Scott Wunsch, scott at

v1.4, 1 July 2001

This document describes installing the BIND 8 nameserver to run in a chroot jail and as a non-root user, to provide added security and minimise the potential effects of a security compromise. This version of the document covers the old but still popular BIND 8; there is another document which provides similar information for BIND 9.

1. Introduction

2. Preparing the Jail

3. Compiling BIND

4. Installing Your Shiny New BIND

5. The End

6. Appendix - Upgrading BIND Later

7. Appendix - Thanks

8. Appendix - Document Distribution Policy

1. Introduction

This is the Chroot-BIND8 HOWTO; see Where? for the master site, which contains the latest copy. It is assumed that you already know how to configure and use BIND (the Berkeley Internet Name Domain). If not, I would recommend that you read the DNS HOWTO first. It is also assumed that you have a basic familiarity with compiling and installing software on your UNIX-like system.

1.1 What?

This document describes some extra security precautions that you can take when you install BIND. It explains how to configure BIND so that it resides in a ``chroot jail'', meaning that it cannot see or access files outside its own little directory tree. We shall also configure it to run as a non-root user.

The idea behind chroot is fairly simple. When you run BIND (or any other process) in a chroot jail, the process is simply unable to see any part of the filesystem outside the jail. For example, in this document, we'll set BIND up to run chrooted to the directory /chroot/named. Well, to BIND, the contents of this directory will appear to be /, the root directory. Nothing outside this directory will be accessible to it. You've probably encounted a chroot jail before, if you've ever ftped into a public system.

1.2 Why?

The idea behind running BIND in a chroot jail is to limit the amount of access any malicious individual could gain by exploiting vulnerabilities in BIND. It is for the same reason that we run BIND as a non-root user.

This should be considered as a supplement to the normal security precautions (running the latest version, using access control, etc.), not a replacement for them.

If you're interested in DNS security, you might also be interested in a few other products. Building BIND with StackGuard would probably be a good idea for even more protection. Using it is easy; it's just like using ordinary gcc. Also, DNScache is a secure replacement for BIND, written by Dan Bernstein. Dan is the author of qmail, and DNScache appears to follow a similar philosophy.

1.3 Where?

The latest version of this document is always available from the web site of the Linux/Open Source Users of Regina, Sask., at

There is now a Japanese translation of this document, maintained by nakano at This is available at

BIND is available from the Internet Software Consortium at As of this writing, the current version of BIND 8 is 8.2.4. BIND 9.x has now been released, and has been around for a little while. You may consider upgrading to it; the chroot process is certainly much simpler and cleaner. If you are running BIND 9, then you want the Chroot-BIND HOWTO, which should be available from the same location as this document.

Keep in mind that there are known security holes in all versions of BIND 8 less than 8.2.3, so make very sure that you're running the latest version!

1.4 How?

I wrote this document based on my experiences in setting BIND up in a chroot environment. In my case, I already had an existing BIND installation in the form of a package that came with my Linux distribution. I'll assume that most of you are probably in the same situation, and will simply be transferring over and modifying the configuration files from your existing BIND installation, and then removing the package before installing the new one. Don't remove the package yet, though; we may want some files from it first.

If this is not the case for you, you should still be able to follow this document. The only difference is that, where I refer to copying an existing file, you first have to create it yourself. The DNS HOWTO may be helpful for this.

1.5 Disclaimer

These steps worked for me, on my system. Your mileage may vary. This is but one way to approach this; there are other ways to set the same thing up (although the general approach will be the same). It just happens that this was the first way that I tried that worked, so I wrote it down.

My BIND experience to date has been installing on Linux servers. However, most of the instructions in this document should be easily applicable to other flavours of UNIX as well, and I shall try to point out differences of which I am aware.

2. Preparing the Jail

2.1 Creating a User

As mentioned in the introduction, it's not a good idea to run BIND as root. So, before we begin, let's create a separate user for BIND. Note that you should never use an existing generic user like nobody for this purpose. However, some distributions, such as SuSE and Linux Mandrake have started providing a specific user (generally called named); you can simply adapt this user for our purposes, if you like.

