a fail-secure replacement for sudo
You can not select more than 25 topics Topics must start with a letter or number, can include dashes ('-') and can be up to 35 characters long.
Jakob Kaivo 757c0bd92b implement full precedence rules 3 months ago
check implement full precedence rules 3 months ago
doc begin paper with abstract and outline 3 months ago
exec remove need to localize logging 3 months ago
privexec set PATH to reasonable default before executing SUID wrapper 3 months ago
.gitignore ignore compiled binaries 3 months ago
LICENSE initial commit 3 months ago
Makefile use separate group for check 3 months ago
README.md correct keyword authorized -> authorize 3 months ago


PrivExec is an attempt to provide administrators with a way to allow privelige escalation in a manner similar to sudo, but in a more resilient way by splitting different stages of the escalation process into separate binaries.

PrivExec consists of three binaries:

  • privexec
  • check
  • exec

The first, privexec, is the user-facing binary. It should be installed in a directory that is part of the global $PATH. In order to function properly, privexec must be installed SETGID (NOT SETUID) to a group that contains not actual users (we suggest _privexec for this purpose).

The other two binaries should be installed with group ownership set to the same group, and permissions set to allow user and group execution for both, with other execution disabled, as well as root ownership and SETUID for exec. In summary, you should have something like:

$ ls -l /usr/local/bin/privexec /usr/local/lib/privexec/check /usr/local/lib/privexec/exec
-rwxr-sr-x 1 root _privexec 19888 Feb  1 10:32 /usr/local/bin/privexec
-r-xr-x--- 1 root _privexec 19888 Feb  1 10:33 /usr/local/lib/privexec/check
-r-sr-x--- 1 root _privexec 19456 Feb  1 10:13 /usr/local/lib/privexec/exec

The front-end binary is responsible for calling the check binary to verify whether the user is authorized to execute the given command, and then calling the exec binary to execute the command with elevated privileges if and only if the check command positively confirms authorization. The exec command is obviously SETUID to enable privilege escalation. The privexec command is SETGID to restrict the execution of the other two commands. The check command is largely unprivileged (though administrators may wish to restrict its configuration file to be readable only by the _privexec group to prohibit casual inspection of which accounts are allowed to elevate privileges), and is the location of all complexity. It is responsible for parsing /etc/privexec.conf and determining whether the given user is authorized to run the given command.

Configuration is done via /etc/privexec.conf. The format is intentionally strict. Each may be blank, a comment (beginning with a '#' character in the first column), or a directive. Directives are of the form:

<keyword> <principal> [command]

Where <keyword> is one of authorize, authenticate, or deny; <principal> is either a username or a group name prepended with ':', and [command] is an optional command. Tokens must be separated by exactly one space. Additional white space is not allowed.

The entire configuration file is parsed whenever privexec invokes check. Any syntax errors will result in failure. Privilege checking is performed so as to be most restrictive. In order from least to most:

`authorize` - The user is authorized to execute the associate command
without further interaction.

`authenticate` - The user must authenticate themself before the command
is executed. This is handled by PAM with the service name `privexec`.

`deny` - The user is not permitted to execute the command.

A user name match has higher precedence than a group match, and a match containing a program name has higher precedence than a match without the program name. So the total ordering of precedence (from least to most) is:

authorize :group
authenticate :group
deny :group
authorize :group command
authenticate :group command
deny :group command
authorize user
authenticate user
deny user
authorize user command
authenticate user command
deny user command