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Date:	Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:48:45 +0100
From:	David Drysdale <>
To:	"Eric W. Biederman" <>
Cc:	Andy Lutomirski <>,
	Alexander Viro <>,
	Meredydd Luff <>,
	"" <>,
	Thomas Gleixner <>,
	Ingo Molnar <>,
	"H. Peter Anvin" <>,
	Andrew Morton <>,
	Kees Cook <>,
	Arnd Bergmann <>, X86 ML <>,
	linux-arch <>,
	Linux API <>
Subject: Re: [PATCHv4 RESEND 0/3] syscalls,x86: Add execveat() system call

On Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 1:20 AM, Eric W. Biederman
<> wrote:
> Andy Lutomirski <> writes:
>> [Added Eric Biederman, since I think your tree might be a reasonable
>> route forward for these patches.]
>> On Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 6:40 AM, David Drysdale <> wrote:
>>> Resending, adding cc:linux-api.
>>> Also, it may help to add a little more background -- this patch is
>>> needed as a (small) part of implementing Capsicum in the Linux kernel.
>>> Capsicum is a security framework that has been present in FreeBSD since
>>> version 9.0 (Jan 2012), and is based on concepts from object-capability
>>> security [1].
>>> One of the features of Capsicum is capability mode, which locks down
>>> access to global namespaces such as the filesystem hierarchy.  In
>>> capability mode, /proc is thus inaccessible and so fexecve(3) doesn't
>>> work -- hence the need for a kernel-space
>> I just found myself wanting this syscall for another reason: injecting
>> programs into sandboxes or otherwise heavily locked-down namespaces.
>> For example, I want to be able to reliably do something like nsenter
>> --namespace-flags-here toybox sh.  Toybox's shell is unusual in that
>> it is more or less fully functional, so this should Just Work (tm),
>> except that the toybox binary might not exist in the namespace being
>> entered.  If execveat were available, I could rig nsenter or a similar
>> tool to open it with O_CLOEXEC, enter the namespace, and then call
>> execveat.
>> Is there any reason that these patches can't be merged more or less as
>> is for 3.19?
> Yes.  There is a silliness in how it implements fexecve.  The fexecve
> case should be use the empty string "" not a NULL pointer to indication
> that.  That change will then harmonize execveat with the other
> system calls and simplify the code and remove a special case.  I believe
> using the empty string "" requires implementing the AT_EMPTY_PATH flag.

Good point -- I'll shift to "" + AT_EMPTY_PATH.

> For sandboxes execveat seems to make a great deal of sense.  I can
> get the same functionality by passing in a directory file descriptor
> calling fchdir and execve so this should not introduce any new security
> holes.  And using the final file descriptor removes a race.
> AT_SYMLINK_NOFOLLOW seems to have some limited utility as well, although
> for exec I don't know what problems it can solve.
> Until I am done moving I won't have time to pick this up, and the code
> clearly needs another revision but I will be happy to work to see that
> we get a sane execveat implemented.

If it helps, I can push out another revision in the next couple of days.

> Eric
> p.s.  I don't believe there are any namespaces issues where doing
> something with execveat flags make sense.
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