ProFTPD 1.2 README - linux-privs

What is linux-privs? What is the proftpd mod_linuxprivs module?
The linux-privs project is a project aimed at providing the POSIX.1e security model under Linux. Documentation on the project as a whole can be found at:
Without going into gory detail, POSIX.1e basically specifies an interface to such goodies as capabilities, capability sets, access control lists, mandatory access control and much, much more. The end result of this security model allows compliant systems and daemons to have very fine-grained control over what operations are allowed by which services on the system.

The best part of the whole story is that Linux development kernels (2.1) already have two important facets of the security model in place, namely capabilities and capability sets. Using these features allows a user-land program to specifically drop capabilities (which can be thought of as "privileges") which it does not need. Once such capabilities are completely dropped, neither the user-land program or any binary it should spawn will be allowed to perform privileged operations, regardless of whether the program is running as root or not. Essentially, this limits the power of root to only those specific functions that are necessary, with the end effect of making the program much more secure.

A non-supported contributed module has been added in the proftpd distribution, named mod_linuxprivs. It can be found in the contrib/ directory, Because Linux 2.1 is a development kernel, the module is not compiled by default.

Additionally, a small library is included in contrib/: libcap. This library provides the interface between mod_linuxprivs and the capability syscalls present in Linux 2.1 kernels. (Note that this library is simply a slightly modified version of the libcap library which can be found at Building proftpd with the mod_linuxprivs module included (see below for instructions on how to do this) will automatically build and link in the required libcap library.

When proftpd runs with mod_linuxprivs installed, its operation changes slightly:

What do I need to do to run mod_linuxprivs?
mod_linuxprivs currently requires that you be running a Linux kernel version 2.1.104 or newer. It's been tested and verified to work with 2.1.122. Should the kernel interface change in newer versions, we'll try to get the libcap library updated as quickly as possible. ;)

Steps to building proftpd with mod_linuxprivs:

  1. Verify you are running at LEAST kernel 2.1.104
  2. Make absolutely sure that /usr/src/linux is a symlink to your 2.1.* kernel source tree. This is required by libcap.
  3. Run the top-level configure script using the --with-modules argument to include mod_linuxprivs. Example:
       ./configure --prefix=/usr --with-modules=mod_linuxprivs
    If you're compiling in multiple modules (such as mod_ratio), you would:
       ./configure --prefix=/usr --with-modules=mod_ratios:mod_linuxprivs
  4. Run make from the top-level directory just as you normally would. This will build and link the library in contrib/libcap automatically.
  5. , etc, etc.
If you want to verify that mod_linuxprivs is actually working, set proftpd's debug level to 1 (add the command line option -d1). You should see a debug syslog message along the lines of "module linuxprivs: capabilities '= cap_net_bind_service+ep'" after a client logs in. This message indicates that proftpd has no capabilities except for cap_net_bind_service in the Effective and Permitted sets. See the linux-privs documentation on for a detailed explanation of Effective, Permitted and Inheritable capability sets. Normally, root runs with "=eip cap_setpcap-eip", meaning that all capabilities are raised (allowed) in each of the three sets, with the exception of cap_setpcap (only the pid 1 init process has this capability). If you see the above log message, this indicates that proftpd has successfully dropped almost all of the capabilities that give root its "power."