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Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2017 22:47:37 +0100
From: Solar Designer <>
To: Salvatore Mesoraca <>
Cc: Ian Campbell <>,
	David Laight <>,
	Alan Cox <>,
	"" <>,
	Kernel Hardening <>,
	"" <>,
	Alexander Viro <>,
	Jann Horn <>, Kees Cook <>,
	"Eric W. Biederman" <>,
	"H. Peter Anvin" <>, Karel Zak <>
Subject: Re: [PATCH v3 2/2] Protected O_CREAT open in sticky directories

On Tue, Dec 05, 2017 at 11:21:00AM +0100, Salvatore Mesoraca wrote:
> 2017-11-30 17:30 GMT+01:00 Solar Designer <>:
> > $ strace flock /tmp/lockfile -c cat
> > [...]
> > open("/tmp/lockfile", O_RDONLY|O_CREAT|O_NOCTTY, 0666) = 3
> > flock(3, LOCK_EX)                       = 0
> >
> > This use of flock(1) would be a worse vulnerability, not limited to DoS
> > against the script itself but also allowing for privilege escalation
> > unless (sym)link restrictions are enabled in the kernel.  Adding O_EXCL
> > would help (reduce the impact back to DoS against itself), and would
> > require that the retry logic (like what is seen in the lock directory
> > example above) be present.

> > > That behavior can be certainly avoided, but of course it isn't a
> > > security problem per se.
> >
> > I think it is a security problem per se, except in the "subtle case"
> > above, and it's great that our proposed policy would catch it.
> I agree on the DoS, though, at first, I didn't consider it a "bug" because
> there isn't any open mode that can prevent the DoS in this case.
> If you want to avoid it, you must avoid other-users-writable directories
> at all. So, It think that, if you are using a sticky directory, it's
> intended behavior to let someone else "lock" you.

Right.  There's a worse DoS I had overlooked, though: flock(1) can also
be made to create and/or lock another file (maybe in another directory).
Perhaps adding O_NOFOLLOW (alongside flock(1)'s existing use of
O_NOCTTY) would be a good idea, even though uses in a directory writable
by someone else are inherently risky anyway.

> But maybe many flock(1) users are not aware of the issue and so, sometimes,
> it can be unintended.
> I didn't consider privilege escalation as an issue because I always
> looked at flock(1) under the assumption that the lockfile is never actually
> read or modified in any way and so it shouldn't make too much difference if
> it's an already existing regular file or a symlink etc.
> Am I missing something?

You made a good point, but yes: O_CREAT will follow a dangling symlink
and there are cases where creating an empty file of an attacker-chosen
pathname may allow for privilege escalation.  For example, crontab(1)
man page on RHEL7 says regarding /etc/cron.allow and /etc/cron.deny:

"If neither of these files exists, only the super user is allowed to
use cron."

In that configuration, simply creating empty /etc/cron.deny grants
access to crontab(1) to all users.  As user:

$ crontab -l
You (solar) are not allowed to use this program (crontab)
See crontab(1) for more information
$ ln -s /etc/cron.deny /tmp/lockfile

As root:

# sysctl -w fs.protected_symlinks=0
fs.protected_symlinks = 0
# flock /tmp/lockfile -c echo

As user:

$ crontab -l
no crontab for solar

There may also be side-effects on open of device files (the best known
example is rewinding a tape), and we won't avoid those by retrying
without O_CREAT|O_EXCL.  O_NOFOLLOW will help against symlinks to device
files, but not against hard links (if on same device).  The kernel's
symlink and hardlink protections help, but in this sub-thread we were
discussing detecting userspace software issues without waiting for an
attack.  Things like this fit David Laight's point well: programs trying
to make risky (mis)uses less risky sometimes also avoid being detected
by our proposed policy.  That's life.


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