to verify this signature metadata before storing the image. If the signature is not valid or the metadata is incomplete, this API method will return a 400 error status and put the image into a “killed” state. Note that, if the signature metadata is simply not present, the image will be stored as it would normally.

The user would then create a volume from this image using the Cinder API’s volume create method. If the verify_glance_signatures flag in cinder.conf is set to ‘True’, Cinder will call out to Glance for the image’s properties, which include the properties necessary for image signature verification. Cinder will pass the image data and image properties to the signature verification module, which will verify the signature. If signature verification fails, or if the image signature metadata is either incomplete or absent, creating volume from the image will fail and Cinder will log an exception. If signature verification succeeds, Cinder will create volume from the image and log a message indicating that image signature verification succeeded along with detailed information about the signing certificate.

Proposed change

Since Nova has implemented this feature and all of the verification process has been moved into cursive module [4], it’s more convenient to support this in Cinder now.

Verify image signature with certificate

We propose an initial implementation by incorporating cursive into Cinder’s control flow for Creating volumes from images, and use new configuration verify_glance_signatures to turn this on or off. Initially it will have two options (default is enabled):

  1. enabled: verify when image has complete signature metadata.
  2. disabled: verification is turned off.

NOTE: We have discussed to add required option to introduce a strict mode on verification, but this can’t be guaranteed as we can’t do verification when image volume is cloned in backend. Strict mode will still be considered when we can cover every approach.

Upon downloading an image, Cinder will both check the new configuration flag and image’s metadata. If needs, the module will perform image signature verification using image properties passed to Cinder by Glance. If this fails, or if the image signature metadata is incomplete or missing, Cinder will not create the volume from the image. Instead, Cinder will throw an exception and log an error. If the signature verification succeeds, Cinder will proceed with creating the volume. The code sample is below:

if CONF.glance.verify_glance_signatures != 'disabled':
   verifier = None
   image_meta_dict =, image_id,
   image_meta = objects.ImageMeta.from_dict(image_meta_dict)
   img_signature ='img_signature')
   img_sig_hash_method =
   img_sig_cert_uuid =
   img_sig_key_type =
       verifier = signature_utils.get_verifier(
   except cursive_exception.SignatureVerificationError:
       #Image signature verification failed
   # Collect image data
       if verifier:
   except cryptography.exceptions.InvalidSignature:
       #Image signature verification failed

NOTE: We will try different approaches when creating volume from images, so we have to mention this feature will not cover every approach especially when volume is created at backend.

To be clear, we will verify the image’s signature only when image is downloaded from glance and content is copied to volume on host. So when image volume is created via clone_image or clone_image_volume we will skip this verification process regardless of configuration option and provided signature metadata, in order not to confuse end users, we will add verification flag signature_verified in volume’s image metadata when creating from image.

Verify certificate with trusted certificates

This feature tries to find a way to determine if the certificate used to generate and verify that signature is a certificate that is trusted by the user, we could find more detail in Nova spec [5]. In short, within that feature end user can also validate the image’s certificate with the given trusted certificates (specified via API or config option). Considering the feature is in the process of being added to Nova now, we will follow this up with another spec when it’s merged into Nova for the purpose of consistency.


An alternative to signing the image’s data directly is to support signatures which are created by signing a hash of the image data. This introduces unnecessary complexity to the feature by requiring an additonal hashing stage and an additional metadata option. Due to the Glance community’s performance concerns associated with hashing image data, the developers initially pursued an implementation which produced the signature by signing an MD5 checksum which was already computed by Glance. This approach was rejected by the Nova community due to the security weaknesses of MD5 and the unnecessary complexity of performing a hashing operation twice and maintaining information about both hash algorithms.

An alternative to using certificates for signing and signature verification would be to use a public key. However, this approach presents the significant weakness that an attacker could generate their own public key in the key manager, use this to sign a tampered image, and pass the reference to their public key to Cinder along with their signed image. Alternatively, the use of certificates provides a means of attributing such attacks to the certificate owner, and follows common cryptographic standards by placing the root of trust at the certificate authority.

An alternative to using the verify_glance_signatures configuration flag to specify that Cinder should perform image signature verification is to use a “verify_glance_signatures” type-key for a volume type to specify that individual volume should be created from signed images. The user, when using the Cinder CLI to create a volume from image, would specify a volume type which includes a type-key “verify_glance_signatures=True” to indicate that image signature verification should occur as part of the control flow for creating the volume. This may be added in a later change, but will not be included in the initial implementation. If added, the “verify_glance_signatures” type-key option will work alongside the configuration option approach. In this case, Cinder would perform image signature verification if either the configuration flag is set, or if the user has specified creating a volume of the volume type which includes “verify_glance_signatures=True” type-key.

Another alternative to using the verify_glance_signatures configuration flag to specify that Cinder should perform image signature verification is amending the Cinder create command to accept an additional parameter specifying whether image signature verification should occur. This may be added in a later change, but will not be included in the initial implementation. If added, the additional parameter will work alongside the configuration option approach. In this case, Cinder would perform image signature verification if either the configuration flag is set, or if the user has specified creating a volume of the additional parameter.

We maybe only need to choose one of the above two alternatives.

Data model impact

The accompanying work in Glance introduced additional Glance image properties necessary for image signing. The initial implementation in Cinder will introduce a configuration flag indicating whether Cinder should perform image signature verification before booting an image.

REST API impact


Security impact

Cinder currently lacks a mechanism to validate images prior to creating volumes from them. The checksum included with an image protects against accidental modifications but provides little protection against an adversary with access to Glance or to the communication network between Cinder and Glance. This feature facilitates the creation of a logical trust boundary between Cinder and Glance; this trust boundary permits the end user to have high assurance that Cinder is creating a volume from an image signed by a trusted user.

Although Cinder will use certificates to perform this task, the certificates will be stored by a key manager and accessed via Castellan.

Notifications impact

This change will involve adding log messages to indicate the success or failure of signature verification and creation.

A later change will involve notifying the user about failure in case signature verification fails, this will use async error notification feature [3].

Other end user impact

If the verification of a signature fails, then Cinder will not create a volume from the image, and an error message will be logged and recorded. The user can get the error messages through the log file or CLI command, and know the reason for the error. In this case, the user will have to edit the image’s metadata through the Glance API, or the Horizon interface; or reinitiate an upload of the image to Glance with the correct signature metadata in order to create a volume from the image.

Performance Impact

This feature will only be used if the verify_glance_signatures configuration flag is set.

When signature verification occurs there will be latency as a result of retrieving certificates from the key manager through the Castellan interface. There will also be CPU overhead associated with hashing the image data and decrypting a signature using a public key.

Other deployer impact

We will recommend you deploy Barbican service [6] to store your certificate information as other projects suggest, although you can integrate any other secret manager service via Castellan [8].

Developer impact




Primary assignee:
ji-xuepeng TommyLike(
Other contributors:

Work Items

The feature will be implemented in the following stages:

  • Add functionality to Cinder which calls the cursive module when Cinder downloads a Glance image and the verify_glance_signatures configuration flag is set.
  • Generate notification messages at the time of failure for signature verification.




Unit tests and also, tempest tests will be added into barbican-tempest-plugin to cover the case of create volume from signed image.

Documentation Impact

Instructions for how to use this functionality will need to be documented.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

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