Every process has four sets of privileges that determine whether a process can use a particular privilege. The kernel automatically calculates the effective set of privileges. You can modify the initial inheritable set of privileges. A program that is coded to use privileges can reduce the program's permitted set of privileges. You can shrink the limit set of privileges.
Effective privilege set, or E – Is the set of privileges that is currently in effect. A process can add privileges that are in the permitted set to the effective set. A process can also remove privileges from E.
Permitted privilege set, or P – Is the set of privileges that is available for use. Privileges can be available to a program from inheritance or through assignment. An execution profile is one way to assign privileges to a program. The setuid command assigns all privileges that root has to a program. Privileges can be removed from the permitted set, but privileges cannot be added to the set. Privileges that are removed from P are automatically removed from E.
A privilege-aware program removes the privileges that a program never uses from the program's permitted set. In this way, unnecessary privileges cannot be exploited by the program or a malicious process. For more information on privilege-aware programs, see Chapter 2, Developing Privileged Applications, in Oracle Solaris Security for Developers Guide.
Inheritable privilege set, or I – Is the set of privileges that a process can inherit across a call to exec. After the call to exec, the permitted and the effective sets are equal, except in the special case of a setuid program.
For a setuid program, after the call to exec, the inheritable set is first restricted by the limit set. Then, the set of privileges that were inherited (I), minus any privileges that were in the limit set (L), are assigned to P and E for that process.
Limit privilege set, or L – Is the outside limit of what privileges are available to a process and its children. By default, the limit set is all privileges. Processes can shrink the limit set but can never extend the limit set. L is used to restrict I. Consequently, L restricts P and E at the time of exec.
If a user has been assigned a profile that includes a program that has been assigned privileges, the user can usually run that program. On an unmodified system, the program's assigned privileges are within the user's limit set. The privileges that have been assigned to the program become part of the user's permitted set. To run the program that has been assigned privileges, the user must run the program from a profile shell.
The kernel recognizes a basic privilege set. On an unmodified system, each user's initial inheritable set equals the basic set at login. You can modify the user's initial inheritable set. You cannot modify the basic set.
E (Effective): basic I (Inheritable): basic P (Permitted): basic L (Limit): all
Therefore, at login, all users have the basic set in their inheritable set, their permitted set, and their effective set. A user's limit set contains all privileges. To put more privileges in the user's effective set, you must assign a rights profile to the user. The rights profile would include commands to which you have added privileges. You can also assign privileges directly to the user or role, though such privilege assignment can be risky. For a discussion of the risks, see Security Considerations When Directly Assigning Security Attributes.