On 2016-10-17 09:02, Mattias Nissler wrote:
OK, no more feedback thus far. Is there generally any interest in a
mount option to avoid path name aliasing resulting in target file
confusion? Perhaps a version that only disables symlinks instead of
also hard-disabling files hard-linked to multiple locations (those are
much lower risk for the situation I care about)?

If there is interest, I'm happy to iterate the patch until it's
accepted. If there's no interest, that's fine too - I'll then likely
resort to moving the restrictions desired for Chrome OS into an LSM we
compile into our kernels.
I can see the symlink related part potentially being useful in other cases, although if you do get rid of the hardlink portion, I'd suggest renaming the mount option to 'nosymlinks'.

One use that comes to mind is securing multi-protocol file servers (for example, something serving both NFS and SMB) where at least one protocol doesn't directly handle symlinks (or there is inconsistency among the protocols in how they're handled).

On Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 6:22 PM, Mattias Nissler <mniss...@chromium.org> wrote:
Forgot to mention: I realize my motivation is very specific to Chrome
OS, however the nolinks option seemed useful also as a mitigation to
generic privilege escalation symlink attacks, for cases where
disabling symlinks/hardlinks is acceptable.

On Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 5:50 PM, Mattias Nissler <mniss...@chromium.org> wrote:
On Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 5:00 PM, Al Viro <v...@zeniv.linux.org.uk> wrote:

On Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 03:55:15PM +0100, Al Viro wrote:
Setting the "nolinks" mount option helps prevent privileged writers
from modifying files unintentionally in case there is an unexpected
link along the accessed path. The "nolinks" option is thus useful as a
defensive measure against persistent exploits (i.e. a system getting
re-exploited after a reboot) for systems that employ a read-only or
dm-verity-protected rootfs. These systems prevent non-legit binaries
from running after reboot. However, legit code typically still reads
from and writes to a writable file system previously under full
control of the attacker, who can place symlinks to trick file writes
after reboot to target a file of their choice. "nolinks" fundamentally
prevents this.

Which parts of the tree would be on that "protected" rootfs and which would
you mount with that option?  Description above is rather vague and I'm
not convinced that it actually buys you anything.  Details, please...

Apologies for the vague description, I'm happy to explain in detail.

In case of Chrome OS, we have all binaries on a dm-verity rootfs, so
an attacker can't modify any binaries. After reboot, everything except
the rootfs is mounted noexec, so there's no way to re-gain code
execution after reboot by modifying existing binaries or dropping new

We've seen multiple exploits now where the attacker worked around
these limitations in two steps:

1. Before reboot, the attacker sets up symlinks on the writeable file
system (called "stateful" file system), which are later accessed by
legit boot code (such as init scripts) after reboot. For example, an
init script that copies file A to B can be abused by an attacker by
symlinking or hardlinking B to a location C of their choice, and
placing desired data to be written to C in A. That gives the attacker
a primitive to write data of their choice to a path of their choice
after reboot. Note that this primitive may target locations _outside_
the stateful file system the attacker previously had control of.
Particularly of interest are targets on /sys, but also tmpfs on /run

2. The second step for a successful attack is finding some legit code
invoked in the boot flow that has a vulnerability exploitable by
feeding it unexpected data. As an example, there are Linux userspace
utilities that read config from /run which may contain shell commands
the the utility executes, through which the attacker can gain code
execution again.

The purpose of the proposed patch is to raise the bar for the first
step of the attack: Writing arbitrary files after reboot. I'm
intending to mount the stateful file system with the nolinks option
(or otherwise prevent symlink traversal). This will help make sure
that any legit writes taking place during boot in init scripts etc. go
to the files intended by the developer, and can't be redirected by an

Does this make more sense to you?

PS: what the hell do restrictions on _following_ symlinks have to _creating_
hardlinks?  I'm trying to imagine a threat model where both would apply or
anything else beyond the word "link" they would have in common...

The restriction is not on _creating_ hard links, but _opening_
hardlinks. The commonality is in the confusion between the file you're
meaning to write vs. the file you actually end up writing to, which
stems from the fact that as things stand a file can be accessible on
other paths than its canonical one. For Chrome OS, I'd like to get to
a point where most privileged code can only access a file via its
canonical name (bind mounts are an OK exception as they're not
persistent, so out of reach for manipulation).

The one you've described above might have something to do with the first
one (modulo missing description of the setup you have in mind), but it
clearly has nothing to do with the second - attackers could've created
whatever they wanted while the fs had been under their control, after all.
Doesn't make sense...

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