A Falco rules file is a YAML file containing three types of elements:
|Rules||Conditions under which an alert should be generated. A rule is accompanied by a descriptive output string that is sent with the alert.|
|Macros||Rule condition snippets that can be re-used inside rules and even other macros. Macros provide a way to name common patterns and factor out redundancies in rules.|
|Lists||Collections of items that can be included in rules, macros, or other lists. Unlike rules and macros, lists cannot be parsed as filtering expressions.|
From time to time, we make changes to the rules file format that are not backwards-compatible with older versions of Falco. Similarly, the Sysdig libraries incorporated into Falco may define new filtercheck fields, operators, etc. We want to denote that a given set of rules depends on the fields/operators from those Sysdig libraries.
Falco Engine Versioning
falco executable and the
falco_engine C++ object now support returning a version number. The initial version is 2 (implying that prior versions were 1). We will increment this version any time we make an incompatible change to the rules file format or add new filtercheck fields/operators to Falco.
Falco Rules File Versioning
The Falco rules files included with Falco include a new top-level object,
required_engine_version: N, that specifies the minimum engine version required to read this rules file. If not included, no version check is performed when reading the rules file.
If a rules file has an
engine_version greater than the Falco engine version, the rules file is be loaded and an error is returned.
A Falco rule is a node containing the following keys:
|yes||A short, unique name for the rule.|
|yes||A filtering expression that is applied against events to check whether they match the rule.|
|yes||A longer description of what the rule detects.|
|yes||Specifies the message that should be output if a matching event occurs, following the Sysdig output format syntax.|
|yes||A case-insensitive representation of the severity of the event. Should be one of the following: |
|no||If set to |
|no||A list of tags applied to the rule (more on this below).|
|no||If set to |
|no||If set to |
The key part of a rule is the condition field. A condition is simply a Boolean predicate on Sysdig events expressed using the Sysdig filter syntax. Any Sysdig filter is a valid Falco condition (with the exception of certain excluded system calls, discussed below). In addition, Falco conditions can contain macro terms (this capability is not present in Sysdig syntax).
Here’s an example of a condition that alerts whenever a bash shell is run inside a container:
container.id != host and proc.name = bash
The first clause checks that the event happened in a container (Sysdig events have a
container field that is equal to
"host" if the event happened on a regular host). The second clause checks that the process name is
bash. Note that this condition does not even include a clause with a system call! It only checks event metadata. Because of that, if a bash shell does start up in a container, Falco outputs events for every syscall that is performed by that shell.
A complete rule using the above condition might be:
- rule: shell_in_container desc: notice shell activity within a container condition: container.id != host and proc.name = bash output: shell in a container (user=%user.name container_id=%container.id container_name=%container.name shell=%proc.name parent=%proc.pname cmdline=%proc.cmdline) priority: WARNING
As noted above, macros provide a way to define common sub-portions of rules in a reusable way. As a very simple example, if we had many rules for events happening in containers, we might to define an
- macro: in_container condition: container.id != host
With this macro defined, we can then rewrite the above rule’s condition as
in_container and proc.name = bash.
For many more examples of rules and macros, take a look the documentation on default macros or the
Lists are named collections of items that you can include in rules, macros, or even other lists. Please note that lists cannot be parsed as filtering expressions. Each list node has the following keys:
|The unique name for the list (as a slug)|
|The list of values|
Here are some example lists as well as a macro that uses them:
- list: shell_binaries items: [bash, csh, ksh, sh, tcsh, zsh, dash] - list: userexec_binaries items: [sudo, su] - list: known_binaries items: [shell_binaries, userexec_binaries] - macro: safe_procs condition: proc.name in (known_binaries)
Referring to a list inserts the list items in the macro, rule, or list.
Lists can contain other lists.
Appending to Lists, Rules, and Macros
If you use multiple Falco rules files, you might want to append new items to an existing list, rule, or macro. To do that, define an item with the same name as an existing item and add an
append: true attribute to the list. When appending lists, items are added to the end of the list. When appending rules/macros, the additional text is appended to the condition: field of the rule/macro.
Note that when appending to lists, rules or macros, the order of the rule configuration files matters! For example if you append to an existing default rule (e.g.
Terminal shell in container), you must ensure your custom configuration file (e.g.
/etc/falco/rules.d/custom-rules.yaml) is loaded after the default configuration file (
/etc/falco/falco_rules.yaml). This can be configured with multiple
-r parameters in the right order, directly inside the falco configuration file (
rules_file or if you use the official Helm chart, via the
In all of the examples below, it’s assumed one is running Falco via
falco -r /etc/falco/falco_rules.yaml -r /etc/falco/falco_rules.local.yaml, or has the default entries for
rules_file in falco.yaml, which has
/etc/falco/falco.yaml first and
Appending to lists
Here’s an example of appending to lists:
- list: my_programs items: [ls, cat, pwd] - rule: my_programs_opened_file desc: track whenever a set of programs opens a file condition: proc.name in (my_programs) and evt.type=open output: a tracked program opened a file (user=%user.name command=%proc.cmdline file=%fd.name) priority: INFO
- list: my_programs append: true items: [cp]
my_programs_opened_file would trigger whenever any of
cp opened a file.
