Taking Advantage of Linux Capabilities
A common topic of discussion nowadays is security, and for good reason. Security is becoming more important as the world becomes further networked. Like all good systems, Linux is evolving in order to address increasingly important security concerns.
One aspect of security is user privileges. UNIX-style user privileges come in two varieties, user and root. Regular users are absolutely powerless; they cannot modify any processes or files but their own. Access to hardware and most network specifications also are denied. Root, on the other hand, can do anything from modifying all processes and files to having unrestricted network and hardware access. In some cases root can even physically damage hardware.
Sometimes a middle ground is desired. A utility needs special privileges to perform its function, but unquestionable god-like root access is overkill. The ping utility is setuid root simply so it can send and receive ICMP messages. The danger lies in the fact that ping can be exploited before it has dropped its root privileges, giving the attacker root access to your server.
Fortunately, such a middle ground now exists, and it's called POSIX capabilities. Capabilities divide system access into logical groups that may be individually granted to, or removed from, different processes. Capabilities allow system administrators to fine-tune what a process is allowed to do, which may help them significantly reduce security risks to their system. The best part is that your system already supports it. If you're lucky, no patching should be necessary.
A list of all the capabilities that your system is, well, capable of, is available in /usr/include/linux/capability.h, starting with CAP_CHOWN. They're pretty self-explanatory and well commented. Capability checks are sprinkled throughout the kernel source, and grepping for them can make for some fun midnight reading.
Each capability is nothing more than a bit in a bitmap. With 32 bits in a capability set, and 28 sets currently defined, there are currently discussions as to how to expand this number. Some purists believe that additional capabilities would be too confusing, while others argue that there should be many more, even a capability for each system call. Time and Linus will ultimately decide how this exciting feature develops.
As of kernel 2.4.17, the file /proc/sys/kernel/cap-bound contains a single 32-bit integer that defines the current global capability set. The global capability set determines what every process on the system is allowed to do. If a capability is stripped from the system, it is impossible for any process, even root processes, to regain them.
For example, many crackers' rootkits (a set of tools that cover up their activities and install backdoors into the system) will load kernel modules that hide illicit processes and files from the system administrator. To counter this, the administrator could simply remove the CAP_SYS_MODULE capability from the system as the last step in the system startup process. This step would prevent any kernel modules from being loaded or unloaded. Once a capability has been removed, it cannot be re-added. The system must be restarted (which means you might have to use the power button if you've removed the CAP_SYS_BOOT capability) to regain the full-capability set.
Okay, I lied. There are two ways to add back a capability:
init can re-add capabilities, in theory; there's no actual implementation to my knowledge. This is to facilitate capability-aware systems in the event that init needs to change runlevels.
If a process is capable of CAP_SYS_RAWIO, it can modify kernel memory through /dev/mem. Among other things, it can modify kernel memory to grant itself whatever access it desires. Remove CAP_SYS_RAWIO, but be careful: by removing CAP_SYS_RAWIO, programs such as X most likely will fail to run.
Editing cap-bound by hand is kind of tedious. Fortunately for you, there's a utility called lcap that provides a friendlier interface to cap-bound. Here's how one would remove CAP_SYS_CHOWN:
lcap CAP_SYS_CHOWNOnce done, it becomes impossible to change a file's owner:
chown nobody test.txt chown: changing ownership of `test.txt': Operation not permittedHere's how you would remove all capabilities except CAP_SYS_BOOT, CAP_SYS_KILL and CAP_SYS_NICE:
lcap -z CAP_SYS_BOOT CAP_SYS_KILL CAP_SYS_NICEOne thing to note: modifying cap-bound restricts the capabilities of future processes only. Okay, not exactly future processes but any process that calls exec(2) (see the function compute_creds in the kernel source file fs/exec.c). Currently running processes keep the capabilities with which they started.
Modifying the capabilities of an existing process leads us into the next section, and here's the catch I spoke about above. Running lcap with no arguments lists what your system is capable of. If you see that CAP_SETPCAP is disabled, you need to make a change to your kernel. It's simple enough to describe here. In the kernel source tree, edit include/linux/capability.h. You're changing the lines:
#define CAP_INIT_EFF_SET to_cap_t(~0 & ~CAP_TO_MASK(CAP_SETPCAP)) #define CAP_INIT_INH_SET to_cap_t(0)
so that they read:
#define CAP_INIT_EFF_SET to_cap_t(~0) #define CAP_INIT_INH_SET to_cap_t(~0)and then recompile.
There's actually a reason that CAP_SETPCAP is disabled by default: it's deemed a security risk to leave it enabled on a production system (a patch exists for this condition but has yet to be applied as of this writing). To be on the safe side, make sure to remove this capability when you're done playing.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide