Friday, 30 June 2017 08:39

Systemd flaw leaves many Linux distros open to attack Featured

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A flaw in systemd, the init system used on many Linux systems, can be exploited using a malicious DNS query to either crash a system or to run code remotely.

The vulnerability resides in the daemon systemd-resolved and can be triggered using a TCP payload, according to Ubuntu developer Chris Coulson.

This component can be tricked into allocating less memory than needed for a look-up. When the reply is bigger it overflows the buffer allowing an attacker to overwrite memory.

This would result in the process either crashing or it could allow for code execution remotely.

"A malicious DNS server can exploit this by responding with a specially crafted TCP payload to trick systemd-resolved in to allocating a buffer that's too small, and subsequently write arbitrary data beyond the end of it," is how Coulson put it.

The error was introduced into the systemd code in June 2015 in version 223.

Many Linux distributions have adopted systemd as their default init system but some have not yet moved from the old SysV init system.

Ubuntu has released patches for its two most recent releases — 16.10 and 17.04 — to fix the issue.

Debian is yet to issue a fix, but has pointed out that systemd-resolved is not enabled by default in its latest release, Stretch. Older Debian releases like Jessie and Wheezy do not contain the vulnerable code.

Red Hat said the flaw did not affect versions of systemd shipped with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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