Menu
This Linux grinch could put a hole in your security stocking

This Linux grinch could put a hole in your security stocking

A potential flaw in how Linux handles access rights could give attackers entry, a security firm charges

A grinch may be snatching away some year-end holiday time, forcing Linux system administrators to fill a gaping security hole in their systems.

Named after the proverbially grumpy Dr. Seuss character, the grinch vulnerability could affect all Linux systems, potentially providing attackers with unfettered root access, according to security service provider Alert Logic, which introduced grinch to the world Tuesday via a blog post.

Grinch could be as severe as the Shellshock Linux shell flaw that roiled the Internet in September, the company warned.

The fundamental flaw resides in the Linux authorization system, which can inadvertently allow privilege escalation, granting a user "root," or full administrative access.

With full root access, an attacker would be able to completely control a system, including the ability to install programs, read data and use the machine as a launching point for compromising other systems.

To date, Alert Logic has not seen any exploits that harness this vulnerability, nor did the research team find any existing mention of this hole in the vulnerability database maintained by the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), according to Stephen Coty, Alert Logic's director of threat research.

The vulnerability could span the range of all Linux systems, including versions of Linux running on cloud services such as Amazon's and Microsoft's. Approximately 65 percent of all web servers on the Internet utilize a Unix/Linux based operating system, a W3Techs survey estimated. It could also affect Android phones, which run the Linux kernel.

To control administrative access, Linux keeps a list of all the registered users on a machine, in a group typically known as "wheel," who can be granted full root access (usually through the Unix sudo command).

A knowing attacker could get full root access by modifying the wheel group, either directly or by manipulating an adjoining program such as the Polkit graphical interface for setting user permissions, Alert Logic said.

The company has notified Red Hat, which maintains Polkit, about the problem, and Red Hat has opened a trouble ticket on the issue. Nonetheless, Coty believes that the problem is fundamentally one with the Linux kernel architecture, so the Linux kernel development team would have to provide the ultimate correction.

Although no patches currently exist for the vulnerability, Alert Logic stated, an organization can take preventive measures to guard against grinch-based attacks. Logging software could be deployed in order to monitor user actions, and flag any unusual behavior. They can also rewrite administrative rules to minimize sudo operations.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Alert LogicsecurityExploits / vulnerabilities

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments