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Security Linux

Systemd Absorbs "su" Command Functionality 747

jones_supa writes: With a pull request systemd now supports a su command functional and can create privileged sessions that are fully isolated from the original session. The su command is seen as bad because what it is supposed to do is ambiguous. On one hand it's supposed to open a new session and change a number of execution context parameters, and on the other it's supposed to inherit a lot concepts from the originating session. Lennart Poettering's long story short: "`su` is really a broken concept. It will given you kind of a shell, and it's fine to use it for that, but it's not a full login, and shouldn't be mistaken for one." The replacement command provided by systemd is machinectl shell.
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Systemd Absorbs "su" Command Functionality

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  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:34AM (#50415809)

    Lennart Poettering's long story short: "`su` is really a broken concept

    Declaring established concepts as broken so you can "fix" them.

    Su is not a broken concept; it's a long well-established fundamental of BSD Unix/Linux. You need a shell with some commands to be run with additional privileges in the original user's context.

    If you need a full login you invoke 'su -' or 'sudo bash -'

    Deciding what a full login comprises is the shell's responsibility, not your init system's job.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:40AM (#50415841)

      Well, let me explain some of the problems that I've had with su.

      Oh wait. I've never had problems with su. Ever. What is up with this???

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Maybe mixing su with systemd is like mixing PCP and acid

      • by RightwingNutjob ( 1302813 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:38PM (#50416133)
        I've had a job now for about 10 years where a large fraction of the time I wear a software engineer's hat. Looking back now, I can point to a lot of design decisions in the software I work on that made me go "WTF?" when I first saw them as a young'un, but after having to contend with them for a good number of years, and thinking about how I would do them differently, I've come to the conclusion that the original WTF may be ugly and could use some polish, but the decisionmaking that produced it was fundamentally sound.

        The more I hear about LP and systemd, the more it screams out that this guy just hasn't worked with Unix and Linux long enough to understand what it's used for and why it's built the way it is. His pronouncements just sound to me like an echo of my younger, stupider, self (and I just turned 30), and I can't take any of his output seriously. I really hope a critical mass of people are of the same mind with me and this guy can be made to redirect his energies somewhere where it doesn't fuck it up for the rest of us.
        • by magamiako1 ( 1026318 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @01:42PM (#50416503)
          Welcome to IT. Where the youngin's come in and rip up everything that was built for decades because "oh that's too complicated".
          • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @02:19PM (#50416699)

            its the other way around. we used to have small, simple programs that did not take whole systems to build and gigs of mem to run in. things were easier to understand and concepts were not overdone a hundred times, just because 'reasons'.

            now, we have software that can't be debugged well, people who are current software eng's have no attention span to fix bugs or do proper design, older guys who DO remember 'why' are no longer being hired and we can't seem to stand on our giants' shoulders anymore. again, because 'reasons'.

        • echo of my younger, stupider, self

          Yes. And the biggest problem is that he seems to be very intelligent, hard-working, talented, and ... megalomaniac.
          I suppose he thinks he's on par with Linus, even though he has maybe 5% of his insight and experience.

        • Well put. The notion that *nix is a structure built by many people, with many bricks (and many eyes on each) is being violated. Its not about using larger bricks, its about using one brick? How will that brick be patched? How many eyes are on that brick? How does the community build and grow Systemd? Its time for a split,probably going back to volkerding's work, or BSD and rethinking init and networking and .. sure. sudo as well. Who has the leverage to ask why more is being done by fewer and fewer?
    • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:53AM (#50415919)

      Poettering is so very wrong on many things, having a superficial and shallow understanding of why Unix is designed the way it is. He is just a hobbyist, not a hardened sys admin with years of experience. It's almost time to throw popular Linux distros in the garbage can and just go to BSD

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:55AM (#50415925)

      Just like he considers exit statuses, stderr, and syslog "broken concepts." That is why systemd supports them so poorly. He just doesn't understand why those things are critical. An su system that doesn't properly log to syslog is a serious security problem.

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:58AM (#50415937)

      su is not only for root. it has a dual purpose: switch user or super user. Sometimes you might have to run a command as another user. So if you need to login as Gary you $su gary and type in Gary's password.

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:21PM (#50416045)

      Su is not a broken concept; it's a long well-established fundamental of BSD Unix/Linux.

