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SubjectRe: patch to make Linux capabilities into something useful (v 0.3.1)
On Thu, Sep 07, 2006 at 06:02:45PM -0500, Serge E. Hallyn wrote:
> Ok, so to be clear, in terms of inheritability of capabilities, your
> three main changes are:

Yes, this is a fair description:

> 1. When creating a bprm, it's inheritable and effective
> capability sets are set full on, whereas they used to be
> cleared. The permitted set is treated as before (always
> cleared)

- This is to make capabilities inheritable but don't add any others
except when executing suid root.

> 2. When computing a process' new capabilities, the new
> inheritable come from the new permitted, rather than the old
> inheritable.

- The reason for that is the necessity to preserve Unix semantics (see

> 3. You change half the computation of p'E to replace fE by
> pE in one half.

- Again, to preserve Unix semantics (if a process with {r,s}uid=0 and
euid!=0 does an exec(), the resulting process also has euid!=0, that
is, no effective capabilities).

> Here is one apparent change in behavior:
> If I currently do
> cp /bin/sh /bin/shsetuid
> chmod u+s /bin/shsetuid
> then log in as uid 1000 and run
> /bin/shsetuid
> # whoami
> hallyn
> # ls /root
> ls: /root: Permission denied

What does "currently" mean"? On an unpatched Linux, I believe (and
observe) the following:

* if your /bin/sh is bash, it purposely drops privileges (by doing
something like setresuid(getuid(),getuid(),getuid()), I haven't
checked the source), and this is the reason you get "Permission

* if your /bin/sh is something else, it keeps euid==0 and you have
root privileges all the way, including in children processes - this is
traditional Unix behavior.

My patch doesn't change any of this (I've checked), since it uses
inheritance rules for capabilities which are closely modeled upon
those of {r,s,e}uid (in fact, that's my very reason for "changing"
things), and since the bash method of dropping privileges is also kept

(I don't know *why* bash tries to drop privileges. It's probably an
attempt at avoiding certain security problems, but I think it's a
rather bad one.)

> With your patch I believe it will succeed, since the sh process'
> inheritable set will be set to it's permitted set.

My patch doesn't change this behavior. Evidently, if it did, it would
be very bad...

> Put another way:

I'm not sure why what follows is a restatement of what precedes, so
I'll answer differently.

> cap_set_proc("=i");
> execve("/bin/shsetuid");
> I obviously wanted my inheritable set to be cleared, but running the
> setuid binary will end up resetting my inheritable set to a larger
> set. Your goal of allowing the inheritable caps to be truly
> inheritable may make sense, but this part of it feels wrong, and
> changes current setuid behavior.

In the current (unpatched) Linux kernel, the inheritable set is
completely ignored anyway. :-( So certainly any attempt to make
something of it must change the behavior.

I agree that the above code snippet exhibits a difference of my patch
w.r.t. the capabilities(7)-documented behavior (or at least, might,
according to the way suid programs are interpreted), but this
difference is

(a) necessary in order not to break traditional Unix semantics
(children of a program with euid==0 also have euid==0, and the father
process can't avoid that), and

(b) necessary for security reasons (it is imperative that the parent
of a suid root process cannot prevent that process from keeping
privileges, otherwise we get the sendmail bug again).

To summarize my answer: as far as I know, my patch does not change
suid behavior: I've taken great care not to let that happen. It does
change the documented inheritance behavior of capabilities, but that
is unavoidable.

PS: I should be releasing a new version of my patch, along with a
merged version of yours, very shortly.

David A. Madore
(, )
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