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Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2017 17:58:23 +0900 (JST)
From: Toshihiro Yamauchi <>
Subject: Re: [RFC] A method to prevent priviledge

Dear all

Thank you for your valuable comments. As you said, we found it is
difficult to prevent privilege escalation only with our
approach. Since we are thinking of another approach, let us discuss
once we have a new approach. We will post it once we had.

Best regards,
Toshihiro Yamauchi, Okayama University
Yuichi Nakamura, Hitachi,Ltd.

From: Solar Designer <>
Subject: Re: [kernel-hardening] [RFC] A method to prevent priviledge escalation
Date: Sun, 1 Oct 2017 00:00:11 +0200

> Hi,
> On Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 02:49:59AM +0000, ?$BCfB<M:0l / NAKAMURA?$B!$YUUICHI wrote:
>> As we said in Linux Security Summit 2017, 
>> we would like to post a patch to prevent privilege escalation attack.
>> The concept is here:
> We were not aware of your work, but FWIW we happen to have similar
> functionality, also in early development/testing stage, in LKRG by Adam
> Zabrocki (who is CC'ed on this reply, so he might chime in):
> LKRG is not publicly available yet, but it probably will be soon.
> Unlike your implementation, LKRG is a kernel module, not a patch.
> LKRG can be built for and loaded on top of a wide range of mainline and
> distros' kernels, without needing to patch those.  There are other
> implementation differences as well - indeed, hopefully we are not
> actually introducing vulnerabilities with our code, although the risk is
> always there, so it would need to be justified.  And this brings us to:
> Frankly, we're skeptical about the value that this approach provides.
> Much of the value could be in diversity - if most systems do not have
> this sort of runtime checks, then canned exploits and even some capable
> human attackers would not care or know to try and bypass the checks.
> However, if this functionality becomes standard, so will the bypasses.
> Now, are there cases (such as specific kernel vulnerabilities) where a
> bypass is not possible, not practical, not reliable, or would complicate
> the exploit so much it becomes less generic and/or less reliable?
> Perhaps yes, and this would mean there's some value in this approach
> even if it becomes standard.  Another option may be to have a lighter
> standard version and a heavier and more extensive limited distribution
> version (which could also be a way to receive funding for the project).
> Speaking of addressing a sensible threat model, I suggested to Adam that
> we add validation of credentials right after the kernel's original
> permissions check on the module loading syscalls.  (Or we might
> duplicate those permission checks first, since that's easier to do when
> we're also a kernel module rather than a patch.)  Then we'll achieve
> sensible overall functionality: can't use those unauthorized credentials
> for much time, and can't easily backdoor the running kernel through
> having exploited a typical kernel vulnerability (due to LKRG's integrity
> checking of the rest of the kernel and, with this extra check, not being
> able to perform an unauthorized kernel module load by official means,
> which LKRG's integrity checking wouldn't otherwise catch).
> The credentials checks would need to be extended to cover cap_*, etc. -
> there's already a (partial?) list of those other credential-like data
> items on the wiki page above.  And they will need to be performed in
> more places - I think in particular on open(), as otherwise even a very
> brief exposure of the unauthorized credentials would let the attacker
> retain an fd e.g. to a block device corresponding to the root filesystem
> and then install persistent backdoors in there without hurry (e.g.,
> pattern-match a critical system binary and introduce own code in there).
> Of course, the action on detected integrity violation (of the kernel
> itself or of its critical data) should not be limited to logging a
> warning, as we do for testing now.  What exact action is best might be a
> non-trivial question.  Panic the kernel?  Lock the kernel from any
> further syscalls, log what happened, sync the disks, and then panic?
> Attempt to undo the unauthorized change whenever possible - e.g.,
> restore the credentials from our shadow copy that couldn't be tampered
> with as easily?  But then an alternative would appear to be to protect
> the main credentials to the same extent, e.g. keeping them read-only
> most of the time or/and encrypted with a per-boot key (trickier to do
> when we're a kernel module, though).  This undoing the damage is
> probably bad as it'd allow the attack to repeat until all races are won,
> unless we combine it e.g. with blacklisting of attack sources such as by
> uid when a threshold is reached.  It's also bad in that it requires
> exploits to replace just one set of credentials - the more trusted
> (and better protected?) one - rather than both, as would be the case if
> we choose panic.  For some vulnerabilities, an exploit would probably
> only be able to perform one write in a while (e.g., per syscall), so
> needing to replace both sets of credentials improves the chances of
> detection.
> We welcome any other thoughts - be it criticism, feedback, or anything.
> Thanks,
> Alexander

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