This requires adding a line something like the following to /etc/passwd:

And one like this to /etc/group:
This creates a user and group called named for BIND. Make sure that the UID and GID (both 200 in this example) are unique on your system. The shell is set to /bin/false because this user will never need to log in.

2.2 Directory Structure

Now, we must set up the directory structure that we will use for the chroot jail in which BIND will live. This can be anywhere on your filesystem; the truly paranoid may even want to put it on a separate volume. I shall assume that you will use /chroot/named. Let's start by creating the following directory structure:

  +-- named
       +-- bin
       +-- dev
       +-- etc
       |    +-- namedb
       +-- lib
       +-- var
            +-- run

2.3 Placing the BIND Data

Assuming that you have already done a conventional installation of BIND and are using it, you will already have an existing named.conf and zone files. These files must now be moved (or copied, to be safe) into the chroot jail, so that BIND can get at them. named.conf goes in /chroot/named/etc, and the zone files can go in /chroot/named/etc/namedb. For example:

# cp -p /etc/named.conf /chroot/named/etc/

# cp -a /var/named/* /chroot/named/etc/namedb/

BIND will likely need to write to the namedb directory, and probably some of the files in it. For example, if your DNS serves as a slave for a zone, it will have to update that zone file. Also, BIND can dump statistical information, and does so in this directory. For that reason, you should probably make the named user the owner of this directory and its contents:

# chown -R named:named /chroot/named/etc/namedb
BIND will also need to write to the /var/run directory, to put its pidfile and ndc socket there, so let's allow it to do so:
# chown named:named /chroot/named/var/run

2.4 System Support Files

Once BIND is running in the chroot jail, it will not be able to access files outside the jail at all. However, it needs to access a few key files, such as the system's C library. Exactly what libraries are required will depend on your flavour of UNIX. For most modern Linux systems, the following commands will be sufficient to put the necessary libraries in place:

# cd /chroot/named/lib
# cp -p /lib/libc-2.*.so .
# ln -s libc-2.*.so
# cp -p /lib/ld-2.*.so .
# ln -s ld-2.*.so
As an alternative, you could simply build statically-linked versions of the BIND binaries to put in your chroot jail. You should also copy ldconfig into the jail, and run it to create an etc/ for the jail environment. The following commands could take care of this:
# cp /sbin/ldconfig /chroot/named/bin/
# chroot /chroot/named /bin/ldconfig -v

BIND needs one more system file in its jail: good ol' /dev/null. Again, the exact command necessary to create this device node may vary from system to system; check your /dev/MAKEDEV script to be sure. Some systems may also require /dev/zero. For most Linux systems, we can use the following command:

# mknod /chroot/named/dev/null c 1 3

Finally, you need a couple extra files in the /etc directory inside the jail. In particular, you must copy /etc/localtime (this sometimes known as /usr/lib/zoneinfo/localtime on some systems) in there so that BIND logs things with the right time on them, and you must make a simple group file with the named group in it. The following two commands will take care of this:

# cp /etc/localtime /chroot/named/etc/

# echo 'named:x:200:' > /chroot/named/etc/group

Keep in mind that the GID, 200 in this example, must match the one you defined in the real /etc/group above.

2.5 Logging

Unlike a conventional jailbird, BIND can't just scribble its log entries on the walls :-). Normally, BIND logs through syslogd, the system logging daemon. However, this type of logging is performed by sending the log entries to the special socket /dev/log. Since this is outside the jail, BIND can't use it any more. Fortuantely, there are a couple options to work around this.

The Ideal Solution

The ideal solution to this dilemma requires a reasonably recent version of syslogd which supports the -a switch introduced by OpenBSD. Check the manpage for your syslogd(8) to see if you have such a version.

