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Subject[BREAKAGE] Since 4.18, kernel sets SB_I_NODEV implicitly on userns mounts, breaking systemd-nspawn
Date
Hi,
first off, allow me to express that this is my first time ever writing
on such a mailing list, and that if something is unclear or you would
need more information, just let me know.
I write to this list in hoping to see this change reverted. The linux
kernel always said it would avoid breaking user namespace as much as
possible, and yet this is what happens. I was hence very much surprised
when my perfectly working containers on systemd-nspawn which makes use
of userns by default, stopped working from one day to the next, till I
identified the problem as being kernel >= 4.18. This container is in
production, hence the annoyance it was. From one day to the next the
container started failing with stranges problems:

* nginx, dovecot, postgresql, and postfix complained about getting
permission denied on /dev/null even though it appeared perfectly normal
to me, the correct permissions, all that
* /var was also acting very strangely, getting a lot of permission
denied or operation not supported messages.
* I could not delete a file that my user had the right to create, write
to and read in /var, I needed root

Here is the pull request that was made to systemd, along with a small
amount of talk around the issue:

https://github.com/systemd/systemd/pull/9483

It was ultimately decided among the systemd folks to bail out of the
issue, as shown in the news entry for systemd 240:

        * KERNEL API BREAKAGE: Linux kernel 4.18 changed behaviour
regarding
          mknod() handling in user namespaces. Previously mknod() would
always
          fail with EPERM in user namespaces. Since 4.18 mknod() will
succeed
          but device nodes generated that way cannot be opened, and
attempts to
          open them result in EPERM. This breaks the "graceful
fallback" logic
          in systemd's PrivateDevices= sand-boxing option. This option is
          implemented defensively, so that when systemd detects it runs
in a
          restricted environment (such as a user namespace, or an
environment
          where mknod() is blocked through seccomp or absence of
CAP_SYS_MKNOD)
          where device nodes cannot be created the effect of
PrivateDevices= is
          bypassed (following the logic that 2nd-level sand-boxing is not
          essential if the system systemd runs in is itself already
sand-boxed
          as a whole). This logic breaks with 4.18 in container
managers where
          user namespacing is used: suddenly PrivateDevices= succeeds
setting
          up a private /dev/ file system containing devices nodes — but
when
          these are opened they don't work.

          At this point is is recommended that container managers utilizing
          user namespaces that intend to run systemd in the payload
explicitly
          block mknod() with seccomp or similar, so that the graceful
fallback
          logic works again.

          We are very sorry for the breakage and the requirement to change
          container configurations for newer kernels. It's purely
caused by an
          incompatible kernel change. The relevant kernel developers
have been
          notified about this userspace breakage quickly, but they chose to
          ignore it.

Here's an email that was sent to lkml about the subject:

https://lkml.org/lkml/2018/7/5/742

I link also this, quoting the last of it:

https://lkml.org/lkml/2018/7/5/701

It has never been the case that mknod on a device node will guarantee
that you even can open the device node.  The applications that regress
are broken.  It doesn't mean we shouldn't be bug compatible, but we darn
well should document very clearly the bugs we are being bug compatible with.

I'm in the opinion that it is a kernel bug, and I quote someone from the
systemd irc channel:

ewb said applications were broken. But the rule is, if userspace breaks,
its a bug. The kernel *has* to revert it. And honestly, this change
doesn't make much sense. You can set nodev yourself but then you know
mknod will not allow you to open the object. Here, the kernel does it
without your knowledge

Also, it seems that if this change is reverted, things that were fixed
to work around the issue this breakage caused will not be broken again,
they should simply go back to their previous way of working. I
understand there may be security reason why this change was made in the
first place, but it is not so big a problem is it ? I can mknode
arbitrary devices in userns and open them as userns root. But my point
is, several things broke. My *working* stuff was broken from one day to
the next.

I am not trying to pick a fight. I want to understand the reasoning
behind this change in the first place, and I'm simply making an attempt
at getting it reverted, because it is true that I don't much fancy
blocking the mknode() syscall in every template unit on every machine we
administer here, and that staying on kernel < 4.18 is not a good
sollution either.

I would also like to be personally CC'ed the comments or answers posted
to this mailing list in response to this message.

Thanks

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