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Boolean: virt_use_execmem What? Why? Why not Default?
In a recent bugzilla, the reporter was asking about what the virt_use_execmem.

  • What is it?

  • What did it allow?

  • Why was it not on by default?

What is it?

Well lets first look at the AVC

type=AVC msg=audit(1448268142.167:696): avc:  denied  { execmem } for  pid=5673 comm="qemu-system-x86" scontext=system_u:system_r:svirt_t:s0:c679,c730 tcontext=system_u:system_r:svirt_t:s0:c679,c730 tclass=process permissive=0

If you run this under audit2allow it gives you the following message:

#============= svirt_t ==============

#!!!! This avc can be allowed using the boolean 'virt_use_execmem'
allow svirt_t self:process execmem;

Setroubleshoot also tells you to turn on the virt_use_execmem boolean.

# setsebool -P virt_use_execmem 1

What does the virt_use_execmem boolean do?

# semanage boolean -l | grep virt_use_execmem
virt_use_execmem               (off  ,  off)  Allow confined virtual guests to use executable memory and executable stack

Ok what does that mean?  Uli Drepper back in 2006 added a series of memory checks to the SELInux kernel to handle common
attack vectors on programs using executable memory.    Basically these memory checks would allow us to stop a hacker from taking
over confined applications using buffer overflow attacks.

If qemu needs this access, why is this not enabled by default?

Using standard kvm vm's does not require qemu to have execmem privilege.  execmem blocks certain attack vectors 
Buffer Overflow attack where the hacked process is able overwrite memory and then execute the code the hacked 
program wrote. 

When using different qemu emulators that do not use kvm, the emulators require execmem to work.  If you look at 
the AVC above, I highlighted that the user was running qemu-system-x86.  I order for this emulator to work it
needs execmem so we have to loosen the policy slightly to allow the access.  Turning on the virt_use_execmem boolean
could allow a qemu process that is susceptible to buffer overflow attack to be hacked. SELinux would not block this

Note: lots of other SELinux blocks would still be in effect.

Since most people use kvm for VM's we disable it by default.

I a perfect world, libvirt would be changed to launch different emulators with different SELinux types, based on whether or not the emulator
requires execmem.   For example svirt_tcg_t is defined which allows this access.

Then you could run svirt_t kvm/qemus and svirt_tcg_t/qemu-system-x86 VMs on the same machine at the same time without having to lower
the security.  I am not sure if this is a common situation, and no one has done the work to make this happen.

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Libvirt has had support for a long time to automatically "do the right thing", using svirt_tcg_t for non-KVM based guests. So there should be no need to use the virt_use_execmem boolean at all anymore, unless there's something broken in the system. For example, we've noticed before that people with nvidia proprietary drivers installed, trigger execmem AVCs even with KVM.

Edited at 2016-01-05 03:52 pm (UTC)

Great thanks Dan. I wonder why we are getting these AVC's.

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