Concerning possible bugs in the 'inn' package

Ben Schwarz bschwarz at EECS.berkeley.EDU
Sun Aug 28 22:13:07 UTC 2005

This email concerns a bug or security vulnerability that members of
the MOPS project ( have found
during a recent audit of all programs packaged with the Redhat 9 Linux
distribution. We believe that one or more of the packages maintained
by recipients of this email contain bugs that may be exploitable
(although sometimes they are just bugs that may result in unexpected
program behavior).

The specific type of bug which we have found stems from the standard
file descriptors (FDs) on a Unix system. Typically, when a process is
started, FD 0, 1 and 2 are set to standard in, standard out, and
standard error respectively. Subsequent uses of input and output
functions--such as printf--will read or write from one of these three
descriptors. Customarily, a program starts with its standard file
descriptors opened to terminal devices. However, since the kernel
does not enforce this convention, an attacker can force a standard
file descriptor of a victim program to be opened to a sensitive file,
so that he may discover confidential information from the sensitive
file or modify the sensitive file.

We present some examples of vulnerable programs in our paper
"Model Checking An Entire Linux Distribution for Security Violations"
which can be found at
Section 3.2 is dedicated to this specific type of bug.

Our suggestion for fixing these bugs is to have the program open 3
non-sensitive files, such as /dev/null, upon starting execution. This
ensures that subsequent input and output operations will not take
place on sensitive data.

The maintainers of this package can find the interactive program
traces at
A program trace consists of a series statements that caused the program
to reach a state where we believe malicious behavior can occur. One can
navigate the program code by clicking on transitions (two program states
separated by a '->') in the leftmost pane to see the program behavior
that caused our modelchecker to reach its final state.
For this specific bug, transitions to the final "bug" state will occur
when a file is opened onto a descriptor that may be 0, 1, or 2. We have
manually audited this package to verify that subsequent write operations
take place on this file.

At this end of this email is a more detailed description of where the bug
can be found. Any questions about this specific bug can be directed to
bschwarz at


URL with program traces for this package:

Programs with bugs:
rnews, rnews.c line 725

We don't believe this to be an exploitable bug, but it
can cause data to be written to an unexpected file.

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