      You're pretty much making an argument to tradition here. The correct thing to do would be to counter his claims:

      what "su" is supposed to do is very unclear. On one hand it's supposed to open a new session and change a number of execution context parameters (`uid`, `gid`, `env`, ...), and on the other it's supposed to inherit a lot concepts from the originating session (`tty`, `cgroup`, `audit`, ...). Since this is so weakly defined it's a really weird mix&match of old and new paramters.

      I would like more detail from him on why and how it's broken, and how his replacement is truly different from "su -" but since it doesn't appear to be mutually exclusive with the use of "su" or "su -", other than typical reactionary hate I don't see what the problem is.

      • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @01:55PM (#50416559) Journal
        ok, I just spent my morning researching the problem, and why the feature got built, starting from here [github.com] (linked to in the article). Essentially, the timeline goes like this:

        1) On Linux, the su command uses PAM to manage logins (that's probably ok).
        2) systemd wrote their own version of PAM (because containers)
        3) Unlike normal su, the systemd-pam su doesn't transfer over all environment variables, which led to:
        4) A bug filed by a user, that the XDG_RUNTIME_DIR variable wasn't being maintained when su was run.
        5) Lennart said that's because su is confusing, and he wouldn't fix it.
        6) The user asked for a feature request to be added to machinectl, that would retain that environment variable
        7) Lennart said, "sure, no problem." (Which shows why systemd is gaining usage, when people want a feature, he adds it)

        It's important to note that there isn't a conspiracy here to destroy su. The process would more accurately be called "design by feature accretion," which doesn't really make you feel better, but it's not malice.
      • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pla ( 258480 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @01:58PM (#50416571) Journal
        other than typical reactionary hate I don't see what the problem is.

        You now have your init daemon providing an alternate attack pathway for gaining privileged access to the system, in a way that completely circumvents the well-established (and monitored by most IDSs) auditing capabilities of the platform.

        I'd call that a problem, but YMMV.
    • I am confused. Can I call "su root" and get a full root shell? Are they just hijacking "su [blank name] which goes to root by default? Most peaple think su means super user when in fact it means switch user. I might be safe becouse I always use the name even when it is root.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm so happy I don't have any systemd shit on this machine, seriously what is that man thinking, nothing is broken with su, in fact it's alot more secure than some systems use of sudo. Pottering, listen to me, nothing is broken, if you want that shit on your machine, you have it, just leave the rest of us the fuck alone. I feel better after that :D
      • Apparently, however, Poettering was out having a few beers when the "modular OS" concept was being discussed. So he doesn't know how to create "shit on his machine". Instead, he has to integrate it so tightly into the OS that the shit must be on everyone's machine, whether they like it or not.

        Which would be bad enough to begin with. Whoever gave him the right to make his shit the essential system component of the Red Hat OS without consulting anyone has a lot to answer for.

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:35PM (#50416121)

      Deciding what a full login comprises is the shell's responsibility, not your init system's job.

      And certainly not the job of one Poettering, who still has not produced one piece of good software in his life.

    • by Jack9 ( 11421 )

      > Deciding what a full login comprises is the shell's responsibility, not your init system's job.

      systemd is not an init system. It's a service manager. Mischaracterization makes your opinions seem ignorant.

      systemd is bad for trying to force utilities to be rewritten into a unified application layer, for no other reason. Error prone initiative, to create a new class of problems (where coordination preemption occurs, is just moved around). There's no misuse of a utility role, in this case.

    • Lennart Poettering's long story short: "`su` is really a broken concept

      Of course to Lennart Poettering "su" is broken !!

      Long story short --- To that egotistical son of a bitch, anything that is not made by him MUST BE 'broken'

      'nuff said!

    • If Lennart Poeterring is complaining about something being broken, then maybe he should start with systemd instead of assuming he is smarter than the decades of unix people who came before?

  • superuser (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:36AM (#50415817)

    Su apt-get remove systemd --purge

    • Su apt-get remove systemd --purge

      I thought systemd was the new emacs???

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Emacs is extensively documented.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        I thought systemd was the new emacs???

        Systemd might be a rewrite of emacs from the ground up. They just haven't gotten to the text editor and mail client parts quite yet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:37AM (#50415825)

    Great to see that systemd is finally doing something about all of those cryptic command names that plague the unix ecosystem.

    Upcoming systemd re-implementations of standard utilities:

    ls to be replaced by filectl directory contents [pathname]
    grep to be replaced by datactl file contents search [plaintext] (note: regexp no longer supported as it's ambiguous)
    gimp to be replaced by imagectl open file filename draw box [x1,y1,x2,y2] draw line [x1,y1,x2,y2]...

