smack ( on host ) + apparmor ( on docker ) - possible ?

John Johansen john.johansen at
Thu Apr 25 19:22:11 UTC 2019

On 4/25/19 8:52 AM, Casey Schaufler wrote:
> On 4/24/2019 9:37 PM, shrawan kumar wrote:
>> Dear Casey ,
>> For one of my embedded project ,?? the requirement is to run a set of process under *Docker* and each process inside Docker needs to be sandboxed using *AppArmour*. However, the host from where Docker is launched is *Smack* enabled . We are using *smack* as default security on host .
>> Is the above combination possible ?
> With the current upstream kernel, no. You can't run more
> than one "major" security module at a time. As of 5.1 you
> will have more flexibility, but still not enough for Smack
> and AppArmor to coexist. Development is underway for the
> next phase of module stacking, which will be proposed for
> 5.3 and can be found:
> git://
> With this patch set you can run Smack and AppArmor together.
> What I don't know is how you would configure AppArmor so that
> you can sub-configure your containers. I've added John Johansen
> to the thread. He is the AppArmor expert who has been working
> on AppArmor namespaces.
> To the best of my knowledge no one has done what you want,
> but supporting your configuration is an explicit goal. We
> would be more than happy to help you in your efforts.

As Casey says not possible with the current upstream kernel.
You do have a few options currently.

You can use the patchset Casey pointed you at or you can
cherry-pick a reduced size stacking variant from the Ubuntu 18.04
or 19.04 kernels. The patchsets are quite different but they are
effectively equivalent. They cutout patches that are not needed
to stack smack/selinux with apparmor.

Once you have a kernel that supports the stacking patchset. The
setup is fairly easy.

You need to boot with both smack and apparmor enabled. Under the
current LSM stacking and 19.04 kernels your kernel parameter is


or config


and the 18.04 version


there is a config option as well, but I don't remember it off the
top of my head.

Once you have this you can achieve what you want. You don't need
apparmor policy on the host, and you might not even need an
apparmor userspace, as long as each docker container has its own
apparmor userspace and policy.

For each container you are going to do three things.
0. Make sure securityfs is mounted (default location would be
1. Create an apparmor namespace
2. Switch the display LSM (this does not exist in current upstream
LSM stacking, but hopefully 5.3)
3. Put the root container task into the apparmor namespace.

there is flexibility in the ordering but if you stick to the above
ordering you avoid some of the potential problems.

1. Creating an apparmor namespace.

AppArmor actually provides two ways for this to happen. Through its
fs interface, and through policy. I am going to assume you want to
skip policy on the host.

if your task is unconfined by apparmor (it will be if you don't
have policy on the host) and it has cap mac_admin (root). Then
you can do

  mkdir /sys/kernel/security/apparmor/policy/namespaces/$(NS_NAME)

where $(NS_NAME) is basically limited to alphanum with the first
character being alpha. And unfortunately there is no way to auto
reap apparmor policy namespaces so when your container dies.

  rmdir /sys/kernel/security/apparmor/policy/namespaces/$(NS_NAME)

2. Switch the display LSM, you basically have to write
  "apparmor" to /proc/current/attr/display

   I've attached a basic utility program (lsm-exec), I use to do this.
   You can rip the code you need from it. Basic usage is

   lsm-exec -l apparmor -- bash

   where bash can be replaced with any executable

3. Put the root task into the apparmor namespace. You can either
   use aa-exec from the apparmor userspace project

   with basic usage of
   aa-exec -p ":$(NS_NAME):unconfined" -- bash

   where again you can replace bash

   Alternately you can skip aa-exec by writing

      "exec :$(NS_NAME):unconfined" to /proc/self/attr/exec

   The profile transition to the new namespace will happen at the next
   exec and that task and its children will inherit confinement in
   the policy namespace.

The task is now in you apparmor policy namespace, and assuming it
has cap mac_admin can load the containers policy.

I should note apparmor audit messages go to the audit subsystem which
currently isn't namespaced.

It is possible to have the host load the policy to the namespace for
the container if that is what you are looking for. And it is also
possible to have apparmor policy on the host along with smack if you
need to do that and some other interesting combinations, but I won't
bore you with details unless you ask.

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