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Two-Year Old Vulnerability Patched in Linux Kernel

A high risk security vulnerability that could be exploited to escalate privileges has been patched in Linux kernel after being initially discovered more than two years ago.

A high risk security vulnerability that could be exploited to escalate privileges has been patched in Linux kernel after being initially discovered more than two years ago.

Discovered by Qualys Research Labs, the bug affects all Linux distributions that have not fixed their long-term kernels after a commit released on April 14, 2015. However, because the bug wasn’t recognized as a security threat at the time, the fix wasn’t backported to Linux 3.10.77 in May 2015.

Because of that, “all versions of CentOS 7 before 1708 (released on September 13, 2017), all versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 before 7.4 (released on August 1, 2017), and all versions of CentOS 6 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 are exploitable,” Qualys says.

Tracked as CVE-2017-1000253, the vulnerability has a CVSS3 Base Score of 7.8. The issue resides in the manner in which the Linux kernel loads ELF executables and is triggered by applications that have been built as Position Independent Executables (PIEs).

Because of this bug, the kernel’s execve() code maps the PIE’s read-write segment over the memory area reserved for the stack, thus potentially resulting in memory corruption and opening the door for further compromise.

“An unprivileged local user with access to SUID (or otherwise privileged) PIE binary could use this flaw to escalate their privileges on the system,” an advisory published on RedHat reads.

To mitigate the issue, one would need to switch to the legacy mmap layout, thus effectively disabling the exploitation of this issue. Because the mmap allocations start much lower in the process address space, while also following the bottom-up allocation model, the initial PIE executable is mapped far from the reserved stack area and cannot interfere with it.

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According to Qualys, the vulnerability is not limited to PIEs that have read-write segments larger than 128MB, because this represents the minimum distance between the mmap_base and the highest address of the stack, not the lowest address of the stack. Thus, when passing 1.5GB of argument strings to execve(), any PIE may be mapped directly below the stack and CVE-2017-1000253 triggered.

The security researchers also published a proof of concept exploit that works on CentOS-7 kernel versions 3.10.0-514.21.2.el7.x86_64 and 3.10.0-514.26.1.el7.x86_64.

Linux kernel-rt packages prior to the kernel version 3.10.0-693.rt56.617 (Red Hat Enteprise Linux for Realtime) and 3.10.0-693.2.1.rt56.585.el6rt (Red Hat Enterprise MRG 2) are affected. Kernel versions after 3.10.0-693 contain the patch and are no longer vulnerable.

Related: Linux Kernel Flaw Disclosed at Pwn2Own Patched

Related: Code Execution Flaw Affected Linux Kernel Since 2005

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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