Linux Security Summit 2011 (Santa Rosa) – CFP Open

The 2011 Linux Security Summit has been announced, and the CFP is open until the 27th of May.

Following last year’s successful event in Boston, the 2011 Linux Security Summit (LSS2011) will be held on the 8th of September this year in conjunction with the Linux Plumbers Conference.

The program committee is looking for submissions from developers, researchers, and implementors.

If you’ve done anything interesting in Linux security over the last year, it’s time to get a proposal ready and send it in!

Linux Security Summit 2010 – Wrapup

The first Linux Security Summit (LSS) was held last Monday, 9th August in Boston, in conjunction with LinuxCon 2010 North America.

This event has its roots in the Linux security development community which emerged in the early 2000s, following the development of LSM and with the incorporation of a wide range of new security features into Linux. We’d previously met, as a community, in OLS BoF sessions, various conference hallway tracks, and at project-specific events such as the SELinux Symposium. There have also been very successful security mini-summits at LCA in 2008 and 2009, and a double security track at the 2009 Plumbers Conference.

This year, we tried to broaden the scope of the event as far as possible — to situate it with a more general Linux conference (than Plumbers, for example), and bring in not only developers, but the wider end-user community as well. We had great attendance from the security developer community, with pretty much all major areas of development represented, although not as many end-users as we’d hoped for. We were, however, easily able to fill up a days worth of bleeding edge technical discussions, with around 70 developers in attendance throughout.

Presentations were limited to thirty minutes, including discussion, to help ensure an interesting and stimulating event, aimed at fostering ongoing discussion and engagement. In this sense, it seems we were generally successful, with several strong discussions arising during presentations. There were many follow-up meetings between developers, end users and vendors during the remainder of LinuxCon, which was very gratifying to see.

Z. Cliffe Schreuders sparking a lively debate about security usability
Z. Cliffe Schreuders sparking a lively debate about security usability

Mobile security was one of the core issues discussed at LSS (and during the rest of the week), with the year of the Linux desktop now apparently permanently canceled due to smartphones and similar devices. There are certainly many very difficult and exciting challenges to be met in this area over the coming years, and it was great to be able to have the MeeGo security folk present on their work.

Another important area (as always), is security usability, with new high-level policy language work presented by Josh Brindle (lolpolicy). Z. Cliffe Schreuders presented the results of a comparative usability vs. efficacy study from his FBAC-LSM project, sparking some very robust and productive discussion. (Certainly from an SELinux point of view, we are trying to learn as much as possible from this kind of research, which is otherwise very thin on the ground).

Stephen Hemminger presented on the topic of integrating security into a router (Vyatta). This kind of presentation is really very useful to have when there are so many security developers present — it helps us better understand the nature & scope of security requirements for a wider range of real-world users.

Brad Spengler’s presentation addressed the difficult area of protecting the kernel itself, arising from his experiences developing grsecurity. As most of our protection mechanisms operate within the kernel, attacks on the kernel can render these mechanisms useless, so it is important to try and harden the kernel as much as possible. Brad outlined some areas which we still need to address upstream (or in distros, at least), a topic which was further developed by Kees Cook in his talk on Out of Tree security features.

IMHO, we face a number of challenges in this area: 1) core kernel developers are not always receptive to enhanced security, 2) the solutions proposed often are technically not acceptable to upstream (and require a lot of persistent reworking) and 3) we don’t have a huge pool of available expertise upstream in these areas. Kees has taken on some of the challenges here, and any additional contributors here would certainly be welcome, although I would not anticipate any smooth sailing.

We also had project updates from Mimi Zohar on EVM, Karl MacMillan on security management, Dan Walsh on SELinux Sandbox, and Stephen Gallagher on SSSD.

The panel discussion kicked off with a session on the viability of a standard Linux security API. It was good to get a discussion going here, with well-considered input from key developers. It seems the consensus is that our various security models are too fundamentally different to develop the kinds of APIs you might see in proprietary OSes, although the issues are certainly recognized (e.g. hindered ISV and end user adoption of security) and people are thinking about solutions. There are many difficult, open issues in this area, although we really don’t have the option of not solving them — as a society we’re ever increasingly reliant on computing, and thus also on its security.

