Writing Sandboxed Software

I’ve written a series of articles on various Linux sandboxing capabilities that developers can make use of to write their programs in a more secure fashion. If you’re interested, have a look.

Here’s a link to all of the articles:

Seccomp Filters: http://www.insanitybit.com/2014/09/08/3719/

Linux Capabilities: http://www.insanitybit.com/2014/09/08/sandboxing-linux-capabilities/

Chroot Sandbox: http://www.insanitybit.com/2014/09/08/sandboxing-chroot-sandbox/

Apparmor: http://www.insanitybit.com/2014/09/08/sandboxing-apparmor/

And here’s a link to the GitHub for SyslogParse, the program I use as a demonstration:


Sandboxing: Conclusion

In total I’ve written five methods for sandboxing code. These are certainly not the only methods but they’re mostly simple to use, and they’re what I’ve personally used.

A large part of this sandboxing was only possible because I built the code to work this way. I split everything into privileged and unprivileged groups, and I determined my attack surface. By moving the sandboxing after the privileged code and before the attack surface I minimized risk of exploitation. Considering security before you write any code will make a very big difference.

One caveat here is that SyslogParse can no longer write files. What if, after creating rules for iptables and apparmor, I want to write them to files? It seems like I have to undo all of my sandboxing. But I don’t – there is a simple way to do this. All I need is to have SyslogParse spawned by another privileged process, and have that process get the output from SyslogParse, validate it, and then write that to a file.

One benefit of this “broker” process architecture is that you can actually move all of the privileged code out of SyslogParse. You can launch it in another user, in a chroot environment, and pass it a file descriptor or buffer from the privileged parent.

The downside is that the parent must remain root the entire time, and flaws in the parent could lead to it being exploited – attacks like this should be difficult as the broker could would be very small.

Hopefully others can read these articles and apply it to their own programs. If you build a program with what I’ve written in mind it’s very easy to write sandboxed software, especially with a broker architecture. You’ll make an attacker miserable if you can make use of all of this – their only real course of action is to attack the kernel, and thanks to seccomp you’ve made that a pain too.

Before you write your next project, think about how you can lock it down before you start writing code.

If you have anything to add to what I’ve written – suggestions, corrections, random thoughts – I’d be happy to read comments about it and update the articles.

Here’s a link to all of the articles:

Seccomp Filters: http://www.insanitybit.com/2014/09/08/3719/

Linux Capabilities: http://www.insanitybit.com/2014/09/08/sandboxing-linux-capabilities/

Chroot Sandbox: http://www.insanitybit.com/2014/09/08/sandboxing-chroot-sandbox/

Apparmor: http://www.insanitybit.com/2014/09/08/sandboxing-apparmor/

And here’s a link to the GitHub for SyslogParse:


Sandboxing: Apparmor

Sandboxing: Apparmor

This is the fifth installment on a series of various sandboxing techniques that I’ve used in my own code to restrict an applications capabilities. You can find a shorter overview of these techniques here. This article will be discussing sandboxing with Apparmor.

Mandatory Access Control:

Mandatory Access Control (MAC), like Discretionary Access Control (DAC), is meant to define permissions for a program. Users and Groups are DAC. But what if you want to confine a program with full root? As discussed, root with full capabilities is quite dangerous – and in the case of SyslogParser quite a few of those capabilities are necessary.

Apparmor is a form of Mandatory Access Control implemented through the Linux Security Module hooks in the Linux kernel. MAC is “administrator” defined policy, and can confine even root applications.

Apparmor is a *bit* out of scope for this series, as it doesn’t actually involve any code, but it’s still relevant.

The Code:

While Apparmor itself doesn’t have code in SyslogParse, here’s the profile for the program.

# Last Modified: Wed Aug 13 18:57:15 2014


/usr/bin/syslogparse mr,
/var/log/* mr,

/etc/ld.so.cache mr,

/sys/devices/system/cpu/online r,

/lib/@{multiarch}/libgcc_s.so* mr,
/lib/@{multiarch}/libc-*.so mr,
/lib/@{multiarch}/libm-*.so mr,
/lib/@{multiarch}/libpthread*.so mr,

/usr/lib/@{multiarch}/libseccomp.so* mr,
/usr/lib/@{multiarch}/libcap-ng*.so* mr,

/usr/lib/@{multiarch}/libstdc*.so* mr,


Apparmor is incredibly straight forward. There is a path, and then there is one or more letters. These letters stand for certain things.

r = read
m = map
w = write

All of this is pretty straight forward. SyslogParse gets the number of CPU cores from /sys/devices/system/cpu/online , so it needs “r” access.

