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6.5. Checking Package Authenticity

Security is very important for Falcot Corp administrators. Accordingly, they need to ensure that they only install packages which are guaranteed to come from Debian with no tampering on the way. A computer cracker could try to add malicious code to an otherwise legitimate package. Such a package, if installed, could do anything the cracker designed it to do, including for instance disclosing passwords or confidential information. To circumvent this risk, Debian provides a tamper-proof seal to guarantee — at install time — that a package really comes from its official maintainer and hasn't been modified by a third party.
The seal works with a chain of cryptographical hashes and a signature. The signed file is the Release file, provided by the Debian mirrors. It contains a list of the Packages files (including their compressed forms, Packages.gz and Packages.xz, and the incremental versions), along with their MD5, SHA1 and SHA256 hashes, which ensures that the files haven't been tampered with. These Packages files contain a list of the Debian packages available on the mirror, along with their hashes, which ensures in turn that the contents of the packages themselves haven't been altered either.
APT needs a set of trusted GnuPG public keys to verify signatures in the Release.gpg files available on the mirrors. It gets them from files in /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/ and from the /etc/apt/trusted.gpg keyring (managed by the apt-key command). The official Debian keys are provided and kept up-to-date by the debian-archive-keyring package which puts them in /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/. Note however that the first installation of this particular package requires caution: even if the package is signed like any other, the signature cannot be verified externally. Cautious administrators should therefore check the fingerprints of imported keys before trusting them to install new packages:
# apt-key fingerprint
pub   rsa4096 2014-11-21 [SC] [expires: 2022-11-19]
      126C 0D24 BD8A 2942 CC7D  F8AC 7638 D044 2B90 D010
uid           [ unknown] Debian Archive Automatic Signing Key (8/jessie) <>

pub   rsa4096 2014-11-21 [SC] [expires: 2022-11-19]
      D211 6914 1CEC D440 F2EB  8DDA 9D6D 8F6B C857 C906
uid           [ unknown] Debian Security Archive Automatic Signing Key (8/jessie) <>

pub   rsa4096 2013-08-17 [SC] [expires: 2021-08-15]
      75DD C3C4 A499 F1A1 8CB5  F3C8 CBF8 D6FD 518E 17E1
uid           [ unknown] Jessie Stable Release Key <>

pub   rsa4096 2017-05-22 [SC] [expires: 2025-05-20]
      E1CF 20DD FFE4 B89E 8026  58F1 E0B1 1894 F66A EC98
uid           [ unknown] Debian Archive Automatic Signing Key (9/stretch) <>
sub   rsa4096 2017-05-22 [S] [expires: 2025-05-20]

pub   rsa4096 2017-05-22 [SC] [expires: 2025-05-20]
      6ED6 F5CB 5FA6 FB2F 460A  E88E EDA0 D238 8AE2 2BA9
uid           [ unknown] Debian Security Archive Automatic Signing Key (9/stretch) <>
sub   rsa4096 2017-05-22 [S] [expires: 2025-05-20]

pub   rsa4096 2017-05-20 [SC] [expires: 2025-05-18]
      067E 3C45 6BAE 240A CEE8  8F6F EF0F 382A 1A7B 6500
uid           [ unknown] Debian Stable Release Key (9/stretch) <>

pub   rsa4096 2012-04-27 [SC] [expires: 2020-04-25]
      A1BD 8E9D 78F7 FE5C 3E65  D8AF 8B48 AD62 4692 5553
uid           [ unknown] Debian Archive Automatic Signing Key (7.0/wheezy) <>

pub   rsa4096 2012-05-08 [SC] [expires: 2019-05-07]
      ED6D 6527 1AAC F0FF 15D1  2303 6FB2 A1C2 65FF B764
uid           [ unknown] Wheezy Stable Release Key <>
Once the appropriate keys are in the keyring, APT will check the signatures before any risky operation, so that front-ends will display a warning if asked to install a package whose authenticity can't be ascertained.