Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Linux Kernel Binary Format Handler (bugs?)

Ok well tonight I read this short paper from It covers a supposed 'bug' in the linux kernel ELF loader. It does not report this bug as a vulnerability, these guys have released some quality content in the past so I will not immediately toss this one to the side with a 'you have to be root.." blah blah. Ok well its true you have to be root to insert a kernel module, which is the technique they have used for hijacking the binary loader. Basically the bug can be described very easily, an attacker (who has already gained root access) can hijack the linked list of binary format handlers in the kernel. The default action of the kernel is to check an executable's format at runtime against that newly registered binary format handler instead of the pre-existing ones first. The authors of the paper said from the beginning it was a technique that could be used by a rootkit writer to stay hidden. I for one applaud their work for one simple reason , rootkit detection software now has one more place to look. But thats about it. Id like to see the kernel check against ELF, a.out, COFF before checking against the newly registered format but I am a firm believer in a static kernel anyway (I dont enable the ability to load kernel modules on my boxes).

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