Difference between revisions of "Security"

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=== Restricting module loading ===
=== Restricting module loading ===
The default Arch kernel has {{ic|CONFIG_MODULE_SIG_ALL}} enabled which signs all kernel modules build as part of the {{Pkg|Linux}} package. This allows the kernel to restrict modules to be only loaded when they are signed with a valid key, in practical terms this means that all out of tree modules compiled locally or provides by packages such as {{Pkg|wireguard-arch}} cannot be loaded. Restricting loading kernel modules can be done by adding {{ic|1=module.sig_enforce=1}} to the kernel command line, further documentation can be found [https://www.kernel.org/doc/html/v5.2-rc3/admin-guide/module-signing.html here].
The default Arch kernel has {{ic|CONFIG_MODULE_SIG_ALL}} enabled which signs all kernel modules build as part of the {{Pkg|linux}} package. This allows the kernel to restrict modules to be only loaded when they are signed with a valid key, in practical terms this means that all out of tree modules compiled locally or provides by packages such as {{Pkg|wireguard-arch}} cannot be loaded. Restricting loading kernel modules can be done by adding {{ic|1=module.sig_enforce=1}} to the kernel command line, further documentation can be found [https://www.kernel.org/doc/html/v5.2-rc3/admin-guide/module-signing.html here].
== Sandboxing applications ==
== Sandboxing applications ==

Revision as of 19:25, 9 June 2019

This article contains recommendations and best practices for hardening an Arch Linux system.



  • It is possible to tighten the security so much as to make your system unusable. The trick is to secure it without overdoing it.
  • There are many other things that can be done to heighten the security, but the biggest threat is, and will always be, the user. When you think security, you have to think layers. When one layer is breached, another should stop the attack. But you can never make the system 100% secure unless you unplug the machine from all networks, lock it in a safe and never use it.
  • Be a little paranoid. It helps. And be suspicious. If anything sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • The principle of least privilege: each part of a system should only be able to access what is required to use it, and nothing more.


Passwords are key to a secure Linux system. They secure your user accounts, encrypted filesystems, and SSH/GPG keys. They are the main way a computer chooses to trust the person using it, so a big part of security is just about picking secure passwords and protecting them.

Choosing secure passwords

When relying on a passphrase, it must be complex enough to not be easily guessed from e.g. personal information, or cracked using methods like brute-force attacks. The tenets of strong passphrases are based on length and randomness. In cryptography the quality of a passphrase is referred to as its entropic security.

Insecure passwords include those containing:

  • Personally identifiable information (e.g., your dog's name, date of birth, area code, favorite video game)
  • Simple character substitutions on words (e.g., k1araj0hns0n)
  • Root "words" or common strings followed or preceded by added numbers, symbols, or characters (e.g., DG091101%)
  • Common phrases or short phrases of grammatically related words (e.g. all of the lights), and even with character substitution.

The right choice for a password is something long (8-20 characters, depending on importance) and seemingly completely random. A good technique for building secure, seemingly random passwords is to base them on characters from every word in a sentence. Take for instance “the girl is walking down the rainy street” could be translated to t6!WdtR5 or, less simply, t&6!RrlW@dtR,57. This approach could make it easier to remember a password, but note that the various letters have very different probabilities of being found at the start of words (Wikipedia:Letter frequency). Also consider the Diceware Passphrase method, using a sufficient number of words.

A better approach is to generate pseudo-random passwords with tools like pwgen or apgAUR: for memorizing them, one technique (for ones typed often) is to generate a long password and memorize a minimally secure number of characters, temporarily writing down the full generated string. Over time, increase the number of characters typed - until the password is ingrained in muscle memory and need not be remembered. This technique is more difficult, but can provide confidence that a password will not turn up in wordlists or "intelligent" brute force attacks that combine words and substitute characters.

It is also very effective to combine these two techniques by saving long, complex random passwords with a password manager, which will be in turn accessed with a mnemonic password that will have to be used only for that purpose, especially avoiding to ever transmit it over any kind of network. This method of course limits the use of the stored passwords to the terminals where the database is available for reading (which on the other hand could be seen as an added security feature).

See Bruce Schneier's article Choosing Secure Passwords, The passphrase FAQ or Wikipedia:Password strength for some additional background.

