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Original issue date: January 22, 2003
Last revised: March 27, 2003
Source: CERT/CC

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

Systems Affected

  • Systems running CVS Home project versions of CVS prior to 1.11.5
  • Operating system distributions that provide CVS
  • Source code repositories managed by CVS
  • For detailed vendor status information, see VU#650937


A "double-free" vulnerability in the Concurrent Versions System (CVS) server could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker with read-only access to execute arbitrary code, alter program operation, read sensitive information, or cause a denial of service.

I. Description

CVS is a version control and collaboration system that is widely used by open-source software development projects. CVS is commonly configured to allow public, anonymous, read-only access via the Internet.

The CVS server component contains a "double-free" vulnerability that can be triggered by a set of specially crafted directory requests. While processing these requests, an error-checking routine may attempt to free() the same memory reference more than once. Deallocating the already freed memory leads to heap corruption, which an attacker could leverage to execute arbitrary code, alter the logical operation of the CVS server program, or read sensitive information stored in memory. In most cases, heap corruption will result in a segmentation fault, causing a denial of service.

The CVS server process is typically started by the Internet services daemon (inetd) and runs with root privileges. Arbitrary code inserted by an attacker would therefore run with root privileges.

This issue is being tracked as VU#650937. This reference number corresponds to CVE candidate CAN-2002-0059. This issue was researched and reported by Stefan Esser of e-matters.

II. Impact

Depending on configuration, operating system, and platform architecture, a remote attacker with anonymous, read-only access to a vulnerable CVS server could execute arbitrary code, alter the operation of the server program, read sensitive information, or cause a denial of service. There is also a significant secondary impact. An attacker who is able to compromise a CVS server could modify source-code repositories to contain Trojan horses, backdoors, or other malicious code.

III. Solution

Apply a patch or upgrade

Apply the appropriate patch or upgrade as specified by your vendor. See Appendix A. below and the Systems Affected section of VU#650937 for further information.

Disable or restrict anonymous CVS access

As a temporary solution until patches or upgrades can be applied, or to improve the security of CVS servers in the long term, consider the following workarounds and configurations:

  • Disable anonymous CVS server access completely.
  • Block or restrict access to CVS servers from untrusted hosts and networks. Anonymous access to CVS servers using :cvspserver: is typically provided on port 2401/tcp.
  • Configure CVS servers to run in restricted (chroot) environments.
  • Run CVS servers with the minimum set of privileges required on the host file system.
  • Provide separate systems for development (write) and public/anonymous (read-only) CVS access.
  • Host public/anonymous CVS servers on single-purpose, secured systems.

These workarounds and configurations are not complete solutions and may not prevent exploitation of this vulnerability. Other features inherent in CVS may give anonymous users the ability to gain shell access.

Appendix A. Vendor Information

This appendix contains information provided by vendors. When vendors report new information, this section is updated and the changes are noted in the revision history. If a vendor is not listed below, we have not received their comments. The Systems Affected section of VU#650937 contains additional vendor status information.


Conectiva Linux is affected by this issue and updated packages are available at


An official announcement is pending and will show up in our updates website at shortly.

Cray Inc.

Cray Inc. supports CVS through their Cray Open Software (COS) package. COS 3.3 and earlier is vulnerable. A new CVS will be available shortly. Please contact your local Cray service representative if you need this new package.

CVS Home

CVS release 1.11.5 addresses this issue for CVS servers. CVS clients are not affected.


Debian has updated their distribution with DSA 233.

For the stable distribution (woody) this problem has been fixed in version 1.11.1p1debian-8.1.

For the old stable distribution (potato) this problem has been fixed in version 1.10.7-9.2.

For the unstable distribution (sid) this problem will be fixed soon.


Fujitsu's UXP/V o.s. is not vulnerable to the problem reported in VU#650937 because it does not support CVS server.


SOURCE: Hewlett-Packard Company and Compaq Computer Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard Company

RE: x-reference SSRT3463

Not Vulnerable:
HP NonStop Servers

To report any security issue for any HP software products send email to


GR2000 router does not contain any parts of the CVS. Therefore, it is not vulnerable.


The AIX operating system does not ship with CVS. However, CVS is available for installation on AIX from the Linux Affinity Toolbox.

CVS versions 1.11.1p1-2 and earlier are vulnerable to the issues discussed in CERT Vulnerability Note VU#650937 and any advisories which follow.

Users are advised to download CVS 1.11.1p1-3 from:

Please note that the above address was wrapped to two lines.

CVS 1.11.1p1-3 contains the security fixes made in CVS 1.11.5 to address these issues.

This software is offered on an "as-is" basis.

Ingrian Networks

Ingrian Networks platforms are not vulnerable to VU#650937.

NEC Corporation

Subject: VU650937

sent on January 23, 2003

[Server Products]

  • EWS/UP 48 Series operating system
    - is NOT vulnerable, which does not include CVS.


The NetBSD project's CVS servers are constructed such that this issue exposed no vulnerability. Nevertheless the fix was applied, and incorporated into the in-tree version of CVS for the benefit of NetBSD users who may be offering their own CVS services.

Openwall GNU/*/Linux

We don't yet re-distribute CVS in Openwall GNU/*/Linux. We do, however, provide public anonymous CVS access to a copy of our repository, hosted off a separate machine and in a chroot jail. This kind of vulnerabilities in CVS was expected, and our anoncvs setup is mostly resistant to them: read-only access to the repository is achieved primarily with the use of regular Unix permissions, not controls built into CVS. CVS LockDir option is used to direct CVS lock files to a separate directory tree, actually writable to the pseudo-user. Nevertheless, the anoncvs server has been upgraded to CVS 1.11.5 a few hours after it was released.

Red Hat, Inc.

Red Hat Linux and Red Hat Linux Advanced Server shipped with a cvs package vulnerable to these issues. New cvs packages are now available along with our advisory at the URLs below. Users of the Red Hat Network can update their systems using the 'up2date' tool.

Red Hat Linux Advanced Server:
Red Hat Linux:

Sun Microsystems Inc.

Sun does not include CVS with Solaris and therefore Solaris is not affected by this issue. Sun does provide CVS on the Solaris Companion CD:
as an unsupported package which installs to /opt/sfw and is vulnerable to this issue. Sites using the freeware version of CVS from the Solaris Companion CD will have to upgrade to a later version from CVS Home.

Sun Linux, versions 5.0.3 and below, does ship with a vulnerable CVS package. Sun recommends that CVS services be disabled on affected Sun Linux systems until patches are available for this issue.

Sun will be publishing a Sun Alert for Sun Linux describing the patch information which will be available from:


Appendix B. References

This vulnerability was reported by Stefan Esser of e-matters.

Author: Art Manion.

Copyright 2003 Carnegie Mellon University.

Revision History

January 22, 2003: Initial release
January 23, 2003: Fixed Red Hat advisory URL
February 4, 2003: Updated Sun statement, added Fujitsu, Hitachi, NEC, and NetBSD statements
February 14, 2003: Added Ingrian statement
March 27, 2003: Updated Solution section

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