Up: SGI security Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Next: -8- I think I've found a security hole in IRIX; whom do I notify at SGI?
Previous: -6- How can I get X authorization to work?
Subject:    -7- What security-related bugs does IRIX have?
Date: 28 Nov 1995 00:00:01 EST

  Some general comments before we start:

  - IRIX is too complex for us to guarantee that this list is complete.
    We only discuss problems we know about. We don't discuss insecurely
    designed systems (like YP) or ways in which you might misconfigure
    your system, only bugs.  We don't discuss third-party software,
    free or not.

  - Prudence and space permit us to describe only how to close holes,
    not to exploit them. Try comp.security.unix.

  - Some of the fixes involve installing a new version of a setuid
    binary.  Be sure that you 1) make it executable, setuid and owned
    by the correct user and group (or it won't work), and 2) remove the
    old version so bad guys can't use it!

  Now for the holes themselves, in approximate order of closure:

  - CERT advisory CA-92:08, which you can get from


    describes problems with the permissions of 'lp'-related parts of
    IRIX which allow anyone who can log in as lp to get root access.
    They are fixed in IRIX 4.0.5.  Briefly, the fix is

      su root
      cd /usr/lib
      chmod a-s,go-w lpshut lpmove accept reject lpadmin
      chmod go-ws lpsched vadmin/serial_ports vadmin/users vadmin/disks
      cd /usr/bin
      chmod a-s,go-w disable enable
      chmod go-ws cancel lp lpstat

  - CERT advisory CA-93:17, which you can get from


    describes a hole in /usr/bin/X11/xterm which allows any user root
    access. It is fixed in IRIX 5.x.  A fixed version for 4.x is at


    The 'fix', incidentally, is that logging is completely disabled.

  - /usr/bin/under is an unused (!) part of 'rexd'. It is setuid root
    and may allow root access, so 'chmod -s' it just in case. Note that
    SGI ships IRIX with 'rexd' turned off because 'rexd' is itself a
    security problem. It is not shipped in IRIX 5.x.

  - CIAC Bulletin F-01, which you can get from 


    describes a race condition in IRIX 4.0.x's
    /usr/lib/vadmin/serial_ports which allows any user to become root
    in IRIX 4.0.x. 'chmod 700' it to close the hole; it will still work

    /usr/lib/vadmin/serial_ports is part of IRIX 4.0.x and should not
    exist on IRIX 5.x systems, but some users have reported problems
    with upgrading from 4.0.x to 5.x which leave old binaries behind.
    If the file exists on your 5.x system, remove it. (5.x's
    equivalent, /usr/Cadmin/bin/cports, does not have the problem.)

  - /usr/bsd/rdist has several holes which allow any user root access in
    all versions of IRIX before 5.3, including the 4.0.5 and 5.x
    binaries on ftp.sgi.com.

    Under IRIX 5.2, you can install patch 130 to close all known
    holes.  Under IRIX 4.0.x, you must close the hole with 'chmod -s'.
    rdist will then work only when used by root. If your non-root users
    need 'rdist', there is a free version, which does not need to be
    setuid root and is thus free of all known holes, in
    ftp://usc.edu/pub/rdist/.  Make sure you get version 6.1 beta 3 or
    later. IRIX 5.3's rdist is derived from this version and is thus
    equally safe; presumably ordist is the IRIX 5.2-patch 130 rdist and
    is also safe.

    As for advisories, CERT advisory CA-91:20, at


    is badly out of date. 8lgm advisory 1, at


    describes only one of the several holes.

  - The 'lpr' subsystem in every version of IRIX before 5.3 has several
    holes which allow a non-root user to become root. Note that 'lp' is
    SGI's usual printing system; you only need 'lpr' if you need to deal
    with remote printers. If you don't need 'lpr', make sure it isn't
    installed. (It lives in the eoe2.sw.lpr subsystem.) If you do need
    'lpr', there are fixed versions at


    The versions dated 29 and 26 April, respectively, work with NIS
    (YP).  The IRIX 5.x version is also available as patch 131.

  - /usr/sbin/cdinstmgr is setuid root in IRIX 4.0.5[A-F] and
    /etc/init.d/audio is setuid root in IRIX 5.2. They are scripts;
    setuid scripts are a well-known Unix security problem. IRIX ignores
    the setuid bit by default, but 'chmod -s' the scripts just in case.

  - SGI advisory 19950209-01-P, which you can get from


    describes a bug in colorview in IRIX 5.x before 5.3, which allows
    anyone to use it to read any file regardless of permissions, and
    gives a fix.

  - /usr/bin/newgrp is group-writable in IRIX 5.2. It doesn't need to
    be, and it might be a problem depending on your use of group sys
    and/or the presence of the 'sadc' bug (described elsewhere in this
    list) on your system. 'chmod g-w' it.

