back to article Student's Linux daemon 0-day triggers InfoSec Institute outcry

Controversy has accompanied the discovery by a student of a critical vulnerability in BackTrack, a flavour of Linux that's a favourite among security pros. The previously undiscovered (hence zero-day) privilege escalation bug in the network penetration-testing distro was discovered during an ethical hacking class organised by …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. M Gale

    A problem if it's installed I guess.

    Though, isn't Backtrack designed to be run straight from the CD/DVD, usually as root anyway?

    Congratulations, you just pwned a RAMdrive.

    But yes, ironic and all that.

    1. ehoffman

      Re: A problem if it's installed I guess.

      In fact, it can be installed to the main hard drive, like other popular Linux distros. Moreover, it can be installed directly on a USB stick. So this way, you get the best of both worlds. You get a persistent installation (i.e. where the changes made are persistent, updated on the USB as if it was a regular hard drive), and you do not mess with your existing hard-drive OS installation.

      Personally, I think that except for quick and dirty tests, most "serious" users will perform a persistent installation.

  2. Ron 6

    Beer for breakfast?

    Sounds like a Lister in the making. Next, beer milkshakes.

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    We seem to have a mini-rash of these OMG non-stories lately. If I was the paranoid kind...

  4. PyLETS

    If you have local access ...

    You own any machine you can short the bios power supply on to reset bios password, to make it boot from your own media or failing that, change the hard disk on anyway.

    1. Simon 15

      Re: If you have local access ...

      And *IF* you have physical access. For those people who might be running wicd on a server with multiple non-root users then this is a significant issues, the fact that it was found when using BackTrack is irrelevant, misleading and poor journalism. The vulnerability exists within the widely used wicd daemon itself and therefore affects Linux in general not just BackTrack!

      1. Alex.Red

        Re: If you have local access ...

        And I never used wicd on my Debian, I prefer Network Manager by Red Hat...

        My point is - vulnerability exists but not everyone is affected.

        1. Spoonsinger

          Re: My point is - vulnerability exists but not everyone is affected.

          It's Linux, shirely very few people are effected? - ducks :-)

  5. Camilla Smythe

    Handbags at Dawn?

    1. sisk

      Re: Handbags at Dawn?

      Good link that. The article clearly states that the vulnerability is in wicd, not Backtrack itself.

      Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go patch wicd on my Debian notebook, since it and every other machine that runs wicd will doubtlessly be vulnerable.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The media once again trolled by charlatans?

    I know in the 24 hour news cycle fact-checking and editing are pretty much dead, but come on guys, do your homework.

    Response from Muts @ Backtrack:

    This post is a bad example of a bug report, for several reasons.

    1) The title of this vulnerability should probably be "WICD Priv Escalation". As such, it should probably be reported to the WICD developers, as opposed to the BackTrack development team. If you still felt the bug report should be posted to us, the right place to post it would be "BackTrack bugs" (although it is not), or even better, our redmine ticket system.

    2) Giving the pre-requisites for the exploit to function would be helpful. In this case, you would need to create a non root user in BackTrack, have a remote attacker access BT with that non privileged account or have an unprivileged shell from a previous attack against another service, and then have that user attempt to connect to a wireless access point (assuming wicd is running as root). This is far from the default configuration in BackTrack, which further negates the title of this vulnerability.

    3) Making a mountain out of a molehill for the purpose of promoting a product or service is generally frowned upon by the security industry, especially when one already has a bad reputation.

    4) Once this bug is tended to by the WICD developers, we will use their official patch rather than patching our packages using untrusted sources.

    Another response can be found in our blog -

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: The media once again trolled by charlatans?

      Hmm, yes, all good points very well made. A saving grace is that the article explains that it's a wicd bug that affects other distros - but will definitely keep this in mind next time.

      And I'm speaking as a Debian+Ubuntu user who left his packaging and distro hat in the glovebox.

