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From: "Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)" <>
To: Christian Brauner <>
	Alejandro Colomar <>,
	linux-fsdevel <>,
	lkml <>,
	linux-man <>,
	Christoph Hellwig <>,
	"Eric W. Biederman" <>
Subject: Re: Questions re the new mount_setattr(2) manual page
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 2021 03:25:01 +0200	[thread overview]
Message-ID: <> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <20210812083826.bfuqiwjlshjdwdby@wittgenstein>

Hello Christian,

On 8/12/21 10:38 AM, Christian Brauner wrote:
> On Thu, Aug 12, 2021 at 07:36:54AM +0200, Michael Kerrisk (man-pages) wrote:
>> [CC += Eric, in case he has a comment on the last piece]


>>> That's really splitting hairs.
>> To be clear, I'm not trying to split hairs :-). It's just that
>> I'm struggling a little to understand. (In particular, the notion
>> of locked mounts is one where my understanding is weak.) 
>> And think of it like this: I am the first line of defense for the
>> user-space reader. If I am having trouble to understand the text,
>> I wont be alone. And often, the problem is not so much that the
>> text is "wrong", it's that there's a difference in background
>> knowledge between what you know and what the reader (in this case
>> me) knows. Part of my task is to fill that gap, by adding info
>> that I think is necessary to the page (with the happy side
>> effect that I learn along the way.)
> All very good points.
> I didn't mean to complain btw. Sorry that it seemed that way. :)

No problem. I need to think more carefully about my words 
sometimes in mails too :-)

>>> Of course this means that we're
>>> propagating into a mount namespace that is owned by a different user
>>> namespace though "crossing user namespaces" might have been the better
>>> choice.
>> This is a perfect example of the point I make above. You say "of course",
>> but I don't have the background knowledge that you do :-). From my
>> perspective, I want to make sure that I understand your meaning, so
>> that that meaning can (IMHO) be made easier for the average reader
>> of the manual page.
>>>>                  the aforementioned  flags  to  protect  these  sensitive
>>>>                  properties from being altered.
>>>>               •  A  new  mount  and user namespace pair is created.  This
>>>>                  happens for  example  when  specifying  CLONE_NEWUSER  |
>>>>                  CLONE_NEWNS  in unshare(2), clone(2), or clone3(2).  The
>>>>                  aforementioned flags become locked to protect user name‐
>>>>                  spaces from altering sensitive mount properties.
>>>> Again, this seems imprecise. Should it say something like:
>>>> "... to prevent changes to sensitive mount properties in the new 
>>>> mount namespace" ? Or perhaps you have a better wording.
>>> That's not imprecise. 
>> Okay -- poor choice of wording on my part:
>> s/this seems imprecise/I'm having trouble understanding this/
>>> What you want to protect against is altering
>>> sensitive mount properties from within a user namespace irrespective of
>>> whether or not the user namespace actually owns the mount namespace,
>>> i.e. even if you own the mount namespace you shouldn't be able to alter
>>> those properties. I concede though that "protect" should've been
>>> "prevent".
>> Can I check my education here please. The point is this:
>> * The mount point was created in a mount NS that was owned by
>>   a more privileged user NS (e.g., the initial user NS).
>> * A CLONE_NEWUSER|CLONE_NEWNS step occurs to create a new (user and) 
>>   mount NS.
>> * In the new mount NS, the mounts become locked.
>> And, help me here: is it correct that the reason the properties
>> need to be locked is because they are shared between the mounts?
> Yes, basically.

Yes, but that last sentence of mine was wrong, wasn't it? The 
properties are not actually shared between the mounts, right?
(Earlier, I had done in experiment which misled e into thinking
there was sharing, but now it looks to me like there is not.)

