AppArmor Review

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AppArmor is based on the Linux Security Modules (LSMs), as is SELinux. AppArmor, however, provides only a subset of the controls SELinux provides. Whereas SELinux has methods for Type Enforcement (TE), Role-Based Access Controls (RBACs) and Multi Level Security (MLS), AppArmor provides only a form of Type Enforcement. Type Enforcement involves confining a given application to a specific set of actions, such as writing to Internet network sockets, reading a specific file and so forth. RBAC involves restricting user activity based on the defined role, and MLS involves limiting access to a given resource based on its data classification (or label). By focusing on Type Enforcement, AppArmor provides protection against, arguably, the most common Linux attack scenario—the possibility of an attacker exploiting vulnerabilities in a given application that allows the attacker to perform activities not intended by the application’s developer or administrator. By creating a baseline of expected application behavior and blocking all activity that falls outside that baseline, AppArmor (potentially) can mitigate even zero-day (unpatched) software vulnerabilities. What AppArmor cannot do, however, is prevent abuse of an application’s intended functionality. For example, the Secure Shell dæmon, SSHD, is designed to grant shell access to remote users. If an attacker figures out how to break SSHD’s authentication by, for example, entering just the right sort of gibberish in the user name field of an SSH login session, resulting in SSHD giving the attacker a remote shell as some authorized user, AppArmor may very well allow the attack to proceed, as the attack’s outcome is perfectly consistent with what SSHD would be expected to do after successful login. If, on the other hand, an attacker figured out how to make the CUPS print services dæmon add a line to /etc/passwd that effectively creates a new user account, AppArmor could prevent that attack from succeeding, because CUPS has no reason to be able to write to the file /etc/passwd.

Source of Information : Linux Journal 185 September

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