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No New Privileges


In Linux, the execve system call can grant more privileges to a newly-created process than its parent process. Considering security issues, since Linux kernel v3.5, there is a new flag named no_new_privs added to prevent those new privileges from being granted to the processes.

no_new_privs is inherited across fork, clone and execve and can not be unset. With no_new_privs set, execve promises not to grant the privilege to do anything that could not have been done without the execve call.

For more details about no_new_privs, please check the Linux kernel documentation.

This is different from NOSUID in that no_new_privscan give permission to the container process to further restrict child processes with seccomp. This permission goes only one-way in that the container process can not grant more permissions, only further restrict.

Interactions with other Linux primitives

  • suid binaries: will break when no_new_privs is enabled
  • seccomp2 as a non root user: requires no_new_privs
  • seccomp2 with dropped CAP_SYS_ADMIN: requires no_new_privs
  • ambient capabilities: requires no_new_privs
  • selinux transitions: bugs that were fixed documented here

Current Implementations

Support in Docker

Since Docker 1.11, a user can specify --security-opt to enable no_new_privs while creating containers, for example docker run --security-opt=no_new_privs busybox.

Docker provides via their Go api an object named ContainerCreateConfig to configure container creation parameters. In this object, there is a string array HostConfig.SecurityOpt to specify the security options. Client can utilize this field to specify the arguments for security options while creating new containers.

This field did not scale well for the Docker client, so it's suggested that Kubernetes does not follow that design.

This is not on by default in Docker.

More details of the Docker implementation can be read here as well as the original discussion here.

Support in rkt

Since rkt v1.26.0, the NoNewPrivileges option has been enabled in rkt.

More details of the rkt implementation can be read here.

Support in OCI runtimes

Since version 0.3.0 of the OCI runtime specification, a user can specify the noNewPrivs boolean flag in the configuration file.

More details of the OCI implementation can be read here.

Existing SecurityContext objects

Kubernetes defines SecurityContext for Container and PodSecurityContext for PodSpec. SecurityContext objects define the related security options for Kubernetes containers, e.g. selinux options.

To support "no new privileges" options in Kubernetes, it is proposed to make the following changes:

Changes of SecurityContext objects

Add a new *bool type field named allowPrivilegeEscalation to the SecurityContext definition.

By default, ie when allowPrivilegeEscalation=nil, we will set no_new_privs=true with the following exceptions:

  • when a container is privileged
  • when CAP_SYS_ADMIN is added to a container
  • when a container is not run as root, uid 0 (to prevent breaking suid binaries)

The API will reject as invalid privileged=true and allowPrivilegeEscalation=false, as well as capAdd=CAP_SYS_ADMIN and allowPrivilegeEscalation=false.

When allowPrivilegeEscalation is set to false it will enable no_new_privs for that container.

allowPrivilegeEscalation in SecurityContext provides container level control of the no_new_privs flag and can override the default in both directions of the allowPrivilegeEscalation setting.

This requires changes to the Docker, rkt, and CRI runtime integrations so that kubelet will add the specific no_new_privs option.

Pod Security Policy changes

The default can be set via a new *bool type field named defaultAllowPrivilegeEscalation in a Pod Security Policy. This would allow users to set defaultAllowPrivilegeEscalation=false, overriding the default nil behavior of no_new_privs=false for containers whose uids are not 0.

This would also keep the behavior of setting the security context as allowPrivilegeEscalation=true for privileged containers and those with capAdd=CAP_SYS_ADMIN.

To recap, below is a table defining the default behavior at the pod security policy level and what can be set as a default with a pod security policy.

allowPrivilegeEscalation setting uid = 0 or unset uid != 0 privileged/CAP_SYS_ADMIN
nil no_new_privs=true no_new_privs=false no_new_privs=false
false no_new_privs=true no_new_privs=true no_new_privs=false
true no_new_privs=false no_new_privs=false no_new_privs=false

A new bool field named allowPrivilegeEscalation will be added to the Pod Security Policy as well to gate whether or not a user is allowed to set the security context to allowPrivilegeEscalation=true. This field will default to false.