capabilities(7) — Linux manual page


CAPABILITIES(7)           Linux Programmer's Manual          CAPABILITIES(7)

NAME         top

       capabilities - overview of Linux capabilities

DESCRIPTION         top

       For the purpose of performing permission checks, traditional UNIX
       implementations distinguish two categories of processes: privileged
       processes (whose effective user ID is 0, referred to as superuser or
       root), and unprivileged processes (whose effective UID is nonzero).
       Privileged processes bypass all kernel permission checks, while
       unprivileged processes are subject to full permission checking based
       on the process's credentials (usually: effective UID, effective GID,
       and supplementary group list).

       Starting with kernel 2.2, Linux divides the privileges traditionally
       associated with superuser into distinct units, known as capabilities,
       which can be independently enabled and disabled.  Capabilities are a
       per-thread attribute.

   Capabilities list
       The following list shows the capabilities implemented on Linux, and
       the operations or behaviors that each capability permits:

       CAP_AUDIT_CONTROL (since Linux 2.6.11)
              Enable and disable kernel auditing; change auditing filter
              rules; retrieve auditing status and filtering rules.

       CAP_AUDIT_READ (since Linux 3.16)
              Allow reading the audit log via a multicast netlink socket.

       CAP_AUDIT_WRITE (since Linux 2.6.11)
              Write records to kernel auditing log.

       CAP_BLOCK_SUSPEND (since Linux 3.5)
              Employ features that can block system suspend (epoll(7)
              EPOLLWAKEUP, /proc/sys/wake_lock).

       CAP_BPF (since Linux 5.8)
              Employ privileged BPF operations; see bpf(2) and

              This capability was added in Linux 5.8 to separate out BPF
              functionality from the overloaded CAP_SYS_ADMIN capability.

       CAP_CHECKPOINT_RESTORE (since Linux 5.9)
              * Update /proc/sys/kernel/ns_last_pid (see pid_namespaces(7));
              * employ the set_tid feature of clone3(2);
              * read the contents of the symbolic links in
                /proc/[pid]/map_files for other processes.

              This capability was added in Linux 5.9 to separate out
              checkpoint/restore functionality from the overloaded
              CAP_SYS_ADMIN capability.

              Make arbitrary changes to file UIDs and GIDs (see chown(2)).

              Bypass file read, write, and execute permission checks.  (DAC
              is an abbreviation of "discretionary access control".)

              * Bypass file read permission checks and directory read and
                execute permission checks;
              * invoke open_by_handle_at(2);
              * use the linkat(2) AT_EMPTY_PATH flag to create a link to a
                file referred to by a file descriptor.

              * Bypass permission checks on operations that normally require
                the filesystem UID of the process to match the UID of the
                file (e.g., chmod(2), utime(2)), excluding those operations
                covered by CAP_DAC_OVERRIDE and CAP_DAC_READ_SEARCH;
              * set inode flags (see ioctl_iflags(2)) on arbitrary files;
              * set Access Control Lists (ACLs) on arbitrary files;
              * ignore directory sticky bit on file deletion;
              * modify user extended attributes on sticky directory owned by
                any user;
              * specify O_NOATIME for arbitrary files in open(2) and

              * Don't clear set-user-ID and set-group-ID mode bits when a
                file is modified;
              * set the set-group-ID bit for a file whose GID does not match
                the filesystem or any of the supplementary GIDs of the
                calling process.

              Lock memory (mlock(2), mlockall(2), mmap(2), shmctl(2)).

              Bypass permission checks for operations on System V IPC

              Bypass permission checks for sending signals (see kill(2)).
              This includes use of the ioctl(2) KDSIGACCEPT operation.

       CAP_LEASE (since Linux 2.4)
              Establish leases on arbitrary files (see fcntl(2)).

              Set the FS_APPEND_FL and FS_IMMUTABLE_FL inode flags (see

       CAP_MAC_ADMIN (since Linux 2.6.25)
              Allow MAC configuration or state changes.  Implemented for the
              Smack Linux Security Module (LSM).

       CAP_MAC_OVERRIDE (since Linux 2.6.25)
              Override Mandatory Access Control (MAC).  Implemented for the
              Smack LSM.

       CAP_MKNOD (since Linux 2.4)
              Create special files using mknod(2).

              Perform various network-related operations:
              * interface configuration;
              * administration of IP firewall, masquerading, and accounting;
              * modify routing tables;
              * bind to any address for transparent proxying;
              * set type-of-service (TOS);
              * clear driver statistics;
              * set promiscuous mode;
              * enabling multicasting;
              * use setsockopt(2) to set the following socket options:
                SO_DEBUG, SO_MARK, SO_PRIORITY (for a priority outside the
                range 0 to 6), SO_RCVBUFFORCE, and SO_SNDBUFFORCE.

              Bind a socket to Internet domain privileged ports (port
              numbers less than 1024).

              (Unused)  Make socket broadcasts, and listen to multicasts.

              * Use RAW and PACKET sockets;
              * bind to any address for transparent proxying.

       CAP_PERFMON (since Linux 5.8)
              Employ various performance-monitoring mechanisms, including:

              * call perf_event_open(2);
              * employ various BPF operations that have performance

              This capability was added in Linux 5.8 to separate out
              performance monitoring functionality from the overloaded
              CAP_SYS_ADMIN capability.  See also the kernel source file

              * Make arbitrary manipulations of process GIDs and
                supplementary GID list;
              * forge GID when passing socket credentials via UNIX domain
              * write a group ID mapping in a user namespace (see

       CAP_SETFCAP (since Linux 2.6.24)
              Set arbitrary capabilities on a file.

