BIND 9 Security

(Part 2 - AppArmor, SecompBPF and Firejail)

Carsten Strotmann and the ISC Team

Created: 2021-10-20 Wed 18:25


Welcome to part two of our BIND 9 security webinar series

In this Webinar

  • Linux security modules
  • AppArmor
  • The AppArmor Policy for BIND 9
  • Fixing AppArmor file permission issues
  • Syscall "Firewall" SecompBPF
  • Securing BIND 9 with Firejail
  • Systemd Security for BIND 9
  • Hands-On lab

Process Hardening

Motivation of process hardening

  • BIND 9, as all network enabled software, had security issues in the past
    • There are likely new security issues being found in the future
    • The process hardening recipes contained in this webinar series do minimize the impact of security issues in networked software
    • However the process hardening increases the complexity of the setup and might prevent certain features of BIND 9 to work
    • Do not apply these hardening recipes without doing throughout research and a good understanding how they work and what they restrict

Detecting attacks

  • The process hardening methods also enable the operator to detect attacks on the BIND 9 process
    • If the policy gets violated, the BIND 9 process is terminated and additional information is logged (for example into the Systemd journal or the audit log)
    • To catch attacks, it is recommended that the log-files, and also the BIND 9 named process is monitored for restarts
      • An unusual restart can be evidence of an attack

When BIND 9 acts strangely

  • The process hardening alters the way how a Linux system works
    • If BIND 9 starts to act strangely, try to back-out some or all process hardening steps until the strangeness goes away
    • Do not open a ticket with the operating system vendor (Debian, Suse, Canonical) or ISC before testing the misbehaving function on a non-hardened install

Linux security modules

LSM (Linux Security Modules)

  • LSMs are extensions of the Linux kernel.
    • We've discussed the place of LSMs in the Linux Kernel in the last webinar
  • Major LSMs
    • SELinux (last webinar)
    • AppArmor (this webinar)
    • SMACK (mostly used in embedded systems)
    • TOMOYO (powerful, but less popular)


AppArmor LSM

  • AppArmor is a Linux Security Module that implements Mandatory Access Control
    • The MAC policy works on the file path of objects (in contrast to SELinux, where the policy is selected by security label on the file-system independent of the path)
    • AppArmor is available in Linux since Kernel version 2.6.36 (October 2010)
    • AppArmor is enabled by default in Debian 10/11. It is also available in Suse Linux, Ubuntu, Gentoo and Arch-Linux

AppArmor status

  • The command aa-status can be used to check if AppArmor is active (example from a default Debian 11 install, the named profile is loaded and AppArmor is active)
# aa-status
apparmor module is loaded.
8 profiles are loaded.
8 profiles are in enforce mode.
0 profiles are in complain mode.
0 processes have profiles defined.
0 processes are in enforce mode.
0 processes are in complain mode.
0 processes are unconfined but have a profile defined.

AppArmor Logging

  • AppArmor (like SELinux) uses the Linux Audit Subsystem for logging.
    • It is recommended to have the auditd service installed and running
# apt install auditd

AppArmor Logging

  • AppArmor security policy violations will be written to /var/log/audit/audit.log
    • Unfortunately AppArmor messages are currently not compatible with the format expected by the ausearch tool
    • The audit log file must be filtered manually
# grep -i denied /var/log/audit/audit.log
type=AVC msg=audit(1634287113.597:118): apparmor="DENIED" operation="open"
    profile="named" name="/srv/bind/zones/"
    pid=41687 comm="isc-worker0000" requested_mask="r"
    denied_mask="r" fsuid=106 ouid=0FSUID="bind" OUID="root"

AppArmor on Processes

  • The -Z parameter to the ps command can be used to list processes that are secured by AppArmor:
# ps -efZ | grep -v unconfined
LABEL                           UID          PID    PPID  C STIME TTY          TIME CMD
named (enforce)                 bind       41687       1  0 10:38 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/named -f -u bind

AppArmor Tools

  • Additional AppArmor tools (such as aa-unconfined) can be found in the Debian packet apparmor-utils
apt install apparmor-utils
  • The command aa-unconfined will check for running processes listening on a network socket and will print their AppArmor security status:
# aa-unconfined
451 /usr/sbin/dhclient (/sbin/dhclient) not confined
675 /usr/sbin/sshd (sshd: /usr/sbin/sshd -D [listener] 0 of 10-100 startups) not confined
41687 /usr/sbin/named confined by 'named (enforce)'

