Simplifying Apache chroot creation with mod_chroot

Building and maintaining Apache chroot environments can be a royal pain. Creating a chroot environment for Apache requires you to first identify all the libraries and applications that are required to run the httpd processes. Once you identify the dependencies, you need to create a chroot environment that contains these files. After you successfully create the chroot environment, you need to update it when security and reliability updates are released. This can be a time consuming process, and even though several tools (e.g., mock, makejail, etc.) exist to ease this process, there is still a fair amount of work that needs to occur to get things running properly.

One way to get around the hassles of creating chroot environments is to use mod_chroot. Mod_chroot will issue the chroot() system call after the runtime linker loads dependent libraries, and Apache processes its configuration file and opens the access and error logs. Delaying the chroot() system call until after Apache is initialized can greatly reduce the amount of work required to configure the chroot environment, since libraries don’t need to be copied* into the jail, and logs and configuration files can live outside of the chroot environment.

Installing and configuring mod_chroot is a snap. To compile and install mod_chroot from source, you can use the apxs utility from the Apache installation you want to run in the chroot environment:

$ tar xfvz mod_chroot-0.5.tar.gz

$ apxs -cai mod_chroot-0.5/src/apache20/mod_chroot.c

This will compile mod_chroot and install it the Apache loadable modules directory. To configure mod_chroot, you will first need to add a “LoadModule” directive to your httpd.conf to load mod_chroot:

LoadModule chroot_module modules/mod_chroot.so

Next you will need to add a “ChrootDir” directive with the directory you want to chroot Apache to:

ChrootDir /var/chroot/apache

The chroot directory should contain the content your web server serves, and any dependencies that can’t be resolved prior to the web server starting. Configuration is extremely simple, though there are a few caveats to watch out for. The web server cannot be gracefully restarted unless the web server configuration file is moved into the chroot, and programs that lazily load shared libraries will fail. Mod_chroot is an incredible module, and can definitely make managing chroot environments a whole lot easier! Nice!

* If a program uses dlopen() to load a library, you will need to copy the library into the chroot environment, or use the Apache “LoadFile” directive to load it at initialization time.

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