SECURITY(7) BSD Miscellaneous Information Manual SECURITY(7)
security -- NetBSD security features
NetBSD supports a variety of security features. Below is a brief description of them with
some quick usage examples that will help you get started.
- Veriexec (file integrity)
- Exploit mitigation
- Per-user /tmp directory
- Information filtering
- Administrative security
Veriexec is a file integrity subsystem.
For more information about it, and a quick guide on how to use it, please see veriexec(8).
In a nutshell, once enabled, Veriexec can be started as follows:
# veriexecgen && veriexecctl load
NetBSD incorporates some exploit mitigation features. The purpose of exploit mitigation
features is to interfere with the way exploits work, in order to prevent them from succeed-
ing. Due to that, some features may have other impacts on the system, so be sure to fully
understand the implications of each feature.
NetBSD provides the following exploit mitigation features:
- PaX ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization).
- PaX MPROTECT (mprotect(2) restrictions)
- PaX SegvGuard
- gcc(1) stack-smashing protection (SSP)
- bounds checked libc functions (FORTIFY_SOURCE)
- Protections against NULL pointer dereferences
PaX ASLR implements Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), meant to complement non-exe-
cutable mappings. Its purpose is to harden prediction of the address space layout, namely
location of library and application functions that can be used by an attacker to circumvent
non-executable mappings by using a technique called ``return to library'' to bypass the need
to write new code to (potentially executable) regions of memory.
When PaX ASLR is used, it is more likely the attacker will fail to predict the addresses of
such functions, causing the application to segfault. To detect cases where an attacker
might try and brute-force the return address of respawning services, PaX Segvguard can be
used (see below).
For non-PIE (Position Independent Executable) executables, the NetBSD PaX ASLR implementa-
tion introduces randomization to the following memory regions:
1. The data segment
2. The stack
For PIE executables:
1. The program itself (exec base)
2. All shared libraries
3. The data segment
4. The stack
While it can be enabled globally, NetBSD provides a tool, paxctl(8), to enable PaX ASLR on a
# paxctl +A /usr/sbin/sshd
Enabling PaX ASLR globally:
# sysctl -w security.pax.aslr.global=1
PaX MPROTECT implements memory protection restrictions, meant to complement non-executable
mappings. The purpose is to prevent situations where malicious code attempts to mark
writable memory regions as executable, often by trashing arguments to an mprotect(2) call.
While it can be enabled globally, NetBSD provides a tool, paxctl(8), to enable PaX MPROTECT
on a per-program basis.
# paxctl +M /usr/sbin/sshd
Enabling PaX MPROTECT globally:
# sysctl -w security.pax.mprotect.global=1
PaX Segvguard monitors the number of segmentation faults in a program on a per-user basis,
in an attempt to detect on-going exploitation attempts and possibly prevent them. For
instance, PaX Segvguard can help detect when an attacker tries to brute-force a function
return address, when attempting to perform a return-to-lib attack.
PaX Segvguard consumes kernel memory, so use it wisely. While it provides rate-limiting
protections, records are tracked for all users on a per-program basis, meaning that irre-
sponsible use may result in tracking all segmentation faults in the system, possibly consum-
ing all kernel memory.
For this reason, it is highly recommended to have PaX Segvguard enabled explicitly only for
network services or other processes deemed as critical to system security. Enabling PaX
Segvguard explicitly works like this:
# paxctl +G /usr/sbin/sshd
However, a global knob is still provided, for use in strict environments with no local users
(for example, some network appliances, embedded devices, and firewalls)
# sysctl -w security.pax.segvguard.global=1
Explicitly disabling PaX Segvguard is also possible:
# paxctl +g /bin/ls
In addition, PaX Segvguard provides several tunable options. For example, to limit a pro-
gram to 5 segmentation faults from the same user in a 60 second timeframe:
# sysctl -w security.pax.segvguard.max_crashes=5
# sysctl -w security.pax.segvguard.expiry_timeout=60
The number of seconds a user will be suspended from running the culprit program is also con-
figurable. For example, 10 minutes seem like a sane setting:
# sysctl -w security.pax.segvguard.suspend_timeout=600
GCC Stack Smashing Protection (SSP)
As of NetBSD 4.0, gcc(1) includes SSP, a set of compiler extensions to raise the bar on
exploitation attempts by detecting corruption of variables and buffer overruns, which may be
used to affect program control flow.