AppArmor Modes

AppArmor Modes

  • AppArmor can work in several modes
    • The modes can be activated per AppArmor profile (service/application)
    • Mode disabled - AppArmor is not active
    • Mode complain - AppArmor is active but not enforcing the policy
    • Mode enforce - AppArmor is active and is enforcing the policy
    • Mode audit - AppArmor is active, enforcing and is auditing system calls

Setting AppArmor Modes

  • The tools aa-complain, aa-enforce, aa-disable and aa-audit can be used to switch the AppArmor mode on a program.
    • The process needs to be restarted after changing the AppArmor mode:
# aa-complain /usr/sbin/named
Setting /usr/sbin/named to complain mode.
Warning: profile named represents multiple programs
# systemctl restart bind9

AppArmor and BIND 9

The AppArmor Policy for BIND 9

  • The AppArmor Policy file for BIND 9 can be found in /etc/apparmor.d/usr.sbin.named:
# vim:syntax=apparmor
# Last Modified: Fri Jun  1 16:43:22 2007
#include <tunables/global>

profile named /usr/sbin/named flags=(attach_disconnected) {
  #include <abstractions/base>
  #include <abstractions/nameservice>

  capability net_bind_service,
  capability setgid,
  capability setuid,
  # /etc/bind should be read-only for bind
  # /var/lib/bind is for dynamically updated zone (and journal) files.
  # /var/cache/bind is for slave/stub data, since we're not the origin of it.
  # See /usr/share/doc/bind9/README.Debian.gz
  /etc/bind/** r,
  /var/lib/bind/** rw,
  /var/lib/bind/ rw,
  /var/cache/bind/** lrw,
  /var/cache/bind/ rw,

  # Database file used by allow-new-zones
  /var/cache/bind/_default.nzd-lock rwk,

The AppArmor Profile for BIND 9

  • This profile is called named and it is for the process started from /usr/sbin/named
    • The attach_disconnected flag tells AppArmor how to handle file access to disconnected files. Disconnected files are open files where the application still has access to the file handle, but the file cannot be looked up by name anymore.
profile named /usr/sbin/named flags=(attach_disconnected) {

The AppArmor Profile for BIND 9

  • The profile specifies the Linux capabilities available to the named process
capability net_bind_service, # open a network socket
capability setgid,           # change the group ID of the process
capability setuid,           # change the user ID of the process
capability sys_chroot,       # use the chroot syscall
capability sys_resource,     # change resource restrictions on the process

The AppArmor Profile for BIND 9

  • The profile defines the file access permissions that might overwrite the file-system permissions:
/etc/bind/** r,            # read access including sub-directories
/var/lib/bind/** rw,       # read/write access incl. sub-directories
/var/lib/bind/ rw,         # read/write access for this directory
/var/cache/bind/** lrw,    # read/write and link permission
/var/cache/bind/ rw,       # read/write access for this directory

AppArmor Profile for BIND 9

  • Local additions and overwrites to the system AppArmor profile can be stored in /etc/apparmor.d/local/usr.sbin.named. This file is included at the end of the mail profile:
  #include <local/usr.sbin.named>

Finding and fixing AppArmor issues

Fixing AppArmor file permission issues

  • File permission issues are the main problem type with AppArmor installs
  • The command aa-logprof can be used to find AppArmor permission issues and to create an extension to the AppArmor profile:
# aa-logprof
Reading log entries from /var/log/audit/audit.log.
Updating AppArmor profiles in /etc/apparmor.d.
Complain-mode changes:

Profile:  named
Path:     /srv/bind/zones/
New Mode: r
Severity: 4

 [1 - #include <abstractions/ubuntu-browsers.d/user-files>]
  2 - /srv/bind/zones/ r,
(A)llow / [(D)eny] / (I)gnore / (G)lob / Glob with (E)xtension / (N)ew / Audi(t) / Abo(r)t / (F)inish

Fixing AppArmor file permission issues

  • The changes will overwrite the profile provides by the Linux system
    • Overwriting the system delivered profile is not recommended, as it might get replaced by an system update
    • Best is to view the changes and manually add them to /etc/apparmor.d/local
Adding /srv/bind/zones/ r, to profile.
Enforce-mode changes:

= Changed Local Profiles =

The following local profiles were changed. Would you like to save them?