It needs to read some libraries in order to function.

And that’s it. Sort of… apparmor on my system is, unfortunately, quite broken. The tools for enforcing/ complaining crash on me (I have a lot of weird profiles that I experiment with), which is actually why I started building SyslogParse. So this profile is a bit incomplete. It still needs some capabilities defined for chroot, setuid/setgid, and possibly more file access.


When enabled an Apparmor profile will begin enforcing policy as soon as the process begins. That means that, even if running as root, an attacker is always confined to those files defined in the profile. Apparmor is quite powerful, and combined with the other sandboxing techniques used it’s a very nice reinforcement – writing to the chroot, for example, is denied throughout the process by both DAC and MAC now.

Apparmor is, unfortunately, only available on certain distributions.

Next Up: Final Conclusion

Sandboxing: Chroot Sandbox

Sandboxing: Limited Users

This is the fourth installment on a series of various sandboxing techniques that I’ve used in my own code to restrict an applications capabilities. You can find a shorter overview of these techniques here. This article will be discussing sandboxing a program using Limited Users.

Users and Groups:

Linux Discretionary Access Control works by separating and grouping applications into ‘users’ and ‘groups’. A process in user A is, in terms of DAC, isolated from a process in user B.

There’s also user 0, the root user, which is a privileged user account.

Only a program with root, or with CAP_SETUID / CAP_SETGID can manipulate its own UID/GID. In the case of SyslogParse, we have root, and we definitely want to lose it when we can.

So, after getting the file handles we need, here’s the code for dropping to a limited user account (if you’ve read the previous articles this happens right after the chroot).

if (setgid(65534) != 0)
err(0, "setgid failed.");
if (setuid(65534) != 0)
err(0, "setuid failed.");

Very simple. So here’s a simple explanation.

if (setgid(65534) != 0)
err(0, "setuid failed.");

setgid(65534) sets the GID to 65534. This is the “nobody” group on my system. Nobody is an unprivileged user often used by programs wanting to drop privileges. If 65534 doesn’t exist, all the better – dropping to a GID that doesn’t exist is great.

if (setuid(65534) != 0)
err(0, "setgid failed.");

setuid(65534) is changing the user to 65534, which, as above, is the nobody user. Same as before, if the user doesn’t exist, that’s dandy.


Dropping privileges is a hugely beneficial thing to do. By separating the code into a “privileged stuff done all at once, then never again” you can drop privileges before doing anything dangerous, and there goes an attackers ability to escalate.

Dropping root privileges is incredibly important. The attack surface and amount of post-exploitation work an attacker can do shrinks drastically.

In the case of SyslogParse, as any attacks would be for local escalation (it does no networking), an attacker would probably lose privileges by exploiting it if going from any normal compromised process. At this stage they are in a chroot with no read or write access, running in an unprivileged user/ group with no capabilities, they have access to 22 system calls and some very nice to have calls, such as read() are denied, and their only chance for getting a few capabilities is by exploiting a few lines of code that involve opening a file.

I was going to have the next section be on rlimit, but it’s really not important and also not viable unless you’ve built the application from the bottom up to never write to a file, which will typically involve a broker’d architecture.

Next Up: Apparmor

Sandboxing: Chroot Sandbox

Sandboxing: Chroot Sandbox

This is the third installment on a series of various sandboxing techniques that I’ve used in my own code to restrict an applications capabilities. You can find a shorter overview of these techniques here. This article will be discussing Chroot sandboxing.

Intro To Chroot:

If you’ve been on Linux for a little while you may have already heard of a chroot. Maybe some service you use “chroots” itself. You may have also heard that chroot’ing isn’t great for security, or maybe even that they’re super easy to break out of. Whoever said that isn’t wrong, chroot environments can be great for confining some things and really awful for confining others.

Chroot is, simply, “change root”. The Linux file system has a root, it’s “/” – everything is an offset from this root node. But with chroot you can tell a process that “/” is actually somewhere else. Now, as far as that process knows, the entire filesystem begins somewhere else.

There are two requirements for a process to be able to break out of a chroot environment:

1) The ability to call chroot() again (this requires root, or CAP_SYS_CHROOT)

2) The ability to write to the chroot environment.

