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Date: Sun, 6 Mar 2011 00:35:52 +0300
From: Solar Designer <>
Cc: "Steven M. Christey" <>,
	Stefan Fritsch <>, Jan Kaluza <>,
	Florian Zumbiehl <>, Paul Martin <>,
	Petr Uzel <>, Thomas Biege <>
Subject: Re: CVE Request -- logrotate -- nine issues

On Fri, Mar 04, 2011 at 07:51:02PM +0100, Jan Lieskovsky wrote:
> I got your point. But still think there is a difference between the
> case privileged system user would use 'cp' by accident in untrusted
> directory and corrupt the system and case, when some utility is
> running under privileged user account on regular basis and not
> taking 'untrusted directories' into account / not having a policy,
> how to behave while processing them.

Definitely.  I fully agree that there's a vulnerability in the system if
it has a non-root writable log directory yet runs logrotate on that
directory as root.  The question is what part of the system the
vulnerability lies in.  I say that it's in the directory permissions,
which usually come from the service package.  We could harden logrotate
to deal with such misconfigurations in a safer way (once we figure out
how), but not blame it.

> For example CVE-2010-2055 has been assigned to Ghostscript's reading
> of initialization files from $CWD. CVE-2010-3349, 3350, 3355, 3369 and
> many others have been assigned to insecure library loading vulnerabilities.
> In comparison with the above, how running of logrotate utlity on untrusted
> directory differs? Even when it is often run regularly and under root
> user account.

Reading files from cwd, unless very explicitly documented, may
reasonably be an unexpected risk for a knowledgeable user.  In contrast,
logrotate is being explicitly told to access a certain directory.  It's
more similar to cp'ing a file, where you give the filename explicitly.
So neither cp nor logrotate are to blame.

> How many system users check the directory permissions prior running
> the utility? How many administrators check them regularly?

If properly configured initially, log directory permissions are not to
change on their own.  Otherwise, your argument could be extended onto
any other part of the system - "how many administrators check the
permissions on /, on /bin/sh, and on /etc/passwd regularly?"  This
becomes a system integrity checking question, which applies or does
not apply regardless of logrotate.

> Agree, the majority of these issue would disappear when logrotate
> would just refuse to process such a directory. But currently it
> doesn't. That CVE request is just attempt to pinpoint the need
> of change.

OK, the need of change.  Would that change be, as you say, to have
logrotate refuse to process an unsafe directory?  If so, I support this
(although calling the lack of this hardening measure a vulnerability in
logrotate is a stretch).  However, I am concerned that another change
may go in (fine by itself) and it would be used as an excuse not to fix
the service packages (not fine).  I am commenting in this thread mostly
to avoid responsibility being taken off those flawed service packages.
I really don't mind having logrotate hardened in one way or another as
long as the service packages are to be fixed as well.

> >Almost all other commands and programs are unsafe on untrusted
> >directories.  In my opinion, that's the only correct assumption for a
> >sysadmin to make, and any other assumption is naive.
> Agree here. But as stated above, how many sysadmins perform this task
> prior running the tool? How many do it regularly?
> See above. Ghostscript vs logrotate. How untrusted directory for GS
> differs from untrusted directory for logrotate?

I think I've addressed these same questions above, so I am not repeating
the answers here.

> >No software is perfect, and almost any piece of software can be improved
> >endlessly.  But that's mere rhetoric.
> Sure. Just wanted to differentiate the 'unsupported functionality'
> from undocumented functionality, which may be harmful.

Understood and agreed.  But in this case we're dealing with
"undocumented functionality" that is expected by anyone familiar
with Unix.  Much like it is expected that "cp" in an untrusted directory
may happen to follow a link.  This is different from some program
checking cwd for its config file, which could not be inferred from
general Unix experience.

> >I don't mind logrotate being hardened against these issues.  We do a lot
> >of hardening in other areas, so why not here.  I just don't blame
> >logrotate for the issues. 
> See above -- absence of policy how to deal with untrusted directories.

Yes, but that's the case for almost all other Unix programs, with very
few exceptions.  So a person familiar with Unix should assume that if no
policy is stated, the program is unsafe to use on untrusted directories.

> How many users check content of their $CWD prior launching gs?

I agree with you that undocumented reading from cwd is a vulnerability.
(Also, even if users checked their cwd, there would be a race.)

This is just different from the issue at hand.  I've tried to explain
(in several paragraphs above) why/how I see it different.

> Same from my side. Thanks for the thoughts, which initiated (partial)
> discussion.

A "full" discussion of the issues involved can be very time-consuming,
as evidenced by the length of these messages...  So I think we'll have
to wrap up soon. ;-)



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