In August 2015, Mozilla was notified by security researcher Cody Crews that a malicious advertisement on a Russian news site was exploiting a vulnerability in Firefox’s PDF Viewer. The exploit payload searched for sensitive files on users’ local filesystem, and reportedly uploaded them to the attacker’s server. The default Firejail configuration blocked access to .ssh, .gnupg and .filezilla in all directories present under /home. More advanced sandbox configurations blocked everything else.
This document describes some of the most common Firefox sandbox setups. We start with the default setup, recommended for entertainment and casual browsing.
The easiest way to start a sandbox is to prefix the command with “firejail”:
$ firejail firefox
Note: by default, a single Firefox process instance handles multiple browser windows. If you already have Firefox running, you would need to use -no-remote command line option, otherwise you end up with a new tab or a new window attached to the existing Firefox process:
$ firejail firefox -no-remote
The filesystem container is created when the sandbox is started and destroyed when the sandbox is closed. It is based on the current filesystem installed on users computers. We strongly recommend updating the operating system on a regular basis. The sandbox allows Firefox to access only a small set of files and directories. All private user information has been removed.
This is how the rest of the filesystem looks like:
- /boot – blacklisted
- /bin – read-only
- /etc – read-only; /etc/passwd and /etc/group reference only the current user
- /home – only the current user is visible
- /lib, /lib32, /lib64 – read-only
- /proc, /sys – re-mounted to reflect the new PID namespace
- /sbin – blacklisted
- /selinux – blacklisted
- /usr – read-only; /usr/sbin blacklisted
- /var – read-only; tmpfs mounted on /var/lock, /var/log, /var/tmp, and several directories under /var/lib and /var/cache
Password files, encryption keys and development tools are removed from the sandbox. If Firefox tries to access a blacklisted file, log messages are sent to syslog. Example:
Dec 3 11:43:25 debian firejail: blacklist violation - sandbox 26370, exe firefox, syscall open64, path /etc/shadow Dec 3 11:46:17 debian firejail: blacklist violation - sandbox 26370, exe firefox, syscall opendir, path /boot
The following security filters are enabled by default. The purpose of these filters is to reduce the attack surface of the kernel, and to protect the filesystem container:
- seccomp-bpf – we use a large blacklist seccomp filter. It is a dual 32-bit/64-bit filter.
- protocol – this seccomp-based filter checks the first argument of socket system call. It allows IPv4, IPv6, UNIX and netlink.
- noroot user namespace – it installs a namespace with only the current user.
- capabilities – the sandbox disables all Linux capabilities, restricting what a root user can do in the sandbox.
seccomp configuration enforces the rules by killing the browser process. Log messages are sent to syslog. Example:
Dec 8 09:48:21 debian kernel: [ 4315.656379] audit: type=1326 audit(1449586101.336:8): auid=1000 uid=1000 gid=1000 ses=1 pid=22006 comm="chmod" exe="/bin/chmod" sig=31 arch=c000003e syscall=268 compat=0 ip=0x7f027999f6b9 code=0x0 Dec 8 12:53:57 debian kernel: [17261.662738] audit: type=1326 audit(1450461237.367:2): auid=1000 uid=1000 gid=1000 ses=1 pid=4750 comm="strace" exe="/usr/bin/strace" sig=31 arch=c000003e syscall=101 compat=0 ip=0x7ff42f8cdc6c code=0x0
For most users, the default “firejail firefox” setup is enough. The following are some special cases:
High security browser setup
Use this setup to access your bank account, or any other site dealing with highly sensitive private information. The idea is you trust the site, but you don’t trust the addons and plugins installed in your browser. Use –private Firejail option to start with a factory default browser configuration, and an empty home directory.
Also, you would need to take care of your DNS setting – current home routers are ridiculously insecure, and the easiest attack is to reconfigure DNS, and redirect the traffic to a fake bank website. Use –dns Firejail option to specify a DNS configuration for your sandbox:
$ firejail --private --dns=188.8.131.52 --dns=184.108.40.206 firefox -no-remote
The two DNS servers above belong to Google, and at least one national security agency has access to logging information. Don’t use them for anything else than banking. We also add -no-remote so we don’t end up by mistake in an already running “entertainment” browser.
In this setup we use /home/username/work directory for work, email and related Internet browsing. This is how we start all up:
$ firejail --private=/home/username/work thunderbird & $ firejail --private=/home/username/work firefox -no-remote &
Both Mozilla Thunderbird and Firefox think ~/work is the user home directory. The configuration is preserved when the sandbox is closed.
Assuming eth0 is the main Ethernet interface, we create a new TCP/IP stack, we connect it to the wired Ethernet network, and we start the browser:
$ firejail --net=eth0 firefox
To assign an IP address, Firejail ARP-scans the network and picks up a random address not already in use. Of course, we can be as explicit as we need to be:
$ firejail --net=eth0 --ip=192.168.1.207 firefox
Note: Ubuntu runs a local DNS server in the host network namespace. The server is not visible inside the sandbox. Use –dns option to configure an external DNS server:
$ firejail --net=eth0 --dns=220.127.116.11 firefox
By default, if a network namespace is requested, Firejail installs a network filter customized for regular Internet browsing. It is a regular iptable filter. This is a setup example, where no access to the local network is allowed:
$ firejail --net=eth0 --netfilter=/etc/firejail/nolocal.net firefox
Firejail replaces the regular X11 server with Xpra or Xephyr servers (apt-get install xpra xserver-xephyr on Debian/Ubuntu), preventing X11 keyboard loggers and screenshot utilities from accessing the main X11 server.
The commands is as follows:
$ firejail --x11 --net=eth0 program-and-arguments
A network namespace initialized with –net is necessary in order to disable the abstract X11 socket. If for any reasons you cannot use a network namespace, the socket will still be visible inside the sandbox, and hackers can attach keylogger and screenshot programs to this socket.