              If file capabilities are supported (i.e., since Linux 2.6.24):
              add any capability from the calling thread's bounding set to
              its inheritable set; drop capabilities from the bounding set
              (via prctl(2) PR_CAPBSET_DROP); make changes to the securebits

              If file capabilities are not supported (i.e., kernels before
              Linux 2.6.24): grant or remove any capability in the caller's
              permitted capability set to or from any other process.  (This
              property of CAP_SETPCAP is not available when the kernel is
              configured to support file capabilities, since CAP_SETPCAP has
              entirely different semantics for such kernels.)

              * Make arbitrary manipulations of process UIDs (setuid(2),
                setreuid(2), setresuid(2), setfsuid(2));
              * forge UID when passing socket credentials via UNIX domain
              * write a user ID mapping in a user namespace (see

              Note: this capability is overloaded; see Notes to kernel
              developers, below.

              * Perform a range of system administration operations
                including: quotactl(2), mount(2), umount(2), pivot_root(2),
                swapon(2), swapoff(2), sethostname(2), and setdomainname(2);
              * perform privileged syslog(2) operations (since Linux 2.6.37,
                CAP_SYSLOG should be used to permit such operations);
              * perform VM86_REQUEST_IRQ vm86(2) command;
              * access the same checkpoint/restore functionality that is
                governed by CAP_CHECKPOINT_RESTORE (but the latter, weaker
                capability is preferred for accessing that functionality).
              * perform the same BPF operations as are governed by CAP_BPF
                (but the latter, weaker capability is preferred for
                accessing that functionality).
              * employ the same performance monitoring mechanisms as are
                governed by CAP_PERFMON (but the latter, weaker capability
                is preferred for accessing that functionality).
              * perform IPC_SET and IPC_RMID operations on arbitrary System
                V IPC objects;
              * override RLIMIT_NPROC resource limit;
              * perform operations on trusted and security extended
                attributes (see xattr(7));
              * use lookup_dcookie(2);
              * use ioprio_set(2) to assign IOPRIO_CLASS_RT and (before
                Linux 2.6.25) IOPRIO_CLASS_IDLE I/O scheduling classes;
              * forge PID when passing socket credentials via UNIX domain
              * exceed /proc/sys/fs/file-max, the system-wide limit on the
                number of open files, in system calls that open files (e.g.,
                accept(2), execve(2), open(2), pipe(2));
              * employ CLONE_* flags that create new namespaces with
                clone(2) and unshare(2) (but, since Linux 3.8, creating user
                namespaces does not require any capability);
              * access privileged perf event information;
              * call setns(2) (requires CAP_SYS_ADMIN in the target
              * call fanotify_init(2);
              * perform privileged KEYCTL_CHOWN and KEYCTL_SETPERM keyctl(2)
              * perform madvise(2) MADV_HWPOISON operation;
              * employ the TIOCSTI ioctl(2) to insert characters into the
                input queue of a terminal other than the caller's
                controlling terminal;
              * employ the obsolete nfsservctl(2) system call;
              * employ the obsolete bdflush(2) system call;
              * perform various privileged block-device ioctl(2) operations;
              * perform various privileged filesystem ioctl(2) operations;
              * perform privileged ioctl(2) operations on the /dev/random
                device (see random(4));
              * install a seccomp(2) filter without first having to set the
                no_new_privs thread attribute;
              * modify allow/deny rules for device control groups;
              * employ the ptrace(2) PTRACE_SECCOMP_GET_FILTER operation to
                dump tracee's seccomp filters;
              * employ the ptrace(2) PTRACE_SETOPTIONS operation to suspend
                the tracee's seccomp protections (i.e., the
                PTRACE_O_SUSPEND_SECCOMP flag);
              * perform administrative operations on many device drivers;
              * modify autogroup nice values by writing to
                /proc/[pid]/autogroup (see sched(7)).

              Use reboot(2) and kexec_load(2).

              * Use chroot(2);
              * change mount namespaces using setns(2).

              * Load and unload kernel modules (see init_module(2) and
              * in kernels before 2.6.25: drop capabilities from the system-
                wide capability bounding set.

              * Lower the process nice value (nice(2), setpriority(2)) and
                change the nice value for arbitrary processes;
              * set real-time scheduling policies for calling process, and
                set scheduling policies and priorities for arbitrary
                processes (sched_setscheduler(2), sched_setparam(2),
              * set CPU affinity for arbitrary processes
              * set I/O scheduling class and priority for arbitrary
                processes (ioprio_set(2));
              * apply migrate_pages(2) to arbitrary processes and allow
                processes to be migrated to arbitrary nodes;
              * apply move_pages(2) to arbitrary processes;
              * use the MPOL_MF_MOVE_ALL flag with mbind(2) and

              Use acct(2).

              * Trace arbitrary processes using ptrace(2);
              * apply get_robust_list(2) to arbitrary processes;
              * transfer data to or from the memory of arbitrary processes
                using process_vm_readv(2) and process_vm_writev(2);
              * inspect processes using kcmp(2).

