Date: 	Tue, 3 Feb 1998 20:26:16 +0100
From: Pavel Kankovsky <>
Subject: [linux-alert] serious security problem in XKB

The Neverending Story of X11 Insecurity continues...


On a system where X11R6.3-based Xserver with XKEYBOARD extension (R6.1 is
probably affected too) is run in setuid or setgid enviroment (e.g. typical
XFree86 installation has XF86_* installed setuid root), local users can
exploit a "feature" of XKB implementation to execute arbitrary commands
with the extra privileges.

Quick vulnerability check:

$ Xserver -xkbdir ':;id > /tmp/I_WAS_HERE;'
[exit X server]
$ grep root /tmp/I_WAS_HERE && echo 'Gotcha!'

Quick fix:

1. as usual chmod u-s,g-s all installed Xserver binaries (*)
2. use xdm or a SAFE and PARANOID wrapper to start Xserver

(*) and unsafe or not-paranoid-enough setuid/setgid wrappers
    (current Debian wrapper falls into this category)


In fact, there are (at least) two distict problems in XKB implementation,
both related to the use of -xkbdir option.

1. xkbcomp is invoked using system() or popen()
   any shell metacharacters included in -xkbdir argument are interpreted

[demonstrated by the "quick vulnerability check"]

2. a user supplied instance of xkbcomp is invoked
   -xkbdir argument is used to build the path to the compiler

$ cat > /tmp/xkbcomp
id > /tmp/I_WAS_HERE
$ chmod a+x /tmp/xkbcomp
$ Xserver -xkbdir /tmp
[X server executes /tmp/xkbcomp]

Further reading:


--Pavel Kankovsky aka Peak   [ Boycott Microsoft -- ]