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Linux 2.6 Kernel Capability LSM Module Local Privilege Elevation
From: flashsky fangxing <flashsky () xfocus org>
Date: 23 Dec 2004 14:57:01 -0000

         Venustech AD-Lab       
        [Security Advisory]

Advisory: [AD_LAB-04003]Linux 2.6.* Kernel Capability LSM Module Local Privilege Elevation
Authors: liangbin () venustech com cn
Release: 09/12/04
Class: Design Error
Remote: No, local
Vulnerable: Linux kernel 2.6.*
     Linux kernel 2.5.72-lsm1
Unvulnerable: Linux kernel 2.4 
Vendor: http://www.kernel.org/
When POSIX Capability LSM module isn't compiled into kernel, after inserting 
Capability module into kernel, all existed normal users processes will have 
total Capability privileges of superuser (root). 
POSIX.1e Capability is a very important component of Linux kernel. In 
original Linux Kernel, system security relies on it and DAC mainly. In new 
kernel version, Linux Security Modules (LSM) framework is introduced to 
provide a lightweight, general-purpose framework for access control. Some 
Linux security projects are ported to LSM and accepted by kernel source, 
such as POSIX.1e Capability and SE-Linux. Users can compile Capability as a 
Linux Loadable Kernel Module, and insert it into kernel at any time he wants 
to. Under this situation, after inserting Capability module, due to error 
creds of existing processes, normal user processes will possess total privileges of 
root and can perform any operations (like a root process).
When the privileged operations are controlled by Capability LSM module, it 
mediates privileged operations base on the creds of processes. The creds 
consists of three fields of task_struct, namely, cap_permitted, 
cap_inheritable and cap_effective. Before user processes carry out privileged 
operations (such as sethostname, override DAC, raw IO etc.), system will check 
cap_effective field.
(in cap_capable hooks funcation of security/commoncap.c (2.6.*) or security/capability.c (2.5.72-lsm1)): 

        if (cap_raised (tsk->cap_effective, cap))) 
                return 0; 
                return -EPERM; 
In general, only root processes can possess Capability privileges.
When Capability don't run in kernel and no other LSM security modules are 
loaded, kernel uses default security function ops (security/dummy.c) to 
mediate privilege operation. The check logic of dummy ops is very simple: if 
a process wants to perform a privileged operation, the euid property of it 
must be zero (root), or fsuid property must be zero when this privileged 
operation involved with file system. However, dummy ops do nothing about 
creds of processes, the creds of any process is a clone of its parent 
process. As results, the creds of all process, even normal user process, are 
as same as that of Init process. Init process is a privileged process, it is 
assigned total Capability privileges in the creds of it when system 
Unfortunately, after Capability LSM module is loaded, it don't recomputed 
the creds of processes those are existing before inserting Capability module! 
Before inserting, only root processes can perform privileged operations 
controlled by dummy ops based *uids correctly. After inserting, the control 
of privileged operations is switch from dummy ops to Capability module based 
on creds. As a result, all existing processes have privileges as same as 
init, even they are normal user processes. A normal user (maybe a malicious 
user) can perform any operations through these processes! 
Before loading Capability module, run a vim editor as a normal user. In vim, 
enter command ":r /etc/shadow" vim response "can't open file 
/etc/shadow" the request to access a root file is denied. 
Don't end vim, switch to another console and login as root, insert 
Capability module into kernel. 
#modprobe capability 
After inserting, back to vim and try to open file /etc/shadow again, you 
will find you can read, edit and save(w!) this file as a normal user! The 
reason for this wrong access control is error creds of vim so as to it has 
Capability privilege CAP_DAC_OVERRIDE and CAP_DAC_READ_SEARCH. 
Let's view the creds with a shell command. 
$cat /proc/2454/status (2454 is the pid of vim)
Name: vim 
State: S (sleeping) 
SleepAVG: 91% 
Tgid: 2454 
Pid: 2454 
PPid: 1552 
TracerPid: 0 
Uid: 500 500 500 500 
Gid: 500 500 500 500 
FDSize: 256 
Groups: 500 
VmSize: 9356 kB 
VmLck: 0 kB 
VmRSS: 2728 kB 
VmData: 856 kB 
VmStk: 16 kB 
VmExe: 1676 kB 
VmLib: 3256 kB 
Threads: 1 
SigPnd: 0000000000000000 
ShdPnd: 0000000000000000 
SigBlk: 0000000000000000 
SigIgn: 8000000000003000 
SigCgt: 00000000ef824eff 
CapInh: 0000000000000000 
CapPrm: 00000000ffffffff 
CapEff: 00000000fffffeff 
The last three lines are the creds of vim, it has all Capability privileges 
besides CAP_SETPCAP. 
Above test is perform in 2.6.* and 2.5.72-lsm1. 
In order to fix this bug, we may have two methods. One is moving the 
computation of creds from Capability module to kernel. The other is adding 
some code in Capability module to re-compute creds of existed process. I 
choose the second method, add following code in security/capability.c: 

static void recompute_capability_creds(struct task_struct *task) 
        if(task->pid <= 1) 

        task->keep_capabilities = 0; 
        if ((task->uid && task->euid && task->suid) && !task->keep_capabilities) 
                cap_clear (task->cap_permitted); 
                task->cap_permitted = CAP_INIT_EFF_SET; 
        if (task->euid != 0){ 
                cap_clear (task->cap_effective); 
                task->cap_effective = CAP_INIT_EFF_SET; 
                task->cap_effective &= ~CAP_FS_MASK; 
                task->cap_effective |= CAP_FS_MASK; 

and add following code in Capability init function capability_init before it 
 struct task_struct *task; 
        return 0; 

After modifing capability.c, we need "make" and "make modules_install" 
again. Unload Capability module (rmmod capability; rmmod commoncap) and 
retry the above example, all the accesses to a root file by normal user 
existed process are always denied before and after inserting Capability 

Test and view the creds again. 

$cat /proc/(pid of vim)/status
Name: vim 
State: S (sleeping) 
SleepAVG: 91% 
Tgid: 2864 
Pid: 2864 
PPid: 1552 
TracerPid: 0 
Uid: 500 500 500 500 
Gid: 500 500 500 500 
FDSize: 256 
Groups: 500 
VmSize: 9360 kB 
VmLck: 0 kB 
VmRSS: 2816 kB 
VmData: 860 kB 
VmStk: 16 kB 
VmExe: 1676 kB 
VmLib: 3256 kB 
Threads: 1 
SigPnd: 0000000000000000 
ShdPnd: 0000000000000000 
SigBlk: 0000000000000000 
SigIgn: 8000000000003000 
SigCgt: 00000000ef824eff 
CapInh: 0000000000000000 
CapPrm: 0000000000000000 
CapEff: 0000000000000000 
LiangBin(liangbin () venustech com cn) discovery this vuln:)
Vulnerability analysis and advisory by LiangBin and icbm.
Special thanks to "Fengshou" project members and all Venustech AD-Lab guys:P
The information in this bulletin is provided "AS IS" without warranty of any
kind. In no event shall we be liable for any damages whatsoever including direct,
indirect, incidental, consequential, loss of business profits or special damages. 
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