So, as soon as you chroot, your process should drop privileges and lose the CAP_SYS_CHROOT capability. If you can remove write access, all the better.

In the case of SyslogParse I did both.

The Code:

mkdir("/tmp/syslogparse/", 400);


if(chroot("/tmp/syslogparse/") != 0)
err(0, "chroot failed");

Line by line:

mkdir("/tmp/syslogparse/", 400);

mkdir() is a system call that makes a directory at the specified path, with the specified permissions.

In this case the code is creating a directory /tmp/syslogparse/ and only root can read the folder, and no one can write to it.


We move our working directory to the folder we’ve just created.

if(chroot("/tmp/syslogparse/") != 0)
err(0, "chroot failed");

chroot changes the root directory to the folder we’ve just created. Now the program, as far as it knows, is at “/” – the root directory. It only sees an empty file system, none of which it can write to.

The next step here is to drop permissions with setUID() and setGID(), which I’ll be going over in the next article.


At this point the chroot *can* be broken out of. Nothing is stopping this program from simply changing the mode of the folder to allow writing to it. If, however, you drop privileges (again, see next article), you’ll be in a chroot that can not be bypassed by any design flaws in the chroot itself.

The benefits of being in a no-write chroot are quite nice. The process can’t write any files, which means it can’t open any pipes to other processes – no communication.

With a Grsecurity kernel (some distros package these particular chroot modifications) there’s a host of other restrictions applied, chroot sort of acts as a separate namespace/ user, and communicating outside of the chroot in any new way is denied. The process is isolated more strictly.

It’s a very nice way to sandbox an application, and it’s fairly simple, though not suitable for all applications.

Next Up: Limited Users

Sandboxing: Linux Capabilities

This is the second installment on a series of various sandboxing techniques that I’ve used in my own code to restrict an applications capabilities. You can find a shorter overview of these techniques here. This article will be discussing Linux Capabilities.

Intro To Linux Capabilities:

On Linux you’re likely familiar with the root user. Root is the ‘admin’ account of the system, it has privileges that other processes don’t. But, what you may not have known, is that those privileges given to root are actually enumerable and defined. For example, root has the capability CAP_SYS_CHROOT, which is what allows it to call chroot().

Let’s say a program needs root, but only because it calls chroot at some point. Instead of giving all of the privileges except CAP_SYS_CHROOT.

So, if your program has to run as root (as mine does), you can actually drop some of your root privileges while maintaining others. How effective is this? Jump down to the conclusion below to see – hint: it can go between great and awful.

The Code: (includes should have a # in front, but WP is mean)

include include


Let’s break this down ~line by ~line.

include include

This includes the headers for linux capabilities (so that you can refer to them as their type) and cap-ng, the library we’ll be using to actually drop privileges.


This line will clear all privileges. If you were to apply this, you’d have essentially dropped all root privileges.


This line is where we state which capabilities we’d like. After the capng_clear() we have none, but the program does need a few.

The first two parameters are effectively saying to add these rules.

The third, fourth, and fifth parameters are the defined capabilities to allow.

The last parameter is a -1, which lets capng know that your list of capabilities is terminated.


And now, with this call, the rules are applied. Only these capabilities are given to the program… “only”.

This was really easy to do. Three lines of code and a large number of capabilities are gone. But, what’s left?

CAP_SETUID/ CAP_SETGID : Quite dangerous, as it means you can interact with processes of other UID/GID’s by simply making your UID/GID the same as theirs.

CAP_SYS_CHROOT : Not as scary, you can chroot, and if you retain the ability to chroot you can then break out of that.

CAP_DAC_READ_SEARCH : You can read all files that root can read. Password files, sensitive files, whatever. All yours to read.

So in a lot of ways you’re just dropping from root…. to root. You’re still quite powerful and dangerous if you drop these capabilities, it’s not a very large barrier. An attacker who gains the above privileges still gains quite a lot. But, in the case of SyslogParse, all capabilities are dropped eventually.

The nice thing about capabilities is you can do it as soon as the program starts. After you’ve gotten your file descriptors and all that, you can go ahead and start real sandboxing, then do the actual dangerous stuff. In this case, I had to give a lot of scary permissions. But for someone else, maybe all they need is to bind port 80, and in that case you just give CAP_NET_BIND_SERVICE, drop everything else, and that’s pretty nice.

