3.15 Configuring and Using Kernel Security Mechanisms

3.15.1 Address Space Layout Randomization
3.15.2 Data Execution Prevention
3.15.3 Position Independent Executables

The Linux kernel features some additional security mechanisms that you can use to enhance the security of a system. These mechanisms randomize the layout of a process's address space or prevent code from being executed in non-executable memory.

3.15.1 Address Space Layout Randomization

Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) can help defeat certain types of buffer overflow attacks. ASLR can locate the base, libraries, heap, and stack at random positions in a process's address space, which makes it difficult for an attacking program to predict the memory address of the next instruction. ASLR is built into the Linux kernel and is controlled by the parameter /proc/sys/kernel/randomize_va_space. The randomize_va_space parameter can take the following values:


Disable ASLR. This setting is applied if the kernel is booted with the norandmaps boot parameter.


Randomize the positions of the stack, virtual dynamic shared object (VDSO) page, and shared memory regions. The base address of the data segment is located immediately after the end of the executable code segment.


Randomize the positions of the stack, VDSO page, shared memory regions, and the data segment. This is the default setting.

You can change the setting temporarily by writing a new value to /proc/sys/kernel/randomize_va_space, for example:

# echo value > /proc/sys/kernel/randomize_va_space

To change the value permanently, add the setting to /etc/sysctl.conf, for example:

kernel.randomize_va_space = value

and run the sysctl -p command.

If you change the value of randomize_va_space, you should test your application stack to ensure that it is compatible with the new setting.

If necessary, you can disable ASLR for a specific program and its child processes by using the following command:

% setarch `uname -m` -R program [args ...]

3.15.2 Data Execution Prevention

The Data Execution Prevention (DEP) feature prevents an application or service from executing code in a non-executable memory region. Hardware-enforced DEP works in conjunction with the NX (Never eXecute) bit on compatible CPUs. Oracle Linux does not emulate the NX bit in software for CPUs that do not implement the NX bit in hardware.

You cannot disable the DEP feature.

3.15.3 Position Independent Executables

The Position Independent Executables (PIE) feature loads executable binaries at random memory addresses so that the kernel can disallow text relocation. To generate a position-independent binary:

  • Specify the -fpie option to gcc when compiling.

  • Specify the -pie option to ld when linking.

To test whether a binary or library is relocatable, use the following command:

# readelf -d elfname | grep TEXTREL