Singularity is a tool that creates docker-like process containers but without giving extra privileges to unprivileged users. It is used by grid pilot jobs (which are submitted by per-VO grid workload management systems) to isolate user jobs from the pilot's files and processes and from other users' files and processes. It also supplies a chroot environment in order to run user jobs in different operating system images under one Linux kernel.
Kernels with a version 3.10.0-957 or newer include a feature called unprivileged user namespaces that allows singularity to run completely unprivileged. This kernel version is the default for RHEL/CentOS/Scientific Linux 7.6 and is available for previous 7.x releases. Although the feature is available, it needs to be enabled to be usable (instructions below) on RHEL 7. The feature is enabled by default on RHEL 8, but not available at all on RHEL 6.
Without unprivileged user namespaces, singularity must be installed and run with setuid-root executables. Singularity keeps the privileged code to a minimum in order to reduce the potential for vulnerabilities.
The OSG has installed singularity in OASIS, so most sites will not need to install singularity locally if they enable it to run unprivileged. An RPM installation can be configured to be unprivileged or privileged.
Kernel vs. Userspace Security
Enabling unprivileged user namespaces increases the risk to the kernel. However, the kernel is much more widely reviewed than singularity and the additional capability given to users is more limited. OSG Security considers the non-setuid, kernel-based method to have a lower security risk.
This document is intended for system administrators that wish to enable, install, and/or configure singularity.
As with all OSG software installations, there are some one-time (per host) steps to prepare in advance:
- Ensure the host has a supported operating system
- Obtain root access to the host
- Prepare the required Yum repositories
In addition, this is highly recommended for image distribution:
- Install CVMFS
Choosing Unprivileged vs Privileged Singularity¶
There are two sets of instructions on this page:
OSG VOs all support running singularity directly from CVMFS when unprivileged singularity is enabled. OSG recommends that system administrators enable unprivileged singularity on RHEL 7.x worker nodes and not install the singularity RPM when possible. Sites that do install the RPM may choose to configure their RHEL 7.x RPM installations to run unprivileged. RHEL 6.x installations have no option for unprivileged singularity so there the RPM has to be installed and left configured as privileged.
In addition to improved security, unprivileged singularity enables
condor_ssh_to_job to enter a container namespace without itself
On the other hand, there are a few rare use cases that require singularity to run privileged:
Using single-file container images. Some systems, especially High Performance Computing (HPC) systems, deal poorly with collections of small files. In this case, container images stored in a single file (as opposed to an unpacked directory) may be needed.
However, OSG VO container images are usually directory-based in CVMFS, and when possible we recommend disabling this feature on privileged installations in order to avoid potential kernel exploits.
The overlay feature. The "overlay" feature of singularity uses overlayfs to add bind mounts where mount points don't exist in the underlying image.
However, this feature doesn't work if the image is a directory distributed in CVMFS, singularity has an "underlay" feature that is equivalent which does work with CVMFS and does not require privileges, and the overlay feature has been a source of security vulnerabilities in the past. For these reasons, we recommend replacing overlay with underlay even on privileged installations.
overlayfs is also used to make the appearance of writable images when building containers, so it may be needed on some systems for that purpose.
Enabling Unprivileged Singularity¶
The instructions in this section are for enabling singularity to run unprivileged.
If the operating system is an EL 7 variant and has been updated to the EL 7.6 kernel or later, enable unprivileged singularity with the following steps:
Enable user namespaces via
(Optional) Disable network namespaces:
[email protected] # echo "user.max_net_namespaces = 0" \ > /etc/sysctl.d/90-max_net_namespaces.conf [email protected] # sysctl -p /etc/sysctl.d/90-max_net_namespaces.conf
OSG VOs do not need network namespaces with singularity, and disabling them reduces the risk profile of enabling user namespaces.
Network namespaces are, however, utilized by other software, such as Docker. Disabling network namespaces may break other software, or limit its capabilities (such as requiring the
--net=hostoption in Docker).
