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Date: Wed, 28 Dec 2011 03:25:09 +0400
From: Solar Designer <>
To: Jeff Mitchell <>
Subject: Re: Disputing CVE-2011-4122

On Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 11:39:55PM -0500, Jeff Mitchell wrote:
> So kcheckpass, at least for the moment, punts all of this down to
> OpenPAM. Is it *nice*? No. Is it *valid*? Yes, unless OpenPAM changes
> its programming guide to require sanity checking of inputs at a higher
> level (and then it should still do its own checking anyways).

Sure, but is it valid and not a vulnerability when installing a package
(containing kcheckpass) unexpectedly (for a sysadmin) lets any user on
the system invoke any of the configured PAM stacks, some of which may
have side-effects?

I think it is not valid, and I think it is a vulnerability on its own,
albeit a relatively minor one, regardless of PAM's pam_start() service
name directory traversal possibility or lack thereof.

In other words, I say that kcheckpass is vulnerable (in this different
way) even on systems that don't use OpenPAM (or that use fixed OpenPAM).

> That's the basis for the maintainer wanting to challenge this CVE. Even
> if everyone agrees that kcheckpass should do some kind of filtering of
> service names, the fact remains that OpenPAM should have been doing its
> own sanity checking anyways (since it should never simply trust user
> input), and OpenPAM wasn't. If it wasn't kcheckpass that exposed this
> problem, it would eventually have been something else.

Like I said before, this definitely makes some sense to me.  The service
name was not supposed to be user input, though.  Normally, the same
application provides the service name and cares about the authentication
result, so it would not reasonably let the user choose the service name
arbitrarily (as that would also let the user affect the authentication
result in possibly unintended ways).  We have a rare exception here,
where the authentication result actually does not matter to kcheckpass
itself, but matters to another application - one in control of the
supplied service name.  OK, that's a peculiar exception and a somewhat
valid use case, and I fully support the OpenPAM hardening change that
this prompted.

> I'll happily pass your comments along to the kcheckpass maintainer, and
> he indicated to me during our discussions that some level of filtering
> would probably be appropriate, but this CVE is due to OpenPAM's lack of
> sanity checking and blaming the program that exposes it via valid (if
> ugly) usage scenarios is misguided.

We need two CVE ids then - one for OpenPAM, the other for the kcheckpass
issue (namely, letting a user run arbitrary PAM stacks, including those
that a sysadmin may never have intended for the user to be able to run).

Makes sense?


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