Desktop application sandboxing with containers

Last weekend, I spent a bit of time improving a set of scripts I developed while at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando.

This script, now a small C program, is a proof of concept of desktop application container/sandbox using the same kernel features as LXC (a set of tools to manage containers on Linux) uses.
It basically does the following:

  • Mount your / in a copy-on-write directory using aufs.
  • Mount-bind your /home inside the copy-on-write environment.
  • Switch to another UTS, “””PID” ” ” , IPC and NS context (keeping current network namespace)
  • Mount a new /proc in the copy-on-write environment
  • Chroot to the copy-on-write environment and switch user to your current user

At this point, the user will be in what looks like their home directory, though “ps” will only show a single process making it impossible to list or trace any process running outside this environment. Any change happening on the file system (outside of /home) will be recorded in a “cow” directory and be lost whenever the user exists the chroot.

Sandbox screenshot

This can be used to install an untrusted application in the chroot, test it, see exactly what it’s modifying on the filesystem without much risk for your actual system.

Current (known) limitations are:

  • A GUI application will still be able to listen to events from any other X client (including key strokes)
  • Change within /home aren’t stored in the copy-on-write as it’s bind-mounted.
  • aufs doesn’t let you mount / in copy-on-write mode inside a directory that’s itself on / (to avoid loops), that’s why the current code requires a separate /home which will be bind-mounted (looking forward to btrfs for this).
  • Running something as root in the container isn’t perfectly secure as access to /proc and /sys aren’t filtered. Though, it’s still a big improvement vs running the software directly on your system.
  • The code is a proof of concept so it’s not meant for any serious usage, feel free to look at it, improve and propose patches 🙂

You can grab the code with bzr: bzr get lp:~stgraber/+junk/sandbox
or directly on Launchpad: https://code.launchpad.net/~stgraber/+junk/sandbox

This entry was posted in Planet Revolution-Linux, Planet Ubuntu, Sandbox and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Desktop application sandboxing with containers

  1. Pingback: Update on desktop application sandboxing | Stéphane Graber's website

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