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pypy / pypy / doc / sandbox.rst

David Malcolm 1e46012 

Armin Rigo 18a8aaa 

David Malcolm 1e46012 

Armin Rigo 7cd7f27 

David Malcolm 1e46012 

PyPy's sandboxing features


It is possible to compile a version of pypy-c that runs
fully "virtualized", i.e. where an external process controls all
input/output.  Such a pypy-c is a secure sandbox: it is safe to run
any untrusted Python code with it.  The Python code cannot see or
modify any local file except via interaction with the external
process.  It is also impossible to do any other I/O or consume more
than some amount of RAM or CPU time or real time.  This works with no
OS support at all - just ANSI C code generated in a careful way.  It's
the kind of thing you could embed in a browser plug-in, for example
(it would be safe even if it wasn't run as a separate process,

For comparison, trying to plug CPython into a special virtualizing C
library is not only OS-specific, but unsafe, because one of the known
ways to segfault CPython could be used by an attacker to trick CPython
into issuing malicious system calls directly.  The C code generated by
PyPy is not segfaultable, as long as our code generators are correct -
that's a lower number of lines of code to trust.  For the paranoid, in
this case we also generate systematic run-time checks against buffer

.. warning::
  The hard work from the PyPy side is done --- you get a fully secure
  version.  What is only experimental and unpolished is the library to
  use this sandboxed PyPy from a regular Python interpreter (CPython, or
  an unsandboxed PyPy).  Contributions welcome.


One of PyPy's translation aspects is a sandboxing feature. It's "sandboxing" as
in "full virtualization", but done in normal C with no OS support at all.  It's
a two-processes model: we can translate PyPy to a special "pypy-c-sandbox"
executable, which is safe in the sense that it doesn't do any library or 
system calls - instead, whenever it would like to perform such an operation, it
marshals the operation name and the arguments to its stdout and it waits for
the marshalled result on its stdin.  This pypy-c-sandbox process is meant to be
run by an outer "controller" program that answers these operation requests.

The pypy-c-sandbox program is obtained by adding a transformation during
translation, which turns all RPython-level external function calls into
stubs that do the marshalling/waiting/unmarshalling.  An attacker that
tries to escape the sandbox is stuck within a C program that contains no
external function calls at all except for writing to stdout and reading from
stdin.  (It's still attackable in theory, e.g. by exploiting segfault-like
situations, but as explained in the introduction we think that PyPy is
rather safe against such attacks.)

The outer controller is a plain Python program that can run in CPython
or a regular PyPy.  It can perform any virtualization it likes, by
giving the subprocess any custom view on its world.  For example, while
the subprocess thinks it's using file handles, in reality the numbers
are created by the controller process and so they need not be (and
probably should not be) real OS-level file handles at all.  In the demo
controller I've implemented there is simply a mapping from numbers to
file-like objects.  The controller answers to the "os_open" operation by
translating the requested path to some file or file-like object in some
virtual and completely custom directory hierarchy.  The file-like object
is put in the mapping with any unused number >= 3 as a key, and the
latter is returned to the subprocess.  The "os_read" operation works by
mapping the pseudo file handle given by the subprocess back to a
file-like object in the controller, and reading from the file-like

Translating an RPython program with sandboxing enabled also uses a special flag
that enables all sorts of C-level assertions against index-out-of-bounds

By the way, as you should have realized, it's really independent from
the fact that it's PyPy that we are translating.  Any RPython program
should do.  I've successfully tried it on the JS interpreter.  The
controller is only called "pypy_interact" because it emulates a file
hierarchy that makes pypy-c-sandbox happy - it contains (read-only)
virtual directories like /bin/lib/pypy1.2/lib-python and
/bin/lib/pypy1.2/lib_pypy and it
pretends that the executable is /bin/pypy-c.


In pypy/translator/goal::

   ./translate.py -O2 --sandbox targetpypystandalone.py

If you don't have a regular PyPy installed, you should, because it's
faster to translate, but you can also run ``python translate.py`` instead.

To run it, use the tools in the pypy/translator/sandbox directory::

   ./pypy_interact.py /some/path/pypy-c-sandbox [args...]

Just like with pypy-c, if you pass no argument you get the interactive
prompt.  In theory it's impossible to do anything bad or read a random
file on the machine from this prompt. To pass a script as an argument you need
to put it in a directory along with all its dependencies, and ask
pypy_interact to export this directory (read-only) to the subprocess'
virtual /tmp directory with the ``--tmp=DIR`` option.  Example::

   mkdir myexported
   cp script.py myexported/
   ./pypy_interact.py --tmp=myexported /some/path/pypy-c-sandbox /tmp/script.py

This is safe to do even if script.py comes from some random
untrusted source, e.g. if it is done by an HTTP server.

To limit the used heapsize, use the ``--heapsize=N`` option to
pypy_interact.py. You can also give a limit to the CPU time (real time) by
using the ``--timeout=N`` option.

Not all operations are supported; e.g. if you type os.readlink('...'),
the controller crashes with an exception and the subprocess is killed.
Other operations make the subprocess die directly with a "Fatal RPython
error".  None of this is a security hole; it just means that if you try
to run some random program, it risks getting killed depending on the
Python built-in functions it tries to call.  This is a matter of the
sandboxing layer being incomplete so far, but it should not really be
a problem in practice.