  • by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:38AM (#50415833)

    I know systemd sneers at the old Unix convention of keeping it simple, keeping it separate, but that's not the only convention they spit on. God intended Unix (Linux) commands to be cryptic things 2-4 letters long (like "su", for example). Not "systemctl", "machinectl", "journalctl", etc. Might as well just give everything a 47-character long multi-word command like the old Apple commando shell did.

    Seriously, though, when you're banging through system commands all day long, it gets old and their choices aren't especially friendly to tab completion. On top of which why is "machinectl" a shell and not some sort of hardware function? They should have just named the bloody thing command.com.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KermodeBear ( 738243 )

      I'm alright with commands that have longer names. It's harder to mis-type and execute the wrong thing, and it's easier to know what is going on at a glance.

      Same thing when reading code. I'd much rather work with code that has a method named getUserByGuid(), for example, than gubg().

      Besides, nothing prevents you from aliasing the longer commands to something shorter if you so choose.

      There's a lot of things about systemd that turn me off, but commands with longer, more verbose names is not one of those things

  • Security (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashways ( 4172247 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:42AM (#50415845)
    Doing everything as systemd do, and adding 'su', is likely a new security threat.
    • by ThorGod ( 456163 )

      That's a pretty good point I think

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Microlith ( 54737 )

      No offense, but I see lots of attacks like this on systemd. Can you explain how it is "likely a new security threat" or is it simply FUD?

      • Re:Security (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:42PM (#50416169) Journal

        Can you explain how it is "likely a new security threat" or is it simply FUD?

        Bruce Schneier (in Cryptography Engineering) pointed out that to keep something secure, you need to keep it simple (because exploits hide in complexity). When you have a large, complex, system that does a lot of different things, there's a high chance that there are security flaws. If you go to DefCon, speakers will actually say that one of the things they look for when doing 'security research' is a large, complex interface.

        So that's the reason. When you see a large complex system running as root, it means hackers will be root.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:42AM (#50415853) Journal
    There is no reason the creation of privileged sessions should depend on a particular init system. It's fairly obvious that is a bad idea from a software design perspective. The only architectural reason to build it like that is because so many distros already include systemd, so they don't have to worry about getting people to adopt this (incidentally, that's the same reason Microsoft tried to deeply embed the browser in their OS.....remember active desktop?)

    If there are any systemd fans out there, I would love to hear them justify this from an architectural perspective.
    • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:10PM (#50415985)
      Poettering is following the philosophy that has created nearly every piece of bloated software that is in existence today: the design is not complete unless there is nothing more than can be added. Bloated software feeds upon the constant influx of new features, regardless of whether those new features are appropriate or not. They are new therefore they are justified.

      .
      You know you have achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.
      -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:43AM (#50415855) Homepage Journal

    Lennart Cartman certainly does love his systemd trapper keeper.

  • by FeriteCore ( 25122 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:48AM (#50415883)

    How long until systemd absorbs emacs?

  • Upgrade (Score:5, Funny)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:51AM (#50415899) Homepage Journal

    You should replace it with the fu command.

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:02PM (#50415953)

    ... Lennart Poettering's long story short: "`su` is really a broken concept. ...

    So every command that Poettering thinks may be broken is added to the already bloated systemd?

    .
    How long before there is nothing left to GNU/Linux besides the Linux kernel and systemd?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'd just like to interject for moment. What you're refering to as GNU/Linux, is in fact, Systemd/Linux, or as I've recently taken to calling it, Systemd plus Linux. GNU is not a modern userland unto itself, but rather another free component of a fully functioning Linux system that needs to be replaced by a shitty nonfunctional init system, broken logging system, and half-assed vital system components comprising a fully broken OS as defined by Lennart Poettering.

      Many computer users run a version of the Syste

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So systemd has ambition of being a container and VM management infrastucture (I have no idea how this should make sense for VMs though.)

    machinectl shell looks to be designed to be some way to attach to a container environment with an interactive shell, without said container needing to do anything to provide such a way in. While they were at the task of doing that not too terribly unreasonable thing, they did the same function for what they call '.host', essentially meaning they can use the same syntax for

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:23PM (#50416047)

    I, for one, welcome this addition... every privilege escalation path you add is good for literally years of paid contract work.