Maintaining passwords

Once you pick a strong password, be sure to keep it safe. Watch out for keyloggers (software and hardware), social engineering, shoulder surfing, and avoid reusing passwords so insecure servers cannot leak more information than necessary. Password managers can help manage large numbers of complex passwords: if you are copy-pasting the stored passwords from the manager to the applications that need them, make sure to clear the copy buffer every time, and ensure they are not saved in any kind of log (e.g. do not paste them in plain terminal commands, which would store them in files like .bash_history).

As a rule, do not pick insecure passwords just because secure ones are harder to remember. Passwords are a balancing act. It is better to have an encrypted database of secure passwords, guarded behind a key and one strong master password, than it is to have many similar weak passwords. Writing passwords down is perhaps equally effective[1], avoiding potential vulnerabilities in software solutions while requiring physical security.

Another aspect of the strength of the passphrase is that it must not be easily recoverable from other places. If you use the same passphrase for disk encryption as you use for your login password (useful e.g. to auto-mount the encrypted partition or folder on login), make sure that /etc/shadow either also ends up on an encrypted partition, or uses a strong hash algorithm (i.e. sha512/bcrypt, not md5) for the stored password hash (see SHA password hashes for more info).

If you are backing up your password database, make sure that each copy is not stored behind any other passphrase which in turn is stored in it, e.g. an encrypted drive or an authenticated remote storage service, or you will not be able to access it in case of need; a useful trick is to protect the drives or accounts where the database is backed up using a simple cryptographic hash of the master password. Maintain a list of all the backup locations: if one day you fear that the master passphrase has been compromised you will have to change it immediately on all the database backups and the locations protected with keys derived from the master password. Version-controlling the database in a secure way can be very complicated: if you choose to do it, you must have a way to update the master password of all the database versions. It may not always be immediately clear when the master password is leaked: to reduce the risk of somebody else discovering your password before you realize that it leaked, you may choose to change it on a periodical basis. If you fear that you have lost control over a copy of the database, you will need to change all the passwords contained in it within the time that it may take to brute-force the master password, according to its entropy.

Password hashes

Tango-view-fullscreen.pngThis article or section needs expansion.Tango-view-fullscreen.png

Reason: Mention key derivation functions, in particular PBKDF2, bcrypt and scrypt, how to use them, advantages and disadvantages, especially regarding custom-hardware-based brute-force attacks. (Discuss in Talk:Security#Removal of incorrect warning)

By default, Arch stores the hashed user passwords in the root-only-readable /etc/shadow file, separated from the other user parameters stored in the world-readable /etc/passwd file, see Users and groups#User database. See also #Restricting root.

Passwords are set with the passwd command, which stretches them with the crypt function and then saves them in /etc/shadow. See also SHA password hashes. The passwords are also salted in order to defend them against rainbow table attacks.

See also How are passwords stored in Linux (Understanding hashing with shadow utils).

Enforcing strong passwords using pam_cracklib

pam_cracklib provides protection against Dictionary attacks and helps configure a password policy that can be enforced throughout the system.

Warning: The root account is not affected by this policy.
Note: You can use the root account to set a password for a user that bypasses the desired/configured policy. This is useful when setting temporary passwords.

If for example you want to enforce this policy:

  • prompt 2 times for password in case of an error
  • 10 characters minimum length (minlen option)
  • at least 6 characters should be different from old password when entering a new one (difok option)
  • at least 1 digit (dcredit option)
  • at least 1 uppercase (ucredit option)
  • at least 1 other character (ocredit option)
  • at least 1 lowercase (lcredit option)

Edit the /etc/pam.d/passwd file to read as:

password required pam_cracklib.so retry=2 minlen=10 difok=6 dcredit=-1 ucredit=-1 ocredit=-1 lcredit=-1
password required pam_unix.so use_authtok sha512 shadow

The password required pam_unix.so use_authtok instructs the pam_unix module to not prompt for a password but rather to use the one provided by pam_cracklib.

You can refer to the pam_cracklib(8) and pam_unix(8) man pages for more information.


Hardened Malloc

hardened_malloc (hardened-malloc-gitAUR) is a hardened replacement for glibc's malloc(). The project was originally developed for integration into Android's Bionic and musl by Daniel Micay, of GrapheneOS, but he has also built in support for standard Linux distributions on the x86_64 architecture.