              * Perform I/O port operations (iopl(2) and ioperm(2));
              * access /proc/kcore;
              * employ the FIBMAP ioctl(2) operation;
              * open devices for accessing x86 model-specific registers
                (MSRs, see msr(4));
              * update /proc/sys/vm/mmap_min_addr;
              * create memory mappings at addresses below the value
                specified by /proc/sys/vm/mmap_min_addr;
              * map files in /proc/bus/pci;
              * open /dev/mem and /dev/kmem;
              * perform various SCSI device commands;
              * perform certain operations on hpsa(4) and cciss(4) devices;
              * perform a range of device-specific operations on other

              * Use reserved space on ext2 filesystems;
              * make ioctl(2) calls controlling ext3 journaling;
              * override disk quota limits;
              * increase resource limits (see setrlimit(2));
              * override RLIMIT_NPROC resource limit;
              * override maximum number of consoles on console allocation;
              * override maximum number of keymaps;
              * allow more than 64hz interrupts from the real-time clock;
              * raise msg_qbytes limit for a System V message queue above
                the limit in /proc/sys/kernel/msgmnb (see msgop(2) and
              * allow the RLIMIT_NOFILE resource limit on the number of "in-
                flight" file descriptors to be bypassed when passing file
                descriptors to another process via a UNIX domain socket (see
              * override the /proc/sys/fs/pipe-size-max limit when setting
                the capacity of a pipe using the F_SETPIPE_SZ fcntl(2)
              * use F_SETPIPE_SZ to increase the capacity of a pipe above
                the limit specified by /proc/sys/fs/pipe-max-size;
              * override /proc/sys/fs/mqueue/queues_max,
                /proc/sys/fs/mqueue/msg_max, and
                /proc/sys/fs/mqueue/msgsize_max limits when creating POSIX
                message queues (see mq_overview(7));
              * employ the prctl(2) PR_SET_MM operation;
              * set /proc/[pid]/oom_score_adj to a value lower than the
                value last set by a process with CAP_SYS_RESOURCE.

              Set system clock (settimeofday(2), stime(2), adjtimex(2)); set
              real-time (hardware) clock.

              Use vhangup(2); employ various privileged ioctl(2) operations
              on virtual terminals.

       CAP_SYSLOG (since Linux 2.6.37)
              * Perform privileged syslog(2) operations.  See syslog(2) for
                information on which operations require privilege.
              * View kernel addresses exposed via /proc and other interfaces
                when /proc/sys/kernel/kptr_restrict has the value 1.  (See
                the discussion of the kptr_restrict in proc(5).)

       CAP_WAKE_ALARM (since Linux 3.0)
              Trigger something that will wake up the system (set

   Past and current implementation
       A full implementation of capabilities requires that:

       1. For all privileged operations, the kernel must check whether the
          thread has the required capability in its effective set.

       2. The kernel must provide system calls allowing a thread's
          capability sets to be changed and retrieved.

       3. The filesystem must support attaching capabilities to an
          executable file, so that a process gains those capabilities when
          the file is executed.

       Before kernel 2.6.24, only the first two of these requirements are
       met; since kernel 2.6.24, all three requirements are met.

   Notes to kernel developers
       When adding a new kernel feature that should be governed by a
       capability, consider the following points.

       *  The goal of capabilities is divide the power of superuser into
          pieces, such that if a program that has one or more capabilities
          is compromised, its power to do damage to the system would be less
          than the same program running with root privilege.

       *  You have the choice of either creating a new capability for your
          new feature, or associating the feature with one of the existing
          capabilities.  In order to keep the set of capabilities to a
          manageable size, the latter option is preferable, unless there are
          compelling reasons to take the former option.  (There is also a
          technical limit: the size of capability sets is currently limited
          to 64 bits.)

       *  To determine which existing capability might best be associated
          with your new feature, review the list of capabilities above in
          order to find a "silo" into which your new feature best fits.  One
          approach to take is to determine if there are other features
          requiring capabilities that will always be used along with the new
          feature.  If the new feature is useless without these other
          features, you should use the same capability as the other

       *  Don't choose CAP_SYS_ADMIN if you can possibly avoid it!  A vast
          proportion of existing capability checks are associated with this
          capability (see the partial list above).  It can plausibly be
          called "the new root", since on the one hand, it confers a wide
          range of powers, and on the other hand, its broad scope means that
          this is the capability that is required by many privileged
          programs.  Don't make the problem worse.  The only new features
          that should be associated with CAP_SYS_ADMIN are ones that closely
          match existing uses in that silo.

       *  If you have determined that it really is necessary to create a new
          capability for your feature, don't make or name it as a "single-
          use" capability.  Thus, for example, the addition of the highly
          specific CAP_SYS_PACCT was probably a mistake.  Instead, try to
          identify and name your new capability as a broader silo into which
          other related future use cases might fit.

   Thread capability sets
       Each thread has the following capability sets containing zero or more
       of the above capabilities:

              This is a limiting superset for the effective capabilities
              that the thread may assume.  It is also a limiting superset
              for the capabilities that may be added to the inheritable set
              by a thread that does not have the CAP_SETPCAP capability in
              its effective set.

              If a thread drops a capability from its permitted set, it can
              never reacquire that capability (unless it execve(2)s either a
              set-user-ID-root program, or a program whose associated file
              capabilities grant that capability).

              This is a set of capabilities preserved across an execve(2).
              Inheritable capabilities remain inheritable when executing any
              program, and inheritable capabilities are added to the
              permitted set when executing a program that has the
              corresponding bits set in the file inheritable set.

