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  • CERT Advisory CA-1995-12 Sun 4.1.X Loadmodule Vulnerability

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Original issue date: October 18, 1995
Last revised: September 23, 1997
Attached copyright statement

A complete revision history is at the end of this file.

The CERT Coordination Center has received reports of problems with the loadmodule(8) program. An exploitation script is available and has been used by local users to gain root privileges.

The problem is present in SunOS 4.1.X only, and there is a patch available for sun4 architectures.

The CERT staff recommends that you install the appropriate patch as soon as possible and take the steps in Section III.B. to further protect your system.

We will update this advisory as we receive additional information. Please check advisory files regularly for updates that relate to your site.

I. Description

The loadmodule(8) program is used by the xnews(1) window system server to load two dynamically loadable kernel drivers into the currently running system and to create special devices in the /dev directory to use those modules. These modules and special files are used to provide a SunView binary compatibility mode while running the X11/NeWS windowing system. Because of the way the loadmodule(8) program sanitizes its environment, unauthorized users can gain root access on the local machine. A script is publicly available and has been used to exploit this vulnerability.

This problem is present in SunOS 4.1.X only.

II. Impact

Local users can gain root privileges.

III. Solution

The CERT staff recommends that you take the steps described in both A and B below.

A. Obtain and install the appropriate patches according to the instructions included with the patches.

Patches are available through your local Sun Answer Center and by FTP from

      Module           Patch ID        Filename
      ----------       ---------       ---------------
      loadmodule       100448-03       100448-03.tar.Z

      MD5 (100448-03.tar.Z) = 183a22f0a2f6020f1389b6aeea5ca6c6

B. Because, in general, a set-user-id program can lead to security exposures, you should also do at least step 1 below. We recommend doing steps 2 and 3 as well.

The intent of these directions is make the loadmodule(8) program work only for the super-user (currently it works for all users because it is set-user-id) and to execute it each time the system boots. By following these directions, users who require SunView binary compatibility will have it available to them.

  1. If you do not need SunView binary compatibility, then as root, turn off setuid root on the loadmodule(8) program with
        # /bin/chmod u-s /usr/openwin/bin/loadmodule
  2. If your users need SunView binary compatibility, you can enable it immediately--that is without having to reboot your system--with the following script.

    ------------------------cut here--8<------------------------
    ARCH=`/bin/arch -k`
    /bin/chmod u-s $LM
    if [ -f $OBJ/evqmod-${ARCH}.o ]; then
      if /usr/etc/modstat | /bin/egrep -s evqmod ; then
        echo evq: already loaded
      elif $LM evqmod-${ARCH}.o evqload; then
        echo evq: loaded
        echo evq: unable to load module
    if [ -f $OBJ/winlock-${ARCH}.o ]; then
      if /usr/etc/modstat | /bin/egrep -s winlock ; then
        echo winlock: already loaded
      elif $LM winlock-${ARCH}.o winlockload; then
        echo winlock: loaded
        echo winlock: unable to load module
    ------------------------cut here--8<------------------------
    As a suggestion, store this script in /tmp/esbc and then execute it as root with:
       # sh /tmp/esbc
  3. If you've done step 2 above, the module loadings will disappear the next time you reboot your system. To make them permanent-- that is to make these module loadings occur each time your system is rebooted--add the script to the end of your /etc/rc.local file.

The CERT Coordination Center staff thanks Wolfgang Ley and Sun Microsystems for their support in the development of this advisory.

Copyright 1995, 1996 Carnegie Mellon University.

Revision History
Sep. 23, 1997  Updated copyright statement
Aug. 30, 1996  References to README files were removed because updates are
               added to the advisories themselves.
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