While hardened_malloc is not yet integrated into glibc (assistance and pull requests welcome) it can be used easily with LD_PRELOAD. In testing so far, it only causes issues with a handful of applications if enabled globally in /etc/ld.so.preload - Xorg fails to start, and man fails to work properly unless its seccomp environment flag is disabled. Between these, and because hardened_malloc is arguably less efficient and more complex than the standard malloc, it is suggested that one use it for more at risk applications, such as those that face the internet. It can also be used as a complement to sandboxed applications inside Firejail.

To try it out in a standalone manner, use the hardened-malloc-preload wrapper script, or manually start an application with the proper preload value:

LD_PRELOAD="/usr/lib/libhardened_malloc.so" /usr/bin/firefox

Proper usage with Firejail can be found on its wiki page, and some configurable environment variables available for hardened_malloc can be found on the github repo.


Disk encryption

Disk encryption, preferably full disk encryption with a strong passphrase, is the only way to guard data against physical recovery. This provides complete security when the computer is turned off or the disks in question are unmounted.

Once the computer is powered on and the drive is mounted, however, its data becomes just as vulnerable as an unencrypted drive. It is therefore best practice to unmount data partitions as soon as they are no longer needed.

Certain programs, like dm-crypt, allow the user to encrypt a loop file as a virtual volume. This is a reasonable alternative to full disk encryption when only certain parts of the system need be secure.

File systems

The kernel now prevents security issues related to hardlinks and symlinks if the fs.protected_hardlinks and fs.protected_symlinks sysctl switches are enabled, so there is no longer a major security benefit from separating out world-writable directories.

File systems containing world-writable directories can still be kept separate as a coarse way of limiting the damage from disk space exhaustion. However, filling /var or /tmp is enough to take down services. More flexible mechanisms for dealing with this concern exist (like quotas), and some file systems include related features themselves (Btrfs has quotas on subvolumes).

Mount options

Following the principle of least privilege, file systems should be mounted with the most restrictive mount options possible (without losing functionality).

Relevant mount options are:

  • nodev: Do not interpret character or block special devices on the file system.
  • nosuid: Do not allow set-user-identifier or set-group-identifier bits to take effect.
  • noexec: Do not allow direct execution of any binaries on the mounted file system.
    • Setting noexec on /home disallows executable scripts and breaks Wine* and Steam.
    • Some packages (building nvidia-dkms for example) may require exec on /var.
Note: Wine does not need the exec flag for opening Windows executables. It is only needed when Wine itself is installed in /home.

File systems used for data should always be mounted with nodev, nosuid and noexec.

Potential file system mounts to consider:

  • /var
  • /home
  • /dev/shm
  • /tmp
  • /boot

File access permissions

The default file permissions allow read access to almost everything and changing the permissions can hide valuable information from an attacker who gains access to a non-root account such as the http or nobody users.

For example:

# chmod 700 /boot /etc/{iptables,arptables}

The default Umask 0022 can be changed to improve security for newly created files. The NSA RHEL5 Security Guide suggests a umask of 0077 for maximum security, which makes new files not readable by users other than the owner. To change this, see Umask#Set the mask value.

User setup

After installation make a normal user for daily use. Do not use the root user for daily use.

Enforce a delay after a failed login attempt

Add the following line to /etc/pam.d/system-login to add a delay of at least 4 seconds between failed login attempts:

auth optional pam_faildelay.so delay=4000000

4000000 is the time in microseconds to delay.

Lockout user after three failed login attempts

To further heighten the security it is possible to lockout a user after a specified number of failed login attempts. The user account can either be locked until the root user unlocks it, or automatically be unlocked after a set time.

To lockout a user for ten minutes unlock_time=600 after three failed login attempts deny=3, add the parameters to the PAM configuration as follows:

auth required pam_tally2.so deny=3 unlock_time=600 onerr=succeed file=/var/log/tallylog

That is all there is to it. If you feel adventurous, make three failed login attempts. Then you can see for yourself what happens. To unlock a user manually do:

# pam_tally2 --reset --user username

unlock_time is specified in seconds. If you want to permanently lockout a user after 3 failed login attempts remove the unlock_time part of the line. The user is then unable to login until root unlocks the account.

Limit amount of processes

On systems with many, or untrusted users, it is important to limit the number of processes each can run at once, therefore preventing fork bombs and other denial of service attacks. /etc/security/limits.conf determines how many processes each user, or group can have open, and is empty (except for useful comments) by default. Adding the following lines to this file will limit all users to 100 active processes, unless they use the prlimit command to explicitly raise their maximum to 200 for that session. These values can be changed according to the appropriate number of processes a user should have running, or the hardware of the box you are administrating.

