codeblog code is freedom — patching my itch

5/2/2017

security things in Linux v4.11

Filed under: Chrome OS,Debian,Kernel,Security,Ubuntu,Ubuntu-Server — kees @ 2:17 pm

Previously: v4.10.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the interesting security things in this week’s v4.11 release of the Linux kernel:

refcount_t infrastructure

Building on the efforts of Elena Reshetova, Hans Liljestrand, and David Windsor to port PaX’s PAX_REFCOUNT protection, Peter Zijlstra implemented a new kernel API for reference counting with the addition of the refcount_t type. Until now, all reference counters were implemented in the kernel using the atomic_t type, but it has a wide and general-purpose API that offers no reasonable way to provide protection against reference counter overflow vulnerabilities. With a dedicated type, a specialized API can be designed so that reference counting can be sanity-checked and provide a way to block overflows. With 2016 alone seeing at least a couple public exploitable reference counting vulnerabilities (e.g. CVE-2016-0728, CVE-2016-4558), this is going to be a welcome addition to the kernel. The arduous task of converting all the atomic_t reference counters to refcount_t will continue for a while to come.

CONFIG_DEBUG_RODATA renamed to CONFIG_STRICT_KERNEL_RWX

Laura Abbott landed changes to rename the kernel memory protection feature. The protection hadn’t been “debug” for over a decade, and it covers all kernel memory sections, not just “rodata”. Getting it consolidated under the top-level arch Kconfig file also brings some sanity to what was a per-architecture config, and signals that this is a fundamental kernel protection needed to be enabled on all architectures.

read-only usermodehelper

A common way attackers use to escape confinement is by rewriting the user-mode helper sysctls (e.g. /proc/sys/kernel/modprobe) to run something of their choosing in the init namespace. To reduce attack surface within the kernel, Greg KH introduced CONFIG_STATIC_USERMODEHELPER, which switches all user-mode helper binaries to a single read-only path (which defaults to /sbin/usermode-helper). Userspace will need to support this with a new helper tool that can demultiplex the kernel request to a set of known binaries.

seccomp coredumps

Mike Frysinger noticed that it wasn’t possible to get coredumps out of processes killed by seccomp, which could make debugging frustrating, especially for automated crash dump analysis tools. In keeping with the existing documentation for SIGSYS, which says a coredump should be generated, he added support to dump core on seccomp SECCOMP_RET_KILL results.

structleak plugin

Ported from PaX, I landed the structleak plugin which enforces that any structure containing a __user annotation is fully initialized to 0 so that stack content exposures of these kinds of structures are entirely eliminated from the kernel. This was originally designed to stop a specific vulnerability, and will now continue to block similar exposures.

ASLR entropy sysctl on MIPS
Matt Redfearn implemented the ASLR entropy sysctl for MIPS, letting userspace choose to crank up the entropy used for memory layouts.

NX brk on powerpc

Denys Vlasenko fixed a long standing bug where the kernel made assumptions about ELF memory layouts and defaulted the the brk section on powerpc to be executable. Now it’s not, and that’ll keep process heap from being abused.

That’s it for now; please let me know if I missed anything. The v4.12 merge window is open!

© 2017, Kees Cook. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
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