Steve Kemp's Blog Writings relating to Debian & Free Software

Security changes have unintended effects.

Friday, 7 September 2012

A couple of months ago I was experimenting with adding no-new-privileges to various systems I run. Unfortunately I was surprised a few weeks later at unintended breakge.

My personal server has several "real users", and several "webserver users". Each webserver user runs a single copy of thttpd under its own UID, listening on, where xxxx is the userid:

steve@steve:~$ id -u s-steve

steve@steve:~$ sudo lsof -i :1019
thttpd  9993 s-steve    0u  IPv4 7183548      0t0  TCP localhost:1019 (LISTEN)

Facing the world I have an IPv4 & IPv6 proxy server that routes incoming connections to these local thttpd instances.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to restrict these instances, and prevent them from acquiring new privileges? Yes, I thought. Unfortunately I stumbled across a down-side: Some of the servers send email, and they do that by shelling out to /usr/sbin/sendmail which is setuid (and thus fails). D'oh!

The end result was choosing between:

  • Leaving "no-new-privileges" in place, and rewriting all my mail-sending CGI scripts.
  • Removing the protection such that setuid files can be executed.

I went with the latter for now, but will probably revisit this in the future.

In more interesting news recently I tried to recreate the feel of a painting, as an image which was successful. I think.

I've been doing a lot more shooting recently, even outdoors, which has been fun.

ObQuote: "You know, all the cheerleaders in the world wouldn't help our football team." - Bring it On

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