If you do, all you have to do is add the switch ``-a /chroot/named/dev/log'' to the command line when you launch syslogd. On systems which use a full SysV-init (which includes most Linux distributions), this is typically done in the file /etc/rc.d/init.d/syslog. For example, on my Red Hat Linux system, I changed the line

daemon syslogd -m 0
daemon syslogd -m 0 -a /chroot/named/dev/log

On Caldera OpenLinux systems, they use a daemon launcher called ssd, which reads configuration from /etc/sysconfig/daemons/syslog. You simply need to modify the options line to look like this:

OPTIONS_SYSLOGD="-m 0 -a /chroot/named/dev/log"

Similarly, on SuSE systems, I'm told that the best place to add this switch is in the /etc/rc.config file. Changing the line

to read
SYSLOGD_PARAMS="-a /chroot/named/dev/log"
should do the trick.

Once you've figured out how to make this change for your system, simply restart syslogd, either by killing it and launching it again (with the extra parameters), or by using the SysV-init script to do it for you:

# /etc/rc.d/init.d/syslog stop
# /etc/rc.d/init.d/syslog start

Once it's been restarted, you should see a ``file'' in /chroot/named/dev called log, that looks something like this:

srw-rw-rw-   1 root     root            0 Mar 13 20:58 log

The Other Solutions

If you have an older syslogd, then you'll have to find another way to do your logging. There are a couple programs out there, such as holelogd, which are designed to help by acting as a ``proxy'' and accepting log entries from the chrooted BIND and passing them out to the regular /dev/log socket.

Alteratively, you can simply configure BIND to log to files instead of going through syslog. See the BIND documentation for more details if you choose to go this route.

3. Compiling BIND

You should be able to find the BIND source by visiting You need the bind-src.tar.gz package. Be sure to get the latest version!

3.1 Modifying Paths

Things can get a bit confusing at this point, because different parts of the BIND package will be referring to the same directories by different names (depending on whether or not they're running inside the jail). I'll try not to confuse you too much :-).

The main directory that we have to worry about here is /var/run, because its contents are required for both the main named daemon (inside the jail), and the ndc utility (on the outside). We'll start by setting everything up to find this directory from the outside world. To do this, we need to modify src/port/linux/Makefile.set (substitute your port's directory if you're not running Linux), and change the line

While you're in there, you may want to change the other destination paths from /usr to /usr/local.

Now everything should be able to find that directory... except the named daemon itself, to which it's still just /var/run inside the jail. We can get around this by making a small change in the named source. In the file src/bin/named/named.h, find the line

#include "pathnames.h"
and add the following line immediately after it
#define _PATH_NDCSOCK    "/var/run/ndc"
This way, named will ignore our definition of DESTRUN over in Makefile.set and use the correct location (from its perspective in the chroot jail). You will notice some warnings about redefinitions of _PATH_NDCSOCK when you do the build; just ignore them.

3.2 Doing the Build

You should now be able to compile BIND as normal, following the instructions in the INSTALL file. At this stage, we only want to compile BIND, not install it. Don't go too far when following the INSTALL file. Essentially, it's just make clean, make depend, and make.

4. Installing Your Shiny New BIND

I should mention that if you have an existing installation of BIND, such as from an RPM, you should probably remove it before installing the new one. On Red Hat systems, this probably means removing the packages bind and bind-utils, and possibly bind-devel and caching-nameserver, if you have them.

You may want to save a copy of the init script (e.g., /etc/rc.d/init.d/named), if any, before doing so; it'll be useful later on.

4.1 Installing the Tools Outside the Jail

This is the easy part :-). Just run make install and let it take care of it for you. You may want to chmod 000 /usr/local/sbin/named afterwards, to make sure you don't accidentally run the non-chrooted copy of BIND. (This is /usr/sbin/named if you didn't tell it to go in /usr/local/sbin like I suggested.)

4.2 Installing the Binaries in the Jail

Only two parts of the package have to live inside the chroot jail: the main named daemon itself, and named-xfer, which it uses for zone transfers. You can simply copy them in from the source tree:

# cp src/bin/named/named /chroot/named/bin

# cp src/bin/named-xfer/named-xfer /chroot/named/bin

4.3 Setting up the Init Script

If you have an existing init script from your distribution, it would probably be best simply to modify it to run /chroot/named/bin/named, with the appropriate switches. The switches are... (drumroll please...)

