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Category:   OS (UNIX)  >   chpass Vendors:   OpenBSD
OpenBSD 'chpass' Utility May Disclose the Contents of Files in Certain Formats to Local Users
SecurityTracker Alert ID:  1006035
SecurityTracker URL:
CVE Reference:   GENERIC-MAP-NOMATCH   (Links to External Site)
Date:  Feb 3 2003
Impact:   Disclosure of system information, Disclosure of user information
Fix Available:  Yes  Vendor Confirmed:  Yes  Exploit Included:  Yes  

Description:   An information disclosure vulnerability was reported in the OpenBSD chpass(1) utility. A local user may be able to view the contents of certain files.

It is reported that 'chpass' (which is linked to by 'chfn' and 'chsh') uses a temporary file to hold user database information while the information is being edited. During the editing process, the local user can reportedly suspend the editing and make a hard link from any file on the system to the temporary file. Then, when the local user resumes and then quits the editing process, the 'chpass' utility will read the linked file with set user id (setuid) root privileges for further processing.

It is reported that if the file to be read meets the many restrictive file format requirements [some of which are described in the Source Message], the utility may display portions of a line in the file as part of an error message.

Impact:   A local user may be able to view portions of files on the system, if the file meets certain restrictive formatting requirements.
Solution:   A fix is reportedly available in the OpenBSD-current CVS branch.

Also, a patch is available in the Source Message and at:

Vendor URL: (Links to External Site)
Cause:   Access control error
Underlying OS:  UNIX (OpenBSD)

Message History:   None.

 Source Message Contents

Subject:  ASA-0001: OpenBSD chpass/chfn/chsh file content leak

                      "After" Security Advisory

        Title: OpenBSD chpass/chfn/chsh file content leak
      Affects: chpass/chfn/chsh from OpenBSD (from 2.0 to 3.2)
  Advisory ID: ASA-0001
 Release Date: 2003-02-03
       Author: Marc Bevand <bevand_m (at)>

--oOo-- 0. Table of Contents

0. Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. Problem
3. Solution
4. Conclusion
5. References
6. Attached files

--oOo-- 1. Introduction

  OpenBSD [1] provides a setuid-root tool, chpass(1) (or chfn, or
chsh, which are hard links to the same binary file), that allows
editing of the user database information. This tool can be exploited
to partially display the content of any file. But to make this
happen, the content of the file has to match a very particular
format, making the vulnerability practically useless in real-world

--oOo-- 2. Problem

  chpass writes user database information in a temporary file, and
supplies it to an editor for changes. While the editor is running, the
user can suspend it (^Z), replace the temporary file by a hard link to
any file, resume the editor in the foreground, quit it without saving
the file, and let chpass process the file for further operations.

  At this point, chpass will open the file (with root permissions
since it is setuid-root), read it line by line and for each of them:
  - if it is longer than 2048 bytes, abort the reading
  - if it begins by '#', ignore it
  - else check the validity of the line
Many conditions have to be respected to make a line valid, I will not
list them here, they are too many. If the line is valid, chpass
processes the next one. Else, if it is invalid and if it begins by
"shell:" (whatever the case is) and if the rest of the line contains
only printable characters (according to isprint(3)) and if none of
them is ':' or ' ', the rest of the line is displayed in an error
message. Here is a concrete example, create a file as root:

	# echo "shell: secret_data" >/tmp/sec
	# chmod 600 /tmp/sec

Then run chpass under ordinary user privileges (lets say that the
temporary filename you are editing is ``/var/tmp/pw.Loi22925''):

	$ chpass				# ^Z in the editor
	[1]+  Stopped                 chpass
	$ rm /var/tmp/pw.Loi22925
	$ ln /tmp/sec /var/tmp/pw.Loi22925
	$ fg					# then quit the editor
	chpass: secret_data: non-standard shell
The string "secret_data" is contained in a file owned by root and
readable only by root, but is displayed in this error message.

FreeBSD and NetBSD implementations of chpass have been checked. They
are not vulnerable since the temporary file is created in the
directory ``/etc''.

--oOo-- 3. Solution

  OpenBSD maintainers have been contacted on 2003-02-02 about this
issue. The same day, a fix has been committed to the cvs (see the
attached file ``asa-0001.openbsd-chpass.cvs-diff'').

  The new code solves the problem by requiring that the link count
be one.

--oOo-- 4. Conclusion

  A fix has been applied to OpenBSD-current. The attached file
``asa-0001.openbsd-chpass.cvs-diff'' contains the related cvs diff.

--oOo-- 5. References

[1] OpenBSD

--oOo-- 6. Attached files

The following file is also available at:

---8<-------------- asa-0001.openbsd-chpass.cvs-diff -----------------
Index: edit.c
RCS file: /cvs/src/usr.bin/chpass/edit.c,v
retrieving revision 1.23
diff -u -r1.23 edit.c
--- edit.c	31 Jul 2002 22:08:42 -0000	1.23
+++ edit.c	2 Feb 2003 18:34:02 -0000
@@ -48,6 +48,7 @@
 #include <ctype.h>
 #include <err.h>
 #include <errno.h>
+#include <fcntl.h>
 #include <paths.h>
 #include <pwd.h>
 #include <stdio.h>
@@ -152,12 +153,14 @@
 	char *p, *q;
 	ENTRY *ep;
 	FILE *fp;
+	int fd;
-	if (!(fp = fopen(tempname, "r")))
+	if ((fd = open(tempname, O_RDONLY|O_NOFOLLOW)) == -1 ||
+	    (fp = fdopen(fd, "r")) == NULL)
 		pw_error(tempname, 1, 1);
-	if (fstat(fileno(fp), &sb))
+	if (fstat(fd, &sb))
 		pw_error(tempname, 1, 1);
-	if (sb.st_size == 0) {
+	if (sb.st_size == 0 || sb.st_nlink != 1) {
 		warnx("corrupted temporary file");
 		goto bad;

---8<-------------- asa-0001.openbsd-chpass.cvs-diff -----------------

Marc Bevand                
Computer Science School EPITA - System, Network and Security Dept.


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