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ELF Executable Signing/Verification Comes For Linux

Free Software

Published on 16 January 2013 03:54 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Free Software
22 Comments

Vivek Goyal of Red Hat has published the initial Linux patches for implementing ELF executable signing and verification. This support is similar to Linux kernel module signature verification and is necessitated with the arrival of SecureBoot.

Vivek explains the motivation for this ELF executable signing/verification, "With arrival of secureboot, sys_kexec() is deemed dangerous. One can effectively bypass the secureboot feature and run its own kernel. So Matthew Garret proposed disabling sys_kexec() in secureboot mode. Later in a separate thread it was discussed how to handle the issue of sys_kexec() with secureboot. My takeaway from discussion was that we need to sign /sbin/kexec. Signed executable can get extra capability and we can allow/disallow access to sys_kexec() based on that capability (Thanks to Eric Biederman for the idea). So that's my motivation to make user space signing work so that I can get kdump working with secureboot enabled. There might be other people who might find it useful in general."

These current three patches for implementing the Linux kernel support plus the new "signelf" utility are current described as very crude patches while Vivek Goyal is hoping to solicit feedback on this work. This work currently only supports statically-linked executables with no support for dynamic linking at present and does have some other limitations like not supporting dlopen().

The initial patches for Linux ELF executable signing and verification are currently on the Linux kernel mailing list.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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