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A secure application sandbox built with modern Linux sandboxing features
C Makefile

Playpen is a secure application sandbox built with modern Linux sandboxing features.


  • The sandboxed application is spawned inside a systemd scope unit, providing integration with systemd tools like systemd-cgtop and robust control group management.
  • The application is contained inside a read-only root directory with chroot.
  • System call whitelisting forbids all but the execve call by default and includes support for parameter constraints. A learning mode is available to automatically generate a minimal whitelist based on the system calls and parameters used by the sandboxed process.
  • A mount namespace is leveraged to provide writable /tmp, /dev/tmp and home directories as in-memory (tmpfs) filesystems. Since these mounts are private, any number of Playpen instances can share the same root.
  • The memory of all contained processes is limited via the scope unit's memory control group. The memory control group will include usage of the private tmpfs mounts towards the total.
  • The number of tasks is limited via the scope unit's pids control group in addition to the indirect limitation via the memory control group.
  • Device whitelisting prevents reading, writing or creating any devices by default.
  • The initial process and any forked children can be reliably killed.
  • An optional timeout can take care of automatically killing the contained processes.
  • A process namespace hides all external processes from the sandbox.
  • A network namespace provides a private loopback and no external interfaces.
  • The system's hostname and IPC resources are hidden from the sandbox via namespaces.

System call whitelisting

A system call will only be permitted by the kernel if it matches one or more of the provided rules. Rules can be supplied either via a file (-S) or by passing rules on the command-line (-s).

Learning mode (-l) will append any missing rules to the whitelist file. It will add constraints on parameters specifying a sub-command, such as the request argument to ioctl. A coarser learning mode without parameter constraints is available (-L).

Syntax for the whitelist:

system_call: parameter operator value
system_call: parameter operator value, parameter operator value, [...]

Tabs and spaces are ignored. The command-line syntax uses semicolons as the separator between rules rather than expecting one rule per line.

The valid operators are !=, <, <=, >, >= and ==.

For example:

foo: 2 == 100
foo: 2 == 200, 1 != 300, 1 != 400, 3 < 500

This permits the bar system call in all cases. The foo system call is permitted if either:

  • the second parameter is equal to 100
  • the second parameter is equal to 200, the first parameter is not equal to either 300 or 400 and the third parameter is less than 500


# create a chroot
mkdir sandbox
pacstrap -cd sandbox

# run `ls -l` in the sandbox and create a system call whitelist
playpen sandbox -S whitelist -l -- ls -l /

# run it again, enforcing the learned system call whitelist
playpen sandbox -S whitelist -- ls -l /


  • Linux 3.8 or later
  • libseccomp 2.1.1 or later
  • systemd
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