Upon detection of a buffer overrun, SSP will immediately abort execution of the program and
send a log message to syslog(3).
The system (userland and kernel) can be built with SSP by using the ``USE_SSP'' flag in
You are encouraged to use SSP for software you build, by providing one of the
-fstack-protector or -fstack-protector-all flags to gcc(1). Keep in mind, however, that SSP
will not work for functions that make use of alloca(3), as the latter modifies the stack
size during run-time, while SSP relies on it being a compile-time static.
Use of SSP is especially encouraged on platforms without per-page execute bit granularity
such as i386. As of NetBSD 6.0, SSP is used by default on i386 and amd64 architectures.
The so-called FORTIFY_SOURCE is a relatively simple technique to detect a subset of buffer
overflows before these can do damage. It is integrated to gcc(1) together with some common
memory and string functions in the standard C library of NetBSD.
The underlying idea builds on the observation that there are cases where the compiler knows
the size of a buffer. If a buffer overflow is suspected in a function that does little or
no bounds checking, either a compile time warning can be issued or a safer substitute func-
tion can be used at runtime. Refer to ssp(3) for additional details.
The FORTIFY_SOURCE is enabled by default in some parts of the NetBSD source tree. It is
also possible to explicitly enable it by defining the following in mk.conf(5):
Protections against NULL pointer dereferences
A certain class of attacks rely on kernel bugs that dereference NULL pointers. If user pro-
cesses are allowed to map the virtual address 0 with mmap(2) or by other means, there is a
risk that code or data can be injected into the kernel address space.
In NetBSD it is possible to restrict whether user processes are allowed to make mappings at
the zero address. By default, address 0 mappings are restricted on the i386 and amd64
architectures. It is however known that some third-party programs may not function properly
with the restriction. Such mappings can be allowed either by using the
USER_VA0_DISABLE_DEFAULT kernel configuration option or by changing the following variable
# sysctl -w vm.user_va0_disable=0
Note that if securelevel (see secmodel_securelevel(9)) is greater than zero, it is not pos-
sible to change the sysctl(8) variable.
Per-user temporary storage
It is possible to configure per-user temporary storage to avoid potential security issues
(race conditions, etc.) in programs that do not make secure usage of /tmp.
To enable per-user temporary storage, add the following line to rc.conf(5):
If /tmp is a mount point, you will also need to update its fstab(5) entry to use
``/private/tmp'' (or whatever directory you want, if you override the default using the
``per_user_tmp_dir'' rc.conf(5) keyword) instead of ``/tmp''.
Following that, run:
# /etc/rc.d/perusertmp start
The per-user temporary storage is implemented by using ``magic symlinks''. These are fur-
ther described in symlink(7).
NetBSD provides administrators the ability to restrict information passed from the kernel to
userland so that users can only view information they ``own''.
The hooks that manage this restriction are located in various parts of the system and affect
programs such as ps(1), fstat(1), and netstat(1). Information filtering is enabled as fol-
# sysctl -w security.curtain=1
Also certain administrative tasks are related to security. For instance, the daily mainte-
nance script includes some basic consistency checks; see security.conf(5) for more details.
In particular, it is possible to configure NetBSD to automatically audit all third-party
packages installed via pkgsrc(7). To audit for any known vulnerabilities on daily basis,
set the following in /etc/daily.conf:
ssp(3), options(4), paxctl(8), sysctl(8), veriexec(8), kauth(9)
Joseph Kong, Designing BSD Rootkits: An Introduction to Kernel Hacking, No Starch Press,
Enrico Perla and Massimiliano Oldani, A Guide to Kernel Exploitation: Attacking the Core,
Erik Buchanan, Ryan Roemer, Hovav Shacham, and Stefan Savage, When Good Instructions Go Bad:
Generalizing Return-Oriented Programming to RISC, ACM Press,
http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/~hovav/dist/sparc.pdf, 27-38, October 27-31, 2008, CCS '08:
Proceedings of the 15th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security.
Sebastian Krahmer, x86-64 Buffer Overflow Exploits and the Borrowed Code Chunks Exploitation
Technique, http://www.suse.de/~krahmer/no-nx.pdf, September 28, 2005.
Many of the security features were pioneered by Elad Efrat <elad@NetBSD.org>.
BSD March 30, 2011 BSD