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Category:   Application (Security)  >   GnuPG (Gnu Privacy Guard) Vendors:
GnuPG OpenPGP Packet Stack Overflow Lets Remote Users Execute Arbitrary Code
SecurityTracker Alert ID:  1017349
SecurityTracker URL:
CVE Reference:   CVE-2006-6235   (Links to External Site)
Date:  Dec 7 2006
Impact:   Execution of arbitrary code via network, User access via network
Fix Available:  Yes  Vendor Confirmed:  Yes  
Version(s): prior to 1.4.6, also 2.0 prior to 2.0.2
Description:   A vulnerability was reported in GnuPG. A remote user can cause arbitrary code to be executed on the target user's system.

A remote user can create a specially crafted message that, when decrypted by the target user, will trigger a stack overflow and execute arbitrary code on the target system. The code will run with the privileges of the target user.

Specially crafted OpenPGP packets can cause a GnuPG filter to use an improperly initialized structure, triggering an overflow.

Tavis Ormandy discovered this vulnerability.

Impact:   A remote user can create a message that, when decrypted by the target user, will execute arbitrary code on the target user's system.
Solution:   The vendor has issued a fixed version (1.4.6), available at:

Also, a patch is available for versions 1.4.5 and 2.0.1.

Vendor URL: (Links to External Site)
Cause:   Boundary error
Underlying OS:  Linux (Any), UNIX (Any), Windows (Any)

Message History:   This archive entry has one or more follow-up message(s) listed below.
Dec 7 2006 (Red Hat Issues Fix) GnuPG OpenPGP Packet Stack Overflow Lets Remote Users Execute Arbitrary Code
Red Hat has released a fix for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1, 3, and 4.

 Source Message Contents

Subject:  [GNUPG-announce] Important security update for GnuPG (2006-12-06 17:18:35)

GnuPG: remotely controllable function pointer [CVE-2006-6235]


Tavis Ormandy of the Gentoo security team identified a severe and
exploitable bug in the processing of encrypted packets in GnuPG.

[ Please do not send private mail in response to this message.  The
  mailing list gnupg-devel is the best place to discuss this problem
  (please subscribe first so you don't need moderator approval [1]). ]


Using malformed OpenPGP packets an attacker is able to modify and
dereference a function pointer in GnuPG.  This is a remotely
exploitable bug and affects any use of GnuPG where an attacker can
control the data processed by GnuPG.  It is not necessary limited to
encrypted data, also signed data may be affected.

Affected versions: All versions of GnuPG   < 1.4.6 
                   All versions of GnuPG-2 < 2.0.2
                   All beta versions of GnuPG-2 (1.9.0 .. 1.9.95)
Affected tools: gpg, gpgv, gpg2 and gpgv2.
Affected platforms: All.

gpg-agent, gpgsm as well as other tools are not affected.

A workaround is not known. 


If you are using a vendor supplied version of GnuPG:

 * Wait for an update from your vendor.  Vendors have been informed on
   Saturday December 2, less than a day after this bug has been reported.

If you are using GnuPG 1.4: 

 * Update as soon as possible to GnuPG 1.4.6. It has been uploaded to
   the usual location:  This version
   was due to be released anyway this week.  See for details.

 * Or: As another and less intrusive option, apply the attached patch
   to GnuPG 1.4.5.  This is the smallest possible fix.

If you are using GnuPG 2.0:

 * Apply the attached patch against GnuPG 2.0.1.

 * Or: Stop using gpg2 and gpgv2, install GnuPG 1.4.6 and use gpg and gpgv

If you are using a binary Windows version of GnuPG:

 * A binary version of GnuPG 1.4.6 for Windows is available as usual.

 * Gpg4win 1.0.8, including GnuPG 1.4.6, is available.  Please go to .


GnuPG uses data structures called filters to process OpenPGP messages.
These filters ware used in a similar way as a pipelines in the shell.
For communication between these filters context structures are used.
These are usually allocated on the stack and passed to the filter
functions.  At most places the OpenPGP data stream fed into these
filters is closed before the context structure gets deallocated.
While decrypting encrypted packets, this may not happen in all cases
and the filter may use a void contest structure filled with garbage.
An attacker may control this garbage.  The filter context includes
another context used by the low-level decryption to access the
decryption algorithm.  This is done using a function pointer.  By
carefully crafting an OpenPGP message, an attacker may control this
function pointer and call an arbitrary function of the process.
Obviously an exploit needs to prepared for a specific version,
compiler, libc, etc to be successful - but it is definitely doable.

Fixing this is obvious: We need to allocate the context on the heap
and use a reference count to keep it valid as long as either the
controlling code or the filter code needs it.

We have checked all other usages of such a stack based filter contexts
but fortunately found no other vulnerable places.  This allows to
release a relatively small patch.  However, for reasons of code
cleanness and easier audits we will soon start to change all these
stack based filter contexts to heap based ones.


g10 Code GmbH, a Duesseldorf based company owned and headed by GnuPG's
principal author, is currently funding GnuPG development.  As evident
by the two vulnerabilities found within a week, a review of the entire
code base should be undertaken as soon as possible.  As maintainers we
try to do our best and are working slowly through the code.  The long
standing plan is to scrutinize the 2.0 code base, write more test
cases and to backport new fixes and cleanups to 1.4.  However, as a
small company our resources are limited and we need to prioritize
other projects which get us actual revenues.  Support contracts or
other financial backing would greatly help us to improve the quality
of GnuPG.


Tavis Ormandy found this vulnerability.

[1] See .

How good bad music and bad reasons sound when one marches against an enemy!
		[Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)]

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