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Date: Sat, 5 Mar 2011 19:16:43 +0300
From: Vasiliy Kulikov <>
Subject: kernel: modules_disabled policy


I'd like to bring this subject to the list to receive some comments.
The thing is that there is a sysctl parameter in Linux kernel to control
whether it is possible to load/unload LKMs, kernel.modules_disabled.  It
was originally created because since the removal of system global capability
set there was no way to globally drop CAP_SYS_MODULE.  It was committed
as 3d43321b by Kees Cook in Apr 2009:

"Implement a sysctl file that disables module-loading system-wide since
there is no longer a viable way to remove CAP_SYS_MODULE after the system
bounding capability set was removed in 2.6.25."

It is one way ticket, there is no defined interface to enable LKM
loading after disabling it.  The sticking point is that it gives an idea
that using it prevents loading rootkits to the kernel:

"This was another layer of protection to stop kernel rootkits from being

But does it really stop rootkits or is it gives a false sence of security?
There are other ways to write to arbitrary kernel memory location being
full root, e.g. via hibernation:

LKML folks responds that modules_disabled does nothing with protecting
the kernel from root.

So, I'd be happy to hear an answer to the question:

Is it possible to implement strict do-not-touch-the-kernel policy for
root via disabling LKM loading and _all_ other indirect places with write
access that allows root to do something, but being too relaxed and
allows to write to [almost] arbitrary kernel location?  This would make
root the Boss Of Userland, but as to the kernel it would be but just a
privileged client.  Or such policy would be incomplete and there is
almost always a way to by-pass it due to the system design?


Vasiliy Kulikov - bringing security into open computing environments

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