Research and Development

Following a recent post from a consultant at IBM discussing how how privileged access should be performed on VIOS, I figured it was time to share some of our research in this arena. Those of you that are regular readers will know that I love root. For those of you that are new, welcome aboard.

Let’s start by defining what VIOS is. VIOS is a subsystem that runs on a logical partition (LPAR) which manages shared hardware such as disks and network adaptors and allows other LPARs to access them. VIOS is managed via a special padmin account which gives access to a restricted shell from where the hardware can be managed. In practice, however it’s just another AIX LPAR and as the blog post from IBM notes, setup_oem_env can be used to move from the padmin user to the root user.

Firstly, note that setup_oem_env is not setUID. So how does it work? Examining the padmin user we see that it has a single role (PAdmin):

The membership of a role is determined by /etc/security/user but we can examine a specific use using the rolelist command like so:

$ rolelist -u padmin

You can also find your current active role using the -e flag to rolelist. Moving on, what does the PAdmin role mean?

Roles are defined in /etc/security/role but as with role membership, we can also use shell commands to enumerate them. For example, the following shows what authorisations the PAdmin role has:

$ lsrole PAdmin
rolelist= groups=staff visibility=1 screens=* dfltmsg= msgcat= auth_mode=INVOKER

In the context of getting root, vios.oemsetupenv is the charm. This and other AIX authorisations are defined in /etc/security/privcmds. It is possible to specify what commands the possessor of the vios.oemsetupenv authorisation can run (and indeed the privileges with which those commands will ultimately be executed).

You see, AIX like Solaris, is gradually getting rid of the concept that uid=0 is god. IBM haven’t taken this as far as Oracle yet but there’s nothing to stop a dedicated administrator from leveraging this functionality. So, if you’re auditing an AIX box, I would very much recommend checking what roles users have (via /etc/security/user) to ensure that no appropriate roles have been assigned.

PS I’ve never seen this used in practice (outside of VIOS), but I’m sure there will be a first time.
PPS rolelist -p will tell you what roles a given process has.
PPPS esaadmin has the SysConfig role but it’s not normally an active account.

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