Making Root Unprivileged

Mitigate the damage of setuid root exploits on your system by removing root's privilege.

Now, log in as each of these users and play around.

There are still a few problems though. For instance, log in as useradmin and try to change someone's password:

useradmin@kvm# passwd netadmin
passwd: Only root can specify a user name.

That's no good! The passwd program has noticed that you are not root and won't let you change another user's password. We are finding more and more code, written to accommodate the subtleties of different operating systems, which would now need to be further complicated to support our unprivileged-root model.

You can work around this case for now in one of two easy ways. First, you simply can use the root user instead of useradmin. The root user still will not carry privileges unless it executes a (trusted) file with file capabilities. Second, you can continue to use the useradmin user name, but give it userid 0. Go ahead and try that. Edit /etc/passwd.conf, find the entry for useradmin, and change the first numeric column to 0. Then chown -R 0 /home/useradmin, so that he still can access his home directory. Now, you can log out and back in, and passwd will succeed. Actually, it ends with an error message, but you'll find that you did actually succeed in changing the password.

Locking Down init

Now that you have some partially privileged administrative users, let's put the whole system in unprivileged-root mode. You could do this by patching the kernel, but in this case, let's patch init to use prctl() the same way that capwrap did. A patch to upstart, the Fedora init program, can be found in the Resources. You can apply it using steps similar to the openssh steps:

# yumdownloader --source upstart
# rpm -i upstart*.rpm
# cd rpmbuild
# rpmbuild -bc SPECS/upstart.spec
# cd BUILD/upstart*
# patch -p1 < /usr/src/upstart.patch
# cp /sbin/init /sbin/init.orig
# make && make install

Also, in case something goes wrong, edit /boot/grub/grub.conf, comment out hiddenmenu, and set timeout to 10 instead of 0. Now if something goes wrong, you can interrupt the boot process and add init=/sbin/init.orig to the end of your boot line.

The patched init enables all capabilities in its inheritable set. It also keeps its permitted and effective sets filled, although you should be able to drop many from its permitted set, keeping its effective set empty for most of its run. You will need to add file capabilities to many of the programs used during system startup. Ideally, you would modify each of these programs so as to avoid setting the legacy bit, but again this is a lazy proof of concept. Listing 4 contains a list that is sufficient for boot to succeed on the F10 image.

You can apply these with the same script as before (Listing 3).

You'll also need to execute:

chmod go-x /usr/sbin/console-kit-daemon

You're giving it forced rather than inherited permissions in lieu of changing the (setuid-root) dbus-daemon-launch-helper code so as to fill its inheritable set. This means any user would receive full privilege when executing it, so you allow only root to execute it.


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