Casey Schaufler leading the security API panel discussion
Casey Schaufler leading the security API panel discussion


There’s already been quite a lot of feedback from attendees on the format and co-location of future events. There was some talk of aiming at a more purely technical conference (e.g. Plumbers), although it seems to me that there was a great benefit in being able to assemble a critical mass of security developers alongside the other LinuxCon developer mini-summits, as well as general end users, vendors etc. A couple of people also mentioned the Collab summit, although I wonder if being invite-only may limit the overall scope of participation. We may also look at a two-day event next year, to allow for keynotes, a few selected longer talks for major new projects, and break-out sessions.

If anyone has feedback or ideas, please join the LSS mailing list and post your thoughts.

Slides from the presentation are now linked from the schedule (where available), and I’ve posted a brief photo set on flickr. If you post any photos or blogs from the event, please tag them with #lss2010, and drop me an email, so I can link to them from the web site.

Overall, it seems that we had a very productive and collaborative event, bringing together key people to discuss ongoing and emerging challenges in Linux security. Indications thus far are that we should expect to see useful developments arise out of discussions begun at this summit, in some of the areas mentioned above.

The Linux Foundation organizers seamlessly provided us with everything we could need in terms of a venue and support — allowing us to concentrate on the program itself. Many folk worked behind the scenes, but I’d like to especially thank Angela Brown, C. Craig Ross and Amanda McPherson.

Also thanks to everyone who presented and attended, and to the program committee, who worked quickly to review and evaluate all the proposals.

Linux Security Summit 2010 (Boston) – Schedule Published

For those who missed the mailing list announcements and tweets, the schedule for the upcoming Linux Security Summit has now been published: click here for the timetable and links to talk abstracts.

The summit is to be held on Monday, 9th of August in conjunction with LinuxCon.   Remember that you need to be registered for LinuxCon to attend the Security Summit (see my last post for details on a registration discount code).  You do not need to pay anything further for the Security Summit.

We had a very strong field of proposals for the summit, and the voting process was reasonably tough.  Proposals required a minimum average score of 4/5 from the program committee to be accepted as a main talk.  We had to reject several good proposals which did not make this grade, and they now have priority as lighting talks.  (Lightning talks will otherwise to be allocated on a first-come first-served basis on the day).

Here’s a summary of the accepted main talks:

  • Recent Advances in the SELinux Sandbox – Dan Walsh, Red Hat
  • in ur webserver, writin ur logs – Joshua Brindle, Tresys
  • Integrating Security into Vyatta – Stephen Hemminger, Vyatta
  • MSF Security Framework Overview – Elena Reshetova, Nokia
  • Access Control in the MSF Security Framework – Janne Karhunen, Nokia
  • Linux Security in 10 Years – Brad Spengler, grsecurity
  • Using EVM to protect security extended attributes – Mimi Zohar, IBM
  • Secstate: Integrating SCAP and Puppet for System Lockdown – Karl MacMillan, Tresys
  • Widely Used But Out-Of-Tree, Kees Cook – Canonical
  • Linux Security Usability, Z. Cliffe Schreuders – Murdoch University
  • System Security Services Daemon (SSSD) – Stephen Gallagher, Red Hat

These talk sessions are intended to be as collaborative and interactive as possible.  They’re thirty minutes each, with at least ten minutes of discussion included. The pace will be fairly brisk, and hopefully leave people wanting more and generating subsequent discussions.  Many people will be there for the week, and it’s been my experience over the years that much of the best discussion ends up happening after the talks in the various hallway and dinner tracks.

We’ll also have a panel session and, as mentioned, lightning talks.  See the schedule page for more details, and for any updates.

