SELinux memory protections are your friend

I don’t know what a Zend Optimizer is, but it apparently does not play well with SELinux. I’ve encountered a blog entry by someone who has tried to do the right thing and keep SELinux enabled, after finding the code for a policy module which makes this stuff work.

I was surprised when I saw the source of the module, which includes:

allow httpd_t self:process execstack;
allow httpd_t self:process execmem;
allow httpd_t self:process execheap;
allow httpd_t usr_t:file execute;

When loaded, this will enable the web server to execute memory on its heap, stack or certain types of executable memory allocated via mmap(2). These are well-known attack vectors and disable some very important memory protection mechanisms. See Ulrich Drepper’s SELinux Memory Protection Tests for details.

The file execute permission is also very concerning, as it allows the web server to execute generically labeled user files. Combined with disabled memory protections, and third-party software using unsafe memory execution techniques, I’d recommend being cautious about deploying this solution.

What I would suggest, if you don’t understand the security policy, is to run it by your nearest SELinux community. Many mailing lists and IRC channels exist where people will be able to help: see User Resources from the SELinux Project Wiki.

It’s important to note that whatever this code is supposed to be doing (apparently, dealing with some form of source code obfuscation), techniques such as making a stack executable are inherently insecure and should never be necessary.

SELinux really is trying to help you here, and free expert advice is merely an email away. At the very least, someone will be able to explain what the risks are, and help you make an informed decision on how to proceed: perhaps it will be better for your particular requirements to allow certain accesses rather than disabling SELinux for the entire system. And if the code is not trying to do something dangerous, an SELinux developer may write a simple module for you to load to work around the issue.