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SafeSetID is an LSM module that gates the setid family of syscalls to restrict
UID/GID transitions from a given UID/GID to only those approved by a
system-wide allowlist. These restrictions also prohibit the given UIDs/GIDs
from obtaining auxiliary privileges associated with CAP_SET{U/G}ID, such as
allowing a user to set up user namespace UID/GID mappings.
In absence of file capabilities, processes spawned on a Linux system that need
to switch to a different user must be spawned with CAP_SETUID privileges.
CAP_SETUID is granted to programs running as root or those running as a non-root
user that have been explicitly given the CAP_SETUID runtime capability. It is
often preferable to use Linux runtime capabilities rather than file
capabilities, since using file capabilities to run a program with elevated
privileges opens up possible security holes since any user with access to the
file can exec() that program to gain the elevated privileges.
While it is possible to implement a tree of processes by giving full
CAP_SET{U/G}ID capabilities, this is often at odds with the goals of running a
tree of processes under non-root user(s) in the first place. Specifically,
since CAP_SETUID allows changing to any user on the system, including the root
user, it is an overpowered capability for what is needed in this scenario,
especially since programs often only call setuid() to drop privileges to a
lesser-privileged user -- not elevate privileges. Unfortunately, there is no
generally feasible way in Linux to restrict the potential UIDs that a user can
switch to through setuid() beyond allowing a switch to any user on the system.
This SafeSetID LSM seeks to provide a solution for restricting setid
capabilities in such a way.
The main use case for this LSM is to allow a non-root program to transition to
other untrusted uids without full blown CAP_SETUID capabilities. The non-root
program would still need CAP_SETUID to do any kind of transition, but the
additional restrictions imposed by this LSM would mean it is a "safer" version
of CAP_SETUID since the non-root program cannot take advantage of CAP_SETUID to
do any unapproved actions (e.g. setuid to uid 0 or create/enter new user
namespace). The higher level goal is to allow for uid-based sandboxing of system
services without having to give out CAP_SETUID all over the place just so that
non-root programs can drop to even-lesser-privileged uids. This is especially
relevant when one non-root daemon on the system should be allowed to spawn other
processes as different uids, but its undesirable to give the daemon a
basically-root-equivalent CAP_SETUID.
Other Approaches Considered
Solve this problem in userspace
For candidate applications that would like to have restricted setid capabilities
as implemented in this LSM, an alternative option would be to simply take away
setid capabilities from the application completely and refactor the process
spawning semantics in the application (e.g. by using a privileged helper program
to do process spawning and UID/GID transitions). Unfortunately, there are a
number of semantics around process spawning that would be affected by this, such
as fork() calls where the program doesn't immediately call exec() after the
fork(), parent processes specifying custom environment variables or command line
args for spawned child processes, or inheritance of file handles across a
fork()/exec(). Because of this, as solution that uses a privileged helper in
userspace would likely be less appealing to incorporate into existing projects
that rely on certain process-spawning semantics in Linux.
Use user namespaces
Another possible approach would be to run a given process tree in its own user
namespace and give programs in the tree setid capabilities. In this way,
programs in the tree could change to any desired UID/GID in the context of their
own user namespace, and only approved UIDs/GIDs could be mapped back to the
initial system user namespace, affectively preventing privilege escalation.
Unfortunately, it is not generally feasible to use user namespaces in isolation,
without pairing them with other namespace types, which is not always an option.
Linux checks for capabilities based off of the user namespace that "owns" some
entity. For example, Linux has the notion that network namespaces are owned by
the user namespace in which they were created. A consequence of this is that
capability checks for access to a given network namespace are done by checking
whether a task has the given capability in the context of the user namespace
that owns the network namespace -- not necessarily the user namespace under
which the given task runs. Therefore spawning a process in a new user namespace
effectively prevents it from accessing the network namespace owned by the
initial namespace. This is a deal-breaker for any application that expects to
retain the CAP_NET_ADMIN capability for the purpose of adjusting network
configurations. Using user namespaces in isolation causes problems regarding
other system interactions, including use of pid namespaces and device creation.
Use an existing LSM
None of the other in-tree LSMs have the capability to gate setid transitions, or
even employ the security_task_fix_setuid hook at all. SELinux says of that hook:
"Since setuid only affects the current process, and since the SELinux controls
are not based on the Linux identity attributes, SELinux does not need to control
this operation."
Directions for use
This LSM hooks the setid syscalls to make sure transitions are allowed if an
applicable restriction policy is in place. Policies are configured through
securityfs by writing to the safesetid/uid_allowlist_policy and
safesetid/gid_allowlist_policy files at the location where securityfs is
mounted. The format for adding a policy is '<UID>:<UID>' or '<GID>:<GID>',
using literal numbers, and ending with a newline character such as '123:456\n'.
Writing an empty string "" will flush the policy. Again, configuring a policy
for a UID/GID will prevent that UID/GID from obtaining auxiliary setid
privileges, such as allowing a user to set up user namespace UID/GID mappings.
Note on GID policies and setgroups()
In v5.9 we are adding support for limiting CAP_SETGID privileges as was done
previously for CAP_SETUID. However, for compatibility with common sandboxing
related code conventions in userspace, we currently allow arbitrary
setgroups() calls for processes with CAP_SETGID restrictions. Until we add
support in a future release for restricting setgroups() calls, these GID
policies add no meaningful security. setgroups() restrictions will be enforced
once we have the policy checking code in place, which will rely on GID policy
configuration code added in v5.9.