The 2011 Linux Security Summit

We just closed the doors on the 2011 Linux Security Summit a few hours ago and I wanted to jot down a few notes while everything was still fresh in my mind. Once again, a big thanks to all of our presenters, James Morris and the rest of the organizing committee; my personal opinion is that the summit was a success this year and I look forward to doing this again in 2012.

Just as in the past, presentations will be posted at the wiki below once comes back online.

Smack is Alive and Well, Casey Schaufler

This presentation started with a brief introduction to Smack and then moved on to presenting the recent users, motivations and focus. While Smack has been incorporated into at least one general purpose Linux Distribution, Ubuntu, over the past year or two Smack has grown increasingly focused on small and embedded devices. Functionality wise, Smack has gained several new additions including process labels and transmutable directories. Process labels allow an executable file to be started with a label specified in the file’s xattrs and not the parent process’s attributes. Transmutable directories allow two differently labeled processes to write into each other’s directories without requiring full write access to the other label; this should make it much easier to share files and data between labels. Beyond the new functionality, performance improvements, increased Linux Test Project coverage and improved consistency between AF_UNIX and AF_INET sockets have seen their way, or will soon see their way into Smack.

MeeGo platform security

The Case for SE Android, Stephen Smalley

This presentation discussed a recent effort to prototype a SELinux implementation for Android. While SELinux is well known in desktop and server Linux environments, it is still rare in mobile and embedded systems due to concerns around resource usage and differences in both the kernels and userspace. This talk explained the basic Linux/Android differences and what was needed to enable SELinux on the Android platform. Resource issues around policy size were addressed through a greatly simplified SELinux policy which avoided per-application policy and relied on a relatively simple rule set. Finally, the effectiveness of the prototype was evaluated by examining a recent Android vulnerability with a known exploit and determining the effectiveness of the SELinux Android port in preventing the exploit. In the end, this remains a prototype at present, designed to investigate Android’s security capabilities, but it shows quite a bit of promise and has a lot to offer beyond the current Android security functionality.

Overview of the Linux Integrity Architecture, David Safford and Mimi Zohar

The Linux Integrity Architecture project has seen a lot of activity over the past few years and the presentation started off with an overview of project, including a status update on where each piece of functionality stood with respect to upstream and established distributions. The good news is that almost all of the IMA project is either currently upstream or patches have been submitted and are being discussed on the related mailing lists. One of the presentation highlights was a demo tying together the IMA principals and virtualization to demonstrate a “Trusted Cloud”. While there is work to be done, the IMA project has made great strides and already offers some impressive functionality.

IMA project website

Digital Signature Support for IMA/EVM, Dmitry Kasatkin and Casey Schaufler

This presentation addressed a problem common to system and device manufacturers who install a single “golden image” on each system they ship: how do you reconcile the business need of a single install image with a TPM based EVM HMAC which uses a per-device key stored in the TPM? One potential answer is to expand on the EVM mechanism to support public key digital signatures in addition to the TPM based HMAC. When the devices are initially installed, a public key certificate is installed into the Linux Kernel keyring via an initrd with the filesystem using digital signatures for the EVM xattr in place of the traditional HMAC. As the files are accessed, the EVM digital signature is verified, and if correct, it is replaced by a TPM generated HMAC. If the EVM digital signature verification fails, access is denied in the same way as if the EVM HMAC verification had failed.

Protecting the Filesystem Integrity of a Fedora 15 Virtual Machine from Offline Attacks using IMA/EVM, Peter Kruus

This presentation covered some work being done to better secure Fedora 15 guests running on VMWare ESXi while the guests were both running and offline. All systems are vulnerable to offline attacks, but in the case of virtual systems, offline vulnerabilities can sometimes be much easier to exploit due to the availability of the host system and guest storage volumes. In order to help mitigate this problem, the presenter leveraged the existing IMA/EVM support in Fedora 15 to verify the integrity of critical system files, but unfortunately due to missing vTPM support in VMWare ESXi the presenter was unable to leverage TPM based HMACs in the EVM attributes. The solution was to use a passphrase protected key which was loaded at boot through a combination of the system’s initrd and dracut. While this solution does provide an increased level of protection against attack, for this approach to be truly successful, full vTPM support is needed in the hypervisor to allow the guest to utilize the TPM. While vTPM patches have been submitted for QEMU/KVM, the state of the vTPM in VMWare ESXi is unknown.

Integrity-checked Block Devices with Device Mapper, Will Drewry and Mandeep Baines

This presentation dealt with an enhancement to the Linux Kernel Device Mapper to perform block level integrity verification. This solution was designed primarily for the Linux based Chromium OS running on modest netbook class hardware where boot performance was a significant requirement. Helping to simplify the solution was the fact that the system is very well defined and operates in a read-only mode such that the integrity verification mechanism does not need to worry about online updates to the storage volume. The solution, dm-verity, uses a slightly modified hash tree, with the root hash specified on the kernel command line to quickly verify the integrity of the entire block device. Optimization is ongoing, but already the developers are able to boot a ~800MB Chromium OS root partition in ~1.2s on an Atom CPU using a SSD storage volume. While this integrity verification solution may not lend itself quite as well to general purpose systems as the TPM/IMA based solutions, it presents a novel solution that helps solve Chromium OS’s needs in a a high performance, low cost manner.

Kernel Hardening Roundtable, Kees Cook and Will Drewry

This roundtable started with a discussion on the different kernel interfaces where the kernel is exposed to user input, malicious or otherwise. From here the focus shifted to how the existing security mechanisms, such as DAC, LSM and capabilities, impact the kernel’s exposed interfaces - for better or worse. At this point it was clear, if it wasn’t already, that the Linux Kernel remains far too exposed to malicious users/applications and some additional hardening techniques are needed.

While many hardening ideas were discussed, the two main points of discussion revolved around system call filtering/reduction and the hardening techniques found in grsecurity. With respect to system call filtering, work has been ongoing this year to expand the mainline seccomp functionality to be more flexible and useful for a wider range of applications. Plenty of discussion has already occurred on the mailing lists and more is expected as the enhanced seccomp developer has promised a new round of patches soon. Similarly, work has recently been ongoing to decompose the rejected grsecurity patch and repackage it in a series of patches which will hopefully be acceptable to the upstream kernel maintainers.

Google’s seccomp sandbox
Ubuntu Linux Kernel hardening tasks
Linux Kernel hardening mailing lists (see the kernel-hardening list)

LSM Architecture Roundtable, Kees Cook and Casey Schaufler

This roundtable dealt primarily with the issues related to multiple LSMs, from APIs and determining which LSM was enabled in the kernel to architectural issues blocking multiple concurrent LSMs. With respect to determining the active LSM and LSM APIs, the discussion was largely a group brainstorming session with developers discussing the pros and cons of various solutions; while most agreed the a general LSM userspace API was more problem than it was worth, there was some general agreement on LSM conventions that should help unify some of the most basic LSM API functionality in the future.

This discussion around running multiple concurrent LSMs was much more focused, with patches being proposed as recently as February, although everyone did agree that the patches had serious limitations due to shortcomings with the LSM hooks/blobs in the kernel. In the end, several inherent blockers to concurrent LSM operation remained, but the “religious” arguments against the idea seemed to be less than in past years.