Pixel Binary Transparency responds to a new wave of attacks targeting the software supply chain—that is, attacks on software while in transit to users. These attacks are on the rise in recent years, likely in part because of the enormous impact they can have. In recent years, tens of thousands of software users from Fortune 500 companies to branches of the US government have been affected by supply chain attacks that targeted the systems that create software to install a backdoor into the code, allowing attackers to access and steal customer data.
One way Google protects against these types of attacks is by auditing Pixel phone firmware (also called “factory images”) before release, during which the software is thoroughly checked for backdoors. Upon boot, Android Verified Boot runs a check on your device to be sure that it’s still running the audited code that was officially released by Google. Pixel Binary Transparency now expands on that function, allowing you to personally confirm that the image running on your device is the official factory image—meaning that attackers haven’t inserted themselves somewhere in the source code, build process, or release aspects of the software supply chain. Additionally, this means that even if a signing key were compromised, binary transparency would flag the unofficially signed images, deterring attackers by making their compromises more detectable.
I’m sure thus greatly benefits the six people who have a Pixel phone.