* soft nproc 100
* hard nproc 200

The current number of threads for each user can be found with ps --no-headers -Leo user | sort | uniq --count. This may help with determining appropriate values for the limits.

Run Xorg rootless

Xorg is commonly considered insecure because of its architecture and dated design. Thus it is recommended to avoid running it as root.

See Xorg#Rootless Xorg for more details how to run it without root privileges.

Restricting root

The root user is, by definition, the most powerful user on a system. Because of this, there are a number of ways to keep the power of the root user while limiting its ability to cause harm, or at least to make root user actions more traceable.

Use sudo instead of su

Merge-arrows-2.pngThis article or section is a candidate for merging with sudo.Merge-arrows-2.png

Notes: There's a dedicated article. (Discuss in Talk:Security#)

Using sudo for privileged access is preferable to su for a number of reasons.

  • It keeps a log of which normal privilege user has run each privileged command.
  • The root user password need not be given out to each user who requires root access.
  • sudo prevents users from accidentally running commands as root that do not need root access, because a full root terminal is not created. This aligns with the principle of least privilege.
  • Individual programs may be enabled per user, instead of offering complete root access just to run one command. For example, to give the user alice access to a particular program:
# visudo
alice ALL = NOPASSWD: /path/to/program

Or, individual commands can be allowed for all users. To mount Samba shares from a server as a regular user:

%users ALL=/sbin/mount.cifs,/sbin/umount.cifs

This allows all users who are members of the group users to run the commands /sbin/mount.cifs and /sbin/umount.cifs from any machine (ALL).


To use restricted version of nano instead of vi with visudo,

Defaults editor=/usr/bin/rnano

Exporting # EDITOR=nano visudo is regarded as a severe security risk since everything can be used as an EDITOR.

Editing files using sudo

Running a text editor as root can be a security vulnerability as many editors can run arbitrary shell commands or affect files other than the one you intend to edit. To avoid this, use sudoedit filename (equivalently, sudo --edit filename) to edit files. This edits a copy of the file using your normal user privileges and then overwrites the original using sudo only after the editor is closed. You can change the editor this uses by setting the SUDO_EDITOR environment variable:

$ export SUDO_EDITOR=vim

Alternatively, use an editor like rvim which has restricted capabilities in order to be safe to run as root.

Restricting root login

Once sudo is properly configured, full root access can be heavily restricted or denied without losing much usability. To disable root, but still allowing to use sudo, you can use passwd --lock root.

Allow only certain users

The PAM pam_wheel.so lets you allow only users in the group wheel to login using su. Edit both /etc/pam.d/su and /etc/pam.d/su-l, then uncomment the line:

# Uncomment the following line to require a user to be in the "wheel" group.
auth		required	pam_wheel.so use_uid

This means only users who are already able to run privileged commands may login as root.

Denying SSH login

Even if you do not wish to deny root login for local users, it is always good practice to deny root login via SSH. The purpose of this is to add an additional layer of security before a user can completely compromise your system remotely.

Mandatory access control

Mandatory access control (MAC) is a type of security policy that differs significantly from the discretionary access control (DAC) used by default in Arch and most Linux distributions. MAC essentially means that every action a program could perform that affects the system in any way is checked against a security ruleset. This ruleset, in contrast to DAC methods, cannot be modified by users. Using virtually any mandatory access control system will significantly improve the security of your computer, although there are differences in how it can be implemented.

Pathname MAC

Pathname-based access control is a simple form of access control that offers permissions based on the path of a given file. The downside to this style of access control is that permissions are not carried with files if they are moved about the system. On the positive side, pathname-based MAC can be implemented on a much wider range of filesystems, unlike labels-based alternatives.

  • AppArmor is a Canonical-maintained MAC implementation seen as an "easier" alternative to SELinux.
  • Tomoyo is another simple, easy-to-use system offering mandatory access control. It is designed to be both simple in usage and in implementation, requiring very few dependencies.

Labels MAC

Labels-based access control means the extended attributes of a file are used to govern its security permissions. While this system is arguably more flexible in its security offerings than pathname-based MAC, it only works on filesystems that support these extended attributes.

  • SELinux, based on a NSA project to improve Linux security, implements MAC completely separate from system users and roles. It offers an extremely robust multi-level MAC policy implementation that can easily maintain control of a system that grows and changes past its original configuration.

