Security changes in the 2.6.28 kernel

January 6th, 2009 | Tags:

Version 2.6.28 of the Linux kernel was released during Christmas, so I thought it’d be worthwhile waiting until after typical vacation days to post a summary of changes to the security subsystem. As always, thanks to the Kernel Newbies folk who track major kernel changes.

  • Dummy SELinux policy support
    Serge Hallyn added a dummy policy for SELinux to the kernel tree. This is useful for testing SELinux and a base for building minimal and experimental security policies.
  • Bouned per-thread security contexts for SELinux
    KaiGai Kohei submitted a patch which allows different threads in a process to be labeled with distinct security contexts. Such threads are guaranteed to not exceed the security policy permissions of the parent process. This is part of his work in extending SELinux to the web application stack, and in this case, is aimed at constraining in-process web server scripts (e.g. mod_python applications).
  • Labeled networking updates
    Paul Moore provided a series of updates to the Labeled networking subsystem, which he promises to document on his blog.
  • MAC policy for privilege in Smack
    Casey Schaufler extended Smack so that MAC policy may be used to limit the use of privilege. Previously, the Smack model maintained strict orthogonality between privilege and access control, where privileged processes were exempted from MAC policy enforcement. This feature allows for MAC policy enforcement of processes running with specific security label (as written to /smack/onlycap), or for all processes if the onlycap label is specified as ‘*’.
  • TPM updates
    Rajiv Andrade provided several updates for the TPM driver.

This was not a terribly exciting release for the security subsystem.

Thus far for the 2.6.29 kernel, the main change is the massive credentials API change from David Howells. This has caused a couple of regressions, which were picked up by subsystem testing of Linus’ tree. Fixes have been developed and are currently partially merged upstream. It seems we need to get more testing done in linux-next to avoid such breakage during future merge windows.

Also noteworthy is the merge of the pathname security hooks for LSM, which should pave the way for TOMOYO and AppArmor in 2.6.30, subject to the general patch submission review process. TOMOYO is only a couple of acks from approval, has been baking in -mm, and is pretty much self-contained. It may even appear in 2.6.29 if the merge window is open for features long enough.

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