Linux-man Archive on
 help / color / Atom feed
From: Aleksa Sarai <>
To: Al Viro <>,
	Michael Kerrisk <>
Cc: Aleksa Sarai <>,
	Christian Brauner <>,
	Aleksa Sarai <>,,,
Subject: [PATCH RFC 1/3] symlink.7: document magic-links more completely
Date: Fri,  4 Oct 2019 00:55:39 +1000
Message-ID: <> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <>

Traditionally, magic-links have not been a well-understood topic in
Linux. Given the new changes in their semantics (related to the link
mode of trailing magic-links), it seems like a good opportunity to shine
more light on magic-links and their semantics.

Signed-off-by: Aleksa Sarai <>
 man7/path_resolution.7 | 15 +++++++++++++++
 man7/symlink.7         | 39 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++---------
 2 files changed, 45 insertions(+), 9 deletions(-)

diff --git a/man7/path_resolution.7 b/man7/path_resolution.7
index 07664ed8faec..46f25ec4cdfa 100644
--- a/man7/path_resolution.7
+++ b/man7/path_resolution.7
@@ -136,6 +136,21 @@ we are just creating it.
 The details on the treatment
 of the final entry are described in the manual pages of the specific
 system calls.
+Since Linux 5.FOO, if the final entry is a "magic-link" (see
+.BR symlink (7)),
+and the user is attempting to
+.BR open (2)
+it, then there is an additional permission-related restriction applied to the
+operation: the requested access mode must not exceed the "link mode" of the
+magic-link (unlike ordinary symlinks, magic-links have their own file mode.)
+For example, if
+.I /proc/[pid]/fd/[num]
+has a link mode of
+.BR 0500 ,
+unprivileged users are not permitted to
+.BR open ()
+the magic-link for writing.
 .SS . and ..
 By convention, every directory has the entries "." and "..",
 which refer to the directory itself and to its parent directory,
diff --git a/man7/symlink.7 b/man7/symlink.7
index 9f5bddd5dc21..33f0ec703acd 100644
--- a/man7/symlink.7
+++ b/man7/symlink.7
@@ -84,6 +84,25 @@ as they are implemented on Linux and other systems,
 are outlined here.
 It is important that site-local applications also conform to these rules,
 so that the user interface can be as consistent as possible.
+.SS Magic-links
+There is a special class of symlink-like objects known as "magic-links" which
+can be found in certain pseudo-filesystems such as
+.BR proc (5)
+(examples include
+.IR /proc/[pid]/exe " and " /proc/[pid]/fd/* .)
+Unlike normal symlinks, magic-links are not resolved through
+pathname-expansion, but instead act as direct references to the kernel's own
+representation of a file handle. As such, these magic-links allow users to
+access files which cannot be referenced with normal paths (such as unlinked
+files still referenced by a running program.)
+Because they can bypass ordinary
+.BR mount_namespaces (7)-based
+restrictions, magic-links have been used as attack vectors in various exploits.
+As such (since Linux 5.FOO), there are additional restrictions placed on the
+re-opening of magic-links (see
+.BR path_resolution (7)
+for more details.)
 .SS Symbolic link ownership, permissions, and timestamps
 The owner and group of an existing symbolic link can be changed
@@ -99,16 +118,18 @@ of a symbolic link can be changed using
 .BR lutimes (3).
-On Linux, the permissions of a symbolic link are not used
-in any operations; the permissions are always
-0777 (read, write, and execute for all user categories),
 .\" Linux does not currently implement an lchmod(2).
-and can't be changed.
-(Note that there are some "magic" symbolic links in the
-.I /proc
-directory tree\(emfor example, the
-.IR /proc/[pid]/fd/*
-files\(emthat have different permissions.)
+On Linux, the permissions of an ordinary symbolic link are not used in any
+operations; the permissions are always 0777 (read, write, and execute for all
+user categories), and can't be changed.
+However, magic-links do not follow this rule. They can have a non-0777 mode,
+which is used for permission checks when the final
+component of an
+.BR open (2)'s
+path is a magic-link (see
+.BR path_resolution (7).)
 .\" The
 .\" 4.4BSD

  reply index

Thread overview: 15+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2019-10-03 14:55 [PATCH RFC 0/3] document openat2(2) patch series Aleksa Sarai
2019-10-03 14:55 ` Aleksa Sarai [this message]
2019-10-07 16:36   ` [PATCH RFC 1/3] symlink.7: document magic-links more completely Jann Horn
2019-10-08  1:33     ` Aleksa Sarai
2019-10-09  7:55   ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2019-10-09  9:57     ` Aleksa Sarai
2019-10-03 14:55 ` [PATCH RFC 2/3] open.2: add O_EMPTYPATH documentation Aleksa Sarai
2019-10-09  8:01   ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2019-10-09 10:00     ` Aleksa Sarai
2019-10-03 14:55 ` [PATCH RFC 3/3] openat2.2: document new openat2(2) syscall Aleksa Sarai
2019-10-09  8:36   ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2019-10-09 10:17     ` Aleksa Sarai
2019-10-09 10:32       ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2019-10-03 14:55 ` [PATCH RFC 3/3] openat2.2: document new syscall Aleksa Sarai
2019-10-03 15:00   ` Aleksa Sarai

Reply instructions:

You may reply publically to this message via plain-text email
using any one of the following methods:

* Save the following mbox file, import it into your mail client,
  and reply-to-all from there: mbox

  Avoid top-posting and favor interleaved quoting:

* Reply using the --to, --cc, and --in-reply-to
  switches of git-send-email(1):

  git send-email \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \

* If your mail client supports setting the In-Reply-To header
  via mailto: links, try the mailto: link

Linux-man Archive on

Archives are clonable:
	git clone --mirror linux-man/git/0.git

	# If you have public-inbox 1.1+ installed, you may
	# initialize and index your mirror using the following commands:
	public-inbox-init -V2 linux-man linux-man/ \
	public-inbox-index linux-man

Example config snippet for mirrors

Newsgroup available over NNTP:

AGPL code for this site: git clone