              Because inheritable capabilities are not generally preserved
              across execve(2) when running as a non-root user, applications
              that wish to run helper programs with elevated capabilities
              should consider using ambient capabilities, described below.

              This is the set of capabilities used by the kernel to perform
              permission checks for the thread.

       Bounding (per-thread since Linux 2.6.25)
              The capability bounding set is a mechanism that can be used to
              limit the capabilities that are gained during execve(2).

              Since Linux 2.6.25, this is a per-thread capability set.  In
              older kernels, the capability bounding set was a system wide
              attribute shared by all threads on the system.

              For more details on the capability bounding set, see below.

       Ambient (since Linux 4.3)
              This is a set of capabilities that are preserved across an
              execve(2) of a program that is not privileged.  The ambient
              capability set obeys the invariant that no capability can ever
              be ambient if it is not both permitted and inheritable.

              The ambient capability set can be directly modified using
              prctl(2).  Ambient capabilities are automatically lowered if
              either of the corresponding permitted or inheritable
              capabilities is lowered.

              Executing a program that changes UID or GID due to the set-
              user-ID or set-group-ID bits or executing a program that has
              any file capabilities set will clear the ambient set.  Ambient
              capabilities are added to the permitted set and assigned to
              the effective set when execve(2) is called.  If ambient
              capabilities cause a process's permitted and effective
              capabilities to increase during an execve(2), this does not
              trigger the secure-execution mode described in

       A child created via fork(2) inherits copies of its parent's
       capability sets.  See below for a discussion of the treatment of
       capabilities during execve(2).

       Using capset(2), a thread may manipulate its own capability sets (see

       Since Linux 3.2, the file /proc/sys/kernel/cap_last_cap exposes the
       numerical value of the highest capability supported by the running
       kernel; this can be used to determine the highest bit that may be set
       in a capability set.

   File capabilities
       Since kernel 2.6.24, the kernel supports associating capability sets
       with an executable file using setcap(8).  The file capability sets
       are stored in an extended attribute (see setxattr(2) and xattr(7))
       named security.capability.  Writing to this extended attribute
       requires the CAP_SETFCAP capability.  The file capability sets, in
       conjunction with the capability sets of the thread, determine the
       capabilities of a thread after an execve(2).

       The three file capability sets are:

       Permitted (formerly known as forced):
              These capabilities are automatically permitted to the thread,
              regardless of the thread's inheritable capabilities.

       Inheritable (formerly known as allowed):
              This set is ANDed with the thread's inheritable set to
              determine which inheritable capabilities are enabled in the
              permitted set of the thread after the execve(2).

              This is not a set, but rather just a single bit.  If this bit
              is set, then during an execve(2) all of the new permitted
              capabilities for the thread are also raised in the effective
              set.  If this bit is not set, then after an execve(2), none of
              the new permitted capabilities is in the new effective set.

              Enabling the file effective capability bit implies that any
              file permitted or inheritable capability that causes a thread
              to acquire the corresponding permitted capability during an
              execve(2) (see the transformation rules described below) will
              also acquire that capability in its effective set.  Therefore,
              when assigning capabilities to a file (setcap(8),
              cap_set_file(3), cap_set_fd(3)), if we specify the effective
              flag as being enabled for any capability, then the effective
              flag must also be specified as enabled for all other
              capabilities for which the corresponding permitted or
              inheritable flags is enabled.

   File capability extended attribute versioning
       To allow extensibility, the kernel supports a scheme to encode a
       version number inside the security.capability extended attribute that
       is used to implement file capabilities.  These version numbers are
       internal to the implementation, and not directly visible to user-
       space applications.  To date, the following versions are supported:

              This was the original file capability implementation, which
              supported 32-bit masks for file capabilities.

       VFS_CAP_REVISION_2 (since Linux 2.6.25)
              This version allows for file capability masks that are 64 bits
              in size, and was necessary as the number of supported
              capabilities grew beyond 32.  The kernel transparently
              continues to support the execution of files that have 32-bit
              version 1 capability masks, but when adding capabilities to
              files that did not previously have capabilities, or modifying
              the capabilities of existing files, it automatically uses the
              version 2 scheme (or possibly the version 3 scheme, as
              described below).

       VFS_CAP_REVISION_3 (since Linux 4.14)
              Version 3 file capabilities are provided to support namespaced
              file capabilities (described below).

              As with version 2 file capabilities, version 3 capability
              masks are 64 bits in size.  But in addition, the root user ID
              of namespace is encoded in the security.capability extended
              attribute.  (A namespace's root user ID is the value that user
              ID 0 inside that namespace maps to in the initial user

              Version 3 file capabilities are designed to coexist with
              version 2 capabilities; that is, on a modern Linux system,
              there may be some files with version 2 capabilities while
              others have version 3 capabilities.

       Before Linux 4.14, the only kind of file capability extended
       attribute that could be attached to a file was a VFS_CAP_REVISION_2
       attribute.  Since Linux 4.14, the version of the security.capability
       extended attribute that is attached to a file depends on the
       circumstances in which the attribute was created.

       Starting with Linux 4.14, a security.capability extended attribute is
       automatically created as (or converted to) a version 3
       (VFS_CAP_REVISION_3) attribute if both of the following are true:

       (1) The thread writing the attribute resides in a noninitial user
           namespace.  (More precisely: the thread resides in a user
           namespace other than the one from which the underlying filesystem
           was mounted.)