I hoped we’d see more proposals from folk on the operational side of things — we probably need to reach out in that direction better next time.  A significant aim of the summit is to foster collaboration between the development community and those running real systems, so if you’re in the latter group, definitely consider attending.  This will be a great opportunity to catch up on current developments in Linux security, and to provide your input and feedback.

Also, please join the event mailing list if you’re planning on attending in any capacity, so we can get any updates out to you, as well as better estimate attendance.  There’s also a Facebook page (which I don’t seem to be able to make public, ironically).

See you there!

Linux Security Summit 2010 – CFP closing this week

Just a reminder that the CFP for the Linux Security Summit ends this Friday, 4th of June.

If you have something interesting to discuss, send your proposal to the program committee via plain text email per the CFP announcement.

We have some very interesting proposals so far — if you have any interest in Linux security, you should probably try and be there.

Note that you need to be registered for LinuxCon to attend. As a speaker at the main conference, I’ve been given a discount code to hand out to people “in my network”. If you’re reading this, you’re in :-) Using the code, you can save 20%, which is currently $80 USD.

That’s enough to buy a Red Sox ticket and a hot dog.

Boston v. NY, 1912
Boston vs. NY, 1912 World Series (LOC).

Email me directly for the code at

Linux Security Summit 2010 (Boston) – CFP Open

The Call for Participation (CFP) for the 2010 Linux Security Summit has been announced and is open until the 4th of June.

The aim of the Linux Security Summit is to bring developers, researchers and end users together to analyze and solve Linux security challenges.

This is not just for “security people” — it’s intended to be a forum for collaboration between the wider community (sysadmins, operations, architects, developers etc.) and Linux security developers.

Aerial view of Boston


The format of the event is expected to be a mix of brief technical talks, panel discussions, and lightning talks. It will be held on Monday 9th August, 2010 in Boston, co-located with LinuxCon.

The program committee is currently seeking proposals for talks and panel discussion topics: see the CFP for details.

In particular, we’d like to encourage folks with significant real-world deployments to attend and discuss what they’re doing and what they need in terms of security from the OS.

From a security developer point of view, much effort over the last decade has gone into adding security features to Linux and integrating them into distributions. End users have now been through a few product release cycles with these features, so it seems like a good opportunity now to get together and discuss what’s working, what’s not, and how we can work together to continue improving Linux security.

Attendance is open to all registered LinuxCon delegates.

Heads up for the Linux Security Summit 2010

This is just a quick pre-announcement for a new event, the Linux Security Summit (LSS), to be held in conjunction with LinuxCon North America 2010 in Boston (9-12 August).

The LSS program committee are currently finalizing details of the format, CfP etc., however, early registration for LinuxCon (which is a prerequisite for attending LSS) is about to end, on May 6th, which is probably “today” when you first see this.

Registering early will save you $100. Follow the links at the LinuxCon site to register.

We’ll be issuing an official announcement soon, along with a CfP — stay tuned.

FOSS.IN/2009 – great conference, or greatest conference?

Last week, I attended FOSS.IN, which had its origins as a community event ten years ago, and has evolved to become one of the world’s leading Free and Open Source developer gatherings.   Even in the years I’ve attended since 2005, it’s been remarkable to see the progress of the event, from a somewhat traditional presentation-based conference with most attendees being end users, to a developer-oriented week where the main track talks are secondary, and where a lot of real work is done.

This year, the program included Project of the Day sessions, where major FOSS projects held a mini-conferences.    I attended some of the Fedora PoTD sessions, including Joerg Simon’s talk on creating a Fedora Security Spin.  An expo area was also assigned for major projects throughout the conference, where you’d often find Fedora, KDE etc. folk hanging out — hacking, chatting, and helping people who passed by (including myself, when my Macbook decided to have EFI issues with F12).


Fedora table at the FOSS expo area.

There were also workshops (tutorials), and workout sessions, where groups of people would gather and work on a project for a period of hours or days (up to the full length of the conference).   Notable here were Harald Welte’s GSM workout, and a well-attended hardware hacking workout, run by Milosch and Brita Meriac of CCC and Blinkenlights fame.  I think these ran all week.  There were also workouts for GNOME performance, the SAHANA disaster management system, KStars, and web identity, to name a few that I can recall off-hand.  There really was an incredible amount of stuff going on.

