Anomalous output from getpcaps(1) for process with all capabilities

Andrew G. Morgan morgan at
Sun Dec 15 23:26:56 UTC 2019

[Resend with reply-all this time.]

On Sun, Dec 15, 2019 at 11:17 AM Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
<mtk.manpages at> wrote:
> Hello Andrew,
> On Sun, 15 Dec 2019 at 19:30, Andrew G. Morgan <morgan at> wrote:
> >
> > This changed with this commit I think:
> >
> >
> >
> > Prior to that, we had "=ep" mean the cap set was ~0 for
> > all the bitmasks in e and p. When we started to clip the
> >bounding set to only defined capabilities, it meant that the
> > text output started to look like
> > "=ep 33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42.....63-ep" which
> > was quite terrible.
> Was that really the change that caused this? That's a 2008 commit.
> Certainly, I recall in 2014 or 2015 still being able to see =ep, and I
> presume (but do not recall for sure) that I was using a system with a
> libcap more recent than v2.11 (of which that commit was a part).

The only other commit that seems relevant was this one:

But I think this was all part of the same effort.

> > So, this was seen as the least worst option.
> But surely this is fixable? Or, to put it another was, I presume
> there's something that makes this difficult to fix in getpcaps, but
> what is that something?

I recall spending a day or more trying to avoid it, but I can't see
how it is really fixable because there are too many moving parts.

If the kernel adds another capability, then =ep could reasonably mean
both the "old full set" or the "new full set". There are contexts
where the difference matters. For example, where folk are using text
representations for things like package manager shell-script setups.
What they get when they say "=ep
cap_setpcap,cap_sys_admin,cap_setfcap-ep" today, might suddenly be
inappropriate when the new kernel adds "cap_self_destruct". At least
the way it is at present, we are very explicit about what is in



> Thanks,
> Michael
> --
> Michael Kerrisk
> Linux man-pages maintainer;
> Linux/UNIX System Programming Training:

More information about the Linux-security-module-archive mailing list