#android #jvm #operating-system #component #depend #certificate #rustls-platform-verifier

rustls-platform-verifier-android

The internal JVM support component of the rustls-platform-verifier crate. You shouldn't depend on this directly.

1 unstable release

0.1.0 Jan 3, 2024

#231 in Operating systems

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91,269 downloads per month
Used in 5 crates (via rustls-platform-verifier)

MIT/Apache

13KB

Contains (Zip file, 9KB) rustls-platform-verifier-0.1.0.aar

rustls-platform-verifier-android

This crate is an implementation detail of the actual rustls-platform-verifier crate.

It contains no Rust code and is solely intended as a convenient delivery mechanism for the supporting Kotlin code that the main crate requires to perform TLS certificate validation using Android's APIs.

Other crates should not directly depend on this crate in any way, as nothing about it is considered stable and it is probably useless elsewhere.

Details

Note: Everything in this section is subject to change at any time. Semver may not be followed.

Why?

It was the best middle ground between several tradeoffs. The important ones, in priority order, are:

  • Automatically keeping component versions in sync
  • Allowing well-tested and well-known cargo dependency management patterns to apply everywhere
  • Providing a smooth developer experience as an Android consumer of rustls-platform-verifier

Firstly, what alternatives are available for distributing the component? The other two known are source distribution in some form (here, it will be through crates.io) and Maven Central. Starting with the first, its become infeasible due to toolchain syncing requirements. If the Android component is built as part of the host app's Gradle build, then it becomes subject to any Gradle or Android Gradle Plugin incompatibilities/requirements. In practice this means the AGP version between this project and the main application have to match all the time. Sometimes this works, but it becomes challenging/unfeasible during yearly toolchain/SDK upgrades and is not maintainable long term. Note that this is the only option in this section which retains compatibility with Cargo's Git dependency patching.

Next, Maven Central. This is considered the standard way of distributing public Android dependencies. There are two downsides to this approach: version synchronization and publishing overhead. Version syncing is the hardest part: There's not a good way to know what version a crate is that doesn't hurt the Cargo part of the build or damage functionality. So instead of making assumptions at runtime, we would need to do clunky and manual version counting with an extra error case. Less importantly, the admin overhead of Maven Central is non-zero so its good to avoid if possible for such a small need.

It is also worth calling out a third set of much worse options: requiring users to manually download and install the Android component on each update, which magnifies the version syncing problem with lots of user overhead and then deleting the component outright. A rewrite could be done with raw JNI calls, but this would easily be 3x the size of the existing implementation and require huge amounts of unsafe to review then audit.

The solution

The final design was built to avoid the pitfalls the previous two options mentioned. To build it, we rely on CI and packaging scripts to build the Android component into a prebuilt AAR file before creating a release. Next, a on-disk Maven repository is hosted inside of this repository. Only the unchanging file structure of it is kept checked-in, to avoid churn. The remaining parts are filled in during the packaging/release process, before being included in cargo package via an include Cargo.toml directive. Finally, once the repository has had its artifacts added the crate containing the Maven repository is published to crates.io. Then, the main crate ensures it's downloaded when an Android target is compiled via a platform-specific dependency.

On the Gradle side, we include a very small snippet of code for users to include in their settings.gradle file to dynamically locate the local maven repository on disk automatically based off Cargo's current version of it. The script is configuration cache friendly and doesn't impact performance either. When the script is run, it finds the cargo-cached download of the crate and tells Gradle it can find the Android component there when it gets sourced into the hosting application's build tree.

Assuming a properly configured Gradle project, the slow (~500ms) script should only run once per Gradle sync while the android-release-support crate remains untouched. This is due to the configuration cache previously mentioned and is what ensures performance on-par with a "normal" Maven repository. Upon any version updates (semver, Git refs, etc), the change will be detected as-intended by Gradle, break the cache, and the project will update the dependency reference to the new AAR file.

Precompiled artifacts?

For some, the notion of shipping something pre-compiled with an existing source distribution might seem incorrect, or insecure. However in this specific case, putting aside the fact shipping Kotlin code doesn't work (see above), there are many reasons this isn't the case:

  • Shipping pre-compiled artifacts is normal in the Java ecosystem. Maven Central and other package repositories do the same thing and serve .jar downloads.
  • Those not using Android will never download the pre-compiled AAR file.
  • The artifacts are incredibly easy to reproduce given an identical compilation toolchain.
  • The artifacts are not native executables, or raw .jar files, so they can't be accidentally executed on a host system.

Summary

In summary, the selected distribution method avoids most of the previous pitfalls while still balancing a good experience for cargo and Gradle users. Some of its positive properties include:

  • Full compatibility with Cargo's dependency management, including Git patching[^1]
  • No version checking or synchronization required
  • Painless and harmless to integrate into an Android app's build system
  • Low maintenance for the main crate maintainers'

[^1]: The Git reference being used must have the local maven repository built and checked-in first.

No runtime deps