It honestly feels like a “Well, it’s better than giving it full root” in this case, which is bittersweet. It still pretty much feels like full root. But uh, hey, it’s better than giving it full root.

Sandboxing: Seccomp Filters

This is the first installment on a series of various sandboxing techniques that I’ve used in my own code to restrict an applications capabilities. You can find a shorter overview of these techniques here. This article will be discussing seccomp filters.

What is Seccomp? An Introduction:

System calls are your way of asking the kernel to do something for you. You send a message saying “Hey, open a file for me” and it’ll probably do it for you, barring permission errors or some other issue. But, if you can talk to the kernel, you can exploit the kernel. Many vulnerabilities are found in kernel system calls, leading to full root privileges – bypassing sandboxing techniques like SELinux, Apparmor, namespaces, chroots, you name it. So, how do we deal with this without patching the kernel, as a developer? Seccomp filters.

Seccomp is a way for a program to register a set of rules with the kernel. These rules deal with the system calls a program can make, and which parameters it can send with them.

When you create your rules you get a nice overview of your kernel attack surface. Those calls are the ways your attacker can attack the kernel. On top of that ,you’ve just reduced kernel attack surface – if an attacker requires system call A and you’ve only allowed system calls B through D, they can’t attack with system call A.

Another nice benefit is the ability to restrict capabilities. If your program never writes a file, don’t give it access to the write() system call. Now you’ve reduced the kernel attack surface, but you’ve also stopped the program from writing files.

The Code:

Seccomp code is fairly simple to use, though I haven’t found any really good documentation. Here is the seccomp code used in my program, SyslogParse, to restrict its system calls.

scmp_filter_ctx ctx;
ctx = seccomp_init(SCMP_ACT_KILL);

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(rt_sigreturn), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(exit), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(exit_group), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(tgkill), 0);

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(access), 0);

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(write), 2,

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(fstat), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(open), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(close), 0);

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(brk), 0);

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(mprotect), 1,

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(mmap), 2,

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(munmap), 2,

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(madvise), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(futex), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(execve), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(clone), 0);

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(getrlimit), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(rt_sigaction), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(rt_sigprocmask), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(set_robust_list), 0);
seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(set_tid_address), 0);

if(seccomp_load(ctx) != 0) //activate filter
err(0, “seccomp_load failed”);

I’ll go through this bit by bit.

scmp_filter_ctx ctx;
ctx = seccomp_init(SCMP_ACT_KILL);

This should be fairly simple to understand if you’ve written basically any code. This instantiates the seccomp filter, “ctx”, and then initializes it to kill on rule violations. Simple.

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(futex), 0);

This line is a rule for the “futex” system call. The first parameter, “ctx”, is our instantiated filter. “SCMP_ACT_ALLOW”, the second parameter, is saying to allow when a condition is met. The third is a macro for the futex() system call, as that’s the call we want to allow through the filter. The last parameter, “0”, is how many rules we want to add to this that deal with parameters.

Simple. So this rule will allow any futex system call regardless of parameters.

I chose futex in this example to demonstrate that seccomp can not protect you from every attack. Despite the heavy amount of sandboxing I’ve done in this program, this filter will do nothing to stop attacks that use the futex system call. Recently, one vulnerability was found that could do just that – a call to futex would lead to control over the kernel. Seccomp just isn’t all powerful, but it’s a big improvement.

Note: I found all of these syscalls by repeatedly running strace on SyslogParse with different parameters. Strace will list all of the system calls as well as their arguments and makes creating rules very easy.

if(seccomp_load(ctx) != 0) //activate filter
err(0, "seccomp_load failed");

seccomp_load(ctx) will load up the filter and from this point on it is enforced. In this case I’ve wrapped it to ensure that it either loads properly or the program won’t run.

And that’s it. That’s all the code it takes. If the program makes a call to any other system call it crashes with “Bad System Call”.

Seccomp is quite easy to use and is the first thing I’d make use of if you are considering sandboxing. All sandboxing relies on a strong keernel, but as a developer you can only change your own program, and seccomp is a good way to reduce kernel attack surface and make all other sandboxes more effective.

Linux has something like 200 system calls (can’t find a good source, anyone know a more definitive number?), and SyslogParse has dropped that down to about 22. That’s a nice drop in privileges and attack surface.

Next Up: Linux Capabilities

Writing Sandboxed Software

I wrote a program recently, SyslogParse, to display apparmor and iptables rules based on violations found in my system log. I did this because my apparmor-utils packages always break / were quite slow when going through my profiles, and going through iptables rules in syslog was a big of a pain too.