  - /usr/sbin/printers has a bug in IRIX 5.2 (and possibly earlier 5.x
    versions) which allows any user to become root. Apply patch 5. You
    might want to 'chmod -s' it while you're waiting.

  - /usr/sbin/sgihelp has a bug in IRIX 5.2 (and possibly earlier 5.x
    versions) which allows any user to become root. This is so bad that
    the patch (#65, along with the prerequisite patch 34) is FTPable
    from ftp://ftp.sgi.com/security/, and SGI is preparing a CD
    containing only that patch. Call the TAC if you can't FTP. You
    should 'chmod -x /usr/sbin/sgihelp' while you're waiting.

  - The inst which comes with patch 34 (for IRIX 5.2), which is required
    for installation of all other patches (even those with lower
    numbers) saves old versions of binaries in /var/inst/patchbase. It
    does not remove execution or setuid permissions! 'chmod 700' that
    directory so evil users can't get to the old binaries. The bug is
    fixed in patch 82 for IRIX 5.2 and in IRIX 5.3.

  - 8lgm advisory 11, which you can get from


    describes a hole in the System V system activity reporting program
    /usr/lib/sa/sadc which allows any user to write files with the
    permissions of that program. This bug is present in all versions of
    IRIX through 5.3, but since /usr/lib/sa/sadc is only setgid sys it
    can only be used to change groups sys-writable files or write files
    in group sys-writable directories.  If you don't use the system
    activity reporter you might want to 'chmod -s /usr/lib/sa/sadc' just
    to be safe. Because this hole isn't serious it isn't scheduled to be
    closed, but write permission for group sys has been removed from
    most directories where it wasn't necessary in IRIX 5.3, and a few
    more (/dev/*dsk) will be fixed in a later release.

  - /usr/etc/mount_dos, IRIX's DOS-filesystem floppy mounter, has a
    serious bug in IRIX 5.2 (and probably earlier releases of 5.x as
    well) which allows anyone with an account on and physical access to
    a machine with a floppy drive root access.  This bug can be fixed
    with patch 167 and is reportedly fixed in IRIX 5.3.  Perhaps the
    easiest interim "fix" (which essentially disables all removable
    media drives) is to disable mediad: "mediad -k" kills the current
    instance of mediad, and "chkconfig mediad off" prevents mediad from
    starting during the next reboot.

  - /usr/etc/rpc.ypupdated may have a security hole in all versions of
    IRIX. It is completely unnecessary in most networks; the only
    instance that we could think of that might require this daemon would
    be NIS networks that include Sun diskless clients. You should
    probably comment it out of /etc/inetd.conf, or just not install the
    nfs.sw.nis subsystem, of which it is a part. It is commented out by
    default in IRIX 5.3.

  - SGI advisory 19950301-01-P373, which you can get from


    describes a bug in /usr/lib/desktop/permissions in IRIX 5.2, 6.0 and
    6.0.1 which allows any user to change the permissions of any file to
    anything. (Click on "Apply" twice fast, then click "Cancel" to
    dismiss the root password window.) It is fixed in patch 373 for IRIX
    5.2, 6.0 and 6.0.1 and in IRIX 5.3. Until you patch or upgrade,
    'chmod -s' it to close the hole.

  - sendmail is a complex program in which new security holes are
    discovered almost daily. Some of these holes enable unprivileged
    users (and in one case even *remote* users!) to gain root access.
    The safest course of action seems to be to use the most recent
    sendmail possible.  All known holes are closed in the sendmail which
    comes with patch 825. (Note that SGI advisory 19950201-02-P332, at
    ftp://sgigate.sgi.com/Security/19950201-02-P332, is out of date.
    Note also that the sendmail.cf.auto which comes with patch 825 does
    not work at some sites, but the original sendmail.cf.auto from IRIX
    5.3 works fine with the sendmail binary from patch 825.)

    Recent sendmail patches also fix a bug present in every IRIX
    sendmail before 5.3: /usr/bsd/newaliases (which is just a symlink to
    /usr/lib/sendmail) creates /etc/aliases.{dir,pag} with mode 666. Any
    user can thus add aliases which can run programs or steal mail.
    Close the hole with 'chmod go-w /etc/aliases.dir /etc/aliases.pag'.
    sendmail doesn't change those files' permissions once they exist, so
    a) you should check them even if you've installed a sendmail in
    which the problem is fixed and b) once they exist and have proper
    permissions, you're OK.

  - /usr/etc/arp has a hole in IRIX 5.2 and earlier which allows any
    user to read files with 'arp's permissions, i.e. group sys.  Close
    the hole with 'chmod -s'. This prevents non-root users from using
    'arp' at all, but they don't generally need it. The hole is closed
    in IRIX 5.3.

