Suraj Deshmukh


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Writing your own Seccomp profiles for Docker

Understanding the seccomp profile json format

Suraj Deshmukh

3-Minute Read

What is Seccomp?

A large number of system calls are exposed to every userland process with many of them going unused for the entire lifetime of the process. A certain subset of userland applications benefit by having a reduced set of available system calls. The resulting set reduces the total kernel surface exposed to the application. System call filtering is meant for use with those applications. Seccomp filtering provides a means for a process to specify a filter for incoming system calls.

source: Kernel Docs

Seccomp with Docker

Seccomp profile is attached with docker container by default. But understanding the profile can be hard if you are new to it.

Here is the snippet of syscalls allowed from the default profile:

  "names": [
  "action": "SCMP_ACT_ALLOW",
  "args": [],
  "comment": "",
  "includes": {
    "caps": [
  "excludes": {}

Here the syscalls mentioned in the names list are allowed for container only if the container starting has the capability CAP_SYS_ADMIN included when starting it, using the flag --cap-add=SYS_ADMIN.


I have done my own experiment where I am tying the chmod syscall to the capability CAP_WAKE_ALARM (There is no serious thinking put behind tying chmod to this capability CAP_WAKE_ALARM, I chose it because this capability did not seem to be doing much important hence I picked it up).

To try this out I have created a config of my own by changing the default config which looks like following diff:

--- default.json                2019-06-10 14:23:11.688170627 +0530
+++ chmod-wake-alarm.json       2019-06-10 14:19:25.706274172 +0530
@@ -62,7 +62,6 @@
-                               "chmod",
@@ -94,8 +93,6 @@
-                               "fchmod",
-                               "fchmodat",
@@ -381,6 +378,22 @@
                        "names": [
+                               "chmod",
+                               "fchmod",
+                               "fchmodat"
+                       ],
+                       "action": "SCMP_ACT_ALLOW",
+                       "args": [],
+                       "comment": "",
+                       "includes": {
+                               "caps": [
+                                       "CAP_WAKE_ALARM"
+                               ]
+                       },
+                       "excludes": {}
+               },
+               {
+                       "names": [
                        "action": "SCMP_ACT_ALLOW",
@@ -791,4 +804,4 @@
                        "excludes": {}
\ No newline at end of file

To understand what has changed I first removed all the references to the chmod and then added following snippet to tie the chmod to CAP_WAKE_ALARM.

    "names": [
    "action": "SCMP_ACT_ALLOW",
    "args": [],
    "comment": "",
    "includes": {
        "caps": [
    "excludes": {}

Now let’s try this if it works:

$ docker container run --rm -it --security-opt seccomp=chmod-wake-alarm.json alpine sh
/ # touch
/ # chmod +x
chmod: Operation not permitted

If you see with the newly created profile the container did not allow chmod to run.

$ docker container run --cap-add=WAKE_ALARM --rm -it --security-opt seccomp=chmod-wake-alarm.json alpine sh
/ # touch
/ # chmod +x

But in the above command I explicitly permitted this container to run with capability CAP_WAKE_ALARM, and now the container allows chmod. In this way you can create your own profile and tie it up with any capability you want.


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I am a Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft, working on various tooling around container technology like Docker, Kubernetes, etc.