[PATCH v1 0/3] Introduce CAP_SYS_PERFMON capability for secure Perf users groups

Alexey Budankov alexey.budankov at linux.intel.com
Thu Dec 5 16:15:38 UTC 2019

Currently access to perf_events functionality [1] beyond the scope permitted
by perf_event_paranoid [1] kernel setting is allowed to a privileged process
[2] with CAP_SYS_ADMIN capability enabled in the process effective set [3].

This patch set introduces CAP_SYS_PERFMON capability devoted to secure performance
monitoring activity so that CAP_SYS_PERFMON would assist CAP_SYS_ADMIN in its
governing role for perf_events based performance monitoring of a system.

CAP_SYS_PERFMON aims to harden system security and integrity when monitoring
performance using perf_events subsystem by processes and Perf privileged users
[2], thus decreasing attack surface that is available to CAP_SYS_ADMIN
privileged processes [3].

CAP_SYS_PERFMON aims to take over CAP_SYS_ADMIN credentials related to
performance monitoring functionality of perf_events and balance amount of
CAP_SYS_ADMIN credentials in accordance with the recommendations provided in
the man page for CAP_SYS_ADMIN [3]: "Note: this capability is overloaded;
see Notes to kernel developers, below."

For backward compatibility reasons performance monitoring functionality of 
perf_events subsystem remains available under CAP_SYS_ADMIN but its usage for
secure performance monitoring use cases is discouraged with respect to the
introduced CAP_SYS_PERFMON capability.

In the suggested implementation CAP_SYS_PERFMON enables Perf privileged users
[2] to conduct secure performance monitoring using perf_events in the scope
of available online CPUs when executing code in kernel and user modes.

Possible alternative solution to this capabilities balancing, system security
hardening task could be to use the existing CAP_SYS_PTRACE capability to govern
perf_events' performance monitoring functionality, since process debugging is
similar to performance monitoring with respect to providing insights into
process memory and execution details. However CAP_SYS_PTRACE still provides
users with more credentials than are required for secure performance monitoring
using perf_events subsystem and this excess is avoided by using the dedicated
CAP_SYS_PERFMON capability.

libcap library utilities [4], [5] and Perf tool can be used to apply
CAP_SYS_PERFMON capability for secure performance monitoring beyond the scope
permitted by system wide perf_event_paranoid kernel setting and below are the
steps to evaluate the advancement suggested by the patch set:

  - patch, build and boot the kernel
  - patch, build Perf tool e.g. to /home/user/perf
  # git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/libs/libcap/libcap.git libcap
  # pushd libcap
  # patch libcap/include/uapi/linux/capabilities.h with [PATCH 1/3]
  # make
  # pushd progs
  # ./setcap "cap_sys_perfmon,cap_sys_ptrace,cap_syslog=ep" /home/user/perf
  # ./setcap -v "cap_sys_perfmon,cap_sys_ptrace,cap_syslog=ep" /home/user/perf
  /home/user/perf: OK
  # ./getcap /home/user/perf
  /home/user/perf = cap_sys_ptrace,cap_syslog,cap_sys_perfmon+ep
  # echo 2 > /proc/sys/kernel/perf_event_paranoid
  # cat /proc/sys/kernel/perf_event_paranoid 
  $ /home/user/perf top
    ... works as expected ...
  $ cat /proc/`pidof perf`/status
  Name:	perf
  Umask:	0002
  State:	S (sleeping)
  Tgid:	2958
  Ngid:	0
  Pid:	2958
  PPid:	9847
  TracerPid:	0
  Uid:	500	500	500	500
  Gid:	500	500	500	500
  FDSize:	256
  CapInh:	0000000000000000
  CapPrm:	0000004400080000
  CapEff:	0000004400080000 => 01000100 00000000 00001000 00000000 00000000
  CapBnd:	0000007fffffffff
  CapAmb:	0000000000000000
  NoNewPrivs:	0
  Seccomp:	0
  Speculation_Store_Bypass:	thread vulnerable
  Cpus_allowed:	ff
  Cpus_allowed_list:	0-7

Usage of cap_sys_perfmon effectively avoids unused credentials excess:
- with cap_sys_admin:
  CapEff:	0000007fffffffff => 01111111 11111111 11111111 11111111 11111111
- with cap_sys_perfmon:
  CapEff:	0000004400080000 => 01000100 00000000 00001000 00000000 00000000
                                    38   34               19
                           sys_perfmon   syslog           sys_ptrace

The patch set is for tip perf/core repository:
  git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/tip/tip perf/core
  tip sha1: ceb9e77324fa661b1001a0ae66f061b5fcb4e4e6

[1] http://man7.org/linux/man-pages/man2/perf_event_open.2.html
[2] https://www.kernel.org/doc/html/latest/admin-guide/perf-security.html
[3] http://man7.org/linux/man-pages/man7/capabilities.7.html
[4] http://man7.org/linux/man-pages/man8/setcap.8.html
[5] https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/libs/libcap/libcap.git
[6] https://sites.google.com/site/fullycapable/, posix_1003.1e-990310.pdf

Alexey Budankov (3):
  capabilities: introduce CAP_SYS_PERFMON to kernel and user space
  perf/core: apply CAP_SYS_PERFMON to CPUs and kernel monitoring
  perf tool: extend Perf tool with CAP_SYS_PERFMON support

 include/linux/perf_event.h          |  6 ++++--
 include/uapi/linux/capability.h     | 10 +++++++++-
 security/selinux/include/classmap.h |  4 ++--
 tools/perf/design.txt               |  3 ++-
 tools/perf/util/cap.h               |  4 ++++
 tools/perf/util/evsel.c             | 10 +++++-----
 tools/perf/util/util.c              | 15 +++++++++++++--
 7 files changed, 39 insertions(+), 13 deletions(-)


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