I participated in the Linux Kernel workout, which filled the final afternoon of the conference, as well as all the remaining room in the workout area.

FOSS.IN/2009 Kernel Workout Session

Linux Kernel Workout Session

The kernel workout, which was organized by Kamalesh Babulal, included work on specific development tasks, and mentoring of new kernel developers.  It was a little chaotic at first, but ended up being a very productive session, and seemed to be over too soon.  I’d suggest holding this over perhaps 2-3 entire days next year.

I also gave a talk on SELinux Sandboxing internals, to demonstrate how to utilize various Linux OS features such as namespaces and Mandatory Accees Control (MAC) security, and also how useable and effective security can be implemented via high-level abstractions and encapsulation.  This was similar to the talk I gave at FOSS.MY (and will also give at LCA), the slides of which may be found here.  I think it’s very important for people to understand that there are no silver bullets for security, especially as we’re working with an OS which was not designed with security primarily in mind.   At the lowest levels, security on a general purpose OS is inherently complicated, and like most other problems in computing, we solve this with layers of abstraction.  You don’t need to understand the inner working of your CPU to play Scrabulous, for example.  I think we’re gradually getting the message across, and I really hope to see more people engaged in helping to solve the always increasingly difficult problems in computer security.  We’ve made a lot of progress overall, but still have a long way to go.


Preparing for the closing session.

I’d like to give a special thanks to the FOSS.IN team, who are all volunteers, and who manage each year to organize a very complex event and provide truly great hospitality.  I missed the closing talk (and rock concert) to make a flight, although read that Atul Chitnis will be stepping back as leader of the event next year.   The conference as it is today reflects his personal vision for fostering core FOSS development activity in India, and it has been inspirational to witness the progress of this.  It will be interesting to see who steps up to lead the conference next, and where they will take it.

SELinux Sandbox slides available, et cetera

I’ve just given a presentation on SELinux Sandboxing at 2009 in Kuala Lumpur — the slides are available for download as a PDF file here.

The presentation was an overview of sandboxing as a concept; how we can enhance it with MAC security; and how it’s being implemented in Fedora 12 with SELinux. I also discussed the need for a standard security API for Linux, so that developers will be more inclined to incorporate enhanced security support in their software, and to generally increase security adoption via standardization. We’ve seen this work well thus far with sVirt, so it should be feasible

The SELinux Sandbox stuff will be familiar if you’ve seen Dan Walsh’s recent talks on the topic, although in this case, I included his cell phone number in the presentation if people have detailed questions, seeing as he’s not here in person.

It’s been yet another busy conference trip, with KS and JLS last week — I attended some of the JLS security talks and a Japanese Secure OS user group dinner. It was a very interesting and productive time.

I dented this a few days ago, but got no answer (and also dragged DaveM to see it & he couldn’t figure it out, either): does anyone know what this mystery object is?

Mystery object

It’s a spinning, blue and white striped cone near the ceiling of an underground Tokyo subway entrance.

Videos from the LPC security track

Several videos from the 2009 Linux Plumbers Conference security track have been published at the Linux Foundation video site.   Here’s a listing with the relevant slides:

Many thanks to the folk at LF and the LPC organizers, especially Niv (also for the HTML listing above).

If you attended LPC, or make use of the videos or slide, please drop by this thread at LWN to say thanks.   If you have any suggestions for improvements, feel very free to volunteer your time at the next event.

Portland Roundup

Last week was a busy one in Portland, starting with the SELinux Developer Summit on Sunday the 20th, followed by LinuxCon proper, and the Linux Plumbers Conference.

The SELinux event went very smoothly, with around twenty-five attendees from the core SELinux developer community.  Given tight travel budgets all-round, this level of attendance was very good to see.  I’d like to thank Angela Brown, Craig Ross and the rest of the Linux Foundation team for making everything work perfectly for us (this was a co-located event ahead of LinuxCon).