If docker is being used to run jobs, the following options are recommended to allow unprivileged singularity to run (it does not need
--privilegedor any added capabilities):
--security-opt seccomp=unconfined --security-opt systempaths=unconfined
The first option enables unshare to be called (which is needed to create namespaces), and the second option allows /proc to be mounted in an unprivileged process namespace (as done by singularity exec -p). The options are secure as long as the system administrator controls the images and does not allow user code to run as root, and are generally more secure than adding capabilities. If at this point no setuid programs needs to be run within the container, adding the following option will add security by preventing any privilege escalation (singularity uses the same feature on its containers):
In addition, the following option is recommended for allowing unprivileged fuse mounts on kernels that support that (RHEL >= 7.8):
Configuring Unprivileged Singularity¶
When unprivileged singularity is enabled and VOs run singularity from
CVMFS, the singularity configuration file also comes from CVMFS so local
sites have no control over changing the configuration. However, the
most common local configuration change to the singularity RPM is to add
additional local "bind path" options to map extra local file paths into
containers. This can instead be accomplished by setting the
SINGULARITY_BINDPATH variable in the environment of jobs, for
on your compute element. This is a
comma-separated list of paths to bind, following the syntax of the
singularity exec --bind option.
There are also other environment variables that can affect singularity operation; see the singularity documentation for details.
Validating Unprivileged Singularity¶
If you haven't yet installed CVMFS, please do so. Alternatively, use the cvmfsexec package configured for osg as an unprivileged user and mount the oasis.opensciencegrid.org and singularity.opensciencegrid.org repositories.
As an unprivileged user verify that singularity in OASIS works with this command:
[email protected] $ /cvmfs/oasis.opensciencegrid.org/mis/singularity/bin/singularity \ exec --contain --ipc --pid --bind /cvmfs \ /cvmfs/singularity.opensciencegrid.org/opensciencegrid/osgvo-el6:latest \ ps -ef UID PID PPID C STIME TTY TIME CMD user 1 0 2 21:27 ? 00:00:00 shim-init user 2 1 0 21:27 ? 00:00:00 ps -ef
Singularity via RPM¶
The instructions in this section are for the singularity RPM, which includes setuid-root executables. The setuid-root executables can however be disabled by configuration, details below.
Installing Singularity via RPM¶
To install the singularity RPM, make sure that your host is up to date before installing the required packages:
Clean yum cache:
[email protected] # yum clean all --enablerepo=*
[email protected] # yum update
This command will update all packages
[email protected] # yum install singularity
Configuring Singularity RPM¶
singularity includes an option called
underlay that enables using bind
mount points that do not exist in the container image.
By default it is enabled, but only if the similar
overlay option cannot
be used, such as on RHEL6 where kernel support for overlayfs is missing
or when running in unprivileged mode. On RHEL7 it is recommended to
overlay, because it is more vulnerable to security
underlay and because it does not work correctly when
container images are distributed by CVMFS.
Set this option in
enable overlay = no
If you modify
/etc/singularity/singularity.conf, be careful with
your upgrade procedures.
RPM will not automatically merge your changes with new upstream
configuration keys, which may cause a broken install or inadvertently
change the site configuration. Singularity changes its default
configuration file more frequently than typical OSG software.
singularity.conf.rpmnew after upgrades and merge in any
changes to the defaults.
Configuring the RPM to be Unprivileged¶
If you choose to run the RPM unprivileged, after
enabling unprivileged singularity,
change the line in
/etc/singularity/singularity.conf that says
allow setuid = yes to
allow setuid = no
Note that the setuid-root executables stay installed, but they will exit very early if invoked when the configuration file disallows setuid, so the risk is very low. There are non-setuid equivalent executables that are used instead when setuid is disallowed.
Limiting Image Types¶
A side effect of disabling privileged singularity is that loopback mounts are disallowed. If the installation is privileged, also consider the following.
Images based on loopback devices carry an inherently higher exposure to unknown kernel exploits compared to directory-based images distributed via CVMFS. See this article for further discussion.
The loopback-based images are the default image type produced by singularity
users and are common at sites with direct user logins. However (as of April
2019) we are only aware of directory-based images being used by OSG VOs.
Hence, it is reasonable to disable the loopback-based images by setting
the following option in
max loop devices = 0
While reasonable for some sites, this is not required as there are currently no public kernel exploits for this issue; any exploits are patched by Red Hat when they are discovered.
Validating Singularity RPM¶
After singularity is installed, as an ordinary user run the following command to verify it:
[email protected] $ singularity exec --contain --ipc --pid --bind /cvmfs \ /cvmfs/singularity.opensciencegrid.org/opensciencegrid/osgvo-el6:latest \ ps -ef WARNING: Container does not have an exec helper script, calling 'ps' directly UID PID PPID C STIME TTY TIME CMD user 1 0 1 21:41 ? 00:00:00 shim-init user 2 1 0 21:41 ? 00:00:00 ps -ef
Starting and Stopping Services¶
singularity has no services to start or stop.