      What bugs me is that this ethical hacking class didn't seem to get as far as responsible disclosure (see the Debian thread). Fair comment?

      1. Ian McNee

        Re: The media once again trolled by charlatans?

        @diodesign: (is that you John??) Yes, from your article it does become clear to anyone vaguely familiar with Linux security and bug tracking that the problem was (it's been patched already M$ trolls!) with wicd rather than BackTrack. That was my immediate thought (having recently played with wicd after failing to get f***ing Network Manager to play nicely on a Fedora laptop recently).

        The problem is that your headline: Student stiffs penetration tool BackTrack Linux with 0-day screams "Ooh! Clever InfoSec Linux White Hats Caught With Pants Down!" - and with your pedigree in reporting security stories recently we know you can do much better. We all drop the ball now and again :-)

        1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Re: The media once again trolled by charlatans?

          Er, no. I am not John. Ironically, the headline is more-or-less right: White Hat distro screwed over by 0-day claim. And the sub-heading fingers the daemon at fault.

          But still, BackTrack has one single root user anyway.

          1. Gordon Fecyk

            The solution is obvious: Make root access forbidden!!!!1!one

            But still, BackTrack has one single root user anyway.

            Time to make a distro that doesn't have a root user. Can't break a PC you can't configure. :-)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @ Gordon Fecyk - Re: The solution is obvious: Make root access forbidden!!!!1!one

              By default it runs from a CD so you can't break it even if you use your root account.

            2. Anonymous IV
              Thumb Up

              Re: The solution is obvious: Make root access forbidden!!!!1!one

              There's also a lot to be said for write-only memory...

  7. Gwyn Evans

    Note the update on the Infosec website...

    Update 4/12/12: The wicd team has released a new version that fixes this bug (CVE-2012-2095). The title of this advisory upon release has been, and always has been "wicd Privilege Escalation 0Day

    Tested against Backtrack 5, 5 R2, Arch distributions". When we tweeted and emailed to mailing lists the notifications of this vulnerability, we incorrectly shortened the title and called it "Backtrack 5 R2 priv escalation 0day ", which is misleading and could lead people to believe the bug was actually in Backtrack. The bug has always resided in wicd and not in any Backtrack team written code. We apologize for the confusion to the Backtrack team and any other persons affected by this error. We feel the Backtrack distro is a great piece of software and wish muts and the rest of the team the best.

  8. itzman

    wifi and security?

    Don't belong in the same sentence anyway.

    if you are worried about security, use a cable.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: wifi and security?

      Yes, because we know you cant sniff packets on a wired connection.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    A) Input checking must be über-paranoid.

    B) There are obviously low-hanging fruits which can be reaped using fuzzing.

    C) Open Source patching practice is extremely fast and responsive. Unlike $$-soft practices.

    1. Ilgaz

      D) all in open

      Also entire thing is in open. Finding of exploit, third party verification, end user feedback and even sanitizing/ renaming of the issue.

      If I was an IT manager/ decision maker, it would stop me to think and compare. Obviously, until having dinner with Microsoft consultant ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Demonstrates

      Patching on linux may well be quick, but migration from unstable into the stable is not always quick. There can be several days, weeks or even months before the initial unstable, untested patch gets into the stable repos.

      If you're running a production system you don't ever install unstable patches, indeed Red Hat et al will cease your support if you do. I don't know how long it's taken in this case to get to stable repos, if indeed it has, but I do know that I've waited over a month for updates to fedora and centos before now.

  10. John 120

    You mean wicd?

    Technically, nothing wrong with the BackTrack distrib, the problem is in wicd.

    1. wheel

      Re: You mean wicd?

      As wicd is distributed as part of the BackTrack distribution (the clue is in the second word there), there is something wrong with BackTrack. The fact there is also something wrong with many other GNU/Linux distributions does not change this fact (though does change the story somewhat).