Access Control Lists

Access Control Lists (ACLs) are an alternative to attaching rules directly to the filesystem in some way. ACLs implement access control by checking program actions against a list of permitted behavior.

Kernel hardening

Kernel self-protection / exploit mitigation

The linux-hardened package uses a basic kernel hardening patch set and more security-focused compile-time configuration options than the linux package. A custom build can be made to choose a different compromise between security and performance than the security-leaning defaults.

If you use an out-of-tree driver such as NVIDIA, you may need to switch to its DKMS package.

Userspace ASLR comparison

The linux-hardened package provides an improved implementation of Address Space Layout Randomization for userspace processes. The paxtest command can be used to obtain an estimate of the provided entropy:

64-bit processes
Anonymous mapping randomization test     : 32 quality bits (guessed)
Heap randomization test (ET_EXEC)        : 26 quality bits (guessed)
Heap randomization test (PIE)            : 40 quality bits (guessed)
Main executable randomization (ET_EXEC)  : No randomization
Main executable randomization (PIE)      : 32 quality bits (guessed)
Shared library randomization test        : 32 quality bits (guessed)
VDSO randomization test                  : 32 quality bits (guessed)
Stack randomization test (SEGMEXEC)      : 40 quality bits (guessed)
Stack randomization test (PAGEEXEC)      : 40 quality bits (guessed)
Arg/env randomization test (SEGMEXEC)    : 44 quality bits (guessed)
Arg/env randomization test (PAGEEXEC)    : 44 quality bits (guessed)
Offset to library randomisation (ET_EXEC): 32 quality bits (guessed)
Offset to library randomisation (ET_DYN) : 34 quality bits (guessed)
Randomization under memory exhaustion @~0: 32 bits (guessed)
Randomization under memory exhaustion @0 : 32 bits (guessed)
Anonymous mapping randomization test     : 28 quality bits (guessed)
Heap randomization test (ET_EXEC)        : 13 quality bits (guessed)
Heap randomization test (PIE)            : 28 quality bits (guessed)
Main executable randomization (ET_EXEC)  : No randomization
Main executable randomization (PIE)      : 28 quality bits (guessed)
Shared library randomization test        : 28 quality bits (guessed)
VDSO randomization test                  : 20 quality bits (guessed)
Stack randomization test (SEGMEXEC)      : 30 quality bits (guessed)
Stack randomization test (PAGEEXEC)      : 30 quality bits (guessed)
Arg/env randomization test (SEGMEXEC)    : 22 quality bits (guessed)
Arg/env randomization test (PAGEEXEC)    : 22 quality bits (guessed)
Offset to library randomisation (ET_EXEC): 28 quality bits (guessed)
Offset to library randomisation (ET_DYN) : 28 quality bits (guessed)
Randomization under memory exhaustion @~0: 28 bits (guessed)
Randomization under memory exhaustion @0 : 28 bits (guessed)
32-bit processes (on an x86_64 kernel)
Anonymous mapping randomization test     : 16 quality bits (guessed)
Heap randomization test (ET_EXEC)        : 22 quality bits (guessed)
Heap randomization test (PIE)            : 27 quality bits (guessed)
Main executable randomization (ET_EXEC)  : No randomization
Main executable randomization (PIE)      : 18 quality bits (guessed)
Shared library randomization test        : 16 quality bits (guessed)
VDSO randomization test                  : 16 quality bits (guessed)
Stack randomization test (SEGMEXEC)      : 24 quality bits (guessed)
Stack randomization test (PAGEEXEC)      : 24 quality bits (guessed)
Arg/env randomization test (SEGMEXEC)    : 28 quality bits (guessed)
Arg/env randomization test (PAGEEXEC)    : 28 quality bits (guessed)
Offset to library randomisation (ET_EXEC): 18 quality bits (guessed)
Offset to library randomisation (ET_DYN) : 16 quality bits (guessed)
Randomization under memory exhaustion @~0: 18 bits (guessed)
Randomization under memory exhaustion @0 : 18 bits (guessed)
Anonymous mapping randomization test     : 8 quality bits (guessed)
Heap randomization test (ET_EXEC)        : 13 quality bits (guessed)
Heap randomization test (PIE)            : 13 quality bits (guessed)
Main executable randomization (ET_EXEC)  : No randomization
Main executable randomization (PIE)      : 8 quality bits (guessed)
Shared library randomization test        : 8 quality bits (guessed)
VDSO randomization test                  : 8 quality bits (guessed)
Stack randomization test (SEGMEXEC)      : 19 quality bits (guessed)
Stack randomization test (PAGEEXEC)      : 19 quality bits (guessed)
Arg/env randomization test (SEGMEXEC)    : 11 quality bits (guessed)
Arg/env randomization test (PAGEEXEC)    : 11 quality bits (guessed)
Offset to library randomisation (ET_EXEC): 8 quality bits (guessed)
Offset to library randomisation (ET_DYN) : 13 quality bits (guessed)
Randomization under memory exhaustion @~0: No randomization
Randomization under memory exhaustion @0 : No randomization

