Unix & Linux
networking sudo network-namespaces
Updated Fri, 20 May 2022 00:27:38 GMT

Secure way to allow any user to run programs in specific network namespace

I have a cell modem connected to my server that I want to use as a means to get notification emails out when the landline dies.

To nicely separate normal network access and this exceptional cell modem access, I created a network namespace and created the network device in there as the only device. To have a program use the cell modem I simply use ip netns exec.

The wrinkle is that I want to allow any user to run any program they wish in the namespace, but netns exec requires root. My solution is as follows:


/bin/ip netns exec oob \
    /usr/bin/sudo -u "#$SUDO_UID" -g "#$SUDO_GID" /bin/sh -c "$cmd_line"


ALL ALL=NOPASSWD: /usr/local/sbin/_oob_shim

I figure the only way to run the shim without already being root or knowing the root password is through sudo, and I can trust sudo to set $SUDO_UID and $SUDO_GID to the right values.

Am I opening myself up to significant risk? Or, should I say am I missing any obvious caveats?


The only bug I see with your code is that you're running the user's command unnecessarily through sh -c when you should just run it directly. Running it through sh -c buys you nothing but it destroys quoting that the user originally put into the command. For example, try this:

sudo /usr/local/sbin/_oob_shim ls -l "a b"

should list a file called a b inside the context of the namespace but instead it lists two files called a and b.

sudo /usr/local/sbin/_oob_shim ls -l "*"

should list a file called * (literal asterisk), fails for the same reason.

So it should look like this instead:

/bin/ip netns exec oob \
    /usr/bin/sudo -u "#$SUDO_UID" -g "#$SUDO_GID" -- "$@"

Makes the script simpler to boot!

Another point I can make is that although in this case the bug was just a functionality bug, not a security bug, one is always suspicious when auditing security-sensitive code and finding that it runs things through shells because that's almost always a problem.

Finally, the user's supplementary groups will not be propagated into the namespace (they get only their uid and main gid), but that doesn't seem like a huge problem and fixing that is not trivial.

Other than that, it looks good to me.

Comments (2)

  • +1 – Using the shell didn't quite buy me nothing, it prevents sudo /usr/local/sbin/_oob_shim -u root cat /etc/shadow which is a hole in your suggested version. You're totally right about the quoting though, I'll start with sudo -u "#$SUDO_UID" -g "#$SUDO_GID" -- "$@" and keep looking for security holes. — Mar 13, 2015 at 16:14  
  • +0 – You're so right about the user being able to override options with my version. I totally missed that. Your solution of using -- if of course correct. I'd better edit that in to my answer! — Mar 14, 2015 at 09:21