       (2) The thread has the CAP_SETFCAP capability over the file inode,
           meaning that (a) the thread has the CAP_SETFCAP capability in its
           own user namespace; and (b) the UID and GID of the file inode
           have mappings in the writer's user namespace.

       When a VFS_CAP_REVISION_3 security.capability extended attribute is
       created, the root user ID of the creating thread's user namespace is
       saved in the extended attribute.

       By contrast, creating or modifying a security.capability extended
       attribute from a privileged (CAP_SETFCAP) thread that resides in the
       namespace where the underlying filesystem was mounted (this normally
       means the initial user namespace) automatically results in the
       creation of a version 2 (VFS_CAP_REVISION_2) attribute.

       Note that the creation of a version 3 security.capability extended
       attribute is automatic.  That is to say, when a user-space
       application writes (setxattr(2)) a security.capability attribute in
       the version 2 format, the kernel will automatically create a version
       3 attribute if the attribute is created in the circumstances
       described above.  Correspondingly, when a version 3
       security.capability attribute is retrieved (getxattr(2)) by a process
       that resides inside a user namespace that was created by the root
       user ID (or a descendant of that user namespace), the returned
       attribute is (automatically) simplified to appear as a version 2
       attribute (i.e., the returned value is the size of a version 2
       attribute and does not include the root user ID).  These automatic
       translations mean that no changes are required to user-space tools
       (e.g., setcap(1) and getcap(1)) in order for those tools to be used
       to create and retrieve version 3 security.capability attributes.

       Note that a file can have either a version 2 or a version 3
       security.capability extended attribute associated with it, but not
       both: creation or modification of the security.capability extended
       attribute will automatically modify the version according to the
       circumstances in which the extended attribute is created or modified.

   Transformation of capabilities during execve()
       During an execve(2), the kernel calculates the new capabilities of
       the process using the following algorithm:

           P'(ambient)     = (file is privileged) ? 0 : P(ambient)

           P'(permitted)   = (P(inheritable) & F(inheritable)) |
                             (F(permitted) & P(bounding)) | P'(ambient)

           P'(effective)   = F(effective) ? P'(permitted) : P'(ambient)

           P'(inheritable) = P(inheritable)    [i.e., unchanged]

           P'(bounding)    = P(bounding)       [i.e., unchanged]


           P()   denotes the value of a thread capability set before the

           P'()  denotes the value of a thread capability set after the

           F()   denotes a file capability set

       Note the following details relating to the above capability transfor‐
       mation rules:

       *  The ambient capability set is present only since Linux 4.3.  When
          determining the transformation of the ambient set during
          execve(2), a privileged file is one that has capabilities or has
          the set-user-ID or set-group-ID bit set.

       *  Prior to Linux 2.6.25, the bounding set was a system-wide attri‐
          bute shared by all threads.  That system-wide value was employed
          to calculate the new permitted set during execve(2) in the same
          manner as shown above for P(bounding).

       Note: during the capability transitions described above, file capa‐
       bilities may be ignored (treated as empty) for the same reasons that
       the set-user-ID and set-group-ID bits are ignored; see execve(2).
       File capabilities are similarly ignored if the kernel was booted with
       the no_file_caps option.

       Note: according to the rules above, if a process with nonzero user
       IDs performs an execve(2) then any capabilities that are present in
       its permitted and effective sets will be cleared.  For the treatment
       of capabilities when a process with a user ID of zero performs an
       execve(2), see below under Capabilities and execution of programs by

   Safety checking for capability-dumb binaries
       A capability-dumb binary is an application that has been marked to
       have file capabilities, but has not been converted to use the
       libcap(3) API to manipulate its capabilities.  (In other words, this
       is a traditional set-user-ID-root program that has been switched to
       use file capabilities, but whose code has not been modified to under‐
       stand capabilities.)  For such applications, the effective capability
       bit is set on the file, so that the file permitted capabilities are
       automatically enabled in the process effective set when executing the
       file.  The kernel recognizes a file which has the effective capabil‐
       ity bit set as capability-dumb for the purpose of the check described

       When executing a capability-dumb binary, the kernel checks if the
       process obtained all permitted capabilities that were specified in
       the file permitted set, after the capability transformations de‐
       scribed above have been performed.  (The typical reason why this
       might not occur is that the capability bounding set masked out some
       of the capabilities in the file permitted set.)  If the process did
       not obtain the full set of file permitted capabilities, then
       execve(2) fails with the error EPERM.  This prevents possible secu‐
       rity risks that could arise when a capability-dumb application is ex‐
       ecuted with less privilege that it needs.  Note that, by definition,
       the application could not itself recognize this problem, since it
       does not employ the libcap(3) API.

   Capabilities and execution of programs by root
       In order to mirror traditional UNIX semantics, the kernel performs
       special treatment of file capabilities when a process with UID 0
       (root) executes a program and when a set-user-ID-root program is exe‐

       After having performed any changes to the process effective ID that
       were triggered by the set-user-ID mode bit of the binary—e.g.,
       switching the effective user ID to 0 (root) because a set-user-ID-
       root program was executed—the kernel calculates the file capability
       sets as follows:

       1. If the real or effective user ID of the process is 0 (root), then
          the file inheritable and permitted sets are ignored; instead they
          are notionally considered to be all ones (i.e., all capabilities
          enabled).  (There is one exception to this behavior, described be‐
          low in Set-user-ID-root programs that have file capabilities.)