> The new mount namespace contains a copy of all the mounts in the
> previous mount namespace. So they are separate mounts which you can best
> see when you do unshare --mount --propagation=private. An unmount in the
> new mount namespace won't affect the mount in the previous mount
> namespace. Which can only nicely work if they are separate mounts.
> Propagation relies (among other things) on the fact that mount
> namespaces have copies of the mounts.
> The copied mounts in the new mount namespace will have inherited all
> properties they had at the time when copy_namespaces() and specifically
> copy_mnt_ns() was called. Which calls into copy_tree() and ultimately
> into the appropriately named clone_mnt(). This is the low-level routine
> that is responsible for cloning the mounts including their mount
> properties.
> Some mount properties such as read-only, nodev, noexec, nosuid, atime -
> while arguably not per se security mechanisms - are used for protection
> or as security measures in userspace applications. The most obvious one
> might be the read-only property. One wouldn't want to expose a set of
> files as read-only only for someone else to trivially gain write access
> to them. An example of where that could happen is when creating a new
> mount namespaces and user namespace pair where the new mount namespace
> is owned by the new user namespace in which the caller is privileged and
> thus the caller would also able to alter the new mount namespace. So
> without locking flags all it would take to turn a read-only into a
> read-write mount is:
> unshare -U --map-root --propagation=private -- mount -o remount,rw /some/mnt
> locking such flags prevents that from happening.

Thanks for the detailed explanation; it's very helpful.

>>> You could probably say:
>>> 	A  new  mount  and user namespace pair is created.  This
>>> 	happens for  example  when  specifying  CLONE_NEWUSER  |
>>> 	CLONE_NEWNS  in unshare(2), clone(2), or clone3(2).
>>> 	The aforementioned flags become locked in the new mount
>>> 	namespace to prevent sensitive mount properties from being
>>> 	altered.
>>> 	Since the newly created mount namespace will be owned by the
>>> 	newly created user namespace a caller privileged in the newly
>>> 	created user namespace would be able to alter senstive
>>> 	mount properties. For example, without locking the read-only
>>> 	property for the mounts in the new mount namespace such a caller
>>> 	would be able to remount them read-write.
>> So, I've now made the text:
>>        EPERM  One of the mounts had at least one of MOUNT_ATTR_NOATIME,
>>               MOUNT_ATTR_NOSUID, or MOUNT_ATTR_RDONLY set and the flag is
>>               locked.  Mount attributes become locked on a mount if:
>>               •  A new mount or mount tree is created causing mount
>>                  propagation across user namespaces (i.e., propagation to
>>                  a mount namespace owned by a different user namespace).
>>                  The kernel will lock the aforementioned flags to prevent
>>                  these sensitive properties from being altered.
>>               •  A new mount and user namespace pair is created.  This
>>                  happens for example when specifying CLONE_NEWUSER |
>>                  CLONE_NEWNS in unshare(2), clone(2), or clone3(2).  The
>>                  aforementioned flags become locked in the new mount
>>                  namespace to prevent sensitive mount properties from
>>                  being altered.  Since the newly created mount namespace
>>                  will be owned by the newly created user namespace, a
>>                  calling process that is privileged in the new user
>>                  namespace would—in the absence of such locking—be able
>>                  to alter senstive mount properties (e.g., to remount a
>>                  mount that was marked read-only as read-write in the new
>>                  mount namespace).
>> Okay?
> Sounds good.


>>> (Fwiw, in this scenario there's a bit of (moderately sane) strangeness.
>>>  A CLONE_NEWUSER | CLONE_NEWMNT will cause even stronger protection to
>>>  kick in. For all mounts not marked as expired MNT_LOCKED will be set
>>>  which means that a umount() on any such mount copied from the previous
>>>  mount namespace will yield EINVAL implying from userspace' perspective
>>>  it's not mounted - granted EINVAL is the ioctl() of multiplexing errnos
>>>  - whereas a remount to alter a locked flag will yield EPERM.)
>> Thanks for educating me! So, is that what we are seeing below?

(Was your silence to the above question an implicit "yes"?)

