Oct 16, 2016

Redirecting hosts or replacing files just for one app with mount namespaces

My problem was this: how do you do essentially a split-horizon DNS for different apps in the same desktop session.

E.g. have claws-mail mail client go to localhost for someserver.com (because it has port forwarded thru "ssh -L"), while the rest of them (e.g. browser and such) keep using normal public IP.

Usually one'd use /etc/hosts for something like that, but it applies to all apps on the machine, of course.

Next obvious option (mostly because it's been around forever) is to LD_PRELOAD something that'd either override getaddrinfo() or open() for /etc/hosts, but that sounds like work and not included in util-linux (yet?).

Easiest and newest (well, new-ish, CLONE_NEWNS has been around since linux-3.8 and 2013) way to do that is to run the thing in its own "mount namespace", which sounds weird until you combine that with the fact that you can bind-mount files (like that /etc/hosts one).

So, the magic line is:

# unshare -m sh -c\
  'mount -o bind /etc/hosts.forwarding /etc/hosts
    && exec sudo -EHin -u myuser -- exec claws-mail'

Needs /etc/hosts.forwarding replacement-file for this app, which it will see as a proper /etc/hosts, along with root privileges (or CAP_SYS_ADMIN) for CLONE_NEWNS.

Crazy "sudo -EHin" shebang is to tell sudo not to drop much env, but still behave kinda as if on login, run zshrc and all that. "su - myuser" or "machinectl shell myuser@ -- ..." can also be used there.

Replacing files like /etc/nsswitch.conf or /etc/{passwd,group} that way, one can also essentially do any kind of per-app id-mapping - cool stuff.

Of course, these days sufficiently paranoid or advanced people might as well run every app in its own set of namespaces anyway, and have pretty much everything per-app that way, why the hell not.

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