[Mailman-Users] Messages silently disappearing

Barry A. Warsaw bwarsaw at cnri.reston.va.us
Fri Feb 19 21:09:26 CET 1999

Thanks to Wes Morriston for giving me access to his Linux machine, I
have diagnosed the problem he and Edward Marshall were having.  I
don't have a better solution than the one Wes came up with, so I'm
posting this followup here to see if anybody has any ideas.

The problem in a nutshell: on some Linux boxes, the effective group id 
is not preserved across a popen() call.

Here's essentially the chain when a message is posted to a list:

    1. The mail wrapper is invoked by the MDA.  Mailman's wrapper is a 
       setgid C program, that should change the egid to `mailman',
       then exec scripts/post.

    2. scripts/post also has egid `mailman' and it goes about the
       business of checking that the message can be posted.
       Eventually, it is going to popen() scripts/deliver and start
       pumping it data.  scripts/deliver in turn popens
       scripts/contact_transport, but it doesn't matter because by
       then the damage is done.

Now, on both my Solaris 2.6 box and my RH5.1 box, scripts/deliver will 
inherit the egid of the invoking process, i.e. gid `mailman'.  So by
setting ~mailman/data to be g+w and group owned by mailman,
everything's cool.

However on Wes' SuSE machine, scripts/deliver runs with its egid reset 
to the real gid.  This breaks mailman because the real gid isn't
`mailman' and thus the process does not have permission to write into
the ~mailman/data directory.  Because the process is owned by daemon,
Wes' solution of chown'ing ~mailman/data to daemon got this working

I'm at a loss as to what the right solution is.  Wes', while it works, 
doesn't seem ultimately right.  But I have no idea how to force the
egid of scripts/deliver to `mailman'.  I don't believe you can have
setgid scripts on Linux (I tried this, and no it did not work).

Another solution would be to wrap scripts/deliver and probably
scripts/contact_transport in C setgid wrappers, but that seems like a

Is there some Linux option that we can exploit to allow this?  Does
anybody else have any better ideas?  I am attaching a tarball of code
that you can use to test whether your machine has the problem.  To run 
this, compile wrapper.c, then chgrp it to some other group and chmod
it to g+s.  Also make sure wrapper-2.py is executable.

Now run wrapper.  If you see that wrapper, wrapper-1 and wrapper-2 all 
have the same egid, then you're okay.  If wrapper-2 reverts to the
real gid, then you'll get nailed by this.

I'm guessing that because Stevens [APitUE] suggests that what we're
doing may open up a security hole, some versions of Linux disallow
this by reverting the egid on a popen().


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