       2. If the effective user ID of the process is 0 (root) or the file
          effective bit is in fact enabled, then the file effective bit is
          notionally defined to be one (enabled).

       These notional values for the file's capability sets are then used as
       described above to calculate the transformation of the process's ca‐
       pabilities during execve(2).

       Thus, when a process with nonzero UIDs execve(2)s a set-user-ID-root
       program that does not have capabilities attached, or when a process
       whose real and effective UIDs are zero execve(2)s a program, the cal‐
       culation of the process's new permitted capabilities simplifies to:

           P'(permitted)   = P(inheritable) | P(bounding)

           P'(effective)   = P'(permitted)

       Consequently, the process gains all capabilities in its permitted and
       effective capability sets, except those masked out by the capability
       bounding set.  (In the calculation of P'(permitted), the P'(ambient)
       term can be simplified away because it is by definition a proper sub‐
       set of P(inheritable).)

       The special treatments of user ID 0 (root) described in this subsec‐
       tion can be disabled using the securebits mechanism described below.

   Set-user-ID-root programs that have file capabilities
       There is one exception to the behavior described under Capabilities
       and execution of programs by root.  If (a) the binary that is being
       executed has capabilities attached and (b) the real user ID of the
       process is not 0 (root) and (c) the effective user ID of the process
       is 0 (root), then the file capability bits are honored (i.e., they
       are not notionally considered to be all ones).  The usual way in
       which this situation can arise is when executing a set-UID-root pro‐
       gram that also has file capabilities.  When such a program is exe‐
       cuted, the process gains just the capabilities granted by the program
       (i.e., not all capabilities, as would occur when executing a set-
       user-ID-root program that does not have any associated file capabili‐

       Note that one can assign empty capability sets to a program file, and
       thus it is possible to create a set-user-ID-root program that changes
       the effective and saved set-user-ID of the process that executes the
       program to 0, but confers no capabilities to that process.

   Capability bounding set
       The capability bounding set is a security mechanism that can be used
       to limit the capabilities that can be gained during an execve(2).
       The bounding set is used in the following ways:

       * During an execve(2), the capability bounding set is ANDed with the
         file permitted capability set, and the result of this operation is
         assigned to the thread's permitted capability set.  The capability
         bounding set thus places a limit on the permitted capabilities that
         may be granted by an executable file.

       * (Since Linux 2.6.25) The capability bounding set acts as a limiting
         superset for the capabilities that a thread can add to its inheri‐
         table set using capset(2).  This means that if a capability is not
         in the bounding set, then a thread can't add this capability to its
         inheritable set, even if it was in its permitted capabilities, and
         thereby cannot have this capability preserved in its permitted set
         when it execve(2)s a file that has the capability in its inherita‐
         ble set.

       Note that the bounding set masks the file permitted capabilities, but
       not the inheritable capabilities.  If a thread maintains a capability
       in its inheritable set that is not in its bounding set, then it can
       still gain that capability in its permitted set by executing a file
       that has the capability in its inheritable set.

       Depending on the kernel version, the capability bounding set is ei‐
       ther a system-wide attribute, or a per-process attribute.

       Capability bounding set from Linux 2.6.25 onward

       From Linux 2.6.25, the capability bounding set is a per-thread attri‐
       bute.  (The system-wide capability bounding set described below no
       longer exists.)

       The bounding set is inherited at fork(2) from the thread's parent,
       and is preserved across an execve(2).

       A thread may remove capabilities from its capability bounding set us‐
       ing the prctl(2) PR_CAPBSET_DROP operation, provided it has the
       CAP_SETPCAP capability.  Once a capability has been dropped from the
       bounding set, it cannot be restored to that set.  A thread can deter‐
       mine if a capability is in its bounding set using the prctl(2)
       PR_CAPBSET_READ operation.

       Removing capabilities from the bounding set is supported only if file
       capabilities are compiled into the kernel.  In kernels before Linux
       2.6.33, file capabilities were an optional feature configurable via
       the CONFIG_SECURITY_FILE_CAPABILITIES option.  Since Linux 2.6.33,
       the configuration option has been removed and file capabilities are
       always part of the kernel.  When file capabilities are compiled into
       the kernel, the init process (the ancestor of all processes) begins
       with a full bounding set.  If file capabilities are not compiled into
       the kernel, then init begins with a full bounding set minus CAP_SETP‐
       CAP, because this capability has a different meaning when there are
       no file capabilities.

       Removing a capability from the bounding set does not remove it from
       the thread's inheritable set.  However it does prevent the capability
       from being added back into the thread's inheritable set in the fu‐

       Capability bounding set prior to Linux 2.6.25

       In kernels before 2.6.25, the capability bounding set is a system-
       wide attribute that affects all threads on the system.  The bounding
       set is accessible via the file /proc/sys/kernel/cap-bound.  (Confus‐
       ingly, this bit mask parameter is expressed as a signed decimal num‐
       ber in /proc/sys/kernel/cap-bound.)

       Only the init process may set capabilities in the capability bounding
       set; other than that, the superuser (more precisely: a process with
       the CAP_SYS_MODULE capability) may only clear capabilities from this

       On a standard system the capability bounding set always masks out the
       CAP_SETPCAP capability.  To remove this restriction (dangerous!),
       modify the definition of CAP_INIT_EFF_SET in include/linux/capabil‐
       ity.h and rebuild the kernel.