Restricting access to kernel logs

Note: This is enabled by default in linux-hardened.

The kernel logs contain useful information for an attacker trying to exploit kernel vulnerabilities, such as sensitive memory addresses. The kernel.dmesg_restrict flag was to forbid access to the logs without the CAP_SYS_ADMIN capability (which only processes running as root have by default).

kernel.dmesg_restrict = 1

Restricting access to kernel pointers in the proc filesystem

Note: linux-hardened sets kptr_restrict=2 by default rather than 0.

Setting kernel.kptr_restrict to 1 will hide kernel symbol addresses in /proc/kallsyms from regular users without CAP_SYSLOG, making it more difficult for kernel exploits to resolve addresses/symbols dynamically. This will not help that much on a pre-compiled Arch Linux kernel, since a determined attacker could just download the kernel package and get the symbols manually from there, but if you are compiling your own kernel, this can help mitigating local root exploits. This will break some perf commands when used by non-root users (but many perf features require root access anyway). See FS#34323 for more information.

Setting kernel.kptr_restrict to 2 will hide kernel symbol addresses in /proc/kallsyms regardless of privileges.

kernel.kptr_restrict = 1

Keep BPF JIT compiler disabled

The Linux kernel includes the ability to compile BPF/Seccomp rule sets to native code as a performance optimization. The net.core.bpf_jit_enable flag should be set to 0 for a maximum level of security.

BPF/Seccomp compilation can be useful in specific domains, such as dynamic servers (e.g. orchestration platforms like Mesos and Kubernetes). It is not usually useful for desktop users or for static servers. A JIT compiler opens up the possibility for an attacker to perform a heap spraying attack, where they fill the kernel's heap with malicious code. This code can then potentially be executed via another exploit, like an incorrect function pointer dereference. The Spectre attacks, published early 2018, are prominent respective exploits.

ptrace scope

Arch enables the Yama LSM by default, providing a kernel.yama.ptrace_scope flag. This flag is enabled by default and prevents processes from performing a ptrace call on other processes outside of their scope without CAP_SYS_PTRACE. While many debugging tools require this for some of their functionality, it is a significant improvement in security. Without this feature, there is essentially no separation between processes running as the same user without applying extra layers like namespaces. The ability to attach a debugger to an existing process is a demonstration of this weakness.

Examples of broken functionality

Note: You can still execute these commands as root (such as allowing them through sudo for certain users, with or without a password).
  • gdb -p $PID
  • strace -p $PID
  • perf trace -p $PID
  • reptyr $PID


  • This may cause issues for certain applications like an application running in a sandbox and Xorg (see workaround).
  • This causes issues with D-Bus, PulseAudio and bluetooth when using systemd > 237.64-1.

The kernel has the ability to hide other users' processes, normally accessible via /proc, from unprivileged users by mounting the proc filesystem with the hidepid= and gid= options documented here.

This greatly complicates an intruder's task of gathering information about running processes, whether some daemon runs with elevated privileges, whether other user runs some sensitive program, whether other users run any program at all, makes it impossible to learn whether any user runs a specific program (given the program does not reveal itself by its behaviour), and, as an additional bonus, poorly written programs passing sensitive information via program arguments are now protected against local eavesdroppers.

The proc group, provided by the filesystem package, acts as a whitelist of users authorized to learn other users' process information. If users or services need access to /proc/<pid> directories beyond their own, add them to the group.

