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SubjectRe: [PATCH RFC 1/1] mount: universally disallow mounting over symlinks
On 2019-12-29, Linus Torvalds <> wrote:
> On Sun, Dec 29, 2019 at 9:21 PM Aleksa Sarai <> wrote:
> > + if (d_is_symlink(mp->m_dentry) ||
> > + d_is_symlink(mnt->mnt.mnt_root))
> > + return -EINVAL;
> So I don't hate this kind of check in general - overmounting a symlink
> sounds odd, but at the same time I get the feeling that the real issue
> is that something went wrong earlier.
> Yeah, the mount target kind of _is_ a path, but at the same time, we
> most definitely want to have the permission to really open the
> directory in question, don't we, and I don't see that we should accept
> a O_PATH file descriptor.

The new mount API uses O_PATH under the hood (which is a good thing
since some files you'd like to avoid actually opening -- FIFOs are the
obvious example) so I'm not sure that's something we could really avoid.

But if we block O_PATH for mounts this will achieve the same thing,
because the only way to get a file descriptor that references a symlink
is through (O_PATH | O_NOFOLLOW).

> I feel like the only valid use of "O_PATH" files is to then use them
> as the base for an openat() and friends (ie fchmodat/execveat() etc).

See below, we use this for all sorts of dirty^Wclever tricks.

> But maybe I'm completely wrong, and people really do want O_PATH
> handling exactly for mounting too. It does sound a bit odd. By
> definition, mounting wants permissions to the mount-point, so what's
> the point of using O_PATH?

When you go through O_PATH, you still get a proper 'struct path' which
means that for operations such as mount (or open) you will operate on
the *real* underlying file.

This is part of what makes magic-links so useful (but also quite

> For example, is the problem that when you do a proper
> fd = open("somepath", O_PATH);
> in one process, and then another thread does
> fd = open("/proc/<pid>/fd/<opathfd>", O_RDWR);
> then we get confused and do bad things on that *second* open? Because
> now the second open doesn't have O_PATH, and doesn't ghet marked
> FMODE_PATH, but the underlying file descriptor is one of those limited
> "is really only useful for openat() and friends".

Actually, this isn't true (for the same reason as above) -- when you do
a re-open through /proc/$pid/fd/$n you get a real-as-a-heart-attack file
descriptor. We make lots of use of this in container runtimes in order
to do some dirty^Wfun tricks that help us harden the runtime against
malicious container processes.

You might recall that when I was posting the earlier revisions of
openat2(), I also included a patch for O_EMPTYPATH (which basically did
a re-open of /proc/self/fd/$dfd but without needing /proc). That had
precisely the same semantics so that you could do the same operation
without procfs. That patch was dropped before Al merged openat2(), but I
am probably going to revive it for the reasons I outlined below.

> I dunno. I haven't thought through the whole thing. But the oopses you
> quote seem like we're really doing something wrong, and it really does
> feel like your patch in no way _fixes_ the wrong thing we're doing,
> it's just hiding the symptoms.

That's fair enough.

I'll be honest, the real reason why I don't want mounts over symlinks to
be possible is for an entirely different reason. I'm working on a safe
path resolution library to accompany openat2()[1] -- and one of the
things I want to do is to harden all of our uses of procfs (such that if
we are running in a context where procfs has been messed with -- such as
having files bind-mounted -- we can detect it and abort). The issue with
symlinks is that we need to be able to operate on magic-links (such as
/proc/self/fd/$n and /proc/self/exe) -- and if it's possible bind-mount
over those magic-links then we can't detect it at all.

openat2(RESOLVE_NO_XDEV) would block it, but it also blocks going
through magic-links which change your mount (which would almost always
be true). You can't trust /proc/self/mountinfo by definition -- not just
because of the TOCTOU race but also because you can't depend on /proc to
harden against a "bad" /proc. All other options such as
umount2(MNT_EXPIRE) won't help with magic-links because we cannot take
an O_PATH to a magic-link and follow it -- O_PATHs of symlinks are
completely stunted in this respect.

If allowing bind-mounts over symlinks is allowed (which I don't have a
problem with really), it just means we'll need a few more kernel pieces
to get this hardening to work. But these features would be useful
outside of the problems I'm dealing with (O_EMPTYPATH and some kind of
pidfd-based interface to grab the equivalent of /proc/self/exe and a few
other such magic-link targets).


Aleksa Sarai
Senior Software Engineer (Containers)
SUSE Linux GmbH
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