chroot login HOWTO


Testing new cross-toolchains properly requires overriding your target system's core shared libraries with the newly created, and probably buggy, ones. Doing this without nuking your target system requires creating a sandbox of some sort. This document describes one way to set up a chroot jail on your target system suitable for running gcc and glibc remote regression tests (or many other purposes).

1. Set Up and Test a Jail

Two shell scripts are provided as an example of how to set up a jail on linux. Please read and understand them. They are provided as executable shell scripts, but they should not be run blindly. You may need to edit the two scripts to reflect your target system's peculiarities and the needs of the programs you intend to run in the jail. The scripts as furnished have been tested both on Debian x86 and on an embedded PPC Linux system based on busybox, and contain everything needed to run the gcc and glibc regression tests (which isn't much). They assume that either busybox or ash is available, so if you're running this on a workstation, you'll need install ash before running them. (ash is preferred over bash simply because it has fewer dependencies; you can use bash, but you'll need to modify the scripts to add the additional libraries used by bash, e.g. ncurses.)

The first shell script,, makes a tarball containing core shared libraries and the jail's etc/passwd file. The second shell script,, unpacks that tarball into the jail, and adds crucial /dev entries, a /proc filesystem, /etc files, core programs like sh, and non-toolchain shared libraries, and appends a given file to the jail's /etc/passwd file.

The two-step process is exactly what you need when testing cross-toolchains; you run the first script on the development system, and the second script on the target system. However, you should run them both on the target system initially and verify that the jail works before testing them with your newly compiled and probably buggy toolchain's shared libraries.

1.1. Setting up a jail

For example, here's how to use the scripts to set up a minimal jail containing a copy of the system libraries and system /etc/passwd file:
$ sh / /etc/passwd
$ su
# zcat jail.tar.gz | sh myjail

1.2. Testing the Jail

Once you have the jail set up, test it by hand using the /usr/sbin/chroot program to run a shell inside the jail, e.g.
$ su
# /usr/sbin/chroot `pwd`/myjail /bin/sh
(Note: the argument to chroot must be an absolute path, else exec fails. This appears to be a bug in Linux.) If you can't run a shell inside the jail, try running something easier, e.g. /bin/true (the simplest program there is):
$ su
# /usr/sbin/chroot `pwd`/myjail /bin/true
Once you get that working, go back to trying the shell. The most common cause of programs not running in the jail is missing shared libraries; to fix that, just copy the missing libraries from the system into the corresponding place in the jail. (Note that shared libraries consist of one or two files, and zero or more symbolic links; take care to not follow symbolic links when copying. In the provided scripts, I use the -d option to /bin/cp to avoid dereferencing links.)

2. Configure Jail Login Scheme

Specific users can be configured such that the moment they log in, a wrapper program (see chrootshell.c) jails the user in his home directory using the chroot system call, looks up his record in the jail's private /etc/passwd file, and uses it to set his current directory and transfer control to his preferred shell. Every program and shared library the user executes then comes from the jail, not from the surrounding system.

Only users who have the root password can set up jails, partly because setting up a jail requires mounting /proc inside the jail. Users with the root password can set up jails on behalf of lesser users (though you might want to take away their ability to run setuid root programs if you do that, else they might be able to get out of the jail...)

2.1. Install chrootshell

chrootshell will be installed setuid root, so first audit the source (chrootshell.c) for security problems, then compile and install it with the commands
$ cc chrootshell.c -o chrootshell
$ su
# install -o root -m 4755 chrootshell /sbin/chrootshell
You probably need to add the line
to /etc/shells, else login may refuse to run it.

2.2. Create outer /etc/passwd entry

For each user you want to give access to a jail, create a new /etc/passwd entry for each user/jail combination, with home directory set to the jail's top directory, and the shell set to /sbin/chrootshell, e.g.
fred2:x:1000:1000:Fred Smith's Jail:/home/fred/jail:/sbin/chrootshell

2.3. Create inner /etc/passwd entry

For each user created in the previous step, create a new /etc/passwd entry in the jail's /etc/passwd. This entry should list a real home directory inside the jail, and a real shell, so it'll be quite different from the one in the system /etc/passwd. For example:
fred2:x:1000:1000:Fred Smith In Jail:/home/fred2:/bin/sh

2.4. Test and Troubleshoot Jail Login

Try logging in as a jailed user via telnet, e.g.
$ telnet localhost
username: fred2
password: xxxx
$ ls
When you do an ls, you should see just the files in that user's home directory inside the jail.

If telnet just closes the connection after login, first you need to figure out whether the problem is before or after chrootshell starts. Begin by listing the target system's logfiles, e.g.

$ su
# cd /var/log
# ls -ltr
and examine the most recently change log files for telnet or pam permission problems. If you see any, it means you haven't even gotten to chrootshell yet.

If it looks like chrootshell is started, but then aborts, you can turn on more helpful logging by uncommenting the line

/* #define DEBUG_PRINTS */
and recompiling and reinstalling chrootshell. This will cause verbose error messages to be sent directly to the file /var/log/chrootshell.log. The error messages tell you what line chrootshell.c is failing in, which should tell you enough to solve the problem.

3. Setting Up Berkeley r-utilities (rsh, rlogin, rcp)

For truly convenient (but insecure) access to the jail, you may want to set up the Berkely r-utilities (rsh, rlogin, and rcp). For instance, they are the native and probably preferred way of running the gcc and glibc test suites on remote embedded systems with tcp/ip connectivity.