For example, to hide process information from other users except those in the proc group:

proc	/proc	proc	nosuid,nodev,noexec,hidepid=2,gid=proc	0	0

For user sessions to work correctly, an exception needs to be added for systemd-logind:


Restricting module loading

The default Arch kernel has CONFIG_MODULE_SIG_ALL enabled which signs all kernel modules build as part of the linux package. This allows the kernel to restrict modules to be only loaded when they are signed with a valid key, in practical terms this means that all out of tree modules compiled locally or provides by packages such as wireguard-arch cannot be loaded. Restricting loading kernel modules can be done by adding module.sig_enforce=1 to the kernel command line, further documentation can be found here.

Sandboxing applications

See also Wikipedia:Sandbox (computer security).

Note: The user namespace configuration item CONFIG_USER_NS is currently enabled in linux (v4.14.5 or later), linux-lts (v4.14.15 or later) and linux-hardened. Lack of it may prevent certain sandboxing features from being made available to applications. Unprivileged usage is disabled by default unless the kernel.unprivileged_userns_clone sysctl is set to 1, since it greatly increases the attack surface for local privilege escalation.


Firejail is an easy to use and simple tool for sandboxing applications and servers alike. Firejail is suggested for browsers and internet facing applications, as well as any servers you may be running.


bubblewrap is a setuid sandbox application developed from Flatpak with an even smaller resource footprint than Firejail. While it lacks certain features such as file path whitelisting, bubblewrap does offer bind mounts as well as the creation of user/IPC/PID/network/cgroup namespaces and can support both simple and complex sandboxes.


Manual chroot jails can also be constructed.

Linux containers

Linux Containers are another good option when you need more separation than the other options (short of KVM and VirtualBox) provide. LXC's run on top of the existing kernel in a pseudo-chroot with their own virtual hardware.

Other virtualization options

Using full virtualization options such as VirtualBox, KVM, Xen or Qubes OS (based on Xen) can also improve isolation and security in the event you plan on running risky applications or browsing dangerous websites.

Network and firewalls


While the stock Arch kernel is capable of using Netfilter's iptables and nftables, they are not enabled by default. It is highly recommended to set up some form of firewall to protect the services running on the system. Many resources (including ArchWiki) do not state explicitly which services are worth protecting, so enabling a firewall is a good precaution.

Kernel parameters

Kernel parameters which affect networking can be set using Sysctl. For how to do this, see Sysctl#TCP/IP stack hardening.


To mitigate brute-force attacks it is recommended to enforce key-based authentication. For OpenSSH, see OpenSSH#Force public key authentication. Alternatively Fail2ban or Sshguard offer lesser forms of protection by monitoring logs and writing iptables rules but open up the potential for a denial of service, since an attacker can spoof packets as if they came from the administrator after identifying their address.

You may want to harden authentication even more by using two-factor authentication. Google Authenticator provides a two-step authentication procedure using one-time passcodes (OTP).

Denying root login is also a good practice, both for tracing intrusions and adding an additional layer of security before root access. For OpenSSH, see OpenSSH#Deny.


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Reason: Your browser might notice DNS spoofing with HSTS. (Discuss in Talk:Security#)

DNS queries are, by default on most systems, sent and received unencrypted and without checking for authentication of receipt from qualified servers. This could then allow man-in-the-middle attacks, whereby an attacker intercepts your DNS queries and modifies the responses to deliver you an IP address leading to a phishing page to collect your valuable information. Neither you nor the browser/other software would be aware since the DNS protocol takes the legitimacy of query results for granted.

DNSSEC is a set of standards in place that requires DNS servers to provide clients with origin authentication of DNS data, authenticated denial of existence, and data integrity. It, however, is not yet widely used. With DNSSEC enabled, an attacker can not make modifications to your DNS queries and the returning results, but would still be able to read them.

DNSCrypt, as well as later alternative protocol developments DNS over TLS and DNS over HTTPS, use cryptography to secure communications with DNS servers. Usually only one protocol is employed on a system level. See Domain name resolution#DNS servers for supporting software.

If you have a domain name, set a Sender Policy Framework policy to combat email spoofing.


Proxies are commonly used as an extra layer between applications and the network, sanitizing data from untrusted sources. The attack surface of a small proxy running with lower privileges is significantly smaller than a complex application running with the end user privileges.

For example the DNS resolver is implemented in glibc, that is linked with the application (that may be running as root), so a bug in the DNS resolver might lead to a remote code execution. This can be prevented by installing a DNS caching server, such as dnsmasq, which acts as a proxy. [2]

Managing SSL certificates

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Notes: There's a dedicated article. (Discuss in Talk:Security#)

See OpenSSL and Network Security Services (NSS) for managing custom server-side SSL certificates. Notably, the related Let’s Encrypt project is also supported.