 [1 - named]
(S)ave Changes / Save Selec(t)ed Profile / [(V)iew Changes] / View Changes b/w (C)lean profiles / Abo(r)t

Example Extension of the BIND 9 AppArmor Profile

  • This extension in /etc/apparmor.d/local/usr.sbin.named allows the BIND 9 process named to read files below /srv/bind/zones/:
/srv/bind/zones/** r,

Securing a non-system BIND 9 install

  • AppArmor secures processes based on the path of their binaries
    • If the program binary is stored under a non-default path, the process is not protected by AppArmor
    • For example this can happen for BIND 9 versions that have been compiled from source and that are located under /usr/local or /opt
  • The command line tool aa-exec can be used to start any binary under the control of AppArmor
# aa-exec -p named /opt/bind/sbin/named -f -u bind

Securing a non-system BIND 9 install

  • Adjust the Systemd unit for BIND 9 to execute BIND 9 through aa-exec
  • Check that the BIND 9 process is confined by AppArmor:
# ps auxZ | grep named
named (enforce)                 bind      102252  0.4  0.9 241200 19388 pts/9    Sl+  12:39   0:00 /opt/bind/sbin/named -f -u bind
unconfined                      root      102257  0.0  0.0   6256   720 pts/3    S+   12:39   0:00 grep named

Syscall "Firewall" SecompBPF


  • SecompBPF (SECure COMPuting with filters) is a security technology available in modern Linux systems
    • It's a Firewall for system-calls
  • By default, every process can issue any system-call towards the Linux kernel
    • but not every process needs access to all the system-calls
    • BIND 9 for example does not need to load kernel modules, change the system time or set a new host-name on the server


  • SecompBPF can be used to restrict the system-calls available to a process
  • Systemd and Process-Sandbox tools like Firejail can be used to configure SecompBPF

Securing BIND 9 with Firejail

Firejail Sandbox

  • Firejail ( is a security sandbox for Linux processes
    • It was originally developed for Desktop applications (such as the Firefox browser), but it can be used for background server applications as well
    • Firejail creates a secure sandbox around the process using Linux name-spaces (container) and SecompBPF

Installing Firejail

  • The Debian packet firejail contains the Firejail command line tools, firejail-profiles contains the security profiles for popular applications
# apt install firejail firejail-profiles
  • The main configuration file for Firejail is /etc/firejail/firejail.config
  • Firejail integrates with AppArmor if available

Firejail Profile for BIND 9

  • The Firejail profiles are stored in /etc/firejail
# ls -l /etc/firejail/ | head
total 4460
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root  1146 Feb 27  2021 0ad.profile
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   841 Feb 27  2021 2048-qt.profile
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   310 Feb 27  2021 7za.profile
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   310 Feb 27  2021 7z.profile
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   310 Feb 27  2021 7zr.profile
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   906 Feb 27  2021 abiword.profile
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   521 Feb 27  2021 abrowser.profile
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   258 Feb 27  2021 acat.profile
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   260 Feb 27  2021 adiff.profile

List Firejail processes

  • The command firejail --list can be used to list all processes that are protected by Firejail
# firejail --list
49757:root::firejail named

Firejail Top

  • The command firejail --top will display the resource usage of all processes running under Firejail
PID   User      RES(KiB) SHR(KiB) CPU%  Prcs Uptime    Command
49757 root      17740    8324     0.0   3    00:02:50  firejail named -f -u bind
  • The command firejail --netstats will display network statistics for all processes running under Firejail


  • The command firemon can be used to monitor the execution of a process under Firejail control:
# firemon

12:25:10 exec 49413 (root) NEW SANDBOX: firejail /usr/sbin/named -g
12:25:10 fork 49413 (root) firejail /usr/sbin/named -g
        child 49414 firejail /usr/sbin/named -g
12:25:10 fork 49413 (root) firejail /usr/sbin/named -g
        child 49415 firejail /usr/sbin/named -g
12:25:10 exit 49415 (root)
12:25:10 fork 49414 (root) firejail /usr/sbin/named -g
        child 49416 firejail /usr/sbin/named -g
12:25:10 exec 49416 (root) /run/firejail/lib/fseccomp protocol build inet,inet6 /run/firejail/mnt/seccomp/seccomp.protocol
12:25:10 exit 49416 (root)
12:25:10 fork 49414 (root) firejail /usr/sbin/named -g
        child 49417 firejail /usr/sbin/named -g
12:25:10 exit 49417 (root)
12:25:10 fork 49414 (root) firejail /usr/sbin/named -g
        child 49418 firejail /usr/sbin/named -g
12:25:10 exec 49418 (root) /run/firejail/lib/fseccomp drop /run/firejail/mnt/seccomp/seccomp /run/firejail/mnt/seccomp/seccomp.postexec _sysctl,acct,add_key, ...

