bind mounting namespace inodes for unprivileged users

James Bottomley James.Bottomley at
Wed May 4 11:15:58 UTC 2016

On Tue, 2016-05-03 at 21:22 +0000, Serge Hallyn wrote:
> Quoting James Bottomley (James.Bottomley at
> > Right at the moment, unprivileged users cannot call mount --bind to
> > create a permanent copy of any of their namespaces.  This is 
> > annoying because it means that for entry to long running containers 
> > you have to spawn an undying process and use nsenter via the 
> > /proc/<pid>/ns files.
> > 
> > The first question is:  assuming we restrict it to bind mounting 
> > only nsfs inodes, is there any reason an unprivileged user 
> > shouldn't be able to bind a namespace they've created to a file 
> > they own in the initial mount namespace?
> > 
> > Assuming the answer to this is no, then how to implement it becomes 
> > the next problem.  Right at the moment, util-linux/mount will deny 
> > a non-root user the ability to use --bind.  This check could be 
> > relaxed and, since mount is setuid root, it could be modified to 
> > force the binding as root meaning this could be implemented 
> > entirely within the util-linux package.
> > 
> > Doing this from within the kernel sys_mount is much more 
> > problematic: no root users are forbidden from calling any type of 
> > mount by the may_mount() check, which makes sure you only have root 
> > capability in the user_ns attached to the current mnt_ns. 
> >  Overriding that simply to allow nsfs binding looks like a recipe 
> > for introducing unexpected security problems.
> > 
> > So, does anyone have any strong (or even weak) opinions about this
> > before I start coding patches?
> Hi,
> so this is a bit scatterbrained, but it points to what I think is
> a workable way to do this all unprivileged (well, besides the
> privilege conferred by newuidmap/newgidmap).  Assume you are
> uid 1000 and have a /etc/sub{u,g}id entry joe:100000:65536.
> Start by creating one container (namespace, whatever you want to
> call it) which has uid 1000 mapped to container root, and all subuids
> mapped into the container so that container root is privileged over
> them.  This container/namespace creates a private mntns which is
> where you'll be keeping the persistent nsfs bind mounts.  Let's
> call this the 'factotum' for the duration of this email.
> Now say you create a container with 100000 as container root and you
> want to persist its user and network namespaces.  The init task 
> (which you don't want to keep around) is pid 999.  Uid 1000 cannot 
> see under /proc/999/ns, but a task in your factotum can.

Actually, the process that first created the userns is you in the
parent namespace.  You need to call the newuidmap, newgidmap on a
different task for this process, so if you persist the original process
that first entered the namespace, you can use it to access the
container even though it has no uid mapping inside the namespace.  That
means you can actually get away without using a factotum container at
all because nsenter enters the userns first, so even if your --user
points to the initial process and --mount points to some process you
don't have access to, you'll gain entry.

This is a script that demonstrates this:

unshare --user sleep 356d &
ln -s /proc/$userns/ns/user myuserns
sleep 1	# need ns to be entered and started
newuidmap $userns 0 100000 1000
newgidmap $userns 0 100000 1000
nsenter --user=myuserns unshare --mount sleep 356d &
ln -s /proc/$!/ns/mnt mymntns
sleep 1 # wait for ns to be entered and started
nsenter --user=myuserns --mount=mymntns

>   So it can open /proc/999/ns/net and /proc/999/ns/user and bind 
> mount them.  Any time a task (pid 1999) owned by 1000 on the host 
> wants to use such an inode, the factotum can open it, and task 1999 
> can open /proc/$(pidof factotum)/fd/N, or the factotum could simply 
> pass the open fds over a unix socket.  Any task spawned by uid 1000 
> should then be able to setns using those fds.
> This is something which could be done by transparently by 'unshare'
> and 'nsenter'.

Something like this is what I do today with architecture emulation
containers.  The thing is that the factotum container still needs a
long running process to keep it around (I currently use sleep 365d),
plus you need to remember the pid and the fd for your other containers
rather than names if you use bind (although you can install symbolic
links where you would have installed the bind mount to help you
remember this, so it's a minor quibble).

But the question I still come back to is should the use be allowed to
bind mount this in the original mount namespace instead of using
symbolic links and having to persist a process inside the container. 
 The Emulation containers I build naturally don't have any processes
inside them because you only enter them when you want to begin
emulating a different architecture.  For me, the nice thing about bind
mounts is that the container is gone when I unmount them.  Without bind
mounting, I find I still have a long procession of long running sleeps
keeping containers I don't want around after I've finished playing with
some new thing ... and if I don't kill them carefully (the mount sleeps
have to be killed from within the userns), I end up with inaccessible
unkillable containers.

So I'd still like to think if there is a valid reason to deny
unprivileged users the ability to bind containers?


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