Security Experts:

Sybase Patches Fail To Fix Serious Security Vulnerabilities

After enterprise software firm Sybase released patches to address critical vulnerabilities in its relational database management system over the summer, it turned out the security holes had not been completely closed. Months later, the flaws still remain, database security experts said.

Sybase Security Patch FailsSybase, which is owned by software giant SAP, addressed 12 security flaws in Adaptive Server Enterprise, which were a mix of privilege escalation and remote code execution vulnerabilities back in July, according to the urgent security advisory posted on the Sybase site. Five of the issues had a Common Vulnerability Scoring System value of 6.0 or higher, indicating they were very serious. Most of the bugs existed in all releases of ASE, according to the advisory.

TeamSHATTER, the research arm of Application Security, a database security company, reported these vulnerabilities to Sybase, and after the patches were released, downloaded and tested the updates. Only two were fixed properly while the other ten remained exploitable, according to Josh Shaul, CTO of Application Security. Privilege escalation flaws in the DBCC component and in a Java method in ASE were fixed properly, Shaul said.

"For the other 10 issues, Sybase made unsuccessful fixes," Shaul said.

Attackers would be able to take full control over the Sybase server by assuming the SA (super administrator) role or by loading and executing arbitrary Java code, Shaul said. Many of the unfixed flaws require no additional permissions beyond needing to login to the database.

Shaul speculated that Sybase blocked the specific exploit TeamSHATTER had originally provided and didn't fix the underlying vulnerability. Due to "insufficient testing and code review," the database company did not notice the problem was still exploitable before releasing the patches and publicly disclosing the vulnerability information, Shaul said.

The patches were released in July and nothing has been done since then, so attackers have had "plenty of head start" to figure out ways to exploit the flaws, Shaul said.

There is a workaround available for the vulnerabilities in the Java methods, as Sybase users can disable Java entirely within the database, said Application Security. There is no workaround available if the Sybase server requires Java, or for any of the privilege escalation flaws.

Sybase acknowledged to TeamSHATTER the patches were incomplete, and that new fixes would be released at an unspecified date, Shaul said. SecurityWeek has reached out to Sybase but did not hear back.

Application Security's DbProtect can detect exploits targeting all 12 of these vulnerabilities, issue alerts, and take automated steps to block the attack from succeeding, Shaul said.

While acknowledging mistakes happen, "the patches that were released don't represent Sybase's best work," Shaul said.

"SAP acknowledges the efforts of Application Security to notify SAP about the existing security vulnerabilities in SAP Sybase ASE," a spokesperson told SecurityWeek by email. The company has already been "working on more comprehensive fixes," and those fixes are expected to be available within the next six weeks, or by early December, he said.

"The vulnerabilities are protected against any attacks from non-authenticated logins," and there have been no "reported cases of attacks on these vulnerabilities in SAP Sybase ASE installations at customer sites," the spokesperson added.

Updated 10/29 to include statement from SAP.

Fahmida Y. Rashid is a contributing writer for SecurityWeek. She has experience writing and reviewing security, core Internet infrastructure, open source, networking, and storage. Before setting out her journalism shingle, she spent nine years as a help-desk technician, software and Web application developer, network administrator, and technology consultant.