  • by butlerm ( 3112 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:25PM (#50416059)

    machinectl shell is only incidentally similar to su. Its primary purpose is to establish an su-like session on a different container or VM. Systemd refers to these as 'machines', hence the name machinectl.

    http://www.freedesktop.org/sof... [freedesktop.org]

    su cannot and does not do that sort of thing. machinectl shell is more like a variant of rsh than a replacement for su.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:28PM (#50416071) Homepage

    Did an editor even glance at this piece of crap before it was posted?

    a su command functional

    a) "an su." Write it like you'd say it.
    b) what's a "command functional"?
    c) you've got all the right words... just not necessarily in the right order

    a lot concepts

    I think you accidentally a word.

    It will given you kind of a shell

    Can it has cheezeburger too?

    • I was going to post about the same thing. I can understand the odd typo, but the header seems like it was written by someone who (at best) doesn't speak English natively.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:30PM (#50416077)

    As before by "fixing" more things that are not broken. It is really time to stop this abomination. Sure, there are some (few) things it does that actually have merit, but it doe them in the wrong way, and most of it is just plain bad for security, reliability and user choice. Why so much of the Linux infrastructure is handed willingly to this one bad actor is beyond me.

  • First of all, there are two types of German engineering. Good engineering and over engineering. And there is a fine line between them. And it looks like Mr. Poettering crossed it. However, it could also be German advertising and that is either bad or worse. In general, you do not build bloated components. In old Unix days these where called programs and could be combined in various ways including pipes and files. In GNU days many of these programs were bundled together in one archive, but stayed separate. N

  • su (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JohnVanVliet ( 945577 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:41PM (#50416157) Homepage

    "su command is seen as bad because what it is supposed to do is ambiguous. "
    -- end quote --

    it is NOT ambiguous!!!!!

    "su" is root BUT!!! with the normal users $PATH and settings
    "su - " and "su -l root "
    IS THE ROOT USER

    there is NOTHING ambiguous there at all

    now what Ubuntu did to "sudo"
    THAT!!! is a problem

    • On an ubuntu system I'm using, su and sudo su don't keep the user PATH or aliases, and the environment seems to be trimmed down. So I wonder how much things are different afterall. And anyway, I don't feel like to care, so on a personal desktop I'll do sudo su. Then who cares? The point is to do whatever you want.

  • by wnfJv8eC ( 1579097 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:43PM (#50416173)
    I am really tired of systemd. So really tired of the developers shoving that shit down the linux throat. It's not pretty, it seems to grow out of control, taking on more and more responsibility .... I don't even have an idea how to look at my logs anymore. Nor how to clear the damn things out! Adding toolkits should make the system as clear to understand as it was, not more complex. If it gets any worse it might as well be Windows 10! init was easy to understand, easy to use. syslog was easy read easy to understand and easy to clear. All this bull about "it's a faster startup" is just ... well bull. I'm using a computer 20 times faster than I was a decade ago. You think 20 seconds off a minute startup is an achievement? It's seconds on a couple of days uptime; big f*cking deal. Redhat, Fedora, turn away from the light and return to your roots!
  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @12:47PM (#50416193)
    I'm beginning to think that those distributions which have chosen systemd are now beginning to think, what have we done to ourselves?

    .
    systemd is on the way to turning a sleek, efficient Linux distribution into one loaded with awesome bloatware.

    And it looks like there is no stopping Poettering's ego now that it's been unleashed.

    • by rl117 ( 110595 ) <rleigh.codelibre@net> on Saturday August 29, 2015 @03:57PM (#50417157) Homepage

      I can't speak for any distribution, after quitting as a Debian developer some months back, for several reasons one of which was systemd. But speaking for myself, it was quite clear during the several years of "debate" (i.e. flamewars) over systemd that this was the inevitable outcome. The debate over replacing the "init system" was a complete red herring; systemd knows no boundaries and continues to expand its tentacles over the system as it subsumes more and more components. My problem with this is that once a distribution has adopted systemd, they have to basically just accept whatever crap is shovelled out in the subsequent systemd releases--it's all or nothing and once you're on the train you can't get off it. This was absolutely obvious years ago. Quality software engineering and a solid base system walked out of the door when systemd arrived; I certainly did.

      When I commit to a system such as a Linux distribution like Debian, I'm making an investment of my time and effort to use it. I do want to be able to rely on future releases being sane and not too radical a departure from previous releases--I am after all basing my work and livelihood upon it. With systemd, I don't know what I'm going to get with future versions and being able to rely on the distribution being usable and reliable in the future is now an unknown. That's why I got off this particular train before the jessie release. After 18 years, that wasn't an easy decision to make, but I still think it was the right one. And yes, I'm one of the people who moved to FreeBSD. Not because I wanted to move from Debian after having invested so much into it personally, but because I was forced to by this stupidity. And FreeBSD is a good solid dose of sanity.