I decided this would be a fun project to sort of “lock down” against theoretical attacks, and I’d like to blog that experience to demonstrate how to use these different sandboxing mechanisms, as well as how they make the program more secure.

What takes place below is after the process of designing the application from a functional point of view – “what do I need this thing to do?”.

Step One: Threat Modeling

This step was a little less important for SyslogParse, as I was going to secure it regardless of real-world threats, but I’ll explain how I went about threat modeling.

The first thing I did is figure out what permissions this SyslogParse needs. I know the application, by design, must read from /var/log/syslog – a file that you need root permissions to read from. So I’ll be running this as root in order to do work.

To make things easier for users who don’t log to syslog, I’ll take in a path parameter, which means someone running this program can specify an arbitrary input file. That is the attack surface – one file being taken in.

An attacker who can control content in that file can potentially escalate to root privileges.

Step Two: Seccomp Mode 2 Filters

I’ve discussed seccomp filters on my blog beforehand, but to give a short recap, seccomp filters are developer-defined rules that will dictate which system calls can be made, and do light validation on the parameters.

Seccomp filters are very simple to use, and they’re the first thing I implemented.

Here I declare the seccomp filter.

scmp_filter_ctx ctx;

Here I initialize it to kill the process when rules are violated.

ctx = seccomp_init(SCMP_ACT_KILL);

And here is an example of a seccomp rule being created.

seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ALLOW, SCMP_SYS(futex), 0);

In the above rule I’ve said to allow the futex system call, a call used when a program uses threads and has to set mutexes. The “0” means I have no additional verification of the system calls arguments. In an ideal world I’d validate arguments to all of these calls, but it’s not always possible.

In the end I had about 22 calls, 3 of which I validate parameters on.

The thing about seccomp is that there’s no point doing sandboxing before I set this up, because without it the kernel will always be an easy target, and as many sandboxes as I layer on, I can’t change that from within my SyslogParse code – until I use Seccomp.

23 calls is quite a lot (though considerably less than it could be), and I chose futex as an example to show that despite limiting the calls, the recent futex requeue exploit would bypass this seccomp sandboxing and all other sandboxing this program uses. There’s only so much we can do from within the context of this program.

What is nice, however, is that I now know my kernel’s attack surface. Barring flaws in the seccomp enforcement, I know how my attacker can interact with the kernel, and that in itself is quite valuable.

Step Two: Chroot

By design SyslogParse must be root, in order to read root files, so that means I’ve got the chroot capability. May as well make use of it.

There’s a misconception that chroots are really poor security boundaries. This isn’t entirely false, but it’s not the whole story.

With one call I can set up a chroot environment that’s not so easy to break out of, at least it won’t be by the end of this article.

mkdir("/tmp/syslogparse/", 400);

That creates a folder /tmp/syslogparse/ with the permissions that only root can read from it. Right now we’re root, so we can read from it, but that won’t last too much longer (about two more steps).


The file system as SyslogParse now knows it is an empty wasteland that only root can read and no one else can write to. A regular user would have no ability to read or write to it, which is nice because Inter-Process Communication (IPC) would require at least write access, and ideally read and write access.

Step Three: RLimit

For SyslogParse this is a bit unnecessary, but I went with it anyways.

rlrmit() is a system call you can make that will irreversibly limit that process in some way. In this case, because I want to limit IPC, and because SyslogParse only ever writes to stdout, which is already open, I’m going to tell it that it can not write to any new files.

struct rlimit rlp;
rlp.rlim_cur = 0;

setrlimit(RLIMIT_FSIZE, &rlp);

In a more literal way, I’ve told the system that my process can not write to a file that is larger than 0 bytes.

Step Four: Dropping Privileges

The last significant step in this sandbox is to lose root. In this case, dropping to user 65534, which, at least on my system, is the ‘nobody’ user. A more ideal situation would have SyslogParse drop to a completely nonexistent user (to avoid sharing a user with another process) but I’m going with this for now.



That’s all it takes – SyslogParse is now running as the nobody user/group. No more root, and the process is within a chroot environment that it has no permissions to read or write to.

Step Five: Apparmor

I’m on elementary OS, which has apparmor. So, in my makefile I’ve put an ‘mv’ command that puts my profile into the users apparmor directory.

