Ninja – Privilege escalation detection system for GNU/Linux

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Ninja is a privilege escalation detection  and  prevention system for GNU/Linux hosts. While running, it will monitor process activity on the local host, and keep track of  all processes  running  as root.  If a process is spawned with UID or GID zero (root), ninja will log necessary  informa-tion  about  this process, and optionally kill the process if it was spawned by an unauthorized user.
A "magic" group can be specified, allowing members of this group to run any setuid/setgid root executable.

Individual  executables  can be whitelisted.  Ninja uses a fine grained whitelist that lets you whitelist executables on  a  group  and/or user basis. This can be used to allow specific groups or individual users access to  setuid/set-gid root programs, such as su and passwd.

Install Ninja in Ubuntu

sudo aptitude install ninja

Configuring ninja

1. Add a “magic” group (only members of the magic group are allowed root access). In this example we will call the group “ninja” , you may change the name if you wish. Take note of the group id (gid or number).

sudo addgroup ninja
Adding group `ninja’ (GID 1002) …

Add root, messagebus, and your administrative user(s) to the magic group.

sudo usermod -a -G ninja root
sudo usermod -a -G ninja messagebus
sudo usermod -a -G ninja bodhi

2. Make a log file, restrict access to both /etc/ninja and the log file to root.

sudo touch /var/log/ninja.log
sudo chmod o-rwx -R /etc/ninja/
sudo chmod o-rwx /var/log/ninja.log

3. Using any editor, open /etc/ninja/ninja.conf

sudo -e /etc/ninja/ninja.conf

Make the following changes match the number with the magic group id:

group = 1002

Test ninja:

sudo ninja start

bodhi@lucid:~$ sudo -i

root@lucid:~# sudo -u nobody /bin/bash

bash: /root/.bashrc: Permission denied

nobody@lucid:~$ whoami


nobody@lucid:~$ sudo -i

[sudo] password for nobody:
Sorry, try again.

Exit the shell and/or close the terminal.

At this time ninja is configured only to log events.

Examining the log will show the event:

lucid:~$ sudo cat /var/log/ninja.log

NEW ROOT PROCESS: bash[2319] ppid=2015 uid=0 gid=0
-- ppid uid=1000(bodhi) gid=1000 ppid=2013
+ bodhi is in magic group, all OK!
NEW ROOT PROCESS: sudo[2338] ppid=2335 uid=0 gid=0
-- ppid uid=65534(nobody) gid=65534 ppid=2319
+ UNAUTHORIZED PROCESS DETECTED: sudo[2338] (parent: bash[2335])
-- nokill option set, no signals sent

Notice three things :

1. bodhi was allowed to run sudo.
2. ninja detected nobody was not authorized to run sudo.
3. Last, ninja is configured with the “no kill” option, so did not take action.

Before we complete our configuration of ninja, we need to test it. If ninja is misconfigured you may loose all root access !!!

Clear the log

sudo bash -c “> /var/log/ninja.log”

Reboot, test root (sudo) access and run your system for a few hours or days (your choice). Watch the ninja log. If there are events you will need to determine if you need to configure ninja further, either via adding users to the ninja group or white listing processes.
Add a user to the magic group

Use the graphical tool or command line to add users to the ninja group

sudo usermod -a -G ninja user_to_add

Whitelisting a process

Edit /etc/ninja/whitelist

If you examine the file you will find there are already a few processes listed. If you need to add a process the syntax is


where group/user is a group/user allowed to run the process

Enable ninja

Assuming you have configured ninja and you are not getting alerts in the ninja log, it is time to activate ninja.

Using any editor, open /etc/ninja/ninja.conf

sudo -e /etc/ninja/ninja.conf

Change these lines

no_kill = no
no_kill_ppid = no

restart ninja

sudo service ninja restart

Test ninja

bodhi@lucid:/usr/share/doc/ninja$ sudo -i
root@lucid:~# sudo -u nobody /bin/bash
bash: /root/.bashrc: Permission denied
nobody@lucid:~$ sudo -i

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5 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    When I try to run ninja withOUT a log file in the config it works perfectly. When I add the logfile option I get the error:

    root@pinkzebra:~# ninja /etc/ninja/ninja.conf
    log: reading configuration file: /etc/ninja/ninja.conf
    log: ninja version 0.1.2 initializing
    log: magic group: gid=1003 (ninja)
    die: got signal SIGSEGV — segmentation fault

    Why is the logfile causing ninja to crash? How can I fix this?


  2. Tommy Butler says:

    Now this is a good article. Way to go ubuntugeek!

  3. Carlos says:

    Mmh I never tried Ninja so I tried to install it but it crashed in the middle of installing, sent debug report to developers, anyway you’ve tested this on lucid lynx? or does it not run for x64 systems?

    – Carlos

  4. i get this error
    usermod: user ‘bodhi’ does not exist

    sorry im kinna new to ubuntu or any linux platform

  5. harry says:

    Could anyone please tell me where the user manual is for ninja.

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