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Bypassing App Sandbox using LD_PRELOAD

The heart of App Sanboxing (which interfaces with the mandatory access control, and Sandbox.kext/Quarantime.kext) is the __mac_syscall system call. An application/framework wanting to sandbox itself, invokes this system call, with a compiled Lisp policy, to inform Sandbox.kext and Qauarentine.kext about the privileges of the application. Even for code-signed applications with embedded entitlements, the kernel DOES NOT enforce sandboxing at the time of execve/__mac_execve system call. In fact, the way the sandboxing is architected, the kernel cannot enforce the policy at the time of execve/__mac_execve, because dyld needs access to system libraries, but dyld runs in userspace, so enforcing at the time of __mac_execve would be premature.

Therefore, sandboxing is enforced after exec has handed over control to dyld in the user space and all the shared libraries has been mapped. Only after this, some framework calls __mac_syscall to enforce sandboxing. This means, that if a user has DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES in her environment, she can intercept any system call, including __mac_syscall() and return success for this system call without actually informing the kernel about sandbox enforcement.

The attached sample code tries to do exactly this. The app is a pure computation app, and tries to open a file in user's home directly using open system. Without the __mac_syscall() interception, the sandbox clearly denies IO access to the file, however, when the system call is intercepted, the user can open and read the files. (For a live demo please see the youtube video at )


Bypassing Mac App Sandbox using DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES (LD_PRELOAD)






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