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Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2014 13:46:43 +0100
From: Sebastian Krahmer <>
Subject: pam_timestamp internals


When playing with some PAM modules for my own projects, I came
across some implications of pam_timestamp (which is part of
upstream linux-pam) that should probably be addressed.

Most importantly, there seems to be a path traversal issue:

static int
format_timestamp_name(char *path, size_t len,
                      const char *timestamp_dir,
                      const char *tty,                
                      const char *ruser,
                      const char *user)               
        if (strcmp(ruser, user) == 0) {
                return snprintf(path, len, "%s/%s/%s", timestamp_dir, 
                                ruser, tty);                    
        } else {
                return snprintf(path, len, "%s/%s/%s:%s", timestamp_dir,
                                ruser, tty, user);

If attacker can control PAM_RUSER or PAM_TTY item and pam_timestamp is "sufficient",
(it makes sense to have it sufficient, as it aims to mimic sudo timestamp tickets
and is suggested so in the man page)
they can bypass authentication. PAM_RUSER is set in vsftpd or sssd for example.
PAM_TTY can be set via dbus in gdm's x11-display variable.

That has the following impact:

1. For authentication, this can allow to bypass the auth process, depending on
interal app logic and the existance of certain root owned files (the file
size is checked to match certain value, but chances are that such files
exist somewhere under /). For openssh, if accidently included via auth-common,
this can be dangerous, as the PAM_TTY is always set to "ssh". However due to
PAM_TTY_KLUDGE #ifdef and internal sshd logic this probably is no issue as of today.

2. When a vector is also handling pam sessions (sssd), this bug also allows to create arbitrary
files when the timestamp file is created and I guess content can be crafted with so much love
to create fake shadow-file entries is possible.

One should probably take care to not accidently include pam_timestamp in a config file
for a remote service, as chance is high that the RUSER/TTY is used incorrectly, even
when the user string is checked via getpwnam(). It should probably be documented in
pam_timestamp's manpage.

We are not using pam_timestamp in any of our configs, but might be that someone else is.
Even if not, I think a lot of admins do.



~ perl
~ $_='print"\$_=\47$_\47;eval"';eval
~ - SuSE Security Team

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