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Category:   OS (Linux)  >   Linux Kernel Vendors:
Linux Kernel Can Be Crashed By Local Users Due to Excessive Socket Buffer Memory Consumption
SecurityTracker Alert ID:  1015402
SecurityTracker URL:
CVE Reference:   CVE-2005-3660   (Links to External Site)
Date:  Dec 22 2005
Impact:   Denial of service via local system
Vendor Confirmed:  Yes  
Version(s): 2.4.22, 2.6.12; possibly others
Description:   iDEFENSE reported a vulnerability in the Linux Kernel. A local user can cause denial of service conditions.

A local user can open multiple connected file descriptors or socket pairs to cause the kernel to allocate a large buffer for the pending data. Then, the user can cause the buffer to remain allocated. By repeating this process, the kernel may consume all available memory.

On some systems, this may cause a kernel panic.

The report indicates that the vendor considers this vulnerability a design limitation in the kernel.

The vendor was notified on November 17, 2005.

The original advisory is available at:

Impact:   A local user can consume excessive memory to potentially trigger a kernel panic.
Solution:   No solution was available at the time of this entry.
Vendor URL: (Links to External Site)
Cause:   Resource error

Message History:   None.

 Source Message Contents

Subject:  iDefense Security Advisory 12.22.05: Linux Kernel Socket Buffer Memory

Linux Kernel Socket Buffer Memory Exhaustion DoS Vulnerability

iDefense Security Advisory 12.22.05
December 22, 2005


Linux is a clone of the operating system Unix, written from scratch by
Linus Torvalds with assistance from a loosely-knit team of hackers
across the Net. It aims towards POSIX and Single UNIX Specification

More information is available from the vendor website:


Local exploitation of a memory exhaustion vulnerability in Linux Kernel
versions 2.4 and 2.6 can allow attackers to cause a denial of service

The vulnerability specifically exists due to a lack of resource checking
during the buffering of data for transfer over a pair of sockets. An
attacker can create a situation that, depending on the amount of
available system resources, can cause the kernel to panic due to memory
resource exhaustion. The attack is conducted by opening up a number of
connected file descriptors or socketpairs and creating the largest
possible kernel buffer for the data transfer between the two sockets. By
causing the process to enter a zombie state or closing the file
descriptor while keeping a reference open, the data is kept in the
kernel until the transfer can complete. If done repeatedly, system
memory resources can be exhausted from the kernel.


Successful exploitation requires an attacker to have local access to an
affected Linux system and can result in complete system denial of
service. The system may not reboot after successful exploitation,
requiring human interaction to be restored to a working state. Depending
on available resources, systems with large amounts of physical memory
may not be affected.

iDefense has confirmed that Linux 2.4.22 and Linux 2.6.12 are


An effective workaround is not available for this vulnerability.


The maintainer acknowledges that this issue is a design limitation in
the Linux kernel. The following advice has been offered for creating a
patch. It should be noted that this patch has not been fully tested.

The patch requires three steps:

1) Add a "struct user *" reference to the "struct file" file structure.

2) Whenever creating a new "struct file" add the following code:

        struct user *user = current->user;
        if (atomic_read(&user->files) > MAX_FILES_FOR_THIS_USER)
                return -EMFILE;
        file->user = user;
        if(user) {

3) Whenever a "struct file" is released apply the following code:

        struct user *user = file->user;
        if (user) {


The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the
name CAN-2005-3660 to this issue. This is a candidate for inclusion in
the CVE list (, which standardizes names for
security problems.


11/17/2005 Initial vendor notification - Linux vendors
11/19/2005 Initial vendor responses
12/22/2005 Public disclosure


The discoverer of this vulnerability wishes to remain anonymous.

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Permission is granted for the redistribution of this alert
electronically. It may not be edited in any way without the express
written consent of iDefense. If you wish to reprint the whole or any
part of this alert in any other medium other than electronically, please
email for permission.

Disclaimer: The information in the advisory is believed to be accurate
at the time of publishing based on currently available information. Use
of the information constitutes acceptance for use in an AS IS condition.
There are no warranties with regard to this information. Neither the
author nor the publisher accepts any liability for any direct, indirect,
or consequential loss or damage arising from use of, or reliance on,
this information.
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