Systemd Security for BIND 9

Systemd Unit Security

  • Linux systemd can apply many security measures to processes started from Systemd units
  • The number of security related configuration options increases between Systemd releases
  • The command systemd-analyze security can be used to check the security score on a Systemd unit


  • The score for the default BIND 9 unit file delivered with Debian 11 is rather poor (9.6, where 10 is the worst and 0 is the best)
# systemd-analyze security bind9
  NAME                                                        DESCRIPTION                                                             EXPOSURE
✗ PrivateNetwork=                                             Service has access to the host's network                                     0.5
✗ User=/DynamicUser=                                          Service runs as root user                                                    0.4
✗ CapabilityBoundingSet=~CAP_SET(UID|GID|PCAP)                Service may change UID/GID identities/capabilities                           0.3
✗ CapabilityBoundingSet=~CAP_SYS_ADMIN                        Service has administrator privileges                                         0.3
✗ CapabilityBoundingSet=~CAP_SYS_PTRACE                       Service has ptrace() debugging abilities                                     0.3
✗ RestrictAddressFamilies=~AF_(INET|INET6)                    Service may allocate Internet sockets                                        0.3
✗ RestrictNamespaces=~CLONE_NEWUSER                           Service may create user namespaces                                           0.3
✗ RestrictAddressFamilies=~…                                  Service may allocate exotic sockets                                          0.3
✗ CapabilityBoundingSet=~CAP_(CHOWN|FSETID|SETFCAP)           Service may change file ownership/access mode/capabilities unrestricted      0.2
✗ CapabilityBoundingSet=~CAP_SYS_TTY_CONFIG                   Service may issue vhangup()                                                  0.1
✗ CapabilityBoundingSet=~CAP_WAKE_ALARM                       Service may program timers that wake up the system                           0.1
✗ RestrictAddressFamilies=~AF_UNIX                            Service may allocate local sockets                                           0.1
✗ ProcSubset=                                                 Service has full access to non-process /proc files (/proc subset=)           0.1

→ Overall exposure level for named.service: 9.6 UNSAFE 😨

Hardened Systemd Unit for BIND 9

  • A hardened Systemd unit for BIND 9 for Debian 11 can be found at
    • With the hardened unit, the Systemd security score is 3.2 (10 is very bad, 0 is best)
  • The hardened systemd unit does conflict with Firejail, use either one but not both
  • Systemd security or Firejail can be used together with the Linux Security Module such as AppArmor or SELinux

Systemd Resource usage display

  • The command systemd-cgtop

    Control Group                                                                    Tasks   %CPU   Memory  Input/s Output/s
    /                                                                                  104  100.4     1.6G       0B   290.5K
    system.slice                                                                        35   75.9   200.5M        -        -
    system.slice/named.service                                                           5   29.0    30.1M        -        -
    system.slice/crowdsec.service                                                        7   25.9    37.6M        -        -
    user.slice                                                                          14   23.3     1.3G        -        -
    user.slice/user-0.slice                                                             14   23.3     1.3G        -        -


Process hardening - Final words

  • SELinux, AppArmor, Firejail and Systemd-Unit Security are alternatives to reach the same goal: restrict the impact of a security issue in networked software
    • It is not required (nor recommended) to deploy all these methods at once - choose the one that suits your deployment best
      • If you OS already comes with SELinux or AppArmor enabled, use it
      • If you Linux is using Systemd, use the extra security settings on the unit files
      • If SELinux, AppArmor or Systemd are not an option, Firejail might be a good alternative

Next webinars

  • November 16 - Instrumenting BIND 9 on Linux with BCC/eBPF
  • December 15 - DNS Fragmentation: Real-World measurements, impact and mitigation

Questions and Answers