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January 10, 2019

High Toxicity Linux Vulnerabilities Could Cause System Down for Red Hat, Debian

Systemd probably just got more unpopular...

By CBR Staff Writer

Major Linux distributions, from Red Hat to Debian, are vulnerable to three bugs in systemd, a Linux initialisation system and service manager in widespread use, California-based security company Qualys said late yesterday.

The systemd vulnerabilities comprise CVE-2018-16864 and CVE-2018-16865, two memory corruptions (attacker-controlled alloca()s) and CVE-2018-16866, an information leak (an out-of-bounds read), Qualys said.

These could be used by a malevolent party to crash systems and potentially steal data, the company said in a System of a Down-themed security advisory. (We anticipate a Lonely Day or two for IT admins…)

The finding is grist to the mill of systemd critics: one describes the system (in widespread use since 2015) as a “monumental increase in complexity, a slap in the face to the Unix philosophy, and its inherent domineering and viral nature turns it into something akin to a “second kernel” that is spreading all across the Linux ecosystem.

(Update 13:30 10/1/2019: Red Hat says it “is continuing to work on patches for delivery in the near term“)

Systemd Vulnerabilities: Quelle Surprise?

Researchers at the company said they have developed an exploit for CVE-2018-16865 and CVE-2018-16866 that obtains a local root shell in 10 minutes on i386 and 70 minutes on amd64, on average.

systemd vulnerabilities

Don’t let this happen to your enterprise’s OS

The exploit for CVE-2018-16864 was “accidentally discovered” while working on the exploit for Mutagen Astronomy (CVE-2018-14634).

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Qualys’ team said they found that “if we pass several megabytes of command-line arguments to a program that calls syslog(), then journald crashes.

“To the best of our knowledge, all systemd-based Linux distributions are vulnerable” they emphasised, (bar, well, SUSE Linux Enterprise 15, openSUSE Leap 15.0, and Fedora 28 and 29, as their user space is compiled with GCC’s-fstack-clash-protection).

Patches from those affected are understood to be pending.

The company said it had sent an advisory to Red Hat Product Security on November 26 last year; an advisory and patches to linux-distros[at]openwall on December 26 last year and published its release on January 9, 2019.


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