Appending to Macros
Here’s an example of appending to macros:
- macro: access_file condition: evt.type=open - rule: program_accesses_file desc: track whenever a set of programs opens a file condition: proc.name in (cat, ls) and (access_file) output: a tracked program opened a file (user=%user.name command=%proc.cmdline file=%fd.name) priority: INFO
- macro: access_file append: true condition: or evt.type=openat
program_accesses_file would trigger when
cat either used
openat on a file.
Appending to Rules
Here’s an example of appending to rules:
- rule: program_accesses_file desc: track whenever a set of programs opens a file condition: proc.name in (cat, ls) and evt.type=open output: a tracked program opened a file (user=%user.name command=%proc.cmdline file=%fd.name) priority: INFO
- rule: program_accesses_file append: true condition: and not user.name=root
program_accesses_file would trigger when
cat either used
open on a file, but not if the user was root.
Gotchas with rule/macro append and logical operators
Remember that when appending rules and macros, the text of the second rule/macro is simply added to the condition of the first rule/macro. This can result in unintended results if the original rule/macro has potentially ambiguous logical operators. Here’s an example:
- rule: my_rule desc: ... condition: evt.type=open and proc.name=apache output: ... - rule: my_rule append: true condition: or proc.name=nginx
proc.name=nginx be interpreted as relative to the
and proc.name=apache, that is to allow either apache/nginx to open files, or relative to the
evt.type=open, that is to allow apache to open files or to allow nginx to do anything?
In cases like this, be sure to scope the logical operators of the original condition with parentheses when possible, or avoid appending conditions when not possible.
Disable Default Rules
Even though falco provides a quite powerful default ruleset, you sometimes need to disable some of these default rules since they do not work properly in your environment. Luckily falco offers you multiple possibilities to do so.
Via existing Macros
Most of the default rules offer some kind of
consider_* macros which are already part of the rule conditions. These
consider_* macros are usually set to
(always_true) which basically enables or disabled the regarding rule. Now if you want to enable a by default disabled rule (e.g.
Unexpected outbound connection destination), you just have to override the rule’s
consider_* macro (
consider_all_outbound_conns in this case) inside your custom falco configuration.
Example for your custom falco configuration (note the
- macro: consider_all_outbound_conns condition: (always_true)
Please note again that the order of the specified configuration file matters! The last defined macro with the same name wins.
Via Falco Parameters
Falco offers the following parameters to limit which default rules should be enabled/used and which not:
-D <substring> Disable any rules with names having the substring <substring>. Can be specified multiple times. -T <tag> Disable any rules with a tag=<tag>. Can be specified multiple times. Can not be specified with -t. -t <tag> Only run those rules with a tag=<tag>. Can be specified multiple times. Can not be specified with -T/-D.
These parameters can also be specified as Helm chart value (
extraArgs) if you are deploying Falco via the official Helm chart.
Via Custom Rule Definition
Last but not least, it’s also possible to just disable a by default enabled rule using the
append: true and
enabled: false rule properties in combination. Here an example to disable the
User mgmt binaries default rule:
- rule: User mgmt binaries append: true enabled: false
This is especially useful for rules which do not provide a
consider_* macro in it’s default condition. Again, ensure the falco configuration files are loaded in the right order.
Every falco rule has a priority which indicates how serious a violation of the rule is. The priority is included in the message/JSON output/etc. Here are the available priorities:
The general guidelines used to assign priorities to rules are the following:
- If a rule is related to writing state (i.e. filesystem, etc.), its priority is
- If a rule is related to an unauthorized read of state (i.e. reading sensitive filees, etc.), its priority is
- If a rule is related to unexpected behavior (spawning an unexpected shell in a container, opening an unexpected network connection, etc.), its priority is
- If a rule is related to behaving against good practices (unexpected privileged containers, containers with sensitive mounts, running interactive commands as root), its priority is
One exception is that the rule “Run shell untrusted”, which is fairly FP-prone, has a priority of
As of 0.6.0, rules have an optional set of tags that are used to categorize the ruleset into groups of related rules. Here’s an example:
- rule: File Open by Privileged Container desc: Any open by a privileged container. Exceptions are made for known trusted images. condition: (open_read or open_write) and container and container.privileged=true and not trusted_containers output: File opened for read/write by privileged container (user=%user.name command=%proc.cmdline %container.info file=%fd.name) priority: WARNING tags: [container, cis]
In this case, the rule “File Open by Privileged Container” has been given the tags “container” and “cis”. If the tags key is not present for a given rule or the list is empty, a rule has no tags.
Here’s how you can use tags:
- You can use the
-T <tag>argument to disable rules having a given tag.
-Tcan be specified multiple times. For example, to skip all rules with the “filesystem” and “cis” tags you would run falco with
falco -T filesystem -T cis ....
-Tcan not be specified with
- You can use the
-t <tag>argument to only run those rules having a given tag.