Incidentally, rcp and rsh are the reason I used a C program for chrootshell rather than a shell script. A shell script version of chrootshell seems to fail to handle some of the remote commands

3.1. Installing r-utilities clients and servers

Beware: this is highly insecure!

To do this on a Red Hat or Debian Linux workstation, install the rsh-server and rsh-client packages. You can also do this by downloading, building, and installing (Don't use version 1.4.1; the rshd in that version did not set up the remote environment properly.) For an embedded target, the only parts of inetutils you really need to build and install are rcp, rshd, and rlogind. (Yes, you need rcp even if you just want to run the server side.) sent by the gcc regression test due to quoting problems.

Once the binaries are installed on the target, you need to configure the system to run them.

rshd is run via inetd or xinetd or the like.
If your target system uses inetd, here's an example line to add to /etc/inetd.conf:

shell   stream  tcp     nowait.1000  root    /bin/rshd
The ".1000" tells inetd to expect 1000 sessions per minute, which should be sufficient to handle the gcc regression tests. (If you leave this off, inetd will stop spawning rshd after about the 40th session in a one-minute period.)

If your target system uses xinetd, you probably need to set the "cps" field of /etc/xinetd.d/rsh to a large value such as "200 5" for xinet to handle the expected traffic. I haven't tested this, but here's what I think /etc/xinetd.d/rsh should look like:

service login
   socket_type             = stream
   wait                    = no
   cps                     = 200 5
   user                    = root
   server                  = /usr/sbin/in.rlogind
   disable                 = no

rlogind is normally run standalone by giving the -d option. For instance, add this line to the target system's startup scripts:

/bin/rlogind -d
If you want to allow remote access by root (which is highly insecure, but useful in limited situations, as you'll see below), add the -o option.

3.2. Opening up a security hole for the r-utilities

If your systems use a firewall, you'll need to open up TCP ports 513 (the 'login' service) and 514 (the 'shell' service). Note that this is a highly insecure thing to do, and should only be done inside a network entirely disconnected from the Internet or any large LAN, or at least well-shielded from it by another firewall.

If your system is using PAM, you may need to add entries in /etc/pam.d for rsh and rlogin. (If you installed the rsh-servers package, it probably added these entries for you.)

You probably need to add entries either to the systemwide /etc/hosts.equiv file (see 'man hosts.equiv') or the per-user .rhosts file (see 'man rhosts').

3.2. Testing and Troubleshooting rsh

First, verify you can run 'ls' remotely without the jail. Assuming the target system's hostname is 'target', and assuming you have an account with the same name on both systems, give the following command on your workstation:
$ rsh target ls
If this doesn't work, look at the most recently modified files in the target's /var/log directory for interesting error messages. If that doesn't explain the problem, try running tcpdump and looking at the packets being sent and received. If that doesn't explain the problem, you can run rshd under strace to see what files it's opening -- maybe it's not looking where you expected for security info. (This requires modifying /etc/inetd.conf to invoke strace -o /tmp/strace.log /bin/rshd instead of just /bin/rshd.) When all else fails, you could build rsh from source and step through it in the debugger.

Once that's working, verify that you can spawn 200 commands in quick succession, e.g.

x=0; while test $x -lt 200; do rsh ls; x=$(($x+1)); echo $x; done
and once that works, really overstress the system by verifying you can spawn 200 overlapping commands, e.g.
x=0; while test $x -lt 200; do rsh -n ls & true ; x=$(($x+1)); echo $x; done
If you get the error
poll: protocol failure in circuit setup
around the 40th iteration, then you may need to edit /etc/inetd.conf and add .1000 to the end of the 'nowait' keyword (or edit /etc/xinit.d/rsh and add the cps parameter...) as described above.

3.3. Testing rlogin

Verify you can get a remote shell with either the command 'rlogin target' (or its synonym 'rsh target'; rsh invokes rlogin if it's run without a command).

3.4. Testing rcp

Verify you can copy files to the target system using rcp, e.g.
rcp /etc/hosts target:

4. Setting up chroot jails remotely

The entire reason I wrote this document was to help me achieve the goal of fully automated build-and-test of crosstoolchains. This requires a way to remotely script replacing the contents of a chroot jail with new system libraries. Once a jail has been set up for the user you plan to run the remote tests as, and it has passed all the above tests, you should be able to blow away the old jail's contents, and recreate the jail remotely filled with the system shared libraries you plan to test. For example, assuming the toolchain you want to test is in /opt/my_toolchain, and the user 'jailuser' is set up to be inside the jail on the target, you can rebuild it with the following commands:
$ rcp $JAILUSER@$TARGET:/jail/etc/passwd jail_etc_passwd
$ sh result/sh4-unknown-linux-gnu/gcc-3.3-glibc-2.2.5/sh4-unknown-linux-gnu jail_etc_passwd
$ rcp root@$TARGET:
$ cat jail.tar.gz | rsh -l root $TARGET /bin/sh /jail
Then test the jail to make sure it still works, e.g.
$ rsh -l jailuser target ls 
$ rcp /etc/hosts jailuser@target:/tmp


This document has shown how to set up a target system to allow remote login and file copy into accounts running in a chroot jail. If everything described here works properly, you should be all set to Run gcc regression tests remotely on the target system.

About this document

Ideas and code snippets taken variously from:

Copyright 2003, Ixia Communications. Released under the GPL.
Last revision 26 August 2003 by