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Category:   Application (Generic)  >   Lenovo ThinkVantage System Update Vendors:   Lenovo
Lenovo ThinkVantage System Update Certificate Validation Flaw Lets Remote Users Spoof the Update Server
SecurityTracker Alert ID:  1020112
SecurityTracker URL:
CVE Reference:   CVE-2008-3249   (Links to External Site)
Updated:  Jul 22 2008
Original Entry Date:  May 27 2008
Impact:   Modification of authentication information
Vendor Confirmed:  Yes  
Version(s): System Update 3; 3.13.0005, Build date 2008-1-3; possibly other versions
Description:   A vulnerability was reported in Lenovo ThinkVantage System Update. A remote user can spoof the update server.

The client software does not validate the certificate chain for certificates supplied by the remote update server. A remote user that can spoof DNS can return a specially crafted certificate to the target client to cause the client to accept the connection and download arbitrary code.

The vendor was notified on February 2, 2008.

Derek Callaway of Security Objectives reported this vulnerability.

The original advisory is available at:

Impact:   A remote user can spoof the update server to potentially download arbitrary code to the target client system.
Solution:   The vendor plans to issue a fix as part of Maintenance Release 4, to be available at:

Vendor URL: (Links to External Site)
Cause:   Access control error
Underlying OS:  Windows (2000), Windows (Vista), Windows (XP)

Message History:   None.

 Source Message Contents

Subject:  [Full-disclosure] SECOBJADV-2008-01: Lenovo SystemUpdate SSL

=         Security Objectives Advisory (SECOBJADV-2008-01)           =

Lenovo SystemUpdate SSL Certificate Issuer Spoofing Vulnerability

AFFECTED: Lenovo System Update 3 (Version 3.13.0005, Build date 2008-1-3)

PLATFORM: Intel / Windows

CLASSIFICATION: Trust of OpenSSL Certificate Without Validation (CWE-599)

RESEARCHER: Derek Callaway

IMPACT: Client-side code execution




System Update(tm) helps you reduce the time, effort, and expense required to
support and maintain the latest drivers, BIOS, and other applications for 
Think or Lenovo systems. It enables you to get the latest updates from the 
Lenovo support site, or to automatically schedule your system to be updated.


Lenovo System Update allows arbitrary update executables to be downloaded and
installed from a rogue server. The Client DLL does not perform certificate 
chain verification when initiating an SSL connection with the server. Instead,
it performs a string comparison on the Issuer field of the X.509 certificate 
in order to determine if it appears to belong to IBM. After successful SSL 
negotiation, the client proceeds to download XML files that contain pathnames
to EXE files, their sizes, and corresponding SHA-1 hashes (although the XML 
element defining the SHA value is named "CRC.") If an XML file shows a newer 
software version than what it is already installed, it downloads the EXE file, 
calculates its SHA-1 hash and compares it against the one defined in the XML
file; if they match, it runs the executable with administrator privileges.


In order to exploit this vulnerability an attacker would create a self-signed
SSL certificate with X.509 header values (issuer, common name, organization, 
etc.) of the real public SSL certificate used by the SystemUpdate server at The attacker would also modify the XML config file
for the target package with a new version number, file size, and SHA-1 hash
that correspond to a malicious EXE file. In theory, an attacker could inject
a completely new package into QuestResponse.xml although this was not tested
by Security Objectives.

When SystemUpdate attempts to make a connection to the server, the attacker 
would accept the connection through DNS spoofing, ARP redirection, etc. Users
of wireless networks are at high risk because access point impersonation will 
simplify the attack. Once SystemUpdate makes the connection to TCP port 443, 
the rogue server negotitates an SSL session with the attacker-created SSL 
certificate. The rogue HTTPS server will then send the malicious XML and EXE
files when SystemUpdate requests the target package. All other requests will 
be conducted as usual by proxying requests to the real SystemUpdate server or
maintaining a mirrored version of it.


One potential work-around is to disable scheduled updates and not execute 
Lenovo SystemUpdate although this may expose the user to other vulnerabilities
since software patches will not be installed.


ThinkVantage SystemUpdate MR4 is in golden release stage at the time of writing.


23-Jan-2008 Discovery of Vulnerability
30-Jan-2008 Developed Proof-of-Concept
02-Feb-2008 Reported to Vendor
19-Feb-2008 Discussed Exploitation
14-Apr-2008 Wrote Patch
18-Apr-2008 Tested Patch
20-May-2008 Released Patch
25-May-2008 Published Advisory


Security Objectives is a security centric consultancy and software development 
corporation which operates in the area of application assurance software. 
Security Objectives employs methods that are centered on software 
comprehension, therefore a more in-depth contextual understanding of the 
application is developed.


Permission is granted for electronic distribution of this advisory.
It may not be edited without the written consent of Security Objectives.

The information contained in this advisory is believed to be accurate based on 
currently available information and is provided "as is" without warranty of 
any kind, either expressed or implied, including, but not limited to, the 
implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. 
The entire risk as to the quality and performance of the information is with 

Full-Disclosure - We believe in it.
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