  - SoftWindows 1.25 (which is distributed by SGI in Desktop Support
    Environment 1.0 and HotMix 11) includes an installation script which
    executes Netscape as root. This can be used to gain root access,
    etc.  Patch 905 (if your Softwindows is installed as the
    "SoftWindows" subsystem) or 908 (if it's in the "swin" subsystem)
    fixes the script.

  - CERT advisory CA-95:14, at


    describes a vulnerability in telnetd in (among other OSes) all
    current versions of IRIX. A remote user can use telnet/telnetd to
    pass environment variables to login which cause login to use an
    arbitrary shared library. If the same user can place a shared
    library on the system running telnetd (e.g. by depositing it in an
    incoming FTP directory), that user can gain root permissions.
    Patches 1010 for IRIX 6.1 and 1020 for IRIX 5.x and 6.0.x close the
    hole. They also close a related hole in login(1): the fixed login
    does not allow one to set LD_ envariables from the command line,
    and, if they are already present in its environment, does not pass
    them to programs which it invokes.

  These bugs have not been fixed, as far as we know, in any IRIX version
  or patch so far:

  - /usr/lib/so_locations.old can acquire random permissions after an
    'inst' session in IRIX 5.3, due to a linker bug. It may become both
    executable and setuid and/or setgid. It is not a script but could be
    used as one; setuid scripts are a well-known Unix security problem.
    IRIX ignores the setuid bit by default, but 'chmod -xs' it just in
    case. The linker bug should be fixed in IRIX 6.2.

  - 8lgm advisory 12, which you can get from


    describes a bug in /etc/suid_exec (part of ksh) which allows any
    user to become root. This bug is probably *not* present in any
    version of IRIX (says Dave Olson <olson@sgi.com>), but if you don't
    use setuid ksh scripts you might want to 'chmod -s /etc/suid_exec'
    just to be safe.

  - 'xdm' has a bug in IRIX 5.x (at least) which allows a user to
    connect to a local display even when X authority should prevent one
    from doing so. (Fortunately, this doesn't work for remote displays.)
    Close the hole by turning off shared memory transport by adding the
    option '-shmnumclients 0' to the X command in
    /usr/lib/X11/xdm/Xservers.  See the xdm(1) manpage for the original
    report of this hole! See also the lengthy discussion of other
    problems with X authorization above.

  - xwsh recognizes escape sequences which remap keys. An evildoer
    can place escape sequences in a file or filename which, when passed
    to xwsh to be displayed, remap keys to unexpected strings or to
    xwsh internal functions. The escape sequences are not displayed and
    may not be detected by the victim.

    Programs which can pass these escape sequences to xwsh include
    'cat', 'more', /bin/mail and /usr/bsd/Mail, and other programs such
    as mail and news agents which call these programs to display text.
    Programs which display filenames, such as 'ls' and 'find', can pass
    escape sequences in filenames to xwsh.

    Programs which do not recognize the remapping sequences, such as
    xterm and MediaMail, and programs which remove escape sequences
    from displayed text or replace them with safe characters, such as
    'ls' with the '-b' or '-q' option, 'more' with the '-r' option, the
    'less' pager and the Elm mailer's built-in pager, are safe.

    This vulnerability is inherent in the ANSI standard escape codes
    which xwsh respects; any terminal or terminal emulator which
    recognizes these sequences has this problem. Recognition of these
    escape codes ought to be optional, e.g. controlled by an X
    resource. It will be in IRIX 6.2.  No patch is planned for earlier
    versions of IRIX.

    The safest workaround is to use xterm instead of xwsh. The next best
    is to run only safe programs and/or display only safe text in xwsh
    windows. If you use xwsh, alias 'ls' to 'ls -b' and 'more' to 'more
    -r'. You could alias 'cat' to 'cat -v', or (to avoid corrupting
    files when using 'cat' in pipelines) train yourself not use 'cat' to
    display files.

  - CERT advisory CA-95:13, at


    describes a problem with the syslog(3) system call in which data
    passed to syslog(3) can corrupt the stack and cause execution of
    arbitrary code. If a program will accept data from an untrusted
    (even remote) user and pass it to syslog(3) without bounds checking,
    a *very* clever user can usurp the permissions of that program.

    The hole will be closed in IRIX 6.2. There are no patches for
    current versions of IRIX, and none are planned, because SGI finds it
    difficult to distribute an installable patch to libc.so (where
    syslog(3) lives). However, patch 825 prevents sendmail from passing
    dangerous data to syslog(3) in the first place, which prevents
    exploitation of the hole via sendmail only.

Up: SGI security Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Next: -8- I think I've found a security hole in IRIX; whom do I notify at SGI?
Previous: -6- How can I get X authorization to work?