Software isolation model

In this section, you will learn how the Zircon kernel objects enable Fuchsia to follow the principle of least privilege, isolating processes and granting them only the capabilities they require.


When a new process is created, it has no capabilities. The process relies entirely on its creator to provide capabilities through the set of handles passed to it. One might also say that an empty process has no ambient authority.

Because of this, processes are usually created with some initial resources and capabilities. The fuchsia.process.Launcher protocol provides the low-level interface to create new processes on the system from an executable and a set of kernel object handles. Most software uses the component framework, which simplifies the work of setting up a new process to execute some code with a standard set of initial capabilities. You will explore components in more detail later on.

Some initial handles given to a process are directories that the process mounts into its namespace.


The namespace of a process contains its private view of the world, and controls how much of the Fuchsia system the process can influence. This effectively defines the rules of the sandbox in which that process runs.

Namespaces are populated with various resource objects, including:

  • Files: Objects which contain binary data.
  • Directories: Objects which contain other objects.
  • Sockets: Objects which establish connections when opened, like named pipes.
  • Protocols and services: Objects which provide structured services when opened.
  • Devices: Objects which provide access to hardware resources.

The ​​creator of the process populates the contents of a namespace based on the set of required capabilities. A process cannot add objects to its own namespace, as this would essentially amount to that process self-granting the capabilities to access those objects.

Exercise: Namespaces

Most processes in Fuchsia represent executable programs associated with a component , where the component declaration is responsible for constructing the namespace that process can see.

In this exercise, you'll explore the contents of a component's namespace.

Start the emulator

If you do not already have an instance running, start FEMU with networking support:

ffx emu start workstation_eng.x64 --headless

Find a target component

You learned in the previous section that processes associated with a component are named with a .cm extension. Recall the following example process list:

j: 1027               507.8M  507.4M                 root
  p: 1061             564.4k    564k     36k         bin/bootsvc
  p: 1150            4264.4k   4264k     36k         bin/component_manager
  j: 1479             228.4k    228k
    p: 1583           228.4k    228k     36k
  j: 1484             532.4k    532k
    p: 1599           532.4k    532k     36k
  j: 1544             402.4k    304k
    p: 1633           402.4k    304k    232k
  j: 1681             296.4k    296k
    p: 1733           296.4k    296k     36k
  j: 1799            7232.4k   7232k
    p: 1825          7232.4k   7232k     36k
  j: 31294           1872.2K   1872K 
    p: 31331         1872.2K   1872K     20K 

For this exercise, you'll use as your target to explore.

Connect to the target component

In order to explore a component's namespace, you need to determine the unique identifier for that component within the system. This is known as the component moniker .

Use the ffx component show command to list additional details about the component, including the component moniker:

ffx component show

The command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx component show
               Moniker: /core/network/http-client 
                   URL: #meta/
                  Type: CML static component

You can use the ffx component explore command to open an interactive shell inside the target component's environment. Try this for the http-client component:

ffx component explore /core/network/http-client

Inside the explore shell, list the contents of the root directory using the ls command:

[explore shell] $ ls

Explore the namespace

You'll find the component's namespace under the /ns path inside the environment.

Inside the explore shell, list the contents of the namespace:

[explore shell] $ ls /ns

Here are some quick highlights of each element:

  • config/: configuration data for the component
  • pkg/: the contents of the component's package
  • svc/: system services available to the component

Inside the explore shell, list the contents of the incoming /ns/svc directory. This directory contains service nodes representing the system services provided to this component.

[explore shell] $ ls /ns/svc

Each of these services is accessible over a well-known protocol defined by a Fuchsia Interface Definition Language (FIDL) interface. We'll explore FIDL protocols and how to access various services in more detail later on.

Inside the explore shell, type exit to return to the shell on your development machine:

[explore shell] $ exit