Joachim Breitner

Verifying the code of the Internet Identity service

Published 2021-06-02 in sections English, Digital world.

The following post was meant to be posted at, but that discourse instance didn’t like it; maybe too much inline code, so I’m posting it here instead. To my regular blog audience, please excuse the lack of context. Please comment at the forum post. The text was later also posted on the DFINITY medium blog

You probably have used to log into various applications (the NNS UI, OpenChat etc.) before, and if you do that, you are trusting this service to take good care of your credentials. Furthermore, you might want to check that the Internet Identity is really not tracking you. So you want to know: Is this really running the code we claim it to run? Of course the following applies to other canisters as well, but I’ll stick to the Internet Identity in this case.

I’ll walk you through the steps of verifying that:

Find out what is running

A service on the Internet Computer, i.e. a canister, is a WebAssembly module. The Internet Computer does intentionally not allow you to just download the Wasm code of any canisters, because maybe some developer wants to keep their code private. But it does expose a hash of the Wasm module. The easiest way to get it is using dfx:

$ dfx canister --no-wallet --network ic info rdmx6-jaaaa-aaaaa-aaadq-cai
Controller: r7inp-6aaaa-aaaaa-aaabq-cai
Module hash: 0xd4af9277f3e8d26fd8cdc7874a9f47b6456587fbb2a64d61b6b6880d144d3c04

The “controller” here is the canister id of the governance canister. This tells you that the Internet Identity is controlled by the Network Nervous System (NNS), and its code can only be changed via proposals that are voted on. This is good; if the controller was just, say, me, I could just change the code of the Internet Identity and take over all your identities.

The “Module hash” is the SHA-256 hash of the .wasm that was deployed. So let’s follow that trace.

Finding the right commit

Since upgrades to the Internet Identity are done via proposals to the NNS, we should find a description of such a proposal in the repository, in the proposals/network_canister_management directory.

Github’s list of recent NNS proposals

Github’s list of recent NNS proposals

We have to find the latest proposal upgrading the Internet Identity. The folder unfortunately contains proposals for many canisters, and the file naming isn’t super helpful. I usually go through the list from bottom and look at the second column, which contains the title of the latest commit creating or modifying a file.

In this case, the second to last is the one we care about: This file lists rationales, gives an overview of changes and, most importantly, says that bd51eab is the commit we are upgrading to.

The file also says that the wasm hash is d4a…c04, which matches what we saw above. This is good: it seems we really found the youngest proposal upgrading the Internet Identity, and that the proposal actually went through.

WARNING: If you are paranoid, don’t trust this file. There is nothing preventing a proposal proposer to create a file pointing to one revision, but actually including other code in the proposal. That’s why the next steps are needed.

Getting the source

Now that we have the revision, we can get the source and check out revision bd51eab:

/tmp $ git clone
Klone nach 'internet-identity' ...
remote: Enumerating objects: 3959, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (344/344), done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (248/248), done.
remote: Total 3959 (delta 161), reused 207 (delta 92), pack-reused 3615
Empfange Objekte: 100% (3959/3959), 6.05 MiB | 3.94 MiB/s, Fertig.
Löse Unterschiede auf: 100% (2290/2290), Fertig.
/tmp $ cd internet-identity/
/tmp/internet-identity $ git checkout bd51eab
/tmp/internet-identity $ git log --oneline -n 1
bd51eab (HEAD, tag: mainnet-20210527T2203Z) Registers the seed phrase before showing it (#301)

In the last line you see that the Internet Identity team has tagged that revision with a tag name that contains the proposal description file name. Very tidy!

Reproducing the build

The has the following build instructions:

Official build

The official build should ideally be reproducible, so that independent parties can validate that we really deploy what we claim to deploy.

We try to achieve some level of reproducibility using a Dockerized build environment. The following steps should build the official Wasm image

docker build -t internet-identity-service .
docker run --rm --entrypoint cat internet-identity-service /internet_identity.wasm > internet_identity.wasm
sha256sum internet_identity.wasm

The resulting internet_identity.wasm is ready for deployment as rdmx6-jaaaa-aaaaa-aaadq-cai, which is the reserved principal for this service.

It actually suffices to run the first command, as it also prints the hash (we don’t need to copy the .wasm out of the Docker canister):

/tmp/internet-identity $ docker build -t internet-identity-service .
Step 26/26 : RUN sha256sum internet_identity.wasm
 ---> Running in 1a04644b544c
d4af9277f3e8d26fd8cdc7874a9f47b6456587fbb2a64d61b6b6880d144d3c04  internet_identity.wasm
Removing intermediate container 1a04644b544c
 ---> bfe6a63a7980
Successfully built bfe6a63a7980
Successfully tagged internet-identity-service:latest

Success! The hashes match.

You don’t believe me? Try it yourself (and let us know if you get a different hash, maybe I got hacked). This may fail if you have too little RAM configured for Docker, 8GB should be enough.

At this point you have a trust path from the code sitting in front of you to the Internet Identity running at, including the front-end code, and you can start auditing the source code.

What about the canister id?

If you payed close attention you might have noticed that we got the module has for canister rdmx6-jaaaa-aaaaa-aaadq-cai, but we are accessing a web application at So where is this connection?

In the future, I expect some form of a DNS-like “nice host name registry” on the Internet Computer that stores a mapping from nice names to canister ids, and that you will be able to query that to for “which canister serves rdmx6-jaaaa-aaaaa-aaadq-cai” in a secure way (e.g. using certified variables). But since we don’t have that yet, but still want you to be able to use a nice name for the Internet Identity (and not have to change the name later, which would cause headaches), we have hard-coded this mapping for now.

The relevant code here is the “Certifying Service Worker” that your browser downloads when accessing any * URL. This piece of code will then intercept all requests to that domain, map it to an query call, and then use certified variables to validate the response. And indeed, the mapping is in the code there:

const hostnameCanisterIdMap: Record<string, [string, string]> = {
  '': ['rdmx6-jaaaa-aaaaa-aaadq-cai', ''],
  '': ['qoctq-giaaa-aaaaa-aaaea-cai', ''],
  '': ['h5aet-waaaa-aaaab-qaamq-cai', ''],

What about other canisters?

In principle, the same approach works for other canisters, whether it’s OpenChat, the NNS canisters etc. But the details will differ, as every canister developer might have their own way of

  • communicating the location and revision of the source for their canisters
  • building the canisters

In particular, without a reproducible way of building the canister, this will fail, and that’s why projects like are so important in general.


Have something to say? You can post a comment by sending an e-Mail to me at <>, and I will include it here.