For a small program like this the apparmor profile is very simple.

# Last Modified: Wed Aug 13 18:57:15 2014
#include <tunables/global>

/usr/bin/syslogparse flags=(complain){

/usr/bin/syslogparse mr,
/var/log/* mr,

/etc/ld.so.cache mr,

/sys/devices/system/cpu/online r,
/lib/@{multiarch}/libgcc_s.so* mr,
/lib/@{multiarch}/libc-*.so mr,
/lib/@{multiarch}/libm-*.so mr,
/lib/@{multiarch}/libpthread*.so mr,

/usr/lib/@{multiarch}/libseccomp.so* mr,
/usr/lib/@{multiarch}/libstdc*.so* mr,



A few library files, read access to /var/log/ (for arbitrary log files), and, because I threaded the process, it needs to read


The real benefit of this apparmor profile is that it takes effect before any code runs – the rest of the sandboxing all happens right after I open /var/log/syslog – there is very little code before it, but some, and a compromise at that point will lead to full root control of the process. With the apparmor profile the worst case scenario is that they have access to only what is listed there.


Overall, I think that’s a fairly robust sandbox. It was mostly for fun, but it was all fairly simple to implement.

If an attacker did break into this system, the above would make things a bit annoying, though the obvious path is to simply attack one of the allowed system calls, as I only validate parameters on 3 and there is clearly attack surface still left.

This isn’t bullet proof, and it’s not an excuse to not test your code. I fed SyslogParse garbage files/ unexpected input to make sure it failed gracefully/ err’d out immediately when it came across something it didn’t know how to deal with.

Lots of fun to write, and hopefully others can make use of this to make their programs a little bit stronger.


Windows XP Support Has Ended

A long time ago I posted an article entitled Windows XP – Abandon Ship. That was nearly one year ago today. And just a few days ago XP officially stopped getting support and patches from Microsoft.

I’d like to clear up some misconceptions that people still seem to have.

You can not be secure on Windows XP. In truth, it’s been a lost cause for quite some time, but Microsoft has been pretty good at dealing with threats through an active approach. Shatter attacks devastate XP machines due to poor privilege separation, but Microsoft addressed this issue decently with a few patches and by lowering service permissions.

Patches are not coming anymore. Support is gone. Do not expect the next big attack to be swiftly put down.

But what does that mean for you, XP user?

It could mean nothing – attackers may not care. We’ve never had such a widely used piece of software go out of support, so many people are still on XP. As far as I know this is unprecedented. Predictions are meaningless – I can not tell you what attackers will do, only what they can do.

So, as always, if you’re using XP or any unsecured system you will be playing a game of chance and not skill. It becomes ‘any attacker who wants to’ as opposed to ‘any attacker who can’ when it comes to getting into your system.

Is that a system you want to rely on?

I’ll also take this time to say that no one should be extending support for XP. Notably, Google Chrome will be continuing to patch XP. To me this is nothing but a false sense of security. Google Chrome relies heavily on its sandbox to protect its users, but any sandbox on Windows is going to rely entirely on a secure operating system. So the sandbox is very clearly not a huge barrier because the unpatched XP kernel and services will be easily leveraged for a full sandbox escape.

No one should be encouraged to use XP now. Take no pride in it- you’re gambling, that’s it.

“But I run EMET! You said EMET is great!”

EMET is awesome. And largely useless to an attacker on XP – while it’s a cute way to push back patch time on systems by a little bit it is by no means a significant barrier when basic memory corruption mitigations are not even supported on the operating system.

“But I run NoScript”

I love NoScript – great piece of software. But what will you do when a kernel vulnerability in text parsing is being used in the wild? You’ll get infected.

I really have very little to say here. XP is not securable. It wasn’t a year ago but it really more than ever is not.

I’m not saying you’ll get infected. I’m not saying that every XP machine will be linked to a botnet in a year. I’m saying that you are not secure, and anyone who wants to take advantage of that will not have a hard time.

Penetration Testing Report

So for one of my classes I had to perform a full penetration test on a server. It wasn’t particularly difficult but I figured I’d share the report here. I’ve done this twice now for the same class (different setups) and it’s been pretty fun.

This is all purposefully vulnerable stuff. It was a script kiddy stuff to get in but fun nonetheless. The report is written as if it had been handled by a legitimate team of pentesters.

Here’s the report.

[PDF] http://www.insanitybit.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/PentestReport.pdf