    • by LVSlushdat ( 854194 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @04:09PM (#50417233)

      I currently run Ubuntu 14.04, and see where part of systemd has already begun its encroachment on what *had* been a great Linux distro. My only actual full-on experience so far with systemd is trying to get Virtualbox guest additions installed on a CentOS7 vm... I've installed those additions countless times since I started using VBox, and I think I could almost do the install in my sleep.. Not so with CentOS7.. systemd bitches loudly with strange "errors" and when it tells me to use journalctl to see what the error was, there *is* no error.. But still the additions don't install... I'm soooooo NOT looking forward to the next LTS out of Ubuntu, which I'm told will be infested with this systemd crap... Guess its time to dust off the old Slackware DVD and get acquainted with Pat again... GO FUCK YOURSELF, POETTERING.....

      • by rl117 ( 110595 ) <rleigh.codelibre@net> on Saturday August 29, 2015 @04:47PM (#50417429) Homepage

        The main thing I noticed with Ubuntu 15.04 at work is that rather than startup becoming faster and more deterministic as claimed, it's actually slower and randomly fails due to what looks like some race condition, requiring me to reset the machine. So the general experience is "meh", plus annoyance that it's actually degraded the reliability of booting.

        I also suffered from the "we won't allow you to boot if your fstab contains an unmountable filesystem". So I reformatted an ext4 filesystem as NTFS to accomplish some work task on Windows; this really shouldn't be a reason to refuse to start up. I know the justification for doing this, and I think it's as bogus as the first time I saw it. I want my systems to boot, not hang up on a technicality because the configuration or system wasn't "perfect". i.e. a bit of realism and pragmatism rather than absolutionist perfectionism--like we used to have when people like me wrote the init scripts.

  • Fully isolated? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @01:30PM (#50416429)
    I just skimmed TFA (Pottering's rambling really don't make much

    sense anyway). By "fully isolated", it sounds like machinectl breaks the audit trail that su has always supported (not being 'fully isolated' by design). Many *NIX systems are configured to prohibit root logins from anything other than the system console. And the reason that su doesn't do a 'full login' either as root or another user is to maintain the audit trail of who (which system user) is actually running what.

    Lennart, this UNIX/Linus stuff appears to be way over your head. Sure, it seems neat for lots of gamers who can't be bothered with security and just want all the machine cycles for rendering FPS games. Perhaps you'd be better off playing with an XBox.

  • by alvieboy ( 61292 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @02:49PM (#50416849) Homepage

    So, now we have to say "machinectl shell systemd-run do make me a sandwich" ?

    Looks way more complicated.

    https://xkcd.com/149/ [xkcd.com]

  • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @04:03PM (#50417185)

    This systemd guy is just like Ellsworth Toohey. As long as the sheep follow he'll keep pushing things further and further into idiotland and have a good laugh in the process.

    "Kill man’s sense of values. Kill his capacity to recognise greatness or to achieve it. Great men can’t be ruled. We don’t want any great men. Don’t deny conception of greatness. Destroy it from within. The great is the rare, the difficult, the exceptional. Set up standards of achievement open to all, to the least, to the most inept – and you stop the impetus to effort in men, great or small. You stop all incentive to improvement, to excellence, to perfection. Laugh at Roark and hold Peter Keating as a great architect. You’ve destroyed architecture. Build Lois Cook and you’ve destroyed literature. Hail Ike and you’ve destroyed the theatre. Glorify Lancelot Clankey and you’ve destroyed the press. Don’t set out to raze all shrines – you’ll frighten men, Enshrine mediocrity - and the shrines are razed."

    -- Ellsworth Toohey

  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Saturday August 29, 2015 @11:09PM (#50418815)

    This has been going on for years, and has years more to go. This is a long term strategy.

    But why?

    Why has Red Hat been replacing standard Linux components with Red Hat components, when the Red Hat stuff is worse?

    Why isn't systemd optional? It is just an init replacement, right? Why does Red Hat care which init you use?

    Why is systemd being tied to so many other components?

    Why binary logging? Who asked for that?

    Why throw away POSIX, and the entire UNIX philosophy? Clearly you do not have to do that just to replace init.

    Why does Red Hat instantly berate anybody who does not like systemd? Why the barrage of ad hominem attacks systemd critics?

    I think there is only one logical answer to all of those questions, and it's glaringly obvious.

Any program which runs right is obsolete.

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