The day was divided into two sessions: standard presentations in the morning, followed by a more open general session in the afternoon.  It was good to catch up on the latest development work and directions in the project, and also to bring the otherwise globally distributed team together in the same place.

SELinux Developer Summit Lunch Track

SELinux Developer Summit Lunch Track

The inaugural LinuxCon then ran for three days, with an expansive programme.  I gave a talk on adding extended attribute support to Linux NFSv3 — the slides for which may be downloaded as PDF or viewed on slideshare.  I completed the initial code on the flight to the US and posted it from the hotel.  Feedback so far has been positive, although I haven’t heard from the NFS maintainers yet (who are likely busy with the merge window).  The rationale and technical approach is similar the NFSv3 ACL support which was merged some time ago; and the implementation is based on a fielded IRIX version (released under the GPL) — both factors which I hope will help with upstream acceptance.

Also at LinuxCon: Dan Walsh gave a talk on sVirt, which I introduced earlier this year at LCA (and previewed of during a lightning talk last year at FOSS.MY).  It seems to have been well-received (see LWN coverage), and it’s a good example of the high-level security abstractions which we can build once we have the underlying mechanisms in place.  In the case of sVirt, where we apply strong mandatory isolation to process-based virtualization (e.g. SELinux+KVM), there is zero configuration — it configures itself automatically depending on which security model you have enabled.  It should work with any label security scheme, such as Smack, and I’ve also heard that the AppArmor folk have it working (even though sVirt was not explicitly designed for pathname security).

Only in Oregon - Voodoo Donuts

Only in Oregon - Voodoo Donuts

Dan gave a LinuxCon lightning talk at Linux on yet another high-level security feature: Sandbox X, which extends the SELinux sandbox mechanism to the desktop by running applications in isolated X servers via Xephyr.  He gave a full talk on this the Linux Plumbers Conference, slides of which may be found here.

Dan Walsh - SELinux Sandbox

Dan Walsh - SELinux Sandbox

I don’t have the time to cover everything at LinuxCon — check the web site for videos and slides.  Also see my flickr photo set.  It was a very impressive first conference, with LCA-quality social events and catering (Angela Brown has been quietly studying LCA, in fact) and certainly sets a new standard for such events in North America.  LinuxCon will be held in Boston next year — I wonder what they’ll come up with to beat bacon-maple donuts for breakfast.

Following LinuxCon, the second Linux Plumbers Conference was held, and we were fortunate to get a double session for the security microconf (a special thanks to Nivedita Singhvi and team for making this possible).  We had talks on several Linux security projects, including Herbert Xu with an update on the kernel crypto API, Caleb Case on SELinux in Ubuntu, David Safford on IMA, and Casey Schaufler on the Smack application ecosystem (some high-end televisions will soon be shipping with Smack, to isolate the applications of competing content providers).

The XACE talk was very interesting, as we’re getting close to having workable support for MAC security inside X, which will allow the desktop to be locked down with fine-grained and comprehensive controls.  While typically envisaged for MLS use (e.g. having “secret” and “unclassified” desktop applications running on the same system), there are also many general purpose scenarios, such as separating your online banking session from your IRC chats.  It will be interesting to see what’s possible when combining XACE window labeling with Sandbox X — stay tuned.

XACE and AVC Cow - The future of the secure desktop

XACE and AVC Cow - The future of the secure desktop

Slides from the LPC microconf will be at the event web site soon, and I’ve also made all them available for download here.

It was a fairly intense week — three conferences plus the travel to and from Sydney, as well as the merge window opening a few days before.  I’ve got a few weeks to recover and then it’s Japan for the Kernel Summit and Japan Linux Symposium, stopping in Kuala Lumpur on the way back for FOSS.MY (where I’ll be covering the latest in SELinux Sandboxing).


Note that you can now follow my micro-updates on twitter, which is bridged from my account.