CERT Vendor-Initiated Bulletin VB-95:08 - X Authentication Vul
cert-advisory at cert.org
Thu Nov 2 23:45:32 UTC 1995
CERT Vendor-Initiated Bulletin VB-95:08
November 2, 1995
Topic: X Authentication Vulnerability
Source: X Consortium
To aid in the wide distribution of essential security information, the
CERT Coordination Center is forwarding the following information from
the X Consortium. The X Consortium urges you to act on this
information as soon as possible. X Consortium contact information is
included in the forwarded text below; please contact them if you have
any questions or need further information.
========================FORWARDED TEXT STARTS HERE============================
Two widely used X Window System authorization schemes have weaknesses
in the sample implementation. These weaknesses could allow
unauthorized remote users to connect to X displays and are present in
X11 Release 6 and earlier releases of the X11 sample implementation.
There are reports that systems have been broken into using at
least one of these weaknesses and that there are now exploit
programs available in the intruder community.
On systems on which xdm is built without the HasXdmAuth config option,
the MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 key generated by xdm may be guessable.
If you use MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 to authenticate X connections, and
your keys are generated by xdm, and xdm does not also support
XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1 authentication (that is, your X tree was not
built with the HasXdmAuth config option), you may be at risk.
On systems with poor pseudo-random number generators, the key may be
guessable by remote users. On other systems, users with access to the
file system where xdm stores its keys for use by local servers may be
able to use information in the file system to guess the key.
If your xdm program was built with HasXdmAuth set to YES (the compiler
command line includes the -DHASXDMAUTH flag), MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 keys
generated by xdm are not vulnerable; the DES code is used to generate
cryptographically secure keys.
Remote users anywhere on the Internet may be able to connect to your
X display server. It is NOT necessary that they be able to snoop your
The X server does not correctly check the XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1 data and
can be fooled into accepting invalid data.
A user who can snoop the encrypted authorization data of a valid
connection can create fake auth data that the X server will accept.
If you do not use XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1, you are not vulnerable.
Determining whether your server is vulnerable: this problem is fixed
in X servers from the X Consortium with a vendor release number of
6001 or higher.
Remote users may be able to connect to your X display server.
A. Install a vendor supplied patch if available.
B. If your site is using X11 built from X Consortium X11R6 sources,
install public patch #13. This patch is available via anonymous
FTP from ftp.x.org as the file /pub/R6/fixes/fix-13. It is also
available from the many sites that mirror ftp.x.org. Apply all patches
not already applied, up to and including fix-13. The file xc/bug-report
shows what public patches have been already applied to your source
The MD5 checksum of fix-13 is as follows:
MD5 (fix-13) = 0d81d843acf803a8bedf90d3a18b9ed6
C. If your site is using an earlier version of the X Consortium's X11,
upgrade to X11R6. Install all patches up to and including fix-13.
D. Work arounds.
1. Building with HasXdmAuth will eliminate the first vulnerability.
The necessary DES code is available for FTP from both inside the
US (for US sites only) and outside (for non-US sites). Read
<ftp://ftp.x.org/pub/R6/xdm-auth/README> for details on obtaining
2. If you cannot use DES, you can determine your exposure to
remote attackers by testing the strength of your rand() function
using the program rand-test; the source is available as
3. Limiting use of X connections using XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1 to trusted
networks will prevent unauthorized parties from snooping X protocol
traffic, thus preventing exploitation of the second vulnerability.
Acknowledgements: The X Consortium would like to thank Chris Hall of
the University of Colorado for analyzing these problems and bringing
them to our attention.
The following information was supplied by vendors for this bulletin.
The X Consortium and CERT have not verified this information.
UNICOS 8.0 and 9.0 are not vulnerable. These systems have robust
pseudo-random number generators, making them not vulnerable to the
first problem, and do not support an X server, making them not
vulnerable to the second problem.
GSSC (formerly Solbourne)
Has concluded they are not vulnerable.
All versions of X on HP-UX 9.x and 10.x (based on X11R5) do not
have the first vulnerability.
(Sample implementation of X.) You can patch X11R6 by applying all
public patches up to and including fix-13. Patches are available
via FTP from ftp.x.org in /pub/R6/fixes/ and from mirroring sites.
You can check that the X server has fix-13 installed by verifying
that the server has a vendor release number of 6001 or higher.
General questions about the X Window System can be asked on the
xpert mailing list hosted at x.org. Send a "subscribe" message to
xpert-request at x.org to subscribe. This list is gatewayed with
the comp.windows.x newsgroup. The FAQ for this newsgroup is
available from <ftp://ftp.x.org/contrib/faqs/FAQ.Z> and other
describes other newsgroups and mailing lists for the discussion
of issues related to the X Window System.
Bugs encounted in X Consortium code can be reported to
xbugs at x.org using the format in xc/bug-report. Please see the
X11R6 Release Notes for additional details.
The XFree86 Project, Inc has patched binaries for XFree86 version 3.1.2
running on FreeBSD 1.1.5, FreeBSD 2.0.5, ISC, NetBSD and SVR4. They
are available from ftp://ftp.xfree86.org/pub/XFree86/3.1.2/binaries/.
The files are:
The MD5 checksums are:
MD5 (FreeBSD-1.1.5/X312Sxdm.tgz) = 43166109c88fcd623d27de1fa90e8f5b
MD5 (FreeBSD-2.0.5/X312Sxdm.tgz) = 3314a623b2c31a9130445e9237ff65f9
MD5 (ISC/X312Sxdm.tgz) = e4e16fc5f4d06ad455e572a2e1eb0eb5
MD5 (NetBSD/X312Sxdm.tgz) = 0bc74cbee0214366ac15658bf5436853
MD5 (SVR4/X312Sxdm.tgz) = bf5dfea2a86cdf92621421e3f68af203
Installation instructions (assuming X312xdm.tgz is in /tmp):
Kill any xdm processes that are running, then:
For FreeBSD 1.1.5 and FreeBSD 2.0.5:
mv X11R6/bin/xdm X11R6/bin/xdm-3.1.2
chmod 0500 X11R6/bin/xdm-3.1.2
gzip -d < /tmp/X312xdm.tgz | tar vxf -
mv /usr/X11R6/bin/xdm /usr/X11R6/bin/xdm-3.1.2
chmod 0500 /usr/X11R6/bin/xdm-3.1.2
For ISC and SVR4:
mv bin/xdm bin/xdm-3.1.2
chmod 0500 bin/xdm-3.1.2
gzip -d < /tmp/X312xdm.tgz | tar vxf -
=========================FORWARDED TEXT ENDS HERE=============================
CERT publications, information about FIRST representatives, and
other information related to computer security are available for anonymous
FTP from info.cert.org.
CERT advisories and bulletins are also posted on the USENET newsgroup
comp.security.announce. If you would like to have future advisories and
bulletins mailed to you or to a mail exploder at your site, please send mail
to cert-advisory-request at cert.org.
If you wish to send sensitive incident or vulnerability information to
CERT staff by electronic mail, we strongly advise that the e-mail be
encrypted. The CERT Coordination Center can support a shared DES key, PGP
(public key available via anonymous FTP on info.cert.org), or PEM (contact
CERT staff for details).
Internet email: cert at cert.org
Telephone: +1 412-268-7090 (24-hour hotline)
CERT personnel answer 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. EST(GMT-5)/EDT(GMT-4),
and are on call for emergencies during other hours.
Fax: +1 412-268-6989
CERT Coordination Center
Software Engineering Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
CERT is a service mark of Carnegie Mellon University.
More information about the NANOG