-tcan be specified multiple times. For example, to only run those rules with the “filesystem” and “cis” tags, you would run falco with
falco -t filesystem -t cis ....
-tcan not be specified with
-D <pattern>(disable rules by rule name regex).
Tags for Current Falco Ruleset
We’ve also gone through the default ruleset and tagged all the rules with an initial set of tags. Here are the tags we’ve used:
|The rule relates to reading/writing files|
|The rule relates to any software/package management tool like rpm, dpkg, etc.|
|The rule relates to starting a new process or changing the state of a current process|
|The rule relates to databases|
|The rule only works outside of containers|
|The rule specifically relates to starting shells|
|The rule only works inside containers|
|The rule is related to the CIS Docker benchmark|
|The rule relates to management of users or changing the identity of a running process|
|The rule relates to network activity|
Rules can have multiple tags if they relate to multiple of the above. Every rule in the falco ruleset currently has at least one tag.
Rule Condition Best Practices
To allow for grouping rules by event type, which improves performance, Falco prefers rule conditions that have at least one
evt.type= operator, at the beginning of the condition, before any negative operators (i.e.
!=). If a condition does not have any
evt.type= operator, Falco logs a warning like:
Rule no_evttype: warning (no-evttype): proc.name=foo did not contain any evt.type restriction, meaning that it will run for all event types. This has a significant performance penalty. Consider adding an evt.type restriction if possible.
If a rule has an
evt.type operator in the latter portion of the condition, Falco logs a warning like this:
Rule evttype_not_equals: warning (trailing-evttype): evt.type!=execve does not have all evt.type restrictions at the beginning of the condition, or uses a negative match (i.e. "not"/"!=") for some evt.type restriction. This has a performance penalty, as the rule can not be limited to specific event types. Consider moving all evt.type restrictions to the beginning of the rule and/or replacing negative matches with positive matches if possible.
Escaping Special Characters
In some cases, rules may need to contain special characters like
(, spaces, etc. For example, you may need to look for a
(systemd), including the surrounding parentheses.
Falco, like Sysdig, allows you to use
" to capture these special characters. Here’s an example:
- rule: Any Open Activity by Systemd desc: Detects all open events by systemd. condition: evt.type=open and proc.name="(systemd)" or proc.name=systemd output: "File opened by systemd (user=%user.name command=%proc.cmdline file=%fd.name)" priority: WARNING
When including items in lists, ensure that the double quotes are not interpreted from your YAML file by surrounding the quoted string with single quotes. Here’s an example:
- list: systemd_procs items: [systemd, '"(systemd)"'] - rule: Any Open Activity by Systemd desc: Detects all open events by systemd. condition: evt.type=open and proc.name in (systemd_procs) output: "File opened by systemd (user=%user.name command=%proc.cmdline file=%fd.name)" priority: WARNING
Ignored system calls
For performance reasons, some system calls are currently discarded before Falco processes them. Here is the current list:
access alarm brk capget clock_getres clock_gettime clock_nanosleep clock_settime close container cpu_hotplug drop epoll_create epoll_create1 epoll_ctl epoll_pwait epoll_wait eventfd eventfd2 exit_group fcntl fcntl64 fdatasync fgetxattr flistxattr fstat fstat64 fstatat64 fstatfs fstatfs64 fsync futex get_robust_list get_thread_area getcpu getcwd getdents getdents64 getegid geteuid getgid getgroups getitimer getpeername getpgid getpgrp getpid getppid getpriority getresgid getresuid getrlimit getrusage getsid getsockname getsockopt gettid gettimeofday getuid getxattr infra io_cancel io_destroy io_getevents io_setup io_submit ioprio_get ioprio_set k8s lgetxattr listxattr llistxattr llseek lseek lstat lstat64 madvise mesos mincore mlock mlockall mmap mmap2 mprotect mq_getsetattr mq_notify mq_timedreceive mq_timedsend mremap msgget msgrcv msgsnd munlock munlockall munmap nanosleep newfstatat newselect notification olduname page_fault pause poll ppoll pread pread64 preadv procinfo pselect6 pwrite pwrite64 pwritev read readv recv recvmmsg remap_file_pages rt_sigaction rt_sigpending rt_sigprocmask rt_sigsuspend rt_sigtimedwait sched_get_priority_max sched_get_priority_min sched_getaffinity sched_getparam sched_getscheduler sched_yield select semctl semget semop send sendfile sendfile64 sendmmsg setitimer setresgid setrlimit settimeofday sgetmask shutdown signaldeliver signalfd signalfd4 sigpending sigprocmask sigreturn splice stat stat64 statfs statfs64 switch sysdigevent tee time timer_create timer_delete timer_getoverrun timer_gettime timer_settime timerfd_create timerfd_gettime timerfd_settime times ugetrlimit umask uname ustat vmsplice wait4 waitid waitpid write writev
When run with
-i, Falco prints the set of events/syscalls ignored and exits. If you’d like to run Falco against all events, including system calls in the above list, you can run Falco with the
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