Testing PAM modules and PAM-aware applications in the Matrix

Jakub Hrozek and I are proud to announce the first release of pam_wrapper. This tool allows you to either simplify testing PAM modules or your application using PAM to authenticate users. PAM (Pluggable Authentication Modules) is a layer of abstraction on top of Unix authentication.

For testing PAM-aware applications we have written a simple PAM module called pam_matrix. If you plan to test a PAM module you can use the pamtest library we have implemented. It simplifies testing of modules. You can combine it with the cmocka unit testing framework or you can use the provided Python bindings to write tests for your module in Python.

Jakub and I have written an article for LWN.net to provide more details how to use it. You can find it here.

Now start testing your PAM module or application!

libssh is running in the Matrix now

Since I joined the libssh project we started to write tests to find regression and make development easier. This has been achieved using the a unit testing framework called cmocka which I maintain and develop. The problem is that to run these tests you need to modify the sshd configuration and setup a test user so that the tests can be successfully executed. This is something contributors normally don’t do so we need to rely on our testing infrastructure.

In 2013 I’ve started the cwrap project. cwrap is a set of tool to make full network server/client testing made easy. These tools are used to make it possible to run the Samba Testsuite easily on every machine without setting anything up. Some time ago I’ve started to use cwrap for libssh testing. Finally I found the time to finish the task.

libssh in the Matrix

Now a libssh client tests sets up an artificial test environment. We have a passwd, shadow and group file so we can use two users to authenticate (nss_wrapper). sshd is running as the user starting the testcase but as it is part of the Matrix it thinks it is root (uid_wrapper). The client and server think they communicate on a real network (socket_wrapper) but it is again the Matrix!

It took me a while to get it working and I needed to implement new feature to the wrapper libraries of cwrap. socket_wrapper needed support to report TCP_NODELAY in getsockopt(). nss_wrapper needed shadow file support for password authentication so I had to add support for getspnam(). And as sshd is paranoid uid_wrapper needed checks if if is privileged to actually change to the user. After it drops privileged it checks if it really can’t go back.

With all of this implemented and new releases of the wrappers, which I’m preparing at the moment, all you have to do is to install cmocka, socket_wrapper, nss_wrapper and uid_wrapper and run ‘make test’. The Matrix will be created and libssh tested. You can find the cwrap libssh branch here.

There is one test for a feature missing right now. We do not test keyboard-interactive authentication, but the cwrap project is working on a new wrapper to fix this. Stay tuned!

cmocka 1.0

At the beginning of February I attended devconf.cz in Brno and the days before I had a hack week with Jakub Hrozek on cmocka. cmocka is a unit testing framework for C with support for mock objects.

We already rewrote the test runner last year and it was time to finish it and add support for several different message output formats. You are able to switch between cmocka standard output, Subunit, Test Anything Protocol and jUnit XML reports. In addition we we have a skip() function and test_realloc() to detect buffer overflows and memory leaks now.

You can find all other required information on the overhauled shiny new website: http://cmocka.org

resolv_wrapper 1.0.0 – the new cwrap tool

I’ve released a new preloadable wrapper named resolv_wrapper which can be used for nameserver redirection or DNS response faking. It can be used in testing environment to route DNS queries to a real nameserver separate from resolv.conf or fake one with simple config file. We tested it on Linux, FreeBSD and Solaris. It should work on other UNIX flavors too.


You can download resolv_wrapper here.

A talk about cwrap at LinuxCon Europe

Next week is the LinuxCon Europe in Düsseldorf, Germany. I will be there and give a talk about cwrap, a set of tools to make client/server testing easy on a single machine. Testing network applications correctly is hard. This talk will demonstrate how to create a fully isolated network environment for client and server testing on a single host, complete with synthetic account information, hostname resolution, and privilege separation.

I hope you will attend my talk if you are there. If you can’t attend the LinuxCon Europe, but you’re going to the Linux Plumbers Conference then say hello and lets talk about cwrap there!

At the LinuxCon Europe I will announce new cool stuff and the website will be updated. So you should check


next week!

cwrap talk

How to get real DNS resolving in ‘make test’?

As you might know I’m working (hacking) on Samba. Samba has a DNS implementation to easier integrate all the AD features. The problem is we would like to talk to the DNS server but /etc/resolv.conf points to a nameserver so your machine is correctly working in your network environment. For this Samba in our dns resolver library we implemented a way to setup a dns_hosts_file to fake DNS queries. This works well for binaries provided by Samba but not for 3rd party application. As Günther Deschner and I are currently working on MIT Kerberos support the libkrb5 library always complained that it is not able to talk query the DNS server to find the KDC. So it was time to really fix this!

I’ve sat down and did some research how we get this working. After digging through the glibc code, first I thought we could redirect the fopen(“/etc/resolv.conf”) call. Well as this is called in a glibc internal function it directly calls _IO_fopen() which isn’t weak symbol. So I looked deeper and recognized that I have access to the resovler structure which holds the information to the nameserver. I could simply modify this!

It was time to implement another wrapper, resolv_wrapper. Currently it only wraps the functions required by Samba and MIT Kerberos, res_(n)init(), res_(n)close, res_(n)query and res_(n)search. With this I was able to run kinit which asks the DNS server for a SRV record to find the KDC and it worked. With Jakub Hrozek I cleaned up the code yesterday and we created a parser for a resolv.conf file.

Here is a tcpdump of the kinit tool talking to the DNS server with socket_wrapper over IPv6.

resolv_wrapper will be available on cwrap.org soon!

What is preloading?

by Jakub Hrozek and Andreas Schneider

The LD_PRELOAD trick!

Preloading is a feature of the dynamic linker (ld). It is a available on most Unix system and allows to load a user specified, shared library before all other shared libraries which are linked to an executable.

Library pre-loading is most commonly used when you need a custom version of a library function to be called. You might want to implement your own malloc(3) and free(3) functions that would perform a rudimentary leak checking or memory access control for example, or you might want to extend the I/O calls to dump data when reverse engineering a binary blob. In this case, the library to be preloaded would implement the functions you want to override with prelinking. Only functions of dynamically loaded libraries can be overridden. You’re not able to override a function the application implements by itself or links statically with.

The library to preload is defined by the environment variable LD_PRELOAD, such as LD_PRELOAD=libwurst.so. The symbols of the preloaded library are bound first, before other linked shared libraries.
Lets look into symbol binding in more details. If your application calls a function, then the linker looks if it is available in the application itself first. If the symbol is not found, the linker checks all preloaded libraries and only then all the libraries which have been linked to your application. The shared libraries are searched in the order which has been given during compilation and linking. You can find out the linking order by calling 'ldd /path/to/my/applicaton'. If you’re interested how the linker is searching for the symbols it needs or if you want do debug if the symbol of your preloaded library is used correctly, you can do that by enabling tracing in the linker.

A simple example would be 'LD_DEBUG=symbols ls'. You can find more details about debugging with the linker in the manpage: 'man ld.so'.


Your application uses the function open(2).

  • Your application doesn’t implement it.
  • LD_PRELOAD=libcwrap.so provides open(2).
  • The linked libc.so provides open(2).

=> The open(2) symbol from libcwrap.so gets bound!

The wrappers used for creating complex testing environments of the cwrap project use preloading to supply their own variants of several system or library calls suitable for unit testing of networked software or privilege separation. For example, one wrapper includes its version of most of the standard API used to communicate over sockets that routes the communication over local sockets.

New features in socket_wrapper 1.1.0

Maybe you already heard of the cwrap project. A set of tools to create a fully isolated network environment to test client/server components on a single host. socket_wrapper is a part of cwrap and I released version 1.1.0 today. In this release I worked together with Michael Adam and we implemented some nice new features like support for IP_PKTINFO for binding on UDP sockets, bindresvport() and more socket options via getsockopt(). This was mostly needed to be able to create a test environment for MIT Kerberos.

The upcoming features for the next version are support for passing file description between processes using a unix domain socket and sendmsg()/recvmsg() (SCM_RIGHTS). We would also like to make socket_wrapper thread-safe.