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Enhanced Oracle Solaris Cluster Security Framework

Krishna Murthy
Senior Manager, Software Development

Enhanced Oracle Solaris Cluster Security Framework

providing high availability (HA) & reliability to the applications, Oracle
Solaris Cluster data services (agents) strive to provide a very secure HA environment
by leveraging some of the salient security features implanted in the Oracle
Solaris Cluster software. Oracle Solaris Cluster Resource Group Manager (RGM)
callback methods such as
Start, Stop or Validate execute with a high level of
privilege and must be protected against modification by a non-privileged user.
These callback methods in turn might execute application programs that often do
not require elevated privilege. If an application program is to be executed
with elevated privilege, it must similarly be protected against modification by
an unprivileged user.

summary, an agent developer needs to do ownership/permission checks on programs
to be executed with elevated privilege; and we want to facilitate the reduction
of privilege for executing such programs. For these purposes, several
enhancements were introduced in the Oracle Solaris Cluster 4.1 software:

1) New
checks on the ownership and permission of RGM callback method executable files.

2) A
Application_user standard property to provide a
standard hook for the end user to specify a non-root username for execution of
application programs.

3) A
scha_check_app_user command, which implements ownership
and permission checks on application executable files.

4) A
new cluster property,
resource_security, to control the new ownership and
permission checks.

This blog will brief you
on these enhancement features.

Invoking applications
with limited privilege using data services in Oracle Solaris Cluster software

The security enhancement features
mentioned above allow Oracle Solaris Cluster software to follow the principle
of least privilege and limit any damage that might happen due to accidental or
deliberate misuse of unlimited access right bestowed to superuser (root).
Oracle Solaris Cluster data services adhere to the principle of least privilege
while invoking the applications running in HA mode on Oracle Solaris Cluster
software. Since the resource methods that are responsible for interacting with
the applications always run with superuser privilege, it is highly recommended
from a security perspective that this privilege level be dropped down to the
minimum while executing the application program.

It is therefore crucial that the
Oracle Solaris Cluster agent methods should run all external programs using a
wrapper, to ensure that the external program is executed with the correct
username and privileges.

Oracle Solaris Cluster software
implements this concept by providing the
scha_check_app_user command and properties like Application_user and resource_security.
Agent developers can use the
Application_user property and the scha_check_app_user command to enforce least-privilege
for their own applications. The behaviour of the
command highly depends on the values of the two properties and The entire
picture will be clearer when we visualize this with the help of a simple
example described in further text.

For fine details about these features,
refer to the man pages for scha_check_app_user(1HA), r_properties(5) and
resource_security in cluster(1cl). Meanwhile let us take a quick tour
to explore these features by creating a very simple application (referred as
"My Example App" in this article) and a minimal skeleton of an agent
to bind this application with the Oracle Solaris Cluster HA environment.
However, the complexity of agent code is much higher when all the perspectives
of an HA environment are taken into consideration. Our goal here is just to
understand how to use these security features and hence, only the minimal
modules required to bind an application to a resource and start/stop the
application/program have been described.

Application_user example: My Example App

Oracle Solaris Cluster software
supports myriad applications with its high availability environment and many of
them are pretty complex, too. ‘My Example App' on the other hand is a concise
sample shell script and will serve as an example of the usage of the
Application_user property and the scha_check_app_user command.

My Example App performs the job of
sending mail notification to a cluster administrator in scenarios of
failover/switchover. Although short, this application can be effectively used
to permit a cluster administrator to check emails on a smartphone and see
whether a necessary action might be required if a critical resource or resource
group goes up/down. The admin can put the My Example App resource in the same
resource group of another important resource that needs to be monitored for
this purpose.

Please note that this
agent doesn't cover all the modules and it's not recommended to run this on a
production box.

My Example App

- Online module (executes when resource goes up)

/opt/myexapp/online.ksh (Executable permissions: 755 owned by

- Offline module (executes when resource goes down)

/opt/myexapp/offline.ksh (Executable permissions: 755 owned by

Note: app_user is the UNIX user expected to execute the application. There
should be a valid mapping of
app_user on all the nodes on
which the resource is planned to be configured.

Agent development
for My Example App

To create a minimally functional agent for My Example App, we will at least
require the Resource Type Registration file, start script and stop script.

 - myexapp RTR file

/opt/myexapp/myexapp.rtr is a Resource Type Registration (RTR)
file for this agent. All resources of type
will directly inherit the properties from this file.  

 - Start script

myexapp_start will serve as the start script and
will be executed every time the resource goes up.


- Stop script

myexapp_stop will serve as the stop script and
will be executed every time the configured resource goes down.


configuration for My Example App

- Register the RTR file:

/usr/cluster/bin/clresourcetype register -f /opt/myexapp/myexapp.rtr myexapp

- Create the resource group and the resource :
# /usr/cluster/bin/clresourcegroup create

/usr/cluster/bin/clresource create -g myexappRG -t myexapp myexappRS

completes the configuration phase of the application to be run on Oracle Solaris
Cluster software. Now, let us dive deeper to understand the behaviour of the
scha_check_app_user command when it is invoked in
different scenarios. Refer to scha_check_app_user(1HA)
man page for more details.

Behaviour of
scha_check_app_user in various scenarios

following are the descriptions of the most prominent scenarios.

Note: The following guidelines apply to all the example

- The user specified as Application_user should be present on all the participating nodes of the

- The user specified with the -U option is taken as application
user ignoring the configured
Application_user, file owner or resource_security value.

This completes a
comprehensive case study for use of the
command in a sample application running on Oracle Solaris Cluster software.
Now, let us explore one more important feature that helps in storing sensitive
information across an Oracle Solaris Cluster configuration.

Handling passwords and
sensitive information across Oracle Solaris Cluster

Oracle Solaris Cluster 4.1 software provides a secure and easy to use mechanism
for storing passwords and other sensitive information through private strings.
A private string is identified with a unique name, and has an encoded value
that can only be obtained by using the
scha_cluster_get command.

clpstring command manages Oracle Solaris
Cluster private strings. Private strings are used by resources to store and
retrieve private values securely. A typical use might be for an internal
password used by an agent. The
clps command is the short form of the clpstring command.

say our agent uses a password string. In order to harness the private strings
feature of the Oracle Solaris Cluster security framework for this agent, we are
required to bind the private strings with the data service resource.

/usr/cluster/bin/clpstring create -b RS1 -v pw_str

string value:

Enter string value again:

pw_str is created for the global cluster and
is bound to the resource

strings are never exposed to non-privileged users in either obfuscated or clear
text form. However, privileged users can then retrieve the private strings by
using the
scha_cluster_get query as follows:

/usr/cluster/bin/scha_cluster_get -O PSTRING pw_str

more detailed information on the
clpstring command, refer clpstring(1
man page.

the Oracle Solaris Cluster 4.1 software supports these security enhancements,
it’s important to note that not all agents are currently using these new
features. Some existing agents might execute application programs with elevated
privileges, for example, they might be executed as root. So it’s judicious to
take necessary steps in validating the contents of such programs installed on a
cluster, and to make sure that they are installed with ownership &
permissions that prevent a non-privileged user from modifying them.

Posted By:

Tapan Avasthi

Data Services, Availability Engineering, Oracle Solaris Cluster

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