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Ben Laurie blathering


FreeBSD Capsicum

I mentioned FreeBSD Capsicum in my roundup of capability OSes earlier this year without mentioning that I am involved in the project. Since then we’ve managed to port and sandbox Chromium, using less code than any other Chromium sandbox (100 lines), as well as a number of other applications. Also impressive, I think, is the fact that Robert Watson managed to write this sandbox in just two days, having never seen the Chromium codebase before – this is as much a testament to Robert’s coding skills and the clean Chromium codebase as it is to Capsicum, but nevertheless worth a mention.

Anyway, at USENIX Security this week, we won Best Student Paper. A PC member described the paper to me as “excellent” and “very important”. Robert has also blogged about it rather more eloquently than I can manage at this time in the morning.

You can read the paper, too, if you want.

Even more exciting, FreeBSD 9 will include the Capsicum capability framework, allowing the peaceful coexistence of capability and POSIX programs. Although this has been attempted before, as far as I am aware all previous versions have put a POSIX emulation layer on top of a capability system, rather than grafting capabilities onto POSIX. Since Capsicum is highly efficient and FreeBSD is a perfectly sound and portable system (and my server OS of choice), this opens up the possibility of a gradual migration to capabilities, something that has been problem up to now.

Robert and I (and a host of others) are continuing our research into practical capability systems, Robert at Cambridge and me at Google. Work is also in progress to port Capsicum to Linux.

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