       The system-wide capability bounding set feature was added to Linux
       starting with kernel version 2.2.11.

   Effect of user ID changes on capabilities
       To preserve the traditional semantics for transitions between 0 and
       nonzero user IDs, the kernel makes the following changes to a
       thread's capability sets on changes to the thread's real, effective,
       saved set, and filesystem user IDs (using setuid(2), setresuid(2), or

       1. If one or more of the real, effective or saved set user IDs was
          previously 0, and as a result of the UID changes all of these IDs
          have a nonzero value, then all capabilities are cleared from the
          permitted, effective, and ambient capability sets.

       2. If the effective user ID is changed from 0 to nonzero, then all
          capabilities are cleared from the effective set.

       3. If the effective user ID is changed from nonzero to 0, then the
          permitted set is copied to the effective set.

       4. If the filesystem user ID is changed from 0 to nonzero (see
          setfsuid(2)), then the following capabilities are cleared from the
          CAP_FOWNER, CAP_FSETID, CAP_LINUX_IMMUTABLE (since Linux 2.6.30),
          CAP_MAC_OVERRIDE, and CAP_MKNOD (since Linux 2.6.30).  If the
          filesystem UID is changed from nonzero to 0, then any of these ca‐
          pabilities that are enabled in the permitted set are enabled in
          the effective set.

       If a thread that has a 0 value for one or more of its user IDs wants
       to prevent its permitted capability set being cleared when it resets
       all of its user IDs to nonzero values, it can do so using the
       SECBIT_KEEP_CAPS securebits flag described below.

   Programmatically adjusting capability sets
       A thread can retrieve and change its permitted, effective, and inher‐
       itable capability sets using the capget(2) and capset(2) system
       calls.  However, the use of cap_get_proc(3) and cap_set_proc(3), both
       provided in the libcap package, is preferred for this purpose.  The
       following rules govern changes to the thread capability sets:

       1. If the caller does not have the CAP_SETPCAP capability, the new
          inheritable set must be a subset of the combination of the exist‐
          ing inheritable and permitted sets.

       2. (Since Linux 2.6.25) The new inheritable set must be a subset of
          the combination of the existing inheritable set and the capability
          bounding set.

       3. The new permitted set must be a subset of the existing permitted
          set (i.e., it is not possible to acquire permitted capabilities
          that the thread does not currently have).

       4. The new effective set must be a subset of the new permitted set.

   The securebits flags: establishing a capabilities-only environment
       Starting with kernel 2.6.26, and with a kernel in which file capabil‐
       ities are enabled, Linux implements a set of per-thread securebits
       flags that can be used to disable special handling of capabilities
       for UID 0 (root).  These flags are as follows:

              Setting this flag allows a thread that has one or more 0 UIDs
              to retain capabilities in its permitted set when it switches
              all of its UIDs to nonzero values.  If this flag is not set,
              then such a UID switch causes the thread to lose all permitted
              capabilities.  This flag is always cleared on an execve(2).

              Note that even with the SECBIT_KEEP_CAPS flag set, the effec‐
              tive capabilities of a thread are cleared when it switches its
              effective UID to a nonzero value.  However, if the thread has
              set this flag and its effective UID is already nonzero, and
              the thread subsequently switches all other UIDs to nonzero
              values, then the effective capabilities will not be cleared.

              The setting of the SECBIT_KEEP_CAPS flag is ignored if the
              SECBIT_NO_SETUID_FIXUP flag is set.  (The latter flag provides
              a superset of the effect of the former flag.)

              This flag provides the same functionality as the older
              prctl(2) PR_SET_KEEPCAPS operation.

              Setting this flag stops the kernel from adjusting the
              process's permitted, effective, and ambient capability sets
              when the thread's effective and filesystem UIDs are switched
              between zero and nonzero values.  (See the subsection Effect
              of user ID changes on capabilities.)

              If this bit is set, then the kernel does not grant capabili‐
              ties when a set-user-ID-root program is executed, or when a
              process with an effective or real UID of 0 calls execve(2).
              (See the subsection Capabilities and execution of programs by

              Setting this flag disallows raising ambient capabilities via
              the prctl(2) PR_CAP_AMBIENT_RAISE operation.

       Each of the above "base" flags has a companion "locked" flag.  Set‐
       ting any of the "locked" flags is irreversible, and has the effect of
       preventing further changes to the corresponding "base" flag.  The
       locked flags are: SECBIT_KEEP_CAPS_LOCKED, SECBIT_NO_SE‐

       The securebits flags can be modified and retrieved using the prctl(2)
       capability is required to modify the flags.  Note that the SECBIT_*
       constants are available only after including the <linux/securebits.h>
       header file.

       The securebits flags are inherited by child processes.  During an
       execve(2), all of the flags are preserved, except SECBIT_KEEP_CAPS
       which is always cleared.

