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Actually, the stronger case is that the feature should be removed from bash. While it's hard to point at a specific security guarantee that UNIX makes that bash violates by making TCP available via the psuedo-file system, it is a non-trivial ambient contribution to general insecurity for UNIX systems. (People itching to reply to that sentence, please parse it carefully first; I chose the adjectives quite carefully. In particular, I did not just call UNIX "generally insecure".)



I find this surprising. If someone can run bash, they can do anything anyway. What am I missing?


Sometimes you don't get to "run bash", but just pass certain parameters, or add things on the end, or whatever other monstrosity an application programmer comes up with to use bash to do something. This allows you to do things like potentially redirect files to sockets of your choice, where you might exfiltrate data, or provide unexpected data to internal processes.

You would be correct in then pointing out that if you pass user parameters to bash without treating them as carefully as you'd treat radioactive waste, you're asking for trouble, and that /dev/tcp doesn't offer much than the various "nc"s don't. That's why I was sort of non-committal about condemning them; it's not like they are a massive breach of security. It's just one more thing that can surprise people if they're trying to lock a system down, and that's already a pretty long list. And since it's not clear to me that it could ever be a short list, that's why I wanted to emphasize I wasn't trying to condemn UNIX. It's just that it's a feature that doesn't add much but complexity to bash, while not really offering any functionality that isn't better done with nc or something, and on the balance, probably ought to just be removed from an already complicated and security-sensitive program.


I don't know about radioactive waste, but surely allowing untrusted user input into /dev is unrealistically sloppy. (Famous last words?)

I agree that having this as a bash feature versus just using nc doesn't seem to buy much. But I think having these in the actual file system is useful. So why not do both: expunge them from bash, and get them into /dev (or maybe /net, or wherever they belong).




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