The default internet SSL certificate trustchains are provided by the ca-certificates package and its dependencies. Note that Arch relies on trust-sources (e.g. ca-certificates-mozilla) providing the certificates to be trusted per default by the system.

There may be occasions when you want to deviate from the default. For example, you may read some news and want to distrust a certificate rather than wait until the trust-source providers do. The Arch infrastructure makes such easy:

  1. Obtain the respective certificate in .crt format (Example: view, download; in case of an existing trusted root certificate authority, you may also find it extracted in the system path),
  2. Copy it to /etc/ca-certificates/trust-source/blacklist/ and
  3. Run update-ca-trust as root.

To check the blacklisting works as intended, you may re-open your preferred browser and do so via its GUI, which should show it as untrusted now.

Authenticating packages

Attacks on package managers are possible without proper use of package signing, and can affect even package managers with proper signature systems. Arch uses package signing by default and relies on a web of trust from 5 trusted master keys. See Pacman-key for details.

Follow vulnerability alerts

Subscribe to the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposure (CVE) Security Alert updates, made available by National Vulnerability Database, and found on the NVD Download webpage. The Arch Linux Security Tracker serves as a particularly useful resource in that it combines Arch Linux Security Advisory (ASA), Arch Linux Vulnerability Group (AVG) and CVE data sets in tabular format. See also Arch Security Team.

Warning: Do not be tempted to perform partial upgrades, as they are not supported by Arch Linux and may cause instability: the whole system should be upgraded when upgrading a component. Also note that infrequent system updates can complicate the update process.

Physical security

Physical access to a computer is root access given enough time and resources. However, a high practical level of security can be obtained by putting up enough barriers.

An attacker can gain full control of your computer on the next boot by simply attaching a malicious IEEE 1394 (FireWire), Thunderbolt or PCI Express device as they are given full memory access.[3] There is little you can do from preventing this, or modification of the hardware itself - such as flashing malicious firmware onto a drive. However, the vast majority of attackers will not be this knowledgeable and determined.

#Disk encryption will prevent access to your data if the computer is stolen, but malicious firmware can be installed to obtain this data upon your next log in by a resourceful attacker.

Locking down BIOS

Adding a password to the BIOS prevents someone from booting into removable media, which is basically the same as having root access to your computer. You should make sure your drive is first in the boot order and disable the other drives from being bootable if you can.


It is highly important to protect your bootloader. There is a magic kernel parameter called init=/bin/sh. This makes any user/login restrictions totally useless.


Syslinux supports password-protecting your bootloader. It allows you to set either a per-menu-item password or a global bootloader password.


GRUB supports bootloader passwords as well. See GRUB/Tips and tricks#Password protection of GRUB menu for details. It also has support for encrypted /boot, which only leaves some parts of the bootloader code unencrypted. GRUB's configuration, kernel and initramfs are encrypted.

Boot partition on removable flash drive

One popular idea is to place the boot partition on a flash drive in order to render the system unbootable without it. Proponents of this idea often use full disk encryption alongside, and some also use detached encryption headers placed on the boot partition.

Automatic logout

If you are using Bash or Zsh, you can set TMOUT for an automatic logout from shells after a timeout.

For example, the following will automatically log out from virtual consoles (but not terminal emulators in X11):

TMOUT="$(( 60*10 ))";
[ -z "$DISPLAY" ] && export TMOUT;
case $( /usr/bin/tty ) in
	/dev/tty[0-9]*) export TMOUT;;

If you really want EVERY Bash/Zsh prompt (even within X) to timeout, use:

$ export TMOUT="$(( 60*10 ))";

Note that this will not work if there is some command running in the shell (eg.: an SSH session or other shell without TMOUT support). But if you are using VC mostly for restarting frozen GDM/Xorg as root, then this is very useful.

Protect against rogue USB devices

Install USBGuard, which is a software framework that helps to protect your computer against rogue USB devices (a.k.a. BadUSB, PoisonTap or LanTurtle) by implementing basic whitelisting and blacklisting capabilities based on device attributes.

Rebuilding packages

Packages can be rebuilt and stripped of undesired functions and features as a means to reduce attack surface. For example, bzip2 can be rebuilt without bzip2recover in an attempt to circumvent CVE-2016-3189. Custom hardening flags can also be applied either manually or via a wrapper.

See also