       An application can use the following call to lock itself, and all of
       its descendants, into an environment where the only way of gaining
       capabilities is by executing a program with associated file capabili‐

                   /* SECBIT_KEEP_CAPS off */
                   SECBIT_KEEP_CAPS_LOCKED |
                   SECBIT_NO_SETUID_FIXUP |
                   SECBIT_NO_SETUID_FIXUP_LOCKED |
                   SECBIT_NOROOT |
                   /* Setting/locking SECBIT_NO_CAP_AMBIENT_RAISE
                      is not required */

   Per-user-namespace "set-user-ID-root" programs
       A set-user-ID program whose UID matches the UID that created a user
       namespace will confer capabilities in the process's permitted and ef‐
       fective sets when executed by any process inside that namespace or
       any descendant user namespace.

       The rules about the transformation of the process's capabilities dur‐
       ing the execve(2) are exactly as described in the subsections Trans‐
       formation of capabilities during execve() and Capabilities and execu‐
       tion of programs by root, with the difference that, in the latter
       subsection, "root" is the UID of the creator of the user namespace.

   Namespaced file capabilities
       Traditional (i.e., version 2) file capabilities associate only a set
       of capability masks with a binary executable file.  When a process
       executes a binary with such capabilities, it gains the associated ca‐
       pabilities (within its user namespace) as per the rules described
       above in "Transformation of capabilities during execve()".

       Because version 2 file capabilities confer capabilities to the exe‐
       cuting process regardless of which user namespace it resides in, only
       privileged processes are permitted to associate capabilities with a
       file.  Here, "privileged" means a process that has the CAP_SETFCAP
       capability in the user namespace where the filesystem was mounted
       (normally the initial user namespace).  This limitation renders file
       capabilities useless for certain use cases.  For example, in user-
       namespaced containers, it can be desirable to be able to create a bi‐
       nary that confers capabilities only to processes executed inside that
       container, but not to processes that are executed outside the con‐

       Linux 4.14 added so-called namespaced file capabilities to support
       such use cases.  Namespaced file capabilities are recorded as version
       3 (i.e., VFS_CAP_REVISION_3) security.capability extended attributes.
       Such an attribute is automatically created in the circumstances de‐
       scribed above under "File capability extended attribute versioning".
       When a version 3 security.capability extended attribute is created,
       the kernel records not just the capability masks in the extended at‐
       tribute, but also the namespace root user ID.

       As with a binary that has VFS_CAP_REVISION_2 file capabilities, a bi‐
       nary with VFS_CAP_REVISION_3 file capabilities confers capabilities
       to a process during execve().  However, capabilities are conferred
       only if the binary is executed by a process that resides in a user
       namespace whose UID 0 maps to the root user ID that is saved in the
       extended attribute, or when executed by a process that resides in a
       descendant of such a namespace.

   Interaction with user namespaces
       For further information on the interaction of capabilities and user
       namespaces, see user_namespaces(7).

CONFORMING TO         top

       No standards govern capabilities, but the Linux capability
       implementation is based on the withdrawn POSIX.1e draft standard; see

NOTES         top

       When attempting to strace(1) binaries that have capabilities (or set-
       user-ID-root binaries), you may find the -u <username> option useful.
       Something like:

           $ sudo strace -o trace.log -u ceci ./myprivprog

       From kernel 2.5.27 to kernel 2.6.26, capabilities were an optional
       kernel component, and could be enabled/disabled via the CONFIG_SECU‐
       RITY_CAPABILITIES kernel configuration option.

       The /proc/[pid]/task/TID/status file can be used to view the capabil‐
       ity sets of a thread.  The /proc/[pid]/status file shows the capabil‐
       ity sets of a process's main thread.  Before Linux 3.8, nonexistent
       capabilities were shown as being enabled (1) in these sets.  Since
       Linux 3.8, all nonexistent capabilities (above CAP_LAST_CAP) are
       shown as disabled (0).

       The libcap package provides a suite of routines for setting and get‐
       ting capabilities that is more comfortable and less likely to change
       than the interface provided by capset(2) and capget(2).  This package
       also provides the setcap(8) and getcap(8) programs.  It can be found

       Before kernel 2.6.24, and from kernel 2.6.24 to kernel 2.6.32 if file
       capabilities are not enabled, a thread with the CAP_SETPCAP capabil‐
       ity can manipulate the capabilities of threads other than itself.
       However, this is only theoretically possible, since no thread ever
       has CAP_SETPCAP in either of these cases:

       * In the pre-2.6.25 implementation the system-wide capability bound‐
         ing set, /proc/sys/kernel/cap-bound, always masks out the CAP_SETP‐
         CAP capability, and this can not be changed without modifying the
         kernel source and rebuilding the kernel.

       * If file capabilities are disabled (i.e., the kernel CONFIG_SECU‐
         RITY_FILE_CAPABILITIES option is disabled), then init starts out
         with the CAP_SETPCAP capability removed from its per-process bound‐
         ing set, and that bounding set is inherited by all other processes
         created on the system.

SEE ALSO         top

       capsh(1), setpriv(1), prctl(2), setfsuid(2), cap_clear(3),
       cap_copy_ext(3), cap_from_text(3), cap_get_file(3), cap_get_proc(3),
       cap_init(3), capgetp(3), capsetp(3), libcap(3), proc(5),
       credentials(7), pthreads(7), user_namespaces(7), captest(8),
       filecap(8), getcap(8), getpcaps(8), netcap(8), pscap(8), setcap(8)

       include/linux/capability.h in the Linux kernel source tree

COLOPHON         top

       This page is part of release 5.09 of the Linux man-pages project.  A
       description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the
       latest version of this page, can be found at

Linux                            2020-08-13                  CAPABILITIES(7)

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