sftp rename not atomic on freebsd/aix with sticky bit enabled

Jozef Riha jose1711 at gmail.com
Sat Dec 2 03:25:28 AEDT 2023

Hello list,

we've recently came across an interesting problem on one of our AIX
systems which we were unable to reproduce on Linux host but we
discovered that FreeBSD (11) is showing the same behaviour.

 - on AIX/FreeBSD system inside /tmp with the standard 1777
permissions create an empty file
    touch foofile
    chmod 600 foofile
    chown root:system foofile

To reproduce:
- in WinSCP login as a regular (non-root) user, browse to /tmp
- navigate to /tmp/foofile, bring up a context menu (right-click),
select Rename (F2)
- receive a pop-up "Permission denied", click Abort
- refresh directory listing
- notice a new barfile (hardlink to foofile)

- hardlink should not be present (rename is supposed to be atomic
hence either it is processed fully or not at all).

It all comes down to a different behaviour of ln (link) on different systems:
# AIX/FreeBSD, regular user inside /tmp
ln foofile barfile # rc=0; link is created

# Linux
ln foofile barfile # rc=1 (error: Operation not permitted); link is not created

Due to the directory having sticky bit on, the operation of renaming
for AIX/FreeBSD fails in the very last stage (unlink), leaving a file

As a workaround posix-rename (which is not race-free) could be used
but there seems to be a limited support among GUI clients (for WinSCP
there is a ticket opened to add this feature:

Is there a way to address this problem in OpenSSH code-base?

Thank you,


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