      On another note, the "It's not our fault, go whine to someone else!" response given by BackTrack does demonstrate why proprietary operating systems dominate the market. Simply put, it's nice to know where the buck stops.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: where the buck stops

        So whatever software I find a bug in, I should hold Microsoft responsible if I'm running it on Windows?

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: where the buck stops - AC

          it depends. If you have decided to include a software product that needs escalated privilege (root or admin), then that is not Microsoft, and you must take some responsibility yourself, and should also blame the vendor of that package.

          If it is software that does not require escalated privilege, and can get it using the package, then that would of course implicate Microsoft as well.

          But in your example, it would be better to ask if Microsoft should take any responsibility for something they include from a third party as part of a windows installation (such as the CD and DVD burning code licensed from Roxio), as this is more like what Linux Distributions do.

          1. Tom 13

            @Peter Gathercole re: something they include from a third party as part of a windows installation

            Microsoft does not include third party apps in Windows, that would be the resellers: Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, etc. So again, no liability to MS for Roxio software.

            Where MS gets into trouble is that they do include certain certain functionality in their "kernel" that more properly belongs on a different functionality level, like Internet Explorer.* They exacerbate the issue by including things like activeX to make programming easier, but that adversely impacts security.

            *With more recent OSes MS have tried to make this differentiation in their reporting, but since it still all comes in one mostly un-editable package, I find it a less useful distinction than it is in Linux.

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: where the buck stops

          Read the EULA - they're not responsible for anything at all anywhere ever

          1. JohnG Silver badge

            Re: where the buck stops

            "Read the EULA - they're not responsible for anything at all anywhere ever"

            They wish. Just because you write something in an EULA doesn't mean you can enforce it - especially if it flies in the face of consumer protection law. (As Apple have recently discovered in Italy).

          2. crayon

            Re: where the buck stops

            Actually MS does hold themselves responsible for any manufacturing defects in the installation media which they will guarantee for 180 days (or something). That's good to know when you're reinstalling Windows for the *$#^%! time.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: where the buck stops

          If Microsoft ship a tool with a security vulnerability with their OS, then I think they should be held responsible, yes.

          Similarly, if BackTrack (and Debian of course) ship a tool with a security vulnerability with their OS, they should be held responsible for it.

          I'm also tempted to say that if an OS vendor supplies a repository of packages for download (i.e. they're endorsing them), they should also be responsible for any security vulnerabilities in that, similarly to how Apple/Google are blamed for allowing security vulnerabilities in the AppStore/Play. I imagine that not many people will agree.

          A user installing a 3rd party application from some unofficial source should obviously not be a reason to blame the OS vendor.

        4. JohnG Silver badge

          Re: where the buck stops

          "So whatever software I find a bug in, I should hold Microsoft responsible if I'm running it on Windows?"

          If it came on a Windows CD or as a download from Microsoft - yes. If it came from somewhere/someone else - no.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You mean wicd?

      The issue is that there are a lot of people represent that everything that is available in distributions is "linux", however when one of these packages goes wrong, they say something along the lines of "it's for the package's developers to sort out" and "nothing to do with the OS." This doesn't happen for MS, MS make the stuff you download from them or the stuff on the install CD, there is a clearer demarcation point.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    easier than that if you're on the box!

    On SuSE and RHEL if watchdog is enabled, all one with root or sudo privileges needs to do is:

    cat /dev/watchdog

    And immediately cause a DoS to the server as it reboots!

    WTF the Linux community was thinking adding this functionality who the heck knows.

  12. Colin Millar

    Of course the real problem here is

    "failure to sanitise user inputs"

    Which makes the whole system suspect because it makes you think - what other basic stuff has been missed,

  13. xyz

    I love these Linux articles

    You can almost smell the beards and sandals and see images of wild, balding, red haired madmen battering away on crumb strewn keyboards, trying deperately to get their mystic tech keywords onto El Reg before the other guy.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020