TLS 1.3 has been in development for quite some time by now, and a lot of TLS libraries already support it to some extent. At varying draft levels.
curl and libcurl has supported an explicit option to select TLS 1.3 since curl 7.52.0 (December 2016) and assuming you build curl to use a TLS library with support, you’ve been able to use TLS 1.3 with curl since at least then. The support has gradually been expanded to cover more and more libraries since then.
Today, curl and libcurl support speaking TLS 1.3 if you build it to use one of these fine TLS libraries of a recent enough version:
Secure Transport (on iOS 11 or later, and macOS 10.13 or later)
Do you remember this exact day, twenty years ago? March 20, 1998. What exactly happened that day? I’ll tell you what I did then.
First a quick reminder of the state of popular culture at the time: three days later, on the 23rd, the movie Titanic would tangent the record and win eleven academy awards. Its theme song “My heart will go on” was in the top of the music charts around this time.
I was 27 years old and I worked full-time as a software engineer, mostly with embedded systems. I had already been developing software as a profession for several years then. At this moment in time I was involved as a consultant in a (rather boring) project for Ericsson Telecom ETX, in Nacka Strand in the south eastern general Stockholm area.
At some point during that Friday (I don’t remember the details, but presumably it happened during the late evening), I packaged up the source code of the URL transfer tool we were working on and uploaded it to my personal web site to share it with the world. It was the first release ever of the project under the new name: curl. The tool was already supporting HTTP, FTP and GOPHER – including uploads for the two first protocols.
It would take more than a year after this day until we started hosting the curl project on its own dedicated web site. curl.haxx.nu went live in August 1999, and it was changed again to curl.haxx.se in June the following year, a URL and name we’ve kept since.
(this is the first curl logo we used, made in 1998 by Henrik Hellerstedt)
In my flat in Solna (just north of Stockholm, Sweden) I already then spent a lot of spare time, mostly late nights, in front of my computer. Back then, an Intel Pentium 120Mhz based desktop PC with a huge 19″ Nokia CRT monitor, on which I dialed up to my work’s modem pool to access the Internet and to log in to the Unix machines there on which I did a lot of the early curl development. On SunOS, Solaris and Linux.
In Stockholm, that Friday started out with sub-zero degrees Celsius but the temperature climbed up to a few positive degrees during the day and there was no snow on the ground. Pretty standard March weather in Stockholm. This is usually a period when the light is slowly coming back (winters are really dark here) but the temperatures remind us that spring still isn’t quite here.
curl 4.0 was just a little more than 2000 lines of C code. It featured 23 command line options. curl 4.0 introduced support for the FTP PORT command and now it could do ftp uploads that append to the remote file. The version number was bumped up from the 3.12 which was the last version number used by the tool under the old name, urlget.
It was far from an immediate success. An old note mentions how curl 4.8 (released the summer of 1998) was downloaded more than 300 times from the site. In August 1999, we counted 1300 weekly visits on the web site. It took time to get people to discover curl and make it into the tool users wanted. By September 1999 curl had already grown to 15K lines of code
In August 2000 we shipped the first version of libcurl: all the networking transfer powers of curl in a library, ready to be used by your applications. PHP was one of the absolutely first users of libcurl and that certainly helped to drive the early use.
A year later, in August 2001, when Apple started shipping curl by default in Mac OS X 10.1 curl was already widely available in Linux and BSD package collections.
By June 2002, we counted 13000 weekly visits on the site and we had grown to 35K lines of code. And it would not stop there…
Twenty years is both nothing at all and at the same time what feels like an eternity. Just three weeks before curl 4.0 shipped, Mozilla was founded. Google wasn’t founded until six months after. This was long before Facebook or Twitter had even been considered. Certainly a different era. Even the term open source was coined just a month prior to this curl release.
Growth factors over 20 years in the project:
Supported protocols: 7.67x
Command line options: 9x
Lines of code: 75x
Weekly web site visitors: 1,400x
End users using (something that runs) the code: 4,000,000x Stickers with the curl logo: infinity
Twenty years since the first ever curl release. Of course, it took time to make that first release too so the work is older. curl is the third name or incarnation of the project that I first got involved with already in late 1996…
That’s the thought that ran through my head when I read the email I had just received.
You know the feeling when the realization hits you that you did something really stupid? And you did it hours ago and people already noticed so its too late to pretend it didn’t happen or try to cover it up and whistle innocently. Nope, none of those options were available anymore. The truth was out there.
I had messed up royally.
What triggered this sudden journey of emotions and sharp sense of pain in my soul, was an email I received at 10:18, Friday March 9 2018. The encrypted email pointed out to me in clear terms that there was information available publicly on the curl web site about the security vulnerabilities that we intended to announce in association with the next curl release, on March 21. (The person who emailed me is a member of a group that was informed by me about these issues ahead of time.)
