capabilities: require CAP_SETFCAP to map uid 0

cap_setfcap is required to create file capabilities.

Since commit 8db6c34f1dbc ("Introduce v3 namespaced file capabilities"),
a process running as uid 0 but without cap_setfcap is able to work
around this as follows: unshare a new user namespace which maps parent
uid 0 into the child namespace.

While this task will not have new capabilities against the parent
namespace, there is a loophole due to the way namespaced file
capabilities are represented as xattrs.  File capabilities valid in
userns 1 are distinguished from file capabilities valid in userns 2 by
the kuid which underlies uid 0.  Therefore the restricted root process
can unshare a new self-mapping namespace, add a namespaced file
capability onto a file, then use that file capability in the parent

To prevent that, do not allow mapping parent uid 0 if the process which
opened the uid_map file does not have CAP_SETFCAP, which is the
capability for setting file capabilities.

As a further wrinkle: a task can unshare its user namespace, then open
its uid_map file itself, and map (only) its own uid.  In this case we do
not have the credential from before unshare, which was potentially more
restricted.  So, when creating a user namespace, we record whether the
creator had CAP_SETFCAP.  Then we can use that during map_write().

With this patch:

1. Unprivileged user can still unshare -Ur

   ubuntu@caps:~$ unshare -Ur
   root@caps:~# logout

2. Root user can still unshare -Ur

   ubuntu@caps:~$ sudo bash
   root@caps:/home/ubuntu# unshare -Ur
   root@caps:/home/ubuntu# logout

3. Root user without CAP_SETFCAP cannot unshare -Ur:

   root@caps:/home/ubuntu# /sbin/capsh --drop=cap_setfcap --
   root@caps:/home/ubuntu# /sbin/setcap cap_setfcap=p /sbin/setcap
   unable to set CAP_SETFCAP effective capability: Operation not permitted
   root@caps:/home/ubuntu# unshare -Ur
   unshare: write failed /proc/self/uid_map: Operation not permitted

Note: an alternative solution would be to allow uid 0 mappings by
processes without CAP_SETFCAP, but to prevent such a namespace from
writing any file capabilities.  This approach can be seen at [1].

Background history: commit 95ebabde382 ("capabilities: Don't allow
writing ambiguous v3 file capabilities") tried to fix the issue by
preventing v3 fscaps to be written to disk when the root uid would map
to the same uid in nested user namespaces.  This led to regressions for
various workloads.  For example, see [2].  Ultimately this is a valid
use-case we have to support meaning we had to revert this change in
3b0c2d3eaa83 ("Revert 95ebabde382c ("capabilities: Don't allow writing
ambiguous v3 file capabilities")").

Link: [1]
Link: [2]
Signed-off-by: Serge Hallyn <>
Reviewed-by: Andrew G. Morgan <>
Tested-by: Christian Brauner <>
Reviewed-by: Christian Brauner <>
Tested-by: Giuseppe Scrivano <>
Cc: Eric Biederman <>
Signed-off-by: Linus Torvalds <>
3 files changed