tssci security

Tweaking kernel parameters using sysctl

Over the last few years I have been finding ways to tweak my FreeBSD systems for better security and performance. One of the techniques that I used most often was tweaking kernel parameters using sysctl. As you may have known from previous posts I am now an OS X fanboy. Sysctl parameters for the most part, are the same on OS X as on FreeBSD. This post will detail a few of my favorite sysctl tweaks to make. These will work on both FreeBSD and OS X (as well as any other system that is BSD-based since BSD4.4). Note: these settings are not terribly useful for single-user systems and are generally used for multi-user systems with high levels of utilization.

This will drop all TCP packets that are received on a CLOSED port and not reply. Note, that if you enable this you won't be able to traceroute to or from your system.

net.inet.tcp.blackhole=2 net.inet.udp.blackhole=1

Spoofed packets that utilize random source addresses cause the kernel to generate a temporary cached route in the routing table. These temporary routes usually timeout in 1600 seconds or less. Setting this to 2 seconds allows the kernel to react quicker to attacks. Never set this value to 0 however, or you will be presented with a system that does not work properly.

net.inet.ip.rtexpire=2 net.inet.ip.rtminexpire=2 net.inet.ip.rtmaxcache=256

This guarantees that dead TCP connections are recognized and torn down. Not really a security setting, but very helpful.


Randomize process ID numbers:


When you start an application such as Apache or MySQL, the command line arguments that you passed the program will show in ps and top output. I personally prefer that these arguments not be viewable by users in ps output so I disable them.


These are not the only parameters that can be modified using sysctl. For more information read the sysctl documentation for your operating system. You will probably find that sysctl parameters are not well documented and I encourage you to setup a testing system for experimentation.

Posted by Casey on Thursday, September 13, 2007 in Apple and Security.

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