The following is the init script I use with my Red Hat 6.0 system. As you can see, it is almost exactly the same as the way it shipped from Red Hat. I have also modified the ndc restart command so that it restarts the server properly, and keeps it chrooted. You should probably do the same in your init script, even if you don't copy this one.

# named           This shell script takes care of starting and stopping
#                 named (BIND DNS server).
# chkconfig: 345 55 45
# description: named (BIND) is a Domain Name Server (DNS) \
# that is used to resolve host names to IP addresses.
# probe: true

# Source function library.
. /etc/rc.d/init.d/functions

# Source networking configuration.
. /etc/sysconfig/network

# Check that networking is up.
[ ${NETWORKING} = "no" ] && exit 0

[ -f /chroot/named/bin/named ] || exit 0

[ -f /chroot/named/etc/named.conf ] || exit 0

# See how we were called.
case "$1" in
        # Start daemons.
        echo -n "Starting named: "
        daemon /chroot/named/bin/named -u named -g named -t /chroot/named
        touch /var/lock/subsys/named
        # Stop daemons.
        echo -n "Shutting down named: "
        killproc named
        rm -f /var/lock/subsys/named
        /usr/local/sbin/ndc status
        exit $?
        /usr/local/sbin/ndc -n /chroot/named/bin/named "restart -u named -g named -t /chroot/named"
        exit $?
        /usr/local/sbin/ndc reload
        exit $?
        # named knows how to reload intelligently; we don't want linuxconf
        # to offer to restart every time
        /usr/local/sbin/ndc reload >/dev/null 2>&1 || echo start
        exit 0
        echo "Usage: named {start|stop|status|restart}"
        exit 1

exit 0

On Caldera OpenLinux systems, you simply need to modify the variables defined at the top, and it will apparently take care of the rest for you:

OPTIONS="-t /chroot/named -u named -g named"

4.4 Configuration Changes

You will also have to add or change a few options in your named.conf to keep the various directories straight. In particular, you should add (or change, if you already have them) the following directives in the options section:

directory "/etc/namedb";
pid-file "/var/run/";
named-xfer "/bin/named-xfer";
Since this file is being read by the named daemon, all the paths are of course relative to the chroot jail.

Some people have also reported having to add an extra block to their named.conf to get ndc working properly:

controls {
    unix "/var/run/ndc" perm 0600 owner 0 group 0;

5. The End

5.1 Launching BIND

Everything should be set up, and you should be ready to put your new, more secure BIND into action. Assuming you set up a SysV-style init script, you can simply launch it as:

# /etc/rc.d/init.d/named start
Make sure you kill any old versions of BIND still running before doing this.

If you take a look at your logs, you should find the initialisation messages that BIND spits out when it loads. (If not, there's a problem with your logging configuration that you need to fix.) Amongst those messages, BIND should tell you that it chrooted successfully, and that it is running as the user and group named. If not, you have a problem.

5.2 That's It!

You can go take a nap now ;-).

6. Appendix - Upgrading BIND Later

So, you had BIND 8.2.2_P7 all nicely chrooted and tweaked to your taste... and then you hear this nasty rumour that there's a remotely-exploitable root hole in that version too, and you need to upgrade to 8.2.3 right away. Do you have to go through this whole long process to install this new version?

Nope. In fact, you really just need the section on Compiling BIND and the first two parts of the section on Installing BIND (installing the binaries outside and inside the jail, respectively).

The rest of the HOWTO deals with setting up the jail and other things like that, which shouldn't need to be altered between versions of BIND. You can just dump the new binaries in over top of the old ones, and you're good to go. But don't forget to kill and restart BIND afterwards, or the old, vulnerable version will still be running!

7. Appendix - Thanks

I'd like to thank the following people for their assistance in the creation of this HOWTO:

And last but certainly not least, I'd like to thank Nakano Takeo <nakano at> for translating the Chroot-BIND HOWTO into Japanese. You can find his translation at

8. Appendix - Document Distribution Policy

Copyright © Scott Wunsch, 2000-2001. This document may be distributed only subject to the terms set forth in the LDP licence at

This HOWTO is free documentation; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the LDP licence. It is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but without any warranty; without even the impled warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. See the LDP licence for more details.