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Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2017 17:23:33 -0800
From: Kees Cook <>
To: Linus Torvalds <>
Cc: Djalal Harouni <>, Andy Lutomirski <>, 
	Andrew Morton <>, "Luis R. Rodriguez" <>, 
	James Morris <>, Ben Hutchings <>, 
	Solar Designer <>, Serge Hallyn <>, Jessica Yu <>, 
	Rusty Russell <>, 
	Linux Kernel Mailing List <>, 
	LSM List <>, 
	"" <>, Jonathan Corbet <>, 
	Ingo Molnar <>, "David S. Miller" <>, 
	Network Development <>, Peter Zijlstra <>
Subject: Re: [PATCH v5 next 5/5] net: modules: use request_module_cap() to
 load 'netdev-%s' modules

On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 3:14 PM, Linus Torvalds
<> wrote:
> On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 2:59 PM, Kees Cook <> wrote:
>> I don't disagree that a global should be avoided, but I'm struggling
>> to see another option here. We can't break userspace by default so we
>> can't restrict cap-less loading by default. But we can allow userspace
>> to _choose_ to break itself, especially within a container. This isn't
>> uncommon, especially for modules, where we even have the global
>> "modules_disabled" sysctl already. The level of granularity of control
>> here is the issue, and it's what this series solves.
> So there's two "global" here
>  - if a container were to choose to break itself, it should damn well
> be container-specific, not some global option
>    This part seems to be ok in the patch series, since the "global" is
> really per-task. So it's not global in the "system-wide" sense.

Right, though in the case of init, it could flip that toggle for
itself and it would then effectively be system-wide.

>  - if _one_ request_module() caller were to say "I don't want to be
> loaded by a normal user", that doesn't mean that _other_
> request_module() cases shouldn't.
>    This is the part I'm objecting to, because it means that we can't
> enable this stricter policy by default.

Okay, I see what you mean here. You want to clearly distinguish
between unprivileged and privileged-only. I'm unconvinced that's going
to change much, as the bulk of the exposed request_module() users are
already expecting to be unprivileged (and that's why they were all
converted to requiring a named prefix).

> And the thing is, the patch series seems to already introduce largely
> the better model of just making it site-specific. Introducing that
> request_module_cap() thing and then using it for networking is a good
> step.
> But I also suspect that we _could_ just make the stricter rules
> actually be default, if we just fixed the thing up to not be "every
> request_module() is the same".

When doing some of the older module name prefix work, I did consider
introducing a new request_module() API that included the prefix name
as an explicit argument (instead of embedding it in the format
string). We could easily start there, and then have "plain"
request_module() require privs. But we'll still need a way to say
"admin doesn't want unpriv module auto-loading".

> For example, several request_module() calls come from device node
> opens, and it makes sense that we can just say: "if you have access to
> the device node, then you have the right to request the module".

Many of these callers are using network interfaces to do this work, so
there isn't as clean a permission model associated with those like
there might be with a filesystem open(). But that doesn't matter (see

> But that would need to be not a global "request_module()" behavior,
> but a behavior that is tied to the particular call-site.
> IOW, extend on that request_module_cap() model, and introduce
> (perhaps) a "request_module_dev()" call that basically means "the user
> opened the device node for the requested module".
> Because those kinds of permissions aren't necessarily about
> capabilities, but about things like "I'm in the dialout group, I get
> to open tty devices and by implication request their modules".

This really doesn't address the main concern that is the problem:
whitelisting vs blacklisting. In your example, the dialout group gives
access to specific ttys or serial ports, etc, but an admin may want a
way to make sure the users don't load some buggy line discipline. Now,
that admin could blacklist all those modules one at a time, but new
stuff might get introduced, it doesn't handle other subsystems, etc.

We need to provide a way to whitelist autoloaded modules. The
demonstrated need (to whitelist _no_ modules, addressed by this
series) provides that level of control on a task basis (effectively
making it container-specific).

> And that _really_ isn't global behavior.  The fact that I might be
> able to load a serial; module has *nothing* to do with whether I can
> load some other kind of module at all.
> That global mode is just wrong.

If the per-task thing stays and the global sysctl goes, that would be
fine by me. That still gives admins a way to control the autoload
behavior, assuming their init knows how to set the flag. The global
sysctl, in my mind, is really more of a way for an admin to do this
after the fact without rebooting, etc. But I don't have a strong
opinion about the global sysctl.


Kees Cook
Pixel Security

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