Container Breakout (Leaky Vessels) Affecting package, versions >=0.0.0



    Attack Complexity Low
    User Interaction Required
    Scope Changed
    Confidentiality High
    Integrity High
    Availability High

    Threat Intelligence

    Social Trends Trending on Twitter
    Exploit Maturity Proof of concept
    EPSS 5.06% (93rd percentile)
Expand this section
8.6 high
Expand this section
Red Hat
8.6 high
Expand this section
8.6 high

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  • published 31 Jan 2024
  • disclosed 12 Dec 2023
  • credit Rory McNamara (Snyk Security Research), @lifubang (acmcoder), Aleksa Sarai (SUSE)

How to fix?

A fix was pushed into the master branch but not yet published.


Affected versions of this package are vulnerable to Container Breakout (Leaky Vessels). Due to certain leaked file descriptors, an attacker could cause a newly-spawned container process (from runc exec) to have a working directory in the host filesystem namespace, allowing for a container escape by giving access to the host filesystem ("attack 2"). The same attack could be used by a malicious image to allow a container process to gain access to the host filesystem through runc run ("attack 1"). Variants of attacks 1 and 2 could also be used to overwrite semi-arbitrary host binaries, allowing for complete container escapes ("attack 3a" and "attack 3b").

Attack 1: process.cwd "mis-configuration"

Several file descriptors are inadvertently leaked into runc init, including a handle to the host's /sys/fs/cgroup (this leak was added in v1.0.0-rc93). If the container was configured to have process.cwd set to /proc/self/fd/7/ (the actual fd can change depending on file opening order in runc), the resulting pid1 process will have a working directory in the host mount namespace and thus the spawned process can access the entire host filesystem. This alone is not an exploit against runc, however a malicious image could make any innocuous-looking non-/ path a symlink to /proc/self/fd/7/ and thus trick a user into starting a container whose binary has access to the host filesystem.

Furthermore, runc does not verify that the final working directory is inside the container's mount namespace after calling chdir(2) (as we have already joined the container namespace, it is incorrectly assumed there is no way to chdir outside the container after pivot_root(2)).

Note: This attack requires a privileged user to be tricked into running a malicious container image. It should be noted that when using higher-level runtimes (such as Docker or Kubernetes), this exploit can be considered critical as it can be done remotely by anyone with the rights to start a container image (and can be exploited from within Dockerfiles using ONBUILD in the case of Docker).

Attack 2: runc exec container breakout (This is a modification of attack 1, constructed to allow for a process inside a container to break out.)

The same fd leak and lack of verification of the working directory in attack 1 also apply to runc exec. If a malicious process inside the container knows that some administrative process will call runc exec with the --cwd argument and a given path, in most cases they can replace that path with a symlink to /proc/self/fd/7/. Once the container process has executed the container binary, PR_SET_DUMPABLE protections no longer apply and the attacker can open /proc/$exec_pid/cwd to get access to the host filesystem.

runc exec defaults to a cwd of / (which cannot be replaced with a symlink), so this attack depends on the attacker getting a user (or some administrative process) to use --cwd and figuring out what path the target working directory is. Note that if the target working directory is a parent of the program binary being executed, the attacker might be unable to replace the path with a symlink (the execve will fail in most cases, unless the host filesystem layout specifically matches the container layout in specific ways and the attacker knows which binary the runc exec is executing).

Attacks 3a and 3b: process.args host binary overwrite attack (These are modifications of attacks 1 and 2, constructed to overwrite a host binary by using execve to bring a magic-link reference into the container.)

Attacks 1 and 2 can be adapted to overwrite a host binary by using a path like /proc/self/fd/7/../../../bin/bash as the process.args binary argument, causing a host binary to be executed by a container process. The /proc/$pid/exe handle can then be used to overwrite the host binary, as seen in CVE-2019-5736 (note that the same #! trick can be used to avoid detection as an attacker). As the overwritten binary could be something like /bin/bash, as soon as a privileged user executes the target binary on the host, the attacker can pivot to gain full access to the host.


  • Attack 3a is attack 1 but adapted to overwrite a host binary, where a malicious image is set up to execute /proc/self/fd/7/../../../bin/bash and run a shell script that overwrites /proc/self/exe, overwriting the host copy of /bin/bash.

  • Attack 3b is attack 2 but adapted to overwrite a host binary, where the malicious container process overwrites all of the possible runc exec target binaries inside the container (such as /bin/bash) such that a host target binary is executed and then the container process opens /proc/$pid/exe to get access to the host binary and overwrite it.

  • As mentioned above, 3b is more dangerous than 3a in practice as it doesn't require a user to run a malicious image.


  • For attacks 1 and 2, only permit containers (and runc exec) to use a process.cwd of /. It is not possible for / to be replaced with a symlink (the path is resolved from within the container's mount namespace, and you cannot change the root of a mount namespace or an fs root to a symlink).

  • For attacks 1 and 3a, only permit users to run trusted images.

  • For attack 3b, there is no practical workaround other than never using runc exec because any binary executed with runc exec could end up being a malicious binary target.

This vulnerability was discovered and responsibly disclosed as part of the Leaky Vessels project.

ChangeLog: 2024-02-05 - 1.0.0-rc93 was added as a lower bound to the components.