Problem 1: Python

To get some intuition for what we mean by strong isolation, in this exercise we will take a look at Python. Python does not provide isolation, but to clarify what exactly that means, your job in this assignment will be to demonstrate this in several different scenarios. Specifically, the grader for this problem,, chooses a random value secret, and calls one of your attack functions, attack_one() through attack_four(), that you will need to implement in Your attack function must figure out the correct secret value and return it.

Solve the four attack puzzles. You can do anything you want in, but you may not modify This problem will require you to understand what is shared between your function’s execution environment and the secret chosen by the grader scenario code, and take advantage of it. There are many ways to solve each scenario. Some solutions could work for multiple scenarios. There are more than 4 substantially different ways to solve the scenarios, though, so try to find distinct solutions.

You may need to look into Python internals to figure out how to solve these puzzles. Some attacks can be constructed using Python’s inspect and gc packages, though there are also attacks that don’t use either of these packages.

Problem 2: Web Assembly

In this lab, you will use and escape from a WebAssembly sandbox. This will teach you to think about the kinds of vulnerabilities that can arise in trying to isolate untrusted code.

Code base

The code for this lab consists of three major parts:

  • The WebAssembly runtime. The runtime is responsible for executing WebAssembly code, in a way that is isolated from the rest of the system except for well-defined interfaces. WebAssembly code consists of well-defined instructions, executed by this runtime; if you are curious, you can play around with individual WebAssembly instructions in MDN’s interactive documentation, such as this page on the xor instruction, but this level of understanding is not necessary for this lab.

    We are using a somewhat inefficient but pure Python-based WebAssembly interpreter.

  • The WASI (WebAssembly System Interface) module. This interface gives the WebAssembly module access to things outside of its isolated box, such as being able to access files. The functions provided by the WASI module are precisely the “well-defined interfaces” that the WebAssembly module is allowed to invoke. WASI is nominally specified here, but you will probably find it easier to just read our implementation instead.

    For security, the WASI module ensures that the WebAssembly code cannot access arbitrary parts of the system. More specifically, the WASI module is given a root directory for the sandbox (say, something like /tmp/sandbox), and the WebAssembly code should have access to all of the files and directories under /tmp/sandbox but should not be able to get out of that directory.

    The WASI module is implemented in Our WASI module has some security issues in it, and it will be your goal to exploit them.

  • The shell that runs inside the WebAssembly runtime. We have provided a simple shell, resembling the Unix shell, that will run inside the WebAssembly sandbox. The shell implementation is in tinysh.c, for your reference, but you will run the pre-compiled WebAssembly executable of this shell, tinysh.wasm.

    The shell is compiled together with the wasi-libc library, which turns standard C and POSIX operations like malloc and open into appropriate calls to the (simpler and narrower) WASI interface, but you should not need to dig into wasi-libc for this lab.

Shell commands

Your specific job will be to run the shell inside the WebAssembly sandbox and come up with shell commands that will let you access a secret file called secret.txt one level of directory up from the sandbox. To get started, run make shell and try entering some commands:

nickolai@sonora:~/6.1600/lab-master/lab4$ make shell
. venv/bin/activate && python3
$ ls
$ cat ../secret.txt
open: Operation not permitted
$ help
unknown command help; available commands are:
  echo pwd cd ls cat mkdir rmdir rm touch mv cp ln fd_list fd_open fd_openat fd_close 

Here you can see that the shell starts out with an empty directory, and trying to naively read ../secret.txt does not work: the WASI module prevents it. You can also see there are a number of Unix-like commands available to you, as well as some lower-level commands that manipulate file descriptors:

  • fd_list lists the currently open file descriptors.
  • fd_open opens a path name as a new file descriptor.
  • fd_openat opens a path name relative to an existing directory file descriptor, as a new file descriptor.
  • fd_close closes a file descriptor.
  • fd_read reads and prints the data from a file descriptor (much like cat).

Part 1: warm-up

For part 1, come up with a sequence of shell commands that read the contents of the secret from ../secret.txt, and save your commands to solution-1.txt. Hint: think about using a symlink. You can check your answer using make grade.

Part 2: file descriptor invariants

For part 2, come up with a sequence of shell commands that read the contents of the secret from ../secret.txt without using the ln command to create any symlinks, and save your commands to solution-2.txt.

In the absence of symlinks, you will have to uncover and exploit a deeper problem in how our WASI module works. The problem is more of an issue with the design rather than the low-level implementation, so you might be able to figure out the attack just from the following description of how it works, although you may find it useful to refer to its source code if something is unclear. The mistake is related to the invariant that the WASI module tries to maintain about file descriptors.

The WASI module maintains a map of open file descriptors in self.fds, translating from an integer value (which is seen by the code running inside the sandbox) to a Python object representing that file. For open files and directories, that Python object is an OpenFile(). The key invariant is that OpenFile.depth is supposed to represent the number of levels of directory from that file or directory to the root of the sandbox. This depth value is used by OpenFile.check_path() to make sure that, whenever the sandbox asks to open a file, the path name being opened does not contain more .. components than the current depth, so that opening the path does not escape the sandbox’s root.

In WASI, all operations that open a file by pathname use the path_open() function provided by WASI to the sandbox. This function always works relative to a file descriptor of a starting directory. When the sandboxed code opens an absolute pathname, such as open("/hello/world.txt", ...), the wasi-libc implementation finds the file descriptor of the sandbox’s root directory (corresponding to the Preopen() file descriptor in the Wasi() constructor), and invokes, roughly, path_open(root_fd, "hello/world.txt"). But if the sandboxed code invokes openat(dirfd, "world.txt"), which means open the name world.txt in whatever directory corresponds to dirfd, wasi-libc does not need to find the sandbox root fd, and passes the arguments directly to WASI’s path_open(). You can see that the depth value for the sandbox root directory starts out at 0, as specified in the Preopen() constructor.

To help you figure out what the bug is, and how to exploit it, first think about what WASI operations might violate the above invariant, and second, how would you take advantage of this invariant being violated?

Part 3: sandboxing using WebAssembly

For this last part, your job is to use WebAssembly to execute some code in isolation from the rest of your system, so that if this code was buggy, it would not be able to access anything else on your system. We provide you with an implementation of SHA-256 in C, in sha.c. This code is also compiled into a WebAssembly module, sha-export.wasm. The C implementation of SHA-256 provides a function, SHA256(const unsigned char *d, size_t n, unsigned char *md), which computes the hash of n bytes of input data at address d and stores the resulting hash at address md. Your job is to implement the sha256() function in to call SHA256() from sha-export.wasm and return the result. You will need to think carefully about how to provide the input data and obtain the output data from this function, given the strong isolation of the WebAssembly module’s memory.