In the curl project, we never reveal nor show any information about known security flaws until we ship fixes for them and publish their corresponding security advisories that explain the flaws, the risks, the fixes and work-arounds in detail. This of course in the name of keeping users safe. We don’t want bad guys to learn about problems and flaws until we also offer fixes for them. That is, unless you screw up like me.
It took me a few minutes until I paused my work I was doing at the moment and actually read the email, but once I did I acted immediately and at 10:24 I had reverted the change on the web site and purged the URL from the CDN so the information was no longer publicly visible there.
The entire curl web site is however kept in a public git repository, so while the sensitive information was no longer immediately notable on the site, it was still out of the bag and there was just no taking it back. Not to mention that we don’t know how many people that already updated their git clones etc.
I pushed the particular file containing the “extra information” to the web site’s git repository at 01:26 CET the same early morning and since the web site updates itself in a cronjob every 20 minutes we know the information became available just after 01:40. At which time I had already gone to bed.
The sensitive information was displayed on the site for 8 hours and 44 minutes. The security page table showed these lines at the top:
RTSP RTP buffer over-read
February 20, 2018
CWE-126: Buffer Over-read
LDAP NULL pointer dereference
March 06, 2018
CWE-476: NULL Pointer Dereference
FTP path trickery leads to NIL byte out of bounds write
March 21, 2018
CWE-122: Heap-based Buffer Overflow
I only revealed the names of the flaws and their corresponding CWE (Common Weakness Enumeration) numbers, the full advisories were thankfully not exposed, the links to them were broken. (Oh, and the date column shows the dates we got the reports, not the date of the fixed release which is the intention.) We still fear that the names alone plus the CWE descriptions might be enough for intelligent attackers to figure out the rest.
As a direct result of me having revealed information about these three security vulnerabilities, we decided to change the release date of the pending release curl 7.59.0 to happen one week sooner than previously planned. To reduce the time bad actors would be able to abuse this information for malicious purposes.
How exactly did it happen?
When approaching a release day, I always create local git branches called next-release in both the source and the web site git repositories. In the web site’s next-release branch I add the security advisories we’re working on and I add/update meta-data about these vulnerabilities etc. I prepare things in that branch that should go public on the release moment.
We’ve added CWE numbers to our vulnerabilities for the first time (we are now required to provide them when we ask for CVEs). Figuring out these numbers for the new issues made me think that I should also go back and add relevant CWE numbers to our old vulnerabilities as well and I started to go back to old issues and one by one dig up which numbers to use.
After having worked on that for a while, for some of the issues it is really tricky to figure out which CWE to use, I realized the time was rather late.
– I better get to bed and get some sleep so that I can get some work done tomorrow as well.
Then I realized I had been editing the old advisory documents while still being in the checked out next-release branch. Oops, that was a mistake. I thus wanted to check out the master branch again to push the update from there. git then pointed out that the vuln.pm file couldn’t get moved over because of reasons. (I forget the exact message but it it happened because I had already committed changes to the file in the new branch that weren’t present in the master branch.)
So, as I wanted to get to bed and not fight my tools, I saved the current (edited) file in a different name, checked out the old file version from git again, changed branch and moved the renamed file back to vuln.pm again (without a single thought that this file now contained three lines too many that should only be present in the next-release branch), committed all the edited files and pushed them all to the remote git repository… boom.
You’d think I would…
know how to use git correctly
know how to push what to public repos
not try to do things like this at 01:26 in the morning
(*) = changes are things that don’t fix existing functionality but actually add something new to curl/libcurl. New features mostly.
The new things time probably won’t be considered as earth shattering but still a bunch of useful stuff:
The ability to specified a public key pinning has been around for a while for regular servers, and libcurl has had the ability to pin proxies’ keys as well. This change makes sure that users of the command line tool also gets that ability. Make sure your HTTPS proxy isn’t MITMed!
This popular libcurl option that allows applications to populate curl’s DNS cache with custom IP addresses for host names were improved and now you can add multiple addresses for host names. This allows transfers using this to even more work like as if it used normal name resolves.
As a true HTTP swiss-army knife tool and library, you can toggle and tweak almost all aspects, timers and options that are used. This libcurl option has a new corresponding curl command line option, and allows the user to set the timeout time for how long after the initial (IPv6) connect call is done until the second (IPv4) connect is invoked in the happy eyeballs connect procedure. The default is 200 milliseconds.
As usual we fixed things all over. Big and small. Some of the ones that I think stuck out a little were the fix for building with OpenSSL 0.9.7 (because you’d think that portion of users should be extinct by now) and the fix to make configure correctly detect OpenSSL 1.1.1 (there are beta releases out there).
Some application authors will appreciate that libcurl now for the most part detects if it gets called from within one of its own callbacks and returns an error about it. This is mostly to save these users from themselves as doing this would already previously risk damaging things. There are some functions that are still allowed to get called from within callbacks.