User namespaces (CLONE_NEWUSER), although useful security feature, do increase kernel attack surface. For example, one can gain access to iptables:

$ iptables -S
iptables v1.4.21: can't initialize iptables table `filter': Permission denied (you must be root)
Perhaps iptables or your kernel needs to be upgraded.
$ unshare -rn
# iptables -S

Although this network namespace does can't affect usual real network, it can help local root exploits.

In addition user namespaces seem to override PR_SET_NO_NEW_PRIVS, reducing its effectiveness in shrinking the attack surface:

$ ping
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.067 ms
$ setpriv --no-new-privs bash
$ ping
ping: icmp open socket: Operation not permitted
$ unshare -rn
# ifconfig lo up
# ping
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.053 ms


User namespaces fail in chrooted environments since kernel 3.9. They can also be disabled in kernel config.

  • “User namespaces seem to fail in chrooted environment” Uh, what? No they don't. What the filesystem root is doesn't matter to the kernel when it's creating a namespace. However, many utilities (not the underlying system calls) will fail if /proc is not available. But many other things fail if /proc is not available. – Gilles Jan 24 '17 at 23:05
  • @Gilles, github.com/torvalds/linux/blob/master/kernel/… – Vi. Jan 25 '17 at 0:10
  • Oh, I didn't know that. Thank you. – Gilles Jan 25 '17 at 0:23

Implemented myself. Here is a little tool using libseccomp:


#include <linux/sched.h>                // for CLONE_NEWUSER
#include <seccomp.h>                    // for seccomp_rule_add, etc
#include <stdint.h>                     // for uint32_t
#include <stdio.h>                      // for fprintf, perror, stderr
#include <unistd.h>                     // for execve

// gcc ban_CLONE_NEWUSER.c -lseccomp -o ban_CLONE_NEWUSER

int main(int argc, char* argv[], char* envp[]) {

    if (argc<2) {
        fprintf(stderr, "Usage: ban_CLONE_NEWUSER program [arguments]\n");
        fprintf(stderr, "Bans unshare(2) with any flags and clone(2) with CLONE_NEWUSER flag\n");
        return 126;

    uint32_t default_action = SCMP_ACT_ALLOW;

    scmp_filter_ctx ctx = seccomp_init(default_action);
    if (!ctx) {
        return 126;

    int ret = 0;
    ret |= seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ERRNO(1),  seccomp_syscall_resolve_name("unshare"), 0);
    ret |= seccomp_rule_add(ctx, SCMP_ACT_ERRNO(1),  seccomp_syscall_resolve_name("clone"), 1, SCMP_CMP(0, SCMP_CMP_MASKED_EQ, CLONE_NEWUSER, CLONE_NEWUSER));

    if (ret!=0) {
        fprintf(stderr, "seccomp_rule_add returned %d\n", ret);
        return 124;

    ret = seccomp_load(ctx);
    if (ret!=0) {
        fprintf(stderr, "seccomp_load returned %d\n", ret);
        return 124;    

    execve(argv[1], argv+1, envp);

    return 127;
$ ban_CLONE_NEWUSER /bin/bash
$ unshare -r
unshare: unshare failed: Operation not permitted

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