>> $ sudo umount /mnt/m1
>> $ sudo mount -t tmpfs none /mnt/m1
>> $ sudo unshare -pf -Ur -m --mount-proc strace -o /tmp/log umount /mnt/m1
>> umount: /mnt/m1: not mounted.
>> $ grep ^umount /tmp/log
>> umount2("/mnt/m1", 0)                   = -1 EINVAL (Invalid argument)
>> The mount_namespaces(7) page has for a log time had this text:
>>        *  Mounts that come as a single unit from a more privileged mount
>>           namespace are locked together and may not be separated in a
>>           less privileged mount namespace.  (The unshare(2) CLONE_NEWNS
>>           operation brings across all of the mounts from the original
>>           mount namespace as a single unit, and recursive mounts that
>>           propagate between mount namespaces propagate as a single unit.)
>> I have had trouble understanding that. But maybe you just helped.
>> Is that text relevant to what you just wrote above? In particular,
>> I have trouble understanding what "separated" means. But, perhaps
> The text gives the "how" not the "why".

Yes, that's a big problem :-}.

> Consider a more elaborate mount tree where e.g., you have bind-mounted a
> mount over a subdirectory of another mount:
> sudo mount -t tmpfs /mnt
> sudo mkdir /mnt/my-dir/
> sudo touch /mnt/my-dir/my-file
> sudo mount --bind /opt /mnt/my-dir
> The files underneath /mnt/my-dir are now hidden. Consider what would
> happen if one would allow to address those mounts separately. A user
> could then do:
> unshare -U --map-root --mount
> umount /mnt/my-dir
> cat /mnt/my-dir/my-file
> giving them access to what's in my-dir.
> Treating such mount trees as a unit in less privileged mount namespaces
> (cf. [1]) prevents that, i.e., prevents revealing files and directories
> that were overmounted.

Got it!
> Treating such mounts as a unit is also relevant when e.g. bind-mounting
> a mount tree containing locked mounts. Sticking with the example above:
> unshare -U --map-root --mount
> # non-recursive bind-mount will fail
> mount --bind /mnt /tmp
> # recursive bind-mount will succeed
> mount --rbind /mnt /tmp
> The reason is again that the mount tree at /mnt is treated as a mount
> unit because it is locked. If one were to allow to non-recursively
> bind-mountng /mnt somewhere it would mean revealing what's underneath
> the mount at my-dir (This is in some sense the inverse of preventing a
> filesystem from being mounted that isn't fully visible, i.e. contains
> hidden or over-mounted mounts.).

Got it!

> These semantics, in addition to being security relevant, also allow a
> more privileged mount namespace to create a restricted view of the
> filesystem hierarchy that can't be circumvented in a less privileged
> mount namespace (Otherwise pivot_root would have to be used which can
> also be used to guarantee a restriced view on the filesystem hierarchy
> especially when combined with a separate rootfs.).


Christian, thanks for so generously taking the time to write this up.
It really helped me a lot! I will do some work on the mount namespaces
manual page, to cover at least part of what you said.



> Christian
> [1]: I'll avoid jumping through the hoops of speaking about ownership
>      all the time now for the sake of brevity. Otherwise I'll still sit
>      here at lunchtime.

Michael Kerrisk
Linux man-pages maintainer;
Linux/UNIX System Programming Training:

      reply	other threads:[~2021-08-13  1:25 UTC|newest]

Thread overview: 15+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2021-08-10  1:38 Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2021-08-10  7:12 ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2021-08-10 14:11   ` Christian Brauner
2021-08-10 19:30     ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2021-08-10 14:32 ` Christian Brauner
2021-08-10 21:06   ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2021-08-11 10:07     ` Christian Brauner
2021-08-12  5:36       ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2021-08-12  9:08         ` Christian Brauner
2021-08-12 22:32           ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2021-08-10 22:47 ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2021-08-11 10:40   ` Christian Brauner
2021-08-12  5:36     ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2021-08-12  8:38       